Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Big Thirst

Title: The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and the Turbulent Future of Water
Author: Charles Fishman
Genre: Non-fiction
Year: 2010
Rating: 2

Water is kind of a strangely common topic to write a book about, but Charles Fishman manages to reintroduce us all to the most unique feature about the planet we call home. In journalistic style, he presents water to us in a roundabout fashion, forcing us to see in in the light of what it is: a truly magical substance that we need to respect and preserve.
Fishman, the author of the bestselling The Wal-Mart Effect and winner of the Loeb award for investigative journalism, first reported on the bottled water industry in 2006. "I'm not afraid to ask stupid questions," Fishman responds to how he became interested in the broader topic of water. "How did bottled water get here? It's a completely absurd product. Why do we need to pay for bottled water?"
That stupid question led to four years of research, travel, and carrying jugs of water on his head for three kilometers with Papua New Guineans.
Fishman takes us on an extremely logical journey through the origins of water-- by the way, that Aquafina on your desk came from intergalactic space-- to the usages in different countries, and the history of how water has been treated throughout the past century of easy access and abundance.
But as all our friends in Arizona and Las Vegas know, water is a precious commodity, and it won't be abundant forever.
Fishman's writing style is straightforward, well-informed, and to the point. Although the paragraphs and elaborations can be long, they read easily and conversationally, as if you were speaking with a very well-read friend. He presents more of the facts than an actual argument, simply showing us what he's discovered and where this journey of learning about Earth's most precious resource has led him.
This is the first non-fiction book I've reviewed, and it's been a pleasant experience for me. I was given the chance to chat with Mr. Fishman a week ago, and he explained to me the very simple reasons that he became interested in the topic of freshwater: its effect on our daily lives. At any given moment, you'll see someone with a bottle of Evian or Polish Spring in their hand, and he says that he wondered how it got there. Not just from the plant, but where in the ground it sprang from, and where water came from ultimately. "Having a sense of history, and asking why things happen, I end up talking to astronomers," he joked.
The Big Thirst is a fascinating exploration of something that we already thought we were familiar with. We all learn the water cycle in sixth grade (precipitation, gathering, evaporation, condensation, etc) and likely never think about it again until our kids ask us for help on their science homework. But what if, one day, we woke up and found ourselves wondering where the water in the ice maker came from in the beginning?
Altogether, I give this book a 2. That's probably just my affinity for fiction speaking, but it is kind of a long book, at 405 pages. You can pick up a copy at the Kindle store for $9.99, but this book is actually a super good deal at Barnes&Noble, with the hardback going for $16.25. Either way, see if you can borrow a copy from a friend, but if you can't, definitely go pick it up. It's a thought-provoking book, and you'll feel really well-informed by the end.
That's all for day, you pageturners, you. Open your mind and try some nonfiction.

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