Elixir : A History of Water and Humankind

3.3 (152 ratings by Goodreads)

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In Elixir, New York Times bestselling author Brian Fagan tells the story of our most vital resource and how it has shaped our history, from ancient Mesopotamia to the parched present of the Sunbelt. Fagan relates how every human society has been shaped by its relationship to our most essential resource. This sweeping narrative moves across the world, from ancient Greece and Rome, whose mighty aqueducts still supply modern cities, to China, where emperors marshaled armies of laborers in a centuries-long struggle to tame powerful rivers. As the earth's population approaches nine billion and ancient aquifers run dry, we once again remember the importance of this vital resource. To solve the water crises of the future, we may need to adapt the water ethos of our ancestors, captured here in rich detail by Brian Fagan.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 139.7 x 208.28 x 27.94mm | 317.51g
  • New York
  • English
  • Reprint
  • Figures; Illustrations, black and white
  • 1608193373
  • 9781608193370
  • 721,872

Review quote

Winner of the 2013 Felicia A. Holton Book Award, given annually to a writer who, through a major work of non-fiction, represents the importance and excitement of archaeology to the general public, granted by the Archaeological Institute of America "As always with Mr. Fagan's work, the range is dazzling, the focus sharp and the pictures vivid...The author holds us with his glittering eye, as he conjures a vision of a world with water everywhere, nor any drop to drink."--"Wall Street Journal " "Juxtaposes ancient and contemporary cultures' veneration of water with the current commodification of it ...Fagan is a passionate and lively writer."--"Los Angeles Times" ..". examines societies' relationships with water since ancient times, and describes how the advance of technology has led to unsustainable management and depletion of our most valuable resource.""--Chronicle of Higher Education """ "It is hard to imagine industrial societies regaining some sense of water as sacred. The best we might hope for in the near term is a new-found respect for water. Reading Fagan's book is an enjoyable way of gaining that respect, by taking a tour through the hard-won lessons of the past."--"Nature Climate Change" "Eye-opening....making sense of water and its place in the development of civilization....[Fagan] understands how the ancients struggled with changing climate and that what matters has always been the fluctuating availability of water, rather than shifting temperatures. That is an important lesson for us now."--"Washington Post""""Supplying intriguing historical background, Fagan well informs those pondering freshwater's role in contemporary environmental problems."--"Booklist""Important and, from a "New York Times" best-selling author, accessible to all."--"Library Journal ""Fagan prompts an appreciation of water's centrality to civilization and of human ingenuity."--"Publishers Weekly""" "A rewarding survey of water's role in history and contemporary politics ali
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About Professor of Anthropology Brian Fagan

Brian Fagan is emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Cro-Magnon, the New York Times bestseller The Great Warming, and many other books, including Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting and the Discovery of the New World and several books on climate history, including The Little Ice Age and The Long Summer.
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Rating details

152 ratings
3.3 out of 5 stars
5 14% (22)
4 28% (42)
3 36% (55)
2 18% (27)
1 4% (6)
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