Rain: A Natural and Cultural History

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Crown/Archetype, Apr 21, 2015 - Science - 368 pages
Rain is elemental, mysterious, precious, destructive.
It is the subject of countless poems and paintings; the top of the weather report; the source of the world's water. Yet this is the first book to tell the story of rain.

Cynthia Barnett's Rain begins four billion years ago with the torrents that filled the oceans, and builds to the storms of climate change. It weaves together science—the true shape of a raindrop, the mysteries of frog and fish rains—with the human story of our ambition to control rain, from ancient rain dances to the 2,203 miles of levees that attempt to straitjacket the Mississippi River. It offers a glimpse of our "founding forecaster," Thomas Jefferson, who measured every drizzle long before modern meteorology. Two centuries later, rainy skies would help inspire Morrissey’s mopes and Kurt Cobain’s grunge. Rain is also a travelogue, taking readers to Scotland to tell the surprising story of the mackintosh raincoat, and to India, where villagers extract the scent of rain from the monsoon-drenched earth and turn it into perfume.

Now, after thousands of years spent praying for rain or worshiping it; burning witches at the stake to stop rain or sacrificing small children to bring it; mocking rain with irrigated agriculture and cities built in floodplains; even trying to blast rain out of the sky with mortars meant for war, humanity has finally managed to change the rain. Only not in ways we intended. As climate change upends rainfall patterns and unleashes increasingly severe storms and drought, Barnett shows rain to be a unifying force in a fractured world. Too much and not nearly enough, rain is a conversation we share, and this is a book for everyone who has ever experienced it.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - SignoraEdie - www.librarything.com

This book presents a wonderful multifaceted look at something we take for granted and something that is actually threatened in the western states where I love. We used this book as the common text for a Learning-in-Retirement class and found it useful. Read full review

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User Review  - InfoQuest - LibraryThing

It took me way too long to finish this book, and I don't think it was entirely my fault (though, admittedly, I lost track of the book itself for several months, but only after setting it down a third ... Read full review


Title Page
ONE Cloudy with a Chance of Civilization
TWO Drought Deluge and Devilry
NINE Writers on the Storm
TWELVE Strange Rain
THIRTEEN And the Forecast Calls for Change
EPILOGUE Waiting for Rain

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About the author (2015)

Cynthia Barnett is an award-winning environmental journalist who has reported on water from the Suwannee River to Singapore. She is the author of two previous books, Mirage and Blue Revolution, a Boston Globe top 10 science book of 2011. She lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband and children. Visit her website at cynthiabarnett.net.

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