Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Review: Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett

Rain: A Natural and Cultural HistoryTitle: Rain: A Natural and Cultural History
Author: Cynthia Barnett
Source/Format: Blogging for Books, Paperback Review Copy
More Details: Nonfiction, Science, History
Publisher/Publication Date: Crown Publishers, April 21, 2015

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Rain is elemental, mysterious, precious, destructive...

It is the subject of countless poems and paintings; the top of the weather report; the source of the world's water. Yet this is the first book to tell the story of rain. Cynthia Barnett's Rain begins four billion years ago with the torrents that filled the oceans, and builds to the storms of climate change. It weaves together science—the true shape of a raindrop, the mysteries of frog and fish rains—with the human story of our ambition to control rain, from ancient rain dances to the 2,203 miles of levees that attempt to straitjacket the Mississippi River. It offers a glimpse of our "founding forecaster," Thomas Jefferson, who measured every drizzle long before modern meteorology. Two centuries later, rainy skies would help inspire Morrissey’s mopes and Kurt Cobain’s grunge. Rain is also a travelogue, taking readers to Scotland to tell the surprising story of the mackintosh raincoat, and to India, where villagers extract the scent of rain from the monsoon-drenched earth and turn it into perfume.

Now, after thousands of years spent praying for rain or worshiping it; burning witches at the stake to stop rain or sacrificing small children to bring it; mocking rain with irrigated agriculture and cities built in floodplains; even trying to blast rain out of the sky with mortars meant for war, humanity has finally managed to change the rain. Only not in ways we intended. As climate change upends rainfall patterns and unleashes increasingly severe storms and drought, Barnett shows rain to be a unifying force in a fractured world. Too much and not nearly enough, rain is a conversation we share, and this is a book for everyone who has ever experienced it...
Of the books I’ve read this year, Rain: A natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett was one of the more fascinating ones. Of the nonfiction I’ve picked up in 2016, I haven’t read one specifically about rain. The subject matter was of interest to me, and ultimately my primary reason for choosing to review this book. I wasn’t disappointed. Barnett’s research comes through on the page, and provided a thoroughly engrossing look at something as common as rain—disasters, and advancements in clothing to windshield wipers, and even mistakes made in an attempt to curb flooding.

Like I said, Rain was a very interesting read. There was a lot I liked about this book, and to me, the chapters were organized well. Barnett’s writing clearly presented facts, thus, I found this book easy to get into.

This majority of this book was dedicated to, as the title suggests, rain. It covers how weather has helped not only shape the environment, but also break it down. Barnett also shows how rain had an effect on nature as well as culture throughout history. But it also covered such topics as disastrous storms, frogs falling from the sky, polluted rainfall, as well as relief provided by much needed showers to arid regions. It also highlighted how city expansion could have effects on weather patterns, when natural landscapes are changed to suit the needs of people.

In the end, I was thoroughly impressed with Rain. It was a fascinating look at the weather, and the effects modern advancements can have on the environment. This is the first book I’ve read by Barnett, but suffice to say, I would definitely consider picking up another one of her novels.
This copy of this book was provided by Blogging for Books (publisher) for this review, thank you!
About the Author...

Cynthia Barnett is an award-winning environmental journalist who has reported on water from the Suwannee River to Singapore. She is the author of two previous books, Mirage and Blue Revolution, a Boston Globe top 10 science book of 2011. She lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband and children. Visit her website at

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