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Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by…

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History

by Cynthia Barnett

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3688244,497 (3.97)47

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Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
This was an absolutely delightful book. There were a lot of solid facts, interestingly presented, and some lovely meditative thoughts on the nature of rain and the way we respond to it. The content is wider ranging than I initlaly thought, which was a plasant surprise. It starts out a bit slowly in my opinion, but if you stick with it you’ll likely have fun learning about rain. ( )
  mediumofballpoint | Mar 4, 2019 |
Absolutely wonderful writing in this book, linking science with literature and human history in a masterful way. ( )
  klockrike | Jul 2, 2018 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (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.
Through late April and early May, The Mississippi’s floodwaters rose phenomenally. In two separate waves, flood crests in the newly fortified river topped all previous records – approaching sixty feet above sea level. As John M. Barry explained in his chilling history of the 1927 flood, Rising Tide, the levees, built as high as forty feet, created a man-made catastrophe far worse than any natural flood could have wrought. “These heights changed the equations of force along the river.” Barry wrote. “Without levees, even a great flood- a great ‘high water’ – meant only a gradual and gentile rising and spreading of water. But if a levee towering as high as a four –story building gave way, the river could explode upon the land with the power and suddenness of a dam bursting.”
Levee by levee, the illusion of safety behind the government barricades began to crack. On April 15, the first length of levee, 1,200 feet long, collapsed just south of Cairo. Across the Delta, African American plantation workers and sharecroppers were forced to the levees to fill sandbags. Thousands of men worked desperately to save the levee at the Mounds, Mississippi, ferry. Held at gunpoint, black laborers had to keep filling sandbags when everyone could hear the warning roar of the water in their ears and feel the barricade shaking under their feet. No one knows how many were swept to their deaths when the Mounds levee broke. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported, “Refugees coming into Jackson last night from Greenville declare there is not the slightest doubt in their minds that several hundred negro plantation workers lost their lives in the great sweep of water.”
The muddy torrents crashed into the Delta with more than double the force of flood-stage Niagara Falls, and inundated more than 2.3 million acres. It was more water than the entire upper Mississippi had every carried, more than it has ever carried since. People scrambled onto the roofs of houses, then the houses washed away. They took refuge in the tops of trees, then the trees gave way. To take pressure off the levees protecting New Orleans, authorities dynamited a levee downstream in Caernarvon, Louisiana, which flooded most of St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. The homes and fields of the poor living to the east and south of New Orleans were sacrificed for what the city fathers considered a greater good. (The dynamiting left scars so deep that many living in the Lower Ninth Ward when Hurricane Katrina barreled into New Orleans in 2005 insisted the levees had been dynamited once more to save the wealthier, whiter sections of the city).
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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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