Vince Beiser, the author of the surprisingly detailed new book The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization, has delivered an inevitable warning cry to generations of citizens who historically seemed to have taken sand for granted ... Beiser never leans too heavily on what another author would presume to be the common reader’s ignorance of sand. His informal research is delivered gracefully: not in order to condescend or perpetually amuse, but to guide the reader ... The author does his best work when venturing out of the sandbox of scientific explanation and into the field of human nature. Beiser displays an attractive affinity for beginning each chapter with a glimpse into the perspectives of either a historical figure or a present-day survivor ... With these personal stories...Beiser grips the reader, while providing evidence of sand’s multilayered history ... Where the writing seems to take off and leave the mere logistics of granules and grains behind is when Beiser calls upon the tools of journalism to tell his story ... he exhibits a flair for detailing the human drama through prose.
Blessings are hard to come by in The World in a Grain, American journalist Vince Beiser’s impassioned and alarming report on sand. The only good news in the book is that Atkins’s deserts—indeed, deserts in general—are likely to survive because their sand has no utilitarian value ... [river or ocean] Sand-enabled construction has given rise to ever bigger houses, in suburbs ever more distant from the urban job sites to which the house owners drive, burning ever more fossil fuel, enhancing the greenhouse effect and exacerbating global warming—so that in Beiser’s artful telling, the planet is caught up in a vicious, sand-fueled cycle ... Beiser is particularly informative on China, where the aforementioned mass migration is most acute.
Like Mark Kurlansky's single-focus books about cod and salt, investigative journalist Vince Beiser's first book is a rich study of one of the world's most abundant natural resources: sand ... With balanced reporting, Beiser also explores the environmental and social implications of sand mining, the interstate highway system, fracking and the overbuilding of shoreline towers and marinas ... In lucid prose, The World in a Grain illustrates the many marvels sand has brought to the world—while at the same time cautioning that without prudent use, the environment and sand's economic availability are threatened.