Test Cover Image of:  What's Eating You?

What's Eating You?

People and Parasites

In What's Eating You? Eugene Kaplan recounts the true and harrowing tales of his adventures with parasites, and in the process introduces readers to the intimately interwoven lives of host and parasite.

Kaplan has spent his life traveling the globe exploring oceans and jungles, and incidentally acquiring parasites in his gut. Here, he leads readers on an unforgettable journey into the bizarre yet oddly beautiful world of parasites. In a narrative that is by turns frightening, disgusting, and laugh-out-loud funny, Kaplan describes how drinking contaminated water can cause a three-foot-long worm to burst from your arm; how he "gave birth" to a parasite the size and thickness of a pencil while working in Israel; why you should never wave a dead snake in front of your privates; and why fleas are attracted to his wife. Kaplan tells stories about leeches feasting on soldiers in Vietnam; sea cucumbers with teeth in their anuses that seem to encourage the entry of symbiotic fish; the habits of parasites that cause dysentery, river blindness, and other horrifying diseases--and much, much more. Along the way, he explains the underlying science, including parasite evolution and host-parasite physiology.

Informative, frequently lurid, and hugely entertaining, this beautifully illustrated book is a must-read for health-conscious travelers, and anyone who has ever wondered if they picked up a tapeworm from that last sushi dinner.

Author Information

Eugene H. Kaplan is the Donald E. Axinn Endowed Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Conservation (emeritus) at Hofstra University. His many books include Sensuous Seas: Tales of a Marine Biologist (Princeton) and A Field Guide to Southeastern and Caribbean Seashores (Peterson Field Guides).


[Kaplan] simply conveys a vast amount of information painlessly. . . . He has a lively sense of story. ---Michael Sims, Washington Post

Although this book serves up what can basically be described as 'Parasitology 101' for the masses, it is quite a feast with an incredible variety on the menu! It's 'full' (30 chapters) of parasites, from microscopic protistans to 12-m-long tapeworms. You're going to want to wash your hands before you eat (although you should already) and really do your homework before schlepping off overseas to try the local fare.---Charles K. Blend, Journal of Parasitology

In two decades I have not had the pleasure of appraising such a repulsive volume as What's Eating You? I heartily commend it. . . . The thirty chapters of Professor Eugene H. Kaplan's study all read like punchy little fables about different aspects of parasitology.---David Profumo, Literary Review

Engrossingly gross: A paean to parasites . . . Kaplan is a master raconteur. What's more, he has an almost comical knack of contracting every parasitic infection going, which serves to bring his stories to life all the more vividly. This is gonzo parasitology writing at its finest.---Clint Witchalls, New Scientist

Take a rousing romp through the zoo of beasties that make a living invading our bodies. Kaplan, a professor of parasitology and himself a victim of amebic dysentery and 8-inch roundworms, gives a raucous crash course that blends surprising biology with macabre stories.

Kaplan's gory stories, fun though they are, are simply gateways into a fascinating aspect of biology: symbiosis. . . . Kaplan dazzles with a wealth of knowledge about worms, live, and bed bugs. His colourful descriptions of their biology and life cycle are bolstered by evolutionary explanations. . . . Kaplan is a good writer, but it is his brilliantly uninhibited sense of humour that really makes the prose zing with life.---Priya Shetty, The Lancet

[This] book has its squirmy pleasures. . . . [Kaplan's] approach is often lurid, sometimes humorous vignettes on different parasites, each story culminating in a page of scientific drawings that illustrate the intersecting paths of parasites and hosts.---Nina Ayoub, Chronicle Review

Over many years of teaching parasitology, Eugene Kaplan found a way to keep students awake: lurid stories. Now the retired biology professor and researcher from Hofstra University on Long Island, New York, has a new book, What's Eating You?, that tucks in the science about both rare and common parasites along with the tales.---Nancy White, Toronto Star

What we don't know hurts us most, and thus Dr. Eugene Kaplan's well-illustrated mini-encyclopedia of parasites, their modes of entry into our bodies, and the damage they do is a must-read for all adventurous and scientifically curious travelers. . . . What's Eating You is totally readable and rich in historical asides and social notes.

Not for the queasy or faint of heart. But if you're the least bit curious about the creatures that can inhabit humans, I promise you'll be fascinated.---Scott Shalaway, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The greatest strength of this book lies in its personal touch. . . . Through all manner of disgusting and even frightening details, Kaplan makes attractive and easy to follow what is usually soporific in other books.---Frédéric Thomas, PLOS Biology

[A] real cracker of a page-turner. . . . [O]ne of the books of the season that will appeal to professionals or anyone who's ever doubted whether it's a good idea to wash your hands or cook food properly.---Paul O'Doherty, Life Science Review

You can't go wrong with a book about the disgusting, utterly gross organisms that set up shop in and on the human body. Think tapeworms, flukes and leeches. Seriously high yuck factor. Still, these alien invaders are so bizarre they're fascinating. In his riveting, if often revolting, book Eugene H. Kaplan regales with tales from his life as a parasite taxonomist. . . . Lurid and charming in equal measure.---Leigh Dayton, The Australian

[What's Eating You?] takes the prize for most eww-inducing book title of the week. Ever want to know about hirudin, the anticoagulant in leech saliva? This is the book for you.

"Kaplan stimulates readers to further explore these exciting organisms. He does this by weaving personal stories of people and parasites with information about the organisms. His storytelling approach entices nonscientists to venture into the world of parasites and appreciate their importance. The author's sense of humor comes through on virtually every page."—Lillian F. Mayberry, University of Texas, El Paso

People who enjoy travel adventures in near and far exotic places may want to read this clearly written, beautifully illustrated book about parasites. . . . Kaplan describes the bizarre, frightening, and even disgusting ways of parasites in entertaining language. For each story, he explains the biology of the interwoven lives of host and parasite along with the social consequences resulting from parasitic diseases.

Dip into Kaplan for a rich dose of disgust.---Anne Hardy, Times Literary Supplement

Edition: Course Book
Audience: Professional and scholarly;College/higher education;