Dirt The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth

The author’s joyful prose-poetry elevates his lowly subject into something worth contemplating with curiosity and pleasure.”
—Boston Globe

You are about to read a lot about dirt, which no one knows very much about.” So begins the cult classic that brings mystery and magic to that stuff that won’t come off your collar.”

John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Saint Phocas, Darwin, and Virgil parade through this thought-provoking work, taking their place next to the dung beetle, the compost heap, dowsing, historical farming, and the microscopic biota that till the soil. With fresh eyes and heartfelt reverence, William Bryant Logan variously observes, There is glamour to the study of rock”; The most mysterious place on Earth is right beneath our feet”; and Dirt is the gift of each to all.”

Whether Logan is traversing the far reaches of the cosmos or plowing through our planet’s crust, his delightful, elegant, and surprisingly soulful meditations greatly enrich our concept of dirt,” that substance from which we all arise and to which we all must return.

Praise for Dirt

“Logan displays a precision of language that would be envied by any poet.”
The Independent
“Marvelous. . . . A gleeful, poetic book. . . . Logan is especially good at telling stories like this, stories that have a moral, yet are about something so essential—the foundation on which we live—that they defy notions of good and evil. . . . Like the best natural histories, Dirt is a kind of prayer.”
—Sue Halpern, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Dirt evokes from William Bryant Logan the same kind of rapturous, poetic response that love or baseball inspires in other writers. . . . This book isn’t so much a natural history as a series of comic-rhapsodic pensées on the commonest of sublunary substances. The author’s joyful prose-poetry elevates his lowly subject into something worth contemplating with curiosity and pleasure.”
Boston Globe
“Even someone who can’t tell a flocculated benthic from a haploquod soil will find much of interest in William Bryant Logan’s Dirt.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Compulsively readable. . . . Logan balances the seriousness of his subject with the ability to communicate his wonder on a layperson’s level.”
—Jane Barker Wright, Horticulture: The Magazine of American Gardening
“Read this book. You’ll know more about that which you are made of and which is essential to all life on the land part of the planet than you thought imaginable.”
—Wes Jackson, president and founder of the Land Institute and author of Meeting the Expectations of Land, Altars of Unhewn Stone, and Becoming Native to This Place
“A scientific, historical, and spiritual biography of the rich and often misunderstood matter encasing our planet.”
Avenue Magazine
“In these brief, elegant essays, the author raises the concept of dirt to new levels. Logan, a monthly columnist for the New York Times, looks at soil formation and development. His topics range from quarries and the foundations of cathedrals to graveyards and earthworms, from husbandry in ancient Rome to composting in Florida. Logan pays tribute to the dung beetle as a symbol of renewal; he notes that dirt is the source of many drugs that work against infectious diseases (penicillin, streptomycin). He discusses the many forms of clay and the agricultural practices of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the Iroquois. Dirt is a natural history of the soil and our connection with it.”
Publishers Weekly
“[A] masterful collection of essays.”
—Daryl Beyers, Horticulture: Gardening at Its Best