Carmel author aims for book on germs, genes to be the ‘funniest science book people have ever read’


Bill Sullivan loves sharing the message of his book, which makes a recent honor even better.

The Carmel resident’s “Pleased to Meet Me: Genes, Germs, and the Curious Forces That Make Us Who We Are” was shortlisted in the nonfiction category in the 2020 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Awards’ of books eligible for top honors in its seven literary categories. The other six categories are children’s, young adult, poetry, genre, emerging and fiction.


Thirty-seven books written by Indiana authors published in 2018 and 2019 were shortlisted for the awards, which were announced Sept. 1, with “The Book of Delights” by Ross Gay taking the top honor in the nonfiction category.

“I am deeply grateful for the added exposure this nomination brings,” Sullivan said. “The Indiana Author Awards not only highlights our work for other Hoosiers, but they also alert others around the world to the literary treasures our state has to offer. I wanted ‘Pleased to Meet Me’ to be the funniest science book people have ever read. Learning about yourself is always fun, but I added a lot of jokes and pop culture references to keep things lively and understandable. I wanted to make science fun again so that everyone can appreciate its value in guiding us towards happier and more productive lives.”

Sullivan is one of three Hamilton County authors to have a book on the shortlist. The others are Shari Wagner, Westfield, poetry, and Larry Sweazy, Noblesville, genre.

Sullivan describes his book as a look at the hidden forces that shape a person’s personality and behavior.

“As a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, I study a creepy parasite that stealthily infects animals, including billions of people, and causes their behavior to change,” he said. “This phenomenon led me to study how other microbes might also influence our actions without us knowing about it. Combining these fascinating studies with others that show how genes and epigenetics control us led me to the unsettling idea that we are not who we think we are. There are a lot of things going on ‘under the radar’ that give rise to our personality, behavior and beliefs.

“But the key takeaway is, exposing these hidden forces gives us the ability to outwit them and become healthier and happier.”

Sullivan said the book contains a message about why people do the things they do and why others wouldn’t dream of doing them.

“From benign questions such as why some people don’t like broccoli to those that are more serious, such as overeating, addiction, depression, or violence, ‘Pleased to Meet Me’ answers it all,” he said.


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