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Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by…

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History

by Cynthia Barnett

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Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
Another book that was not what I thought it would be. Given the current drought crisis in California, I was curious to see what was the history of rain. I love listening to the rain (real or on a white noise smartphone app), I love reading books inside while it's raining outside, I love coming inside and peeling off my wet clothes into warm dry ones, where I can enjoy the rain in warmth. :)
So when I saw this book I thought it looked like a great pick up. Unfortunately, not so much. The author takes us through a little bit of the science of how rain occurs. Then the rest of the book is what role rain plays in history, rather than the "natural and cultural history" of rain. From how the Romans collected rain to the attempts of a Union soldier trying to settle a farm post-Civil War to how weather forecasting developed over time, etc. rain obviously plays a very important roles in history, but this book isn't actually about the rain.
I must agree with other negative reviews that say the text is trying too hard to be poetic. There are some really interesting stories, topics and anecdotes here, but I couldn't help but feel the author tried much too hard to make it flowery and lyrical.
It seems like it's trying to be far too much all at once: a little science, a little cultural impact (music and literature), its role in weather forecasting, how we capture water for farming and other needs, etc. I wish it had stuck with ONE topic and stuck with it. As it is, I found it hard to stay interested as the author would soon go off on another tangent about another topic and then come back, or stay with one subject for an entire chapter.
I really wanted to like it, but overall it doesn't live up to the hype. Might be cool for weather forecasting fans and the like. But as a casual reader, I can't recommend it. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It took me way too long to finish this book, and I don't think it was entirely my fault (though, admittedly, I lost track of the book itself for several months, but only after setting it down a third time). The individual stories Barnett relates can be fascinating, but the "flow" (pun only slightly intended) is lacking, and there was no clear overarching framework or "point" to most of the vignettes, other than sharing another fascinating fact or tale about water. Eventually, she does center around climate change and that makes things seem more focused, but it's a bit late in the book. Also, perhaps to quibble, Barnett spends far more time talking about water in general than rain specifically, though of course it's only part of the water cycle. So if the idea of a bunch of random stories about precipitation and weather (with a side helping of depressive facts about climate change) appeals to you, then this is probably the book for you. Alas, it wasn't for me.
  InfoQuest | Nov 27, 2017 |
3.5 stars: I enjoyed this one. The subject matter ranges from the formation of rain and water on the early Earth to effects on weather and rain due to Climate Change. There is even a chapter on Mackintosh raincoats.

The only fault I found with this book is it covers too much territory, and the reader can feel overwhelmed at times with the constant shifting of focus. All in all, a very enlightening popular science book about rain, and one I would recommend. ( )
  Mitchell_Bergeson_Jr | Aug 6, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
From the rain cycle to the shape of raindrops to the smell of rain, Cynthia Barnett's "Rain: A Natural and Culture History" hits all the most interesting stories about the life-giving rain we sometimes take for granted.

Barnett explores the Mackintosh, the rainiest places on Earth, and, of course, how rain is being affected by climate change.

But this isn't a thinly veiled agenda book. It's a well thought out exploration of how rain makes us human, and our response to the rainy days in our lives.

Read more of my reviews at Ralphsbooks.

I received this book for free in exchange for a review. ( )
  ralphz | Jul 25, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Combining historical narrative with contemporary interviews and observations, Cynthia Barnett's "Rain: A Natural and Cultural History" is an insightful and informative look at the place of rain in our history and cultural imagination. I especially enjoyed the section on rain in American history and the many forgotten stories about how precipitation (or the lack thereof) shaped the contours of a budding nation.

Barnett's style is straight forward and nearly languid. At times she almost lets a subject overstay its welcome (I could have done with one less story of American rainmakers) as she chases details. I found myself picking up the book and reading bits at a time (and even skipping ahead to new subjects) rather than reading long passages.

N.B.: A received a free review copy of this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. ( )
  sullijo | Feb 7, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
Toward the end of her book, Barnett draws again from Ray Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles.” Bradbury wrote that his imagined Martians “blended religion and art and science because, at base, science is no more than an investigation of a miracle we can never explain, and art is an interpretation of that miracle.” In essence, this blending is exactly what Barnett does for rain, merging religion and art and science to capture a gestalt, one best considered and appreciated somewhere less than dry, perhaps during a wet morning on a soaked trail, where printed pages can be baptized by the very substance that is their subject.
added by mysterymax | editNew York Times, BILL STREEVER (Apr 17, 2015)
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And who art thou? Said I to the soft-falling shower,
Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated:
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea,
Upward to heaven, whence vaguely form'd, altogether changed, and yet the same,
I descend to lave the drouths, atomies, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn;
And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own origin, and make pure and beautify it;
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wandering,
Reck'd or unreck'd, duly with love returns.)

                                                              Walt Whitman,
                                                   "The Voice of the Rain"
For Aaron
First words

The rain on Mars was gentle, and welcome. Sometimes, the rain on Mars was blue. One night, rain fell so marvelously upon the fourth planet from the sun that thousands of trees sprouted and grew overnight, breathing oxygen into the air.
Part 1
Elemental Rain

Cloudy with a Chance of Civilization

If you've ever admired a brilliant azure sky, and wondered how it was the heavens that day radiated such clear and dazzling color, you could probably thank a rain storm. Rain is Earth's great brightener, beginning with the sky. As fine dust, pollution, and other tiny particles build up in the atmosphere, our celestial sphere grows paler and paler, from blue to milky white. A good rain washes the particles away, shining the heavens to their bleu celeste best.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804137099, Hardcover)

A natural history of rain, told through a lyrical blend of science, cultural history, and human drama

It is elemental, mysterious, precious, destructive. It is the subject of countless poems and paintings; the top of the weather report; the source of all 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 colored rains—with the human story of our attempts 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:11 -0400)

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. 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.… (more)

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