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Wind: How the Flow of Air Has Shaped Life, Myth, and the Land Paperback – May 1, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Jan DeBlieu lives on North Carolina's Outer Banks, where "wind is culture and heritage... Wind toughens us, moves mountains of sand as we watch, makes it difficult to sleepwalk through life." She always knows how fast the wind is blowing, and from what direction. She knows which winds are good for fishermen, and which are good for surfers. In Wind, DeBlieu teaches what she knows, and more. Watching the wind ruffle the water, turn tree branches into whips, or capsize a sailboat, she uses her powers of observation and lyrical writing to beautifully communicate what she sees. From the windy myths, religions, and creation stories of cultures worldwide, to the hardcore science of air movements and meteorology, to the stories of people whose lives are forever changed by hurricanes, typhoons, and tornadoes, Wind covers vast territory.

"I'd rather look at Grandma's drawers than see a backing wind," say folks on the eastern seaboard of the United States. Someone who is following an unlikely dream is said to be "chasing the wind." And if we suspect a big change is coming, we say, "something is in the wind." We name the winds: sirocco, Santa Ana, williwaw, chinook, monsoon. DeBlieu traces the ways wind shapes our reality, the earth's land and water, plants and animals, exploring everything in dramatic, immediate, and lucid prose.

"It begins with a subtle stirring caused by sunlight falling on the vapors that swaddle the earth. It is fueled by extremes--the stifling warmth of the tropics, the bitter chill of the poles. Temperature changes set the system in motion: hot air drifts upward and, as it cools, slowly descends.... Gradually the vapors begin to swirl as if trapped in a simmering cauldron. Air molecules are caught by suction and sent flying.... As the world spins, it brushes them to one side but does not slow them. Tumbling together, the particles of air become a huge, unstoppable current."

And so the winds are born. Read Wind and you'll never again take an exhilarating kite-flying day for granted. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Scientific American

DeBlieu, who writes for a living, has a poetic touch that adds a special grace to her prose when she turns to a subject in nature. The prose and the venturesome research behind it won the 1998 hardcover version of this book the John Burroughs medal for distinguished natural history writing; this is the paperback edition. "The wind, the wind," DeBlieu writes. "Few other forces have so universally shaped the diverse terrains and waters of the earth or the plants and animals scattered through them. Few other phenomena have exerted such profound influence on the history and psyche of humankind." She explains lucidly the physics of wind and describes her trips to experience the wind--including the time she had herself strapped into a hang glider, towed to 2,000 feet and turned loose. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; Reprint edition (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593760949
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593760946
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.7 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,132,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Although the writer is stimulated by the winds of the outer banks, her handling of the subject is quite universal, and appeals to those of us who live on the Great Lakes, which have severe and fascinating wind patterns. Ms DeBlieu is a deft writer and has done meticulous research. This book ranks with Longitude by Dava Sobel, McPhee and Ian Fleming.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By kieler on July 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Think about it. If someone asked you to write a non-fiction (but also not totally scientific) book about the wind, how much could you write? A few paragraphs? A few pages?
Jan DeBlieu has written nearly 300 pages not only about the wind, but also its effects. Her inspiration came from living on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and watching the wind blast this land, break the trees, scatter the wildlife and discourage the people.
In the book, DeBlieu discusses many facets to the wind and its effects: mythology of the wind, the effect of the wind on history (due to prevailing winds, Europeans had sailed to Brazil long before they set foot in western Africa), as well as trees, birds, sand, ocean currents and man himself. Man's attempts to confront the wind (such as skyscrapers whose windows are blown out in strong winds) and to use the wind (such as windmills for energy) are also discussed.
But the facts presented in this book are only half the story. This is not a scientific book written in dry language. If that were so, this book would not be particularly interesting to a casual reader. But, as the blurb on the back cover states, "Jan DeBlieu brings a poet's voice and a scientist's eye" to her study of the wind. And that is what makes the book so interesting. DeBlieu takes scientific descriptions and transforms them into sentences where you think "I wish I could write like that". For example:
"Just as it has shaped the history of mankind, the seasonal paths of animals, and the spread of vegetation, wind chisels the crust of the earth. It whistles around mountains and through passes, eroding rock as it gains speed. Bit by bit it skims the tops off plowed fields. It scatters ash from volcanic explosions and so creates some of the richest soil on earth."
If you enjoy learning about the world around you, but are put off by the scientific language, you will find this book to be - I can't avoid it - a breath of fresh air.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Peter Savage on February 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When you first start reading this book, you're not quite sure how Ms DeBlieu is going to develop the topic. She uses a lot of local (Cape Hatteras) analogies and personal accounts, and there's this feeling in the back of your mind, "hmm, is this going to be just another nature book, about sand dunes and sailing ships?" But pretty soon, you're hooked. I've not read better descriptions of the major wind systems, or of the origins of hurricanes. And as she begins to dig into the effects of wind on civilization, you'll find this impossible to put down. The final chapter of wind power is especially remarkable. No, it's not just another nature book, not at all.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 21, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I kayak on Lake Superior, where the wind often whips up some steep waves. My kayaking pals know that my knowledge of nature is usually confined to realizing that birds have wings, that rain falls from the sky and leaves are green. This summer, after reading Wind, I was able to wow them with my detailed knowledge of how the winds are formed and why, so often, they seem to be blowing in our faces when we're out on the water. This is a dose of science for the science-phobic, a nicely constructed and beautifully written examination of how people have related to the wind over the millenia, and how it affects us today. A bonus feature: Deblieu's writing about the wind has a sensual nature that makes this much more than another nature book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rick Hunter on November 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Jan DeBlieu's Wind: How the Flow of Air has Shaped Life, Myth, and the Land is a wonderful combination of scientific discussion and personal essay. Ms. DeBlieu approaches her subject from numerous angles, from the affects of wind on history to its role in energy production and her own moods. Living on North Carolina's Outer Banks, Ms. DeBlieu regularly returns to her own, coastal and windy environment, to provide a highly personal perspective on her subject. I learned a great deal from this lucid work, but must confess that what I enjoyed most was DeBlieu's personal observations and writerly voice. She is a fine companion to spend the afternoon with on the breezy hill in Northern New York where I live.mar
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William O. Belleville on May 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be at once eloquent, informed and wonderfully appealing---both to naturalists as well as to those who simply want to know how our earth works. 'Wind' works on every level.
However, the tragedy of having Amazon encourage reader reviews is that you court the opinion of folks who are often frustrated writers, and who---because they don't have to sign their name---will say amazingly stupid and uninformed things. In re-reading DeBlieu's "Wind" once again, I am astounded that anyone as fully ... as the reader who gave it only one star [and very rudely called it a 'yawn'] could actually be taken seriously. This sort of uncivilized and uninformed behavior must originate with the dot com flame geeks, nasty little people who don't have the courage to sign their names to such 'critiques.'
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