The World in a Grain: Book summary and reviews of The World in a Grain by Vince Beiser

The World in a Grain

The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization

by Vince Beiser

The World in a Grain by Vince Beiser X
The World in a Grain by Vince Beiser
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Book Summary

The gripping story of the most important overlooked commodity in the world - sand - and the crucial role it plays in our lives.

After water and air, sand is the natural resource that we consume more than any other - even more than oil. Every concrete building and paved road on Earth, every computer screen and silicon chip, is made from sand. From Egypt's pyramids to the Hubble telescope, from the world's tallest skyscraper to the sidewalk below it, from Chartres' stained-glass windows to your iPhone, sand shelters us, empowers us, engages us, and inspires us. It's the ingredient that makes possible our cities, our science, our lives--and our future.

And, incredibly, we're running out of it.

The World in a Grain is the compelling true story of the hugely important and diminishing natural resource that grows more essential every day, and of the people who mine it, sell it, build with it - and sometimes, even kill for it. It's also a provocative examination of the serious human and environmental costs incurred by our dependence on sand, which has received little public attention. Not all sand is created equal: Some of the easiest sand to get to is the least useful. Award-winning journalist Vince Beiser delves deep into this world, taking readers on a journey across the globe, from the United States to remote corners of India, China, and Dubai to explain why sand is so crucial to modern life. Along the way, readers encounter world-changing innovators, island-building entrepreneurs, desert fighters, and murderous sand pirates. The result is an entertaining and eye-opening work, one that is both unexpected and involving, rippling with fascinating detail and filled with surprising characters.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Breezily written and with insights on every page, this is an eye-opening look at a resource too often taken for granted." - Publishers Weekly

"Beiser is a diligent researcher, and his sources and interviews build a strong case in this entirely absorbing if troubling read to argue that the many grains of sand, often associated with abundance, are in fact, finite." - Library Journal

"A successful if disturbing argument that there is more to sand than meets the eye." - Kirkus

I thought I knew the basics of sustainability, but this lucid, eye-opening book made me feel like a dolt in the best possible aha-moment way: I'd simply never registered how much of the contemporary world - our concrete and glass buildings and asphalt roads and silicone-based digital devices and so much more - is entirely, voraciously sand-dependent. And the looming global sand crisis: who knew?" - Kurt Andersen, author of Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

"The World in a Grain is nothing less than one of the best reporters working today unpacking the literal foundations of civilization. Everything we are, everywhere we live, is built on or out of sand, and Vince Beiser tells the best story of where that sand comes from, who moves it, and what they build from it. It's a whole new way of seeing the world." - Adam Rogers, author of Proof: The Science of Booze

"Modern life, as Vince Beiser compellingly explains, is literally made of sand. Yet we have been so profligate with this seemingly inexhaustible resource that for many uses in many parts of the world we are running out. The World in a Grain is a chronicle of innovation and greed and heedless waste—in brief, the story of civilization." — David Owen, author of Where the Water Goes

"A riveting, wonderfully written investigation into the many kinds of castles the world has built out of sand. You'll find something new, and something fascinating, on every page. Perhaps even in every paragraph." - Nicholas Thompson, author of The Hawk and the Dove

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Author Information

Vince Beiser

Vince Beiser is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in Wired, Harper's, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, and Rolling Stone, among other publications. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, he lives in Los Angeles.

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