• The Secret Life of Dust

  • From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Consequences of Little Things
  • By: Hannah Holmes
  • Narrated by: Eliza Foss
  • Length: 11 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 09-28-10
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • 4 out of 5 stars (42 ratings)

Regular price: $17.95

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Publisher's Summary

A mesmerizing expedition around our dusty world.

Some see dust as dull stuff, useless at best, and sneeze-inducing at worst. But in the hands of writer Hannah Holmes, dust becomes a dazzling and mysterious force. As Holmes says, dust is a messenger, and air is its medium. And by the end of this fascinating journey through The Secret Life of Dust, we cannot help but agree.

Humble dust, we discover, built the very planet we walk upon. It tinkers with the weather and it spices the air we breathe. Billions of tons of tiny particles rise into the air annually - the dust of deserts and forgotten kings mixing with volcanic ash, sea salt, leaf fragments, scales from butterfly wings, shreds of T-shirts, and fireplace soot. And eventually, of course, all this dust must settle.

The story of restless dust begins among exploding stars, then treks through the dinosaur beds of the Gobi Desert, digs into Antarctic glaciers - and probes the dark underbelly of the living-room couch. And there is good company on this journey: Holmes gathers for us a delightful, and, by necessity, highly inventive, cast of characters - the scientists who study dust. Some investigate its dark side: how it killed off dinosaurs and how its industrial descendants are killing us today. Others sample the shower of Saharan dust that nourishes Caribbean jungles; still others venture into the microscopic jungle of the bedroom carpet. Like The Secret Life of Dust, all of them unveil the mayhem - and the magic - wrought by little things.

©2001 Hannah Holmes (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"You will never again look disparagingly upon dust. Hannah Holmes has written my favorite kind of bookone that takes a seemingly mundane subject and trumpets its significance in our lives not only on Earth, but in the Heavens." (Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson, Director, Hayden Planetarium and author of One Universe: At Home in the Cosmos)
"Hannah Holmes is a science writer to watch. Who ever thought dust could so shine?" (Kirkus Reviews)
"Eliza Foss has a clear, likable voice and a good sense of pacing. Her genial tone helps maintain interest and makes the information easier to absorb." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Sort by:
  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Nick
  • Grayslake, IL, United States
  • 01-07-11

Awful Environmentalist Diatribe

Absolutely horrible! Just goes on and on about man-made this and man-made that! Has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of "science writing" at all! Angry with myself I wasted a credit on it!

15 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Informative and fun exploration of our dusty lives

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Secret Life of Dust?

The tour through the dusty bits and bobs that make up our homes. Memorable and unsettling!

Have you listened to any of Eliza Foss’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not, but I thought she did an admirable job. Her voice was pleasant and made the subject matter interesting, with just the right amount of humor and seriousness. The only complaint I have is that she read "OSHA" as "O-S-H-A" when pretty much everyone just says it phonetically. But that is a tiny, nitpicking complaint. The performance was, on the whole, excellent.

Any additional comments?

Very interesting book exploring many different kinds of dust (from the dust that formed the planets and stars, to the pollutants in the air, to the remnants of dust particles, to the ground up bits of living creatures) and the way they impact our lives. The author manages to have fun with the subject while marshalling interviews with many scientists for candid and informative explanations ranging across various specialties. The chapters on the dusts in our homes and how much dust, in general, ends up in our bodies, are not for the squeamish. But overall, it was a learning experience, enjoyable, and has aged well since its 2003 publication (much of the science is still good and, perhaps unfortunately, we still don't know exactly how dust interacts with the skyrocketing rates of asthma). Recommended for nerds who like to know about the minutiae all around us.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Chrissie
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 08-16-15

I like to be made think from new angles.

What did you love best about The Secret Life of Dust?

It was different.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Not that kind of book, but I suppose I could say "dust" played a key roll :)

Which character – as performed by Eliza Foss – was your favorite?

Fairly easy to listen to.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I think a few gaps to think on it add to it.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Breathe at your own risk

What did you love best about The Secret Life of Dust?

the amount of information and the orderly manner of said information.

What did you like best about this story?

learning how big a role dust plays in everyday life.

What about Eliza Foss’s performance did you like?

her voice and inflections were so close to perfect.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

you never know what you maybe inhaling.

Any additional comments?

great book. learned more as i was listening while hiking in Sedona, AZ.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Don't be fooled by the title!

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

If the book had lived up to the title

Would you ever listen to anything by Hannah Holmes again?

No.

Would you be willing to try another one of Eliza Foss’s performances?

No.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Absolutely no redeeming qualities.

Any additional comments?

I feel as though I've been duped.

0 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Daniel Suss
  • 03-13-13

Disappointing list of lung diseases

Some interesting stuff, and well written generally. However it keeps just reverting to being a list of lung diseases. Just when it tries to look at other dust related issues, it's soon back to the lung diseases.



Also the need to provide every specialist with a descriptive handle is a bit annoying. I don't really care about the hair colour of the doctor, or the accent of the volcanologist.