Air: The Restless Shaper of the World

Air: The Restless Shaper of the World

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by William Bryant Logan
     
 

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The author of Dirt and Oak brings to life this quickest, most sustaining, most communicative element of the earth.
Air sustains the living. Every creature breathes to live, exchanging and changing the atmosphere. Water and dust spin and rise, make clouds and fall again, fertilizing the dirt. Twenty thousand fungal spores and half a million bacteria travel in a

Overview

The author of Dirt and Oak brings to life this quickest, most sustaining, most communicative element of the earth.
Air sustains the living. Every creature breathes to live, exchanging and changing the atmosphere. Water and dust spin and rise, make clouds and fall again, fertilizing the dirt. Twenty thousand fungal spores and half a million bacteria travel in a square foot of summer air. The chemical sense of aphids, the ultraviolet sight of swifts, a newborn’s awareness of its mother’s breast—all take place in the medium of air.
Ignorance of the air is costly. The artist Eva Hesse died of inhaling her fiberglass medium. Thousands were sickened after 9/11 by supposedly “safe” air. The African Sahel suffers drought in part because we fill the air with industrial dusts. With the passionate narrative style and wide-ranging erudition that have made William Bryant Logan’s work a touchstone for nature lovers and environmentalists, Air is—like the contents of a bag of seaborne dust that Darwin collected aboard the Beagle—a treasure trove of discovery.

Editorial Reviews

Robert Macfarlane - Wall Street Journal
“Air is... a spore-world of essays, essaylets, mini-biographies, gossip, whispers, lists, prose-poems and asides. ...Cheery, chatty and compulsively curious, Mr. Logan is able to draw the reader into pretty much any subject... In this lovely book, Mr. Logan makes the air airy again.”
Wall Street Journal
Air is... a spore-world of essays, essaylets, mini-biographies, gossip, whispers, lists, prose-poems and asides. ...Cheery, chatty and compulsively curious, Mr. Logan is able to draw the reader into pretty much any subject... In this lovely book, Mr. Logan makes the air airy again.— Robert Macfarlane
Kirkus Reviews
An examination of the all-encompassing role that the atmosphere plays in shaping our lives. Arborist Logan weaves together history, philosophy and culture in the third volume of his trilogy. As in his earlier works--Dirt (1995) and Oak (2005)--he celebrates the union of the inorganic and organic realms that nurture life: "The air cannot be owned. It cannot be controlled…It changes the fate of creatures and the destiny of peoples." The author explains that his purpose is to make us aware of how remarkable the role of the atmosphere is in the evolution of life on Earth and in every aspect of daily existence. Too often we take it for granted, he writes, except when problems arise. In our focus on air quality and global warming, we tend to forget that it is the medium in which spores, fungi, airborne bacteria and pollens circulate--along with soot and other pollutants. Logan provides a biting critique of the failure of government officials to be honest with the population of New York City about the dangerous level of pollution following 9/11, when he was able to accurately measure the air quality as he worked to save trees in the area. He explains how global patterns of air circulation are responsible for cyclones and describes the problem faced by weather forecasters because of the famous butterfly effect: how "the smallest unobserved change could make the difference between a sunny day and a massive storm." Logan celebrates the atmosphere as a medium of communication--transmitting pheromones as well as sound, bird calls, music--and notes that the breath of life separates the living from the dead. A tour-de-force journey through the natural world.
Seattle Times
Logan is an enjoyable companion with which to explore his subject. He is erudite and thoughtful, with an agreeable mix of the personal and scientific— David B. Williams
Booklist
Starred review. Logan’s meticulously researched and engagingly presented treatise is a breath of, well, fresh air.— Carol Haggas
Nature
“Splendid. . . . Logan delivers vast amounts of science with brevity and elegance.”
Wall Street Journal - Robert Macfarlane
“"[A] delightful Wunderkammer of a book. . . . Air is... a spore-world of essays, essaylets, mini-biographies, gossip, whispers, lists, prose-poems and asides. ...Cheery, chatty and compulsively curious, Mr. Logan is able to draw the reader into pretty much any subject... In this lovely book, Mr. Logan makes the air airy again.”
Seattle Times - David B. Williams
“Logan is an enjoyable companion with which to explore his subject. He is erudite and thoughtful, with an agreeable mix of the personal and scientific”
Booklist - Carol Haggas
“Starred review. Logan’s meticulously researched and engagingly presented treatise is a breath of, well, fresh air.”
David B. Williams - Seattle Times
“Logan is an enjoyable companion with which to explore his subject. He is erudite and thoughtful, with an agreeable mix of the personal and scientific”
Carol Haggas - Booklist
“Starred review. Logan’s meticulously researched and engagingly presented treatise is a breath of, well, fresh air.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393067989
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
08/20/2012
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

William Bryant Logan is a Quill & Trowel Award-winning writer, a member of the faculty at the New York Botanical Garden, a sought-after lecturer and teacher, and a practicing arborist. He is the author of Oak and Dirt, the latter of which was made into an award-winning documentary. He lives in New York City and the Hudson Valley.

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Air: The Restless Shaper of the World 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Angela_J_R More than 1 year ago
This is a lovely, easy, dreamy read. It's far more a meditation on things having to do with air than a science book. The chapters form a hodge-podge that eventually becomes a picture, but it's part memoir, part poem, and part science. This use of pictures is strange. There are a few pictures, but that are largely not helpful to the author to make his point. And then when he really needs a picture, there isn't one, and his language gets tangled trying to make up for it. The most obvious example is that his chapter on the perception and portrayal of the air in the history of art. He describes paintings but doesn't reprint any of them, and the chapter really withers without them. But there are multiple others points that could have used a picture if he really wanted to make his point clear. But in the end, being perfectly clear may not have been his goal. Just getting us to reflect on the importance and busy-ness of air, the indelible essence that surrounds us every day, is probably the aim of a book like this. And in that, it is successful.