Air The Restless Shaper of the World

Air is a thought-provoking paean, not only to the air but to the variousness of this world.”
—Jane Brox, Orion

The author of Dirt and Oak brings to life this quickest, most sustaining, most communicative element of the earth.

Air sustains the living. Every creature breathes to live, exchanging and changing the atmosphere. Water and dust spin and rise, make clouds and fall again, fertilizing the dirt. Twenty thousand fungal spores and half a million bacteria travel in a square foot of summer air. The chemical sense of aphids, the ultraviolet sight of swifts, a newborn’s awareness of its mother’s breast — all take place in the medium of air.

Ignorance of the air is costly. The artist Eva Hesse died of inhaling her fiberglass medium. Thousands were sickened after 911 by supposedly safe” air. The African Sahel suffers drought in part because we fill the air with industrial dusts. With the passionate narrative style and wide-ranging erudition that have made William Bryant Logan’s work a touchstone for nature lovers and environmentalists, Air is — like the contents of a bag of seaborne dust that Darwin collected aboard the Beagle — a treasure trove of discovery.

Praise for Air

“The invisible is made powerfully, inescapably vivid here. The air is the sea in which we swim, and so this book becomes an account of our (thin, deteriorating) place in the cosmos.”
Bill McKibben, author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
“Logan’s meticulously researched and engagingly presented treatise is a breath of, well, fresh air.”
“Many of the pieces feel like a natural breath themselves and hew close to poetry in the way as Yeats puts it, “a poem comes right with a click like a closing box”. Most essentially, they also ramify: their meanings accumulate to create a polyphonous work that rewards thoughtful, slow reading.”
—Jane Brox, Orion
“Cheery, chatty and compulsively curious, Mr. Logan is able to draw the reader into pretty much any subject. Who would have thought that the life cycle of the stinkhorn (“the phallic fungi that are spread by flies, whom they attract with an odor more pungent than any steaming pile of dog poop”) might be entrancing? Not I, for sure. Who would have anticipated that the double-breathing ability of the tarpon (gill and lung-bladder) might lead to a consideration of the teeming underwater environment of worms, flagellates and vividly colored cyanobacteria? Interdisciplinary in his learning and rhizomatic in his thinking, Mr. Logan finds affinity between subjects as various as batecholocation, medieval French architecture, Scottish folklore and the sonata form.”
—Robert MacFarlane, Wall Street Journal
“Poetic, supple, and passionate, Logan writes with the learned insights of an art historian as he discusses the depiction of sky and clouds in medieval painting, then moves seamlessly into the realm of the meteorologist as he demystifies the data-gathering capabilities of weather balloons and satellites. For everyone who has wondered just how a 747 manages to get off the ground, luxuriated in the intoxicating aroma of a bed of roses, or marveled at a tropical sunset, Logan’s meticulously researched and engagingly presented treatise is a breath of, well, fresh air.”
—Carol Haggas, Booklist
“A masterpiece. Remarkably, Logan brings our planet’s air to life with riveting accounts—just in time, as humanity’s future depends upon an understanding of our air.”
—Jim Hansen, climatologist, NASA
“An examination of the all-encompassing role that the atmosphere plays in shaping our lives. A tour-de-force journey through the natural world.”
Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Whether Logan is writing about the weather on D-day, or how an infant’s breathing in the pheromones of its mother brings the infant naturally to the breast to feed, each story in Air is a fascinating look at the role our air plays in our lives and a reminder of how fragile it can be. Air also serves as a warning of how human behavior can taint its journey and the dire effects that can come of it.”
—Lizz Winstead, Barnes and Noble Review