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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About Water

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June 24, 2009

Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About Water

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today we’re recommending books about water.

Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It (by Robert Glennon, $28, Island Press, May 2009): The author, a law professor at the University of Arizona, defines our nation’s underreported water crisis and lists all the crazy ways we’re wasting the resource (specifically calling out that bastion of sin in the middle of the Mojave: Las Vegas) – but also provides solutions, including reclaiming wastewater (in the charmingly named chapter “Shall We Drink Pee?”) and making farmers more water-wise. Glennon takes a subject matter that can be prohibitively academic and manages to present it with mass appeal, even while refraining from dumbing down the issue’s complexity.

Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It (by Elizabeth Royte, $25, Bloomsbury, June 2008): Royte, who’s good at painting characters and bringing us into a scene, writes in first person about her on-the-ground investigations into why and how the bottled water became a multi-billion-dollar industry. She questions companies’ rights to water sources, as well as the safety of tap water. The result is an engaging book that’s likely to leave anyone who reads it feeling uneasy the next time they reach for their Evian.

Following the Water: A Hydromancer’s Notebook (by David M. Carroll, $24, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Aug. 2009): Writing in a mellifluous style (example: “Water-murmur and the distant evening song of a robin” as a paragraph-opening sentence), Carroll, a Macarthur winner, presents us with his first-person, present-tense writing about wildlife in the wetlands. Those who’ll appreciate this descriptive volume – punctuated with the author’s own detailed sketches – will likely be poetry or journal fans. But one can’t help but wonder whether true nature lovers wouldn’t rather get their dose of intimate interaction with nature firsthand.

Heart of Dryness: How the Last Bushmen Can Help Us Endure the Coming Age of Permanent Drought (by James G. Workman, $26, Walker & Company, Aug. 2009): This book opens in Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, where drought has reached epic proportions. Workman, an investigative journalist, walks us through the water-driven persecution of the Bushmen by the nation’s government and applies lessons hard-learned in Africa to the management of U.S. water. His writing is capable of eliciting outrage and, one would hope, action.

--Avital Binshtock

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