Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Books and Water: Combining our greatest resources

When The Muffin sought reviewers to write about "Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization" by Steven Solomon (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers; $27.99; ISBN 9780060548308) I jumped at the chance.
Why would I want to dive into more than 500 pages about water?
Sure, I appreciate a good non-fiction read. But wouldn't a book on water be, well, ahem, a little dry? Admittedly, "Water" may not always be the most riveting read, in places trickling a little slowly.
However, Solomon understands the global and historical importance of water--how our planet with 70 percent water sets us apart from our solar system neighbors. He takes such a regular and taken-for-granted resource and, in a well-researched and well-written book, brings his readers along for an epic ride.
Solomon, a respected journalist, has succeeded in tackling a serious book about an amazing substance that affects all of us, no matter how much of your daily intact you actually drink or where you live. And water has impacted societies from the earliest times--and continues to do so.
Divided into four parts, Solomon takes his readers from the ancient times, explaining the importance of water and irrigation for early civilization. He incorporates the importance of water in early trade and the age of discovery. Water plays a role in the industrial society, giving way to the rise of our international focus. The fourth section, with the lens developed throughout the previous sections, brings readers into the "The Age of Scarcity." Solomon also addresses the politics of water in the twenty-first century.
One of my favorite parts of the book is Solomon's consideration of the importance of sanitation and clean water. England in 1858 was not the cleanest place to live and 25,000 Londoners had died from two cholera epidemics in the previous 10 years. Clean water was at a premium and, that summer, the heat and stench increased, giving rise to "The Great Stink." The stench succeeded where years of politicking had failed forcing Parliament to pass legislation (in 18 days) to "construct a proper sanitary sewerage system befitting the world's leading city."
Solomon writes: "Throughout history, water's life-giving indispensability had always been double-edged. On the one side, drinking two to three quarts of clean freshwater daily sustained each person's existence.... Yet simultaneously, drinking contaminated water and exposure to stagnant water bearing an infiltrating army of diseases also was the main source of human illness, abbreviated life spans, and physical miseries."
Those words may seem obvious to some, it is that accessibility coupled with the historical intricacies that makes this book so fascinating to read.
While the book may not be for everyone, I can see this book flying off shelves and becoming required reading in academic settings (perhaps an environmental studies course or two).
If you desire a captivating and accessible work about something we often take for granted, you should add this one to the top of your reading list.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. When she is not drinking the recommended daily allowance of water, she contributes to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Liquid Clarity

You've heard this before: Drink more water. I know, boooring. But after trying a little water drinking experiment, you may find that it actually helps with your writing!

I stumbled upon this benefit by accident. One of the books on my nightstand is Julia Cameron's The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size. A chapter called "H2O" inspired me to drink up.

First, there's the supposed weight loss benefit. Even if you're eating right and exercising enough, water consumption can be the missing link to success. Cameron claims that a successful diet is one-third diet, one-third exercise and one-third water intake. She quotes nutritionist Sara Ryba, who says, "If you are stuck and the scale won't budge, try upping your water." Ryba has often seen water "melt" away the final stubborn pounds a client is striving to lose. Sounds good to me.

She also writes about water washing out waste materials and toxins from our bodies. "Within in few days of high water consumption, our skin tone improves. We also seem to 'wash away' any lingering bloat from our sugar consumption." Well, that's something I could definitely use, especially with my sweet tooth, and who doesn't want a nice skin tone?

Finally, the clincher, for me. Cameron writes about a hairdresser who claims he can always tell when his clients are on a water regimen. "It shows on the skin, and a sparkle in the eye," he says. "They look like they've had some work done, but it’s simply water that's rejuvenating them." Oh vanity, you got me.

So I've started to drink a bottle of water first thing in the morning, before teeth brushing. I take a tall commuter mug of water in the car with me on errands. I drink water with lunch and dinner, keep a glass with me at my desk, and play games with myself to finish a glass at certain intervals throughout the day. Aside of the near constant bathroom breaks, it's going well.

The surprise has been how clear-headed I am. I feel awake and alert when I drink a lot of water. A sharp mind certainly can't hurt when your goal is to write well. Writers, you may want to give increased water drinking a try.


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