Currently reading

Paul Hanley
A Month in the Country
Michael Holroyd, J.L. Carr
A Tale of the Dispossessed: A Novel
Laura Restrepo, Dolores M. Koch
Mesabi Pioneers
Jeffrey Smith, Russell Hill
The Crusades Through Arab Eyes
Jon Rothschild, Amin Maalouf
Island of a Thousand Mirrors
Nayomi Munaweera

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History - Cynthia Barnett This is one of those titles that as soon as I saw it, I wondered why this hasn't been done before. Rain captivates us... a book about it would be lovely! And it is. As the subtitle promises, it includes cultural as well as natural points. The best references are to literature and music. The best science is in her explanation of why it rains more in some places than others. There are fascinating little facts, such as it raining more in Mobile, AL than Seattle and that falling raindrops aren't shaped like drips from our faucets.

The scientist in me wanted a little more information about the science. For instance, she establishes that there is a climate cycle on the Great Plains in the US, mostly dry with some wet years, but she didn't examine what the larger pattern is and what might cause it. I'm one of those annoying people who can't see an interesting fact without asking why. And there were times that the book dragged for me, such as the detailed history of rain-maker charlatans in the Old West or the fashion history of umbrellas, but I could not honestly make the case that these things should not be in a book like this. And beyond those, there were genuinely intriguing stories about how rain or lack thereof has shaped human civilization for thousands of years. I learned a lot and I loved it.

And ultimately, of course, the rain-maker charlatans lead us to the uncomfortable fact that we are now changing the rain through global climate change, and she does not shy away from describing some of the consequences of global warming. She established that the rain is very important to our way of life, and that we are changing it in complex, unpredictable ways. Her arguments are graceful, if not as widely scientific as I'd want. I think that makes it attractive to more people, actually.

Highly recommended to people interested in an everyday phenomenon like rain (well, okay, not everyday unless you live in Seattle) and how it has affected us and how it's changing. Very well done.

I got a copy of this from NetGalley.