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Heat: Adventures in the World's Fiery Places 1ST Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0316105330
ISBN-10: 0316105333
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Science and nature writer Streever, author of the best-selling Cold (2009), this time turns his attention to the opposite temperature phenomenon. He begins with vivid recollections of his experience in Death Valley, a desert too hot for cactus, with measured temperatures of 148 degrees and gruesome consequences for wanderers. Streever goes on to chronicle visits to other hot spots, including Santa Barbara, California, in the wake of a devastating, unmanaged fire, a volcanic slope in Hawaii, coal mines in the Netherlands, a thermonuclear processing plant in South America, and fire-walking schools. Streever intersperses his personal adventures with fascinating science, culture, and history, from the invention of matches to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima to discussions of the relative merits of coal, oil, and thermonuclear heat and environmental issues. With engaging storytelling skill and deep scientific knowledge, Streever offers a fascinating exploration of one of the basic necessities of everyday life. A detailed notes section is as fascinating as the text. --Vanessa Bush



"Confronted in 2009 with the best-selling success of "Cold," biologist Bill Streever was all but obligated to take on "Heat," but he's done it with more verve and creativity, giving readers a virtual page-turner ... He writes cleverly, clearly, at times beautifully ... He's a friendly tour guide, with a wry sense of humor." -- The Cleveland Plain Dealer

A "thoroughly entertaining companion volume.... Streever operates in some of the same territory as Mary Roach and Bill Bryson: taking on big, serious topics, and making them entertaining without making them trivial, inserting himself into the narrative without overwhelming the material. This is a fine balancing act." -- The San Francisco Chronicle

"In this worthy companion to Cold, Streever is able to mix the pop science, personal experiences, and historic asides into a fun and informative commentary on a subject that few people think about despite its inherent life and death implications." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Engaging, easy-to-read, free-ranging exploration of a natural phenomenon. Funny and factual blend of science, history, and adventure." -- Kirkus Reviews

"This book, equally engaging and filled with fascinating facts, will appeal to old and young, and likely sell like superheatedcakes." -- The Huffington Post

"Streever's book is rangy and free-form.... Evocative scientific explanations also punctuate his exploits.... He clearly has an affinity for extremes and a gutsy, undaunted spirit that enlivens both his inquiries and his writing." -- Smithsonian Magazine

"Bill Streever has now covered the full spectrum. As he did with his previous book, Cold, Heat reminds us that our survival depends on maintaining ourselves within a very narrow range of temperature, but Streever has gone ahead and surveyed the extremes." -- The Daily Beast

"Bill Streever is an able guide into the flaming regions of our beleaguered evirons... a rare nature book, a pleasing mix of first-person narrative and layman science. The facts come fast and furious but are served on a platter of digestible prose." -- The Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Streever's easy-going, colourful prose is at its best in his vivid descriptions of historical events." -- The New Scientist

"Streever has a knack for explaining scientific phenomena to a general readership, confidently surveying both the historical development of scientific research and chemical reactions." -- The New Republic

"This intense, pacy ride through the thermal kicks off with thirst and ends with quarks freed by heat ... Simmering with verve throughout." -- Nature

"He adeptly explains scientific principles and their applications in human terms, and via specific examples. It's almost as if Streever has hit upon a winning formula for popular-science writing that doesn't...dumb down the substantive science.... Streever has a nice touch. He variously makes you think and smile. Sometimes he achieves both at the same time." -- Winnipeg Free Press

"The reader follows the arc of the narrative like a bird following a chain of crumbs, swallowing one detail after the next. The factoids are fascinating." -- The Anchorage Daily News

"An enormously engaging, entertaining, and informative portrayal of heat in a wide range of settings. Streever's own passion for science comes across clearly throughout the book. Please read and share this book. The final word is awe." -- Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory

"Heat is packed with anecdotes, and Streever's boundless enthusiasm for high-temperature topics makes the book an engaging read. He is at his best when relating his own adventures." -- Science News

"An illuminating romp sure to delight connoisseurs of extreme geography and ignite everyone's inner pyromaniac." -- David R. Montgomery, author of The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood


"Original and organic: it is flinty and tough-minded, with just enough humor glowing around the edges to keep you toasty and dry...Streever's prose does what E. L. Doctorow said good writing is supposed to do, which is to evoke sensation in the reader ... This book is chilling in too many ways to count." -- Dwight Garner's Top Ten Books of 2009, New York Times

"Cold is a love song to science and scientists, to Earth and everything that lives on and flies over and tunnels under it. It's impossible to read the book and not fully realize that our planet must be protected." -- Mary Roach, New York Times Book Review

"Fascinating...Streever's affection for cold offers intellectual air conditioning." -- Irene Wanner, Los Angeles Times

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1ST edition (January 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316105333
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316105330
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,166,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tasha on January 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book started out by describing what prolonged exposure to heat does to the human body. The second chapter talks about wild fires. I feel a warning is needed, these two chapters are quite graphic. The squeamish beware. I'm not squeamish and found all this fascinating. I'd also like to add that whatever we pay firefighters is not enough, it couldn't possibly be enough. Streever goes on to talk about cooking, fuel, volcanoes, nuclear weapons, and even supercolliders. This book was fun, informative, and very well written. It has convinced me to read his previous book about cold.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you love non-fiction popular science books, this is an excellent choice. Also, if you have read his book "Cold" you will have to read this one, too.
The author has a writing style which is very ADD (attention-deficit) in that he hops around from whatever he is thinking at THIS moment to whatever he is thinking NEXT, but it really works. He has taken on a HUGE topic, that covers everything from campfires and deserts to the history of fossil fuels and volcanoes and even firewalking. This was especially fascinating because I actually walked on fire back in the 1980's, so I was interested to see his take on the phenomenon.
Go along with him in his travels around the world to explore the entire topic of "The Science of Hot Things and the History of the People Who Make Them."
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Format: Hardcover
If reviews were the stock market, the recommendation for "Heat" would be "Buy and Hold."

Bill Streever (and his stalwart companion) take on extreme heat. Not the spring tra-la-la sunny days heat; not the heat of a 350 degree bake 25 minutes oven; not the sweet heats. He explores, first hand, hands on, and feet on too the dynamics and consequences of heats intense enough to melt rock, to pulverize a city, to leave only a blob of gold where rings had been, to half mummify a lost man alive.

"Heat" the book has ten chapters: Raving Thirst (seven days in an extreme desert without water), Unmanaged Fire (and what it does to people trapped in blazing infernos, to rings, and to other things), Cooked (victuals through time, space, and place), My Children Eat Coal, Rock Oil, Steaming Mountains (volcanic immensity and intensity), Boom (the heart of deadly brightness), and The Top of the Thermometer (inside a super-collider when gold becomes quarks and temperatures rise to seven trillion degrees).

The chapters reflect the sensible effective organization of the book as a whole: from the relatively lowest heat/degrees Fahrenheit (desert) to the most intense (within the super-collider). Within each chapter, we are in similarly well-organized hands, from the earliest instances through the developments to the current status of coal, oil, atomic bombs or whatever. The structure is not obtrusive but it is very much part of what makes the wealth of information so accessible and "Heat" such a good book.

Further, Streever seems incapable of writing a boring or clumsy sentence.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Heat" is not as compelling as "Cold" but how could it be? "Cold" was soooo good. If you liked "Cold", you will enjoy "Heat". Intelligent stuff for people who like their facts interspersed with humor and telling anecdotes. The narrative voice is dry but comfortable. Kind of like drinking "Arrogant Bastard Ale". Not for everyone but really enjoyed by a select few.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"A quarter cord of cedar weighs seven hundred pounds as wood but only four pounds as ash. The lesson: if you have to haul firewood, burn it first." - from HEAT

"I flew home to Alaska, propelled by jet fuel. Another name for jet fuel: kerosene. My seat, propelled by burning kerosene, releases 1,537 pounds of carbon emissions." - from HEAT

"I put my hand deep into a crack, and a sudden burp gives me a near scalding. I decide that I will no longer reach into the darkness of steaming cracks." - from HEAT, the author doing something ill-advised at the bottom of Kilauea Iki crater on the island of Hawai'i.

Having previously read and enjoyed Bill Streever's Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places, I expected big things from HEAT. Then, in the "Preface", the author holds the palm of his hand in a candle flame for five seconds, an action that seemed to me to lack common sense. But, it's his book and his hand, so what do I know? I have to say, though, that it might have been more entertaining for the reader and instructional for Streever if he'd immersed his hand in a deep fryer. You think?

In his own words, Bill describes HEAT as:

"... about all things hot ...it let me tell the story of something that is with us all the time but taken so much for granted that it is all but ignored."

Well, I'm not sure the book encompasses ALL things hot, but this rambling narrative of popular science does include the desert and dehydration thirst, wildfires and burn injuries, cooking, the evolution of fuel (peat, coal, oil), volcanoes and lava, nuclear weapons, the Sun and stars, supercolliders, and firewalking.
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