My latest book, Microcosm, is about what it means to be alive, as seen from the point of view of E. coli. So it was a jolt to the system to discover that the guy who basically wrote the book on E. coli has just reviewed it for the American Society for Microbiology's journal, Microbe. Frederick Neidhardt of the University of Michigan is the editor-in-chief of Escherichia coli and Salmonella: Cellular and Molecular Biology. I relied on this 2898-page tome a lot while I worked on Microcosm, lugging the two volumes off the shelf at the Yale med school library and dropping them with a crash on my table. In recent years the book has transcended its papery bonds and metamorphosed into a collossal, ever-updated web site with essays from experts on the latest developments in the field. I felt a bit like I had come to a county fair with an apple pie and discovered that Julia Child would be the judge. The verdict? "Tour-de-force." Whew.