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Air: The Restless Shaper of the World [Kindle Edition]

William Bryant Logan
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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


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 - Wall Street Journal)

About 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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2199 KB
  • Print Length: 417 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 039306798X
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (August 20, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #488,939 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is an infuriating book. It could be so good, and Logan has written other books that I thought good. This book. however, is a hodgepodge and for me it didn't all fit together.

It does have interesting information, lots of it. The book explores wind, storms, breathing, pollution, spores, pollination and more. At several points in the book Logan goes off on tangents about his own experience with a sort of biographical detail more or less relating to the book's topic, but not very germane. His life seems to have been a fascinating one, but let's put that in an autobiography and edit this one.

Three stars for the actual writing but four for a large amount of interesting information.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good book February 15, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Some of the chapters are a little slow and it was a streach relating them to air but over all I liked it. I loved his book, "dirt" and I will read oak in the future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AIR April 22, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a pilot, hang glider pilot, sailor, mushroom hunter and outdoors man, AIR had a lot in it for me. Explanations are clear and straight forward. (Even I could understand almost everything.) And you don't have to read it in the order it is written. Skip around and you'll still enjoy it.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
All flesh is made from the carbon dioxide in the air. Photosynthesis and respiration would balance were it not for death. Some cellular carbon is buried in the soil or sinks to the bottom of the sea. Thus, release of oxygen in photosynthesis exceeds the release of carbon by respiration. Oxygen in the upper atmosphere shields us from UV radiation which blasts double-oxygen molecules apart that may then recombine or form ozone. This raises the temperature in the upper stratosphere to 28 degrees F, up from -71 F below that layer. Weather thus cannot rise through this warmer top layer, creating the anvil-shaped tops on the largest thunderheads where they hit the stratosphere.

Over 78% of air is nitrogen - essential for life/proteins. Without decay and decomposition, the atmosphere would have been devoid of nitrogen long ago.

Air is set in motion by the sun heating areas near the equator more than at the poles. Rising air near the equator flows north and cools, lowering the pressure beneath it. Colder air from the poles is denser, flows south, and warms as it goes. Because the Earth spins while this occurs the air is deflected west of east, depending on whether it is in the northern or southern hemisphere, and the results quickly become unpredictable and ever-shifting.

Growing air pollution first masked the effects of climate change - temperatures declined slightly from 1945 til the 1970s.

Dust carried by the trade winds from Africa supplies much of the iron and calcium and over half the phosphorus the ocean's plankton require. The dust reaches Brazil, the Caribbeans, the SE U.S., etc. About one billion tons/year, mostly from the Sahara and nearby deserts.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Air: the most powerful element? March 22, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Liked this book that was the monthly selection of the [...] and found Logan's writing very effective, the book was incredibly well researched.

It's chock full of anecdotes, scientific data, and opinion. This is a complex subject, and with his in-depth treatment, you will find yourself much better educated about the subject matter. We live on an incredible planet, and it all rests on a foundation of air!
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