The Secret Life of Dust and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
  • List Price: $16.95
  • Save: $4.88 (29%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 7 left in stock.
Ships from and sold by
Gift-wrap available.
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Solid used copy with visible wear. FREE SHIPPING w/AMAZON PRIME!
Access codes and supplements are not guaranteed with used items.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

The Secret Life of Dust: From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Big Consequences of Little Things Paperback – February 28, 2003

ISBN-13: 072-3812426355 ISBN-10: 0471426350

Buy New
Price: $12.07
38 New from $4.35 50 Used from $0.01 2 Collectible from $9.98
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$4.35 $0.01

Frequently Bought Together

The Secret Life of Dust: From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Big Consequences of Little Things + Dust: A History of the Small and the Invisible
Price for both: $36.33

Buy the selected items together

Best Books of the Year
Best Books of 2014
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2014's Best Books of the Year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley (February 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471426350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471426356
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #868,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Leave it to an accomplished science writer like Hannah Holmes to unearth so much about so little. Zooming in on one of the great, often unnoticed constants of life on earth--dust, in all its myriad forms--Holmes traverses biology, astronomy, climatology, pathology, and host of other fields to dig up the serious dirt. Because while dust might be vital to life on our planet (and may, in fact, even be responsible for it), this "heartless little brute" could also be responsible for the deaths of millions. And she's not talking about dinosaurs. (Or at least not just yet.)

Tackling her topic roughly by the different roles that dust plays, Holmes alternately devotes chapters to specks of space dust ("They're everywhere," gushes one scientist she interviews, "[y]ou eat them all the time. Any carpet would have 'em"), Oviraptor-burying desert dust, particles of dust that go up instead of down (like sea salt and soot), and foreign pollution that heeds no borders (apparently, "Beijing fog" can be bad enough to cause traffic accidents). She saves the best for last with a couple of chapters on "unsavory characters" and "microscopic monsters," finding danger in the obvious (cigarettes and vermiculite mines) and the not so obvious (hot tubs and humidifiers). And you don't even want to know what's in pig dust.

We're swimming in it, we're covered with it, we might very well have come from it, and--surely, eventually--we'll become it. So we really don't have an excuse for not knowing more about it. Thankfully, Holmes is there, in the field and in the lab, with wide-eyed curiosity and a scientific eye for detail. And, "perhaps by tuning in to the news bulletins issued by some of the planet's smallest reporters," we can all have "a better sense of how things are going for the whole." --Paul Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Despite its ubiquity, dust is not a popular subject among scientists, and lay people tend to brush it off. But Holmes, a science and natural history writer for the Discovery Channel Online, teases many tantalizing facts from this particulate microscopic substance. "[P]olar researchers are drinking water that fell as snow during the crusades," for instance. "Hundreds of years' worth of dust has piled up on the well floor," most of it "space dust," as "only a small amount of windblown Earth dusts" reach Antarctica. Some readers may be turned off or sent on a wild cleaning frenzy by much of the information: "you breathe about 700,000 of your own skin flakes each day," for instance, or "a cup of flour... isn't legally filthy until it contains about 150 insect fragments and a couple of rodent hairs." And some of her more harrowing facts might inspire minor lifestyle changes: household dust is comprised of all manner of toxic materials, like "widely produced" chromium and mercury metals, pesticides, and herbicides, and "the average child eats 15 or 20 milligrams of dust a day, and superslurpers eat 30 to 50 milligrams." While factoid set-pieces run the show here, Holmes's tours through the science behind them are lucid. Allergy sufferers and other interested parties will relish this book; others may prefer to remain blissfully ignorant of their particulate surroundings.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author
Hannah Holmes is a cheeky science writer whose expertise lies in the conversion of molehills to mountains. Bending her curiosity on the overlooked and the unassuming, she discovers the enormous miracles that nature and science have wrought in every living thing - and in unliving things, as well. She has written extensively for the Discovery Channel Online and dozens of national magazines; and has authored four books: The Secret Life of Dust; Suburban Safari; The Well Dressed Ape; and most recently Quirk, a gleeful examination of the evolution of personality in mouse and humankind.

Customer Reviews

It's actually one of my favorite reads.
It's both scientifically fascinating and full of fun trivia.
I know I felt that way when I opened the book.
Dennis Littrell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As dull as dust, you might think, until you read a fascinating and wide-ranging science account, _The Secret Life of Dust: From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Big Consequences of Little Things_ ((John Wiley & Sons) by Hannah Holmes, and realize that dust is certainly universal, and is often a nuisance, but it is also a basic cosmic building block. It is hard to imagine any facet of dust that Holmes has not covered in remarkable detail. House dust is here, of course. Everyone carries around a personal cloud of dust, made of skin cells and clothes fibers, but mostly composed of unknowns. Some of this turns into house dust, which has a surprising complex ecology of fungi and dust mites which feed upon it, and tiny, fierce pseudoscorpions that feed upon the mites. But thinking of dust as some domestic phenomenon is a bit parochial. Try thinking cosmic. Holmes goes back to the Big Bang, which scattered matter all over, in unimaginably thin concentrations. The dust grains gathered, and formed places for atoms to meet and make molecules. That made the sun, the earth, and of course, us. Space dust is therefore of increasing interest to cosmologists, the target now of various probes that are supposed to gather the dust out there and bring it home uncontaminated.
It has become alarmingly clear that dust pays little attention to national boundaries. Oriental countries have had booming technologies run mostly on coal for electricity and diesel for transport. In China, one out of fourteen deaths is due to noxious dusts, and its crops are flagging because they don�t get as much sun as they used to. It is only recently that we have discovered that the problem dusts of Asia are our problem, too.
Read more ›
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Everything counts in large amounts." -Depeche Mode

Science writer Hannah Holmes uses the Biblical "dust to dust" adage as a thread weaving through her eleven easy to read chapters, beginning with a sort of overview in Chapter 1. We begin as stardust, and it is to stardust we shall return. Eventually. In Chapter 2, "Life and Death among the Stars," she introduces cosmic dust and in Chapter 3 shows it falling on the earth from outer space: forty thousand tons of it every year, almost all of it in a fine rain. (p. 33) Then there are three chapters on how dust moves around on our planet and how it affects the weather, the life cycles of plants and animals, our economies and our health. There is an excursion into the past in Chapter 7 to answer the question, "Did Dust Do in the Ice Age?" Chapter 8 is about the continuous fall of atmospheric dust onto land, ocean and ice. It is finally in Chapter 9 that Holmes considers the dust in our neighborhoods, and then in Chapter 10, "Microscopic Monsters and Other Indoor Devils," she gets to the topic of primary interest to most readers, the dust under the bed, in the rug, and on the floor. The final chapter is about the dust of our bodies after we are dead, and then after the sun explodes and we are once again stardust.

This is a fascinating read that unlike most books becomes more interesting the further into it one gets. It may change the way you view the world. Seeing our planet and its history from the point of view of dust sheds an entirely different light on things. The very small things in enormous numbers affect our lives in ways that surprise and astound. Consider the sheer volume and weight of dust that swirls around in the atmosphere, with massive tons of it held aloft to cross oceans and continents.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Eric Jewart on November 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Dust. There's a lot of it. We don't know much about it. If you want to hear that repeated for a couple hundred pages, buy this book. There's a lot of airy speculation and to be fair, there are a few interesting pieces of trivia thrown in... but for the most part, this book drags.

There are some writers who can make any topic interesting, like Bill Bryson. I don't think Hannah Holmes is one of them. I gave up on the book about 3/4 of the way through. After the intro, it just felt like she was saying the same thing, over and over. Space dust? We don't know much about it! Desert dust? It's a mystery! Smoke? That's dust, too, and we also know very little about it! And on, and on...

'Dust' is an interesting choice for the title. I might call what Holmes is writting about 'matter', not 'dust'. She's not talking about the stuff you clean up with Pledge; she's talking about anything that ever gets broken down into little pieces, which is pretty much everything. That's not a plus or minus for the book; it's just meant to set your expectations better than I think her title does.

If her writing were more interesting, I would have added a couple more stars. If she could have provided more information, I might have gone up to 5 stars. But as it stands, the book gets 2 stars from me because it's not horrible and it has some interesting trivia, but I wouldn't go any higher. It's not at all compelling. I can't think of anyone I would recommend this to.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By E. S. Dummit on February 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Hannah Holmes has produced a gem of a science book which reads like a good novel. Her mastery of descriptive prose and imaginative narrations of the exploration and discovery of the microscopic universe we inhabit will draw the reader into the excitement of the scientists who study the very tiny stuff of which everything is made. This story is clearly very thoughtfully researched and woven together from a great range of scientific sources. As Holmes attempts to confront some still uncertain and controversial ideas about the role of dust in our individual health and the global health of our planet, she takes a reasonably balanced approach, leaving the reader with the sense of wonder and curiosity and thirst for greater understanding which must drive the scientists she writes about. I look forward to more such enlightening and entertaining books from this author.
I agree with some other reviewers who comment that some illustrations, especially those referenced in the website bibliography at the end of the book, would make the book even more enjoyable. But that does not detract from its five-star standing, in my view. Having the referenced web pages gathered on a central website to make them easier to explore might also be nice, although that, of course, goes beyond the scope of a "hard copy" paper publication.
This is the sort of story which could be well adapted to an online, hyperlinked multimedia presentation, using some of these remarkable resources to expand the story and spark further individual exploration, perhaps published on CD-ROM along with the book. Perhaps the publishers would consider such. I think such a product could expand the audience that would enjoy this story, to make it more accessible to the nintendo generation and others who have been brainwashed by the educational system into thinking natural science is boring and impossible to understand.
We need more creative and imaginative science writers like Hanna Holmes!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?