Air: The Restless Shaper of the World

William Bryant Logan, creative writer, literary critic, and naturalist, describes the colorless, weightless, and boundless air which we breathe in poetic terms. The cover of the book, “Air,” exhibits the photo of a dramatically left-turned hawthorn tree, the branches under full sail to the left from the invisible force of the silent breeze over the coast of England.

The book is heavily based in earth and biologic sciences with references in mycology, meteorology, entomology, geology, ornithology, and dendrology. The author describes the amazing and sometimes frightening composition of our every breath of air which includes fungi, bacteria, spores, pollens, particulate matter, pollutants, pathogens, and in the down to earth words of Logan – “scented compounds of skin secretions, garlic hanging from the hook, half-dry towels, window cleaner, and overripe bananas…” – the mixture of which forms the complex vapor amongst us which we call good or bad chemistry. It’s the aromatic ether which makes degrees of good friendship, teamwork, and intimacy. “Air” is divided into seven sections, including “Floating, Spinning, Flying, Telling, Calling, Breathing, and Shining, all of which describe the power, potency, privilege, as well as the privacy of the air space which we share together.

“Air” is a fascinating and personable book which reminds us of the pertinence of the once familiar  advertising slogan of du Pont “Better living through chemistry” (of air).

“Air” is the third of a series of books written by William Bryant Logan about the basic elements of our earthly landscape. The others in the trilogy include “Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth” and “Oak: The Frame of Civilization.”

Air: The Restless Shaper of the World (Norton, 398 pages, $26.95)

Craig Jurgensen, M.D.

Clean Air Board

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