Read Air: The Restless Shaper of the World by William Bryant Logan Online


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'sAir 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....

Title : Air: The Restless Shaper of the World
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780393067989
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 400 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Air: The Restless Shaper of the World Reviews

  • Angie
    2018-10-21 04:46

    This is a lovely, easy, dreamy read. It's far more a meditation on things having to do with air than a science book. The chapters form a hodge-podge that eventually becomes a picture, but it's part memoir, part poem, and part science.This use of pictures is strange. There are a few pictures, but that are largely not helpful to the author to make his point. And then when he really needs a picture, there isn't one, and his language gets tangled trying to make up for it. The most obvious example is that his chapter on the perception and portrayal of the air in the history of art. He describes paintings but doesn't reprint any of them, and the chapter really withers without them. But there are multiple others points that could have used a picture if he really wanted to make his point clear.But in the end, being perfectly clear may not have been his goal. Just getting us to reflect on the importance and busy-ness of air, the indelible essence that surrounds us every day, is probably the aim of a book like this. And in that, it is successful.

  • Clark Hays
    2018-11-02 23:59

    Appropriately ethereal and illuminatingWilliam Bryant Logan writes like an author from a different era — I imagine him as one of those 19th century polymaths, trudging over the English moors with a notebook and a telescope, discovering some new natural phenomenon — bringing the eye of a poet and the mind of a scientist to this wonderful book about air. Rather than a study grounded in chemical analysis, it is an ode buoyed aloft by personal observation. Like the topic he explores, the book is filled with secret currents and unexpected swirls of revelation. His approach ranges from topic to topic, and from the personal to the historic, all linked by a profound sense of wonder at the world around us, the air moving across it and the many life forms and processes that fill the invisible layer or otherwise depend upon it. Some of my favorite moments included:* paragliding spiders with, and this will give you nightmares, 100,000 spiders floating through the sky per acre over a four month period in one study plot* the story of how weather forecasting ensured the success of the D-day landing for the Allied forces, thereby changing the course of WWII, as well as a rousing defense of disruptive, non-linear thinking* how bats echolocate, and the strain on hearts — from bats to hummingbirds to vultures — to fly* a detailed description of the microorganisms in a “finger’s worth’ of sand and how the biggest creatures in this little world (at a millimeter) are a thousand times bigger then the smallest (about half a micron in diameter), the same difference between a shrew and a whale* a vivid look at how sap rises in trees, giving off the water and oxygen that sustain all life (if only we treated them as such), and the tiny networks of tubes made up of lines of cells stretching from root to leaf stomataHis writing is lyrical and powerful:-- “Bats ask and the universe answers.”-- “A song requires two things: breath and listener.”-- “She was an expert in duty and in worry.” [About his mother]-- “The only reason that the world is not awash in the dead is that the fungi return to the earth.”This is a wonderful, non-linear and satisfying book organized around a single, fascinating topic. It will definitely blow me in the direction of his other books.

  • Brian Clegg
    2018-11-13 00:48

    This is a rather poetic book, something of a rarity in popular science and not necessarily one that fits well with the genre. The author, who has a botanical background, tries to give the reader a portrait of the air as it influences mostly living things on the planet.I’m afraid that for me it just didn’t work. I found the attempt to be arty in descriptions simply plodding and hard work. I just wasn’t getting anywhere quickly enough: I found myself making excuses for why I wasn’t coming back to the book every time I put it down. I can see it will work for some people, but it didn’t for me.Apart from anything else, the title is a bit misleading. The book is called ‘AIR – the restless shaper of the world’ – but very little of it is actually about the air, it’s much more about how living things on the Earth make use of the air. Even when you get a section labelled ‘Shining’ with chapters like ‘Why the daytime sky is light’ (which spends most of its time explaining why it’s not about why the sky is blue), there is very little content about the air and soon William Bryant Logan is off on one of his pet topics again.I haven’t read the author’s previous books Dirt and Oak, but by the sound of them they are much more the kind of thing he ought to be writing. Air is not his kind of thing.Review first published on and reproduced with permission

  • Jenny Schwartz
    2018-10-17 07:55

    This is such a wonderful book that I completely understand why the New York Times Book Review chose it as a "Notable Book" of the year. This is science woven into life and reflections on life, and written with a poet's enjoyment of language and using language to evoke an experience.Air was simply a delight to read. I also learned things I hadn't known (like the origin of the phrase "beeline" - bees are determined and focussed flyers) and had some of my assumptions shaken up a bit. I love when a book can do that.Part of what made the book so accessible was William Logan's use of his personal experiences. Then he'd reflect on them, and on occasion, widen them out to philosophical musing."Active, responsive, not reactive. These are the qualities of a good pilot. You must give up assumptions and live alert to the slightest nuance that comes into the five senses, responding not as your supposed self, but as your wings. It doesn't sound like a bad way to live: without complaint, fantasy, or demands, but in conversation with the moment." pp.190-91"A person wears so many grooves (habits) during a long life that eventually the deep-worn grooves begin to dig a grave." p.216Overall, "Air" read to me like an appreciation of life and a challenge to adventure. Pretty good for a science book.

  • Kristal Cooper
    2018-10-30 04:43

    It's staggering to guess how much research went into this book. I challenge the next reader to find ANY subject that involves AIR in any way that's not addressed here. The result is a rather heavy book about what you think would be a light subject, but the fact is that air is everywhere. It's importance cannot be understated and the author does a great job of reminding you not to take it for granted.Because it's such a broad subject, it's natural that some chapters will be more interesting than others. For me, I didn't connect with the discussions about microbes, music and art (very surprisingly) -- but I was fascinated by the information about pheromones, weather and war. As a birder and a traveler, the sections about aviation were sure to be a hit for me. I imagine any reader will find parts that are a slog and parts that are page-turners.This was one of the first books I won in a First Reads giveaway and I'm embarrassed to say that it's taken me nearly four years to finish it. Unfortunately, it started with a long bit about bacteria and the like which didn't grab me and I kept shuffling the book down in my TBR pile. I encourage other readers to stick with it and power through slow spots because there's a lot to like between these pages.

  • Shana Yates
    2018-11-09 04:11

    A little too much whimsy mixed in with the science for my personal tastes. That said, for other readers it might be just the right combination. The author is clearly enamored of his topic and has taken great pains to range far and wide with his discussion of air. My personal preferences mean that the chapters on science (from atmosphere to microbes, from spores to weather, from the mechanics of flight to the wonders of respiration) were my favorite. Some of the other chapters (the sky as depicted in art, memory and the sense of smell, how we interact with sound), were hit or miss. I do not begrudge an author waxing poetic, but only to a point. Some of the science in these other chapters were interspersed with a bit too much personal narrative (I would have preferred more information and less memoir). Still, the author has an approachable (if occasionally overwrought) writing style and the book would read well for a layperson as he tries to make the science digestible.

  • Cretha
    2018-11-13 02:56

    I enjoyed Air: restless shaper of the world. If you are looking for an easy to read, "popular sciencey" book, I recommend:Air: The Restless Shaper of the World by William Bryant Logan"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. "I checked Air out of the American library. The book consists of small chapters discussing air in many contexts: a newborn taking his/her 1st breath, global warming, air quality after 911, a person breaths an average of 600 million breaths in a life time, how the earth and moon developed, etc.Happy reading.

  • Jasmin
    2018-11-11 01:54

    I won this book through Goodreads giveaways. And I wasn't really sure was I was getting into but I really liked this book. It's actually very fascinating right from the start with the introduction. It's a poetic take to all of the science surrounding the air from how it works, what lives in it and how it affects all living things big and small. The author use personal stories, trivia, and historical events to weave together interesting stories and facts about the air in relation to so many other topics from fungus, to planes and natural disasters. This is truly a fascinating read filled to the brim with interesting details about the weather, animals and humans that you wont want to put it down.

  • Richard Thompson
    2018-11-14 00:07

    A kind of swirling meditation on air — weather, wind, spores and other travellers on the air, breath, hang gliding4. MemoryWalk: Spruce Credit Union. As well watch the crew of a large pumper truck hooks a hose up to a coupling on the outside wall of the building and starts pumping some kind of gas. The building starts to inflate — bigger, bigger, bigger — until it floats off its foundations, pulls away from the hose and goes flying up into the sky.

  • Aviv
    2018-10-18 05:03

    This is an excellent book! I thoroughly enjoyed the book and never knew that air could be such a fascinating subject. Mr. Logan does a wonderful job of presenting the material in an easily understandable (though not "dumbed down") and enjoyable manner. I would me more than happy to read the finished version (I had received an advanced copy from Goodreads-Thanks!!!) and would be interested in reading his other books.

  • Aaron Wong
    2018-11-05 23:53

    This started well, but ultimately wasn't as good as it should've been. While some paragraphs were masterfully written, and make you think how a talented writer can make the mundane sound so magical, Logan also seems to stretch out certain recollections ponderously. While some of his anecdotes are unique and interesting, some are so only to him, but we are taken along for the ride.

  • False
    2018-11-15 03:46

    One of those authors, like Simon Winchester, who gives you more than just science, but philosophy, theology, poetry, literary connections...and more. A really good read and he covered so many different, fascinating aspects of air.

  • Mike
    2018-10-17 00:10

    Definitely the boring-est of the Logan books I've read. I loved Oak and liked Dirt. I just didn't feel like I learned all that much reading Air.

  • Valerie
    2018-10-29 08:04

    got this thru first reads.

  • Jason
    2018-11-17 04:50

    Informative, well written and a pleasure to read.

  • Cassaundra Aunna
    2018-10-26 23:57

    I won this book on Goodreads First Reads. An interesting addition to any scientist's collection or fans of science.

  • Jackie
    2018-10-24 02:52

    I won this book on goodreads first reads and I am waiting for my copy in the mail.

  • Geoff
    2018-10-17 08:00

    The Author expands the subject of "Air" in an amazing way. It's composition, extent, movement, life supporting, ...Very chatty style. Science for everyone.

  • Jude Olisa
    2018-11-06 07:57

    Interesting and absorbing, will need to read it again to take in everything. I found it uplifting.