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The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization

The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization

by Vince Beiser


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A finalist for the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

The gripping story of the most important overlooked commodity in the world—sand—and the crucial role it plays in our lives.

After water and air, sand is the natural resource that we consume more than any other—even more than oil. Every concrete building and paved road on Earth, every computer screen and silicon chip, is made from sand. From Egypt's pyramids to the Hubble telescope, from the world's tallest skyscraper to the sidewalk below it, from Chartres' stained-glass windows to your iPhone, sand shelters us, empowers us, engages us, and inspires us. It's the ingredient that makes possible our cities, our science, our lives—and our future.

And, incredibly, we're running out of it.

The World in a Grain is the compelling true story of the hugely important and diminishing natural resource that grows more essential every day, and of the people who mine it, sell it, build with it—and sometimes, even kill for it. It's also a provocative examination of the serious human and environmental costs incurred by our dependence on sand, which has received little public attention. Not all sand is created equal: Some of the easiest sand to get to is the least useful. Award-winning journalist Vince Beiser delves deep into this world, taking readers on a journey across the globe, from the United States to remote corners of India, China, and Dubai to explain why sand is so crucial to modern life. Along the way, readers encounter world-changing innovators, island-building entrepreneurs, desert fighters, and murderous sand pirates. The result is an entertaining and eye-opening work, one that is both unexpected and involving, rippling with fascinating detail and filled with surprising characters.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399576423
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/07/2018
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Vince Beiser is an award-winning journalist. The World in a Grain, his first book, was a finalist for the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award and a California Book Award. His work has appeared in Wired, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, and the New York Times, among other publications. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, he lives in Los Angeles.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Excerpted from "The World in a Grain"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Vince Beiser.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1 The Most Important Solid Substance on Earth 1

Part I How Sand Built the Twentieth Century's Industrialized World

2 The Skeleton of Cities 29

3 Paved with Good Intentions 49

4 The Thing That Lets Us See Everything 75

Part II How Sand Is Building the Twenty-First Century's Globalized, Digital World

5 High Tech, High Purity 101

6 Fracking Facilitator 119

7 Miami Beach-less 141

8 Man-Made Lands 169

9 Desert War 203

10 Concrete Conquers the World 217

11 Beyond Sand 235

Acknowledgments 259

Notes 263

Bibliography 283

Index 287

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