• The World in a Grain

  • The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization
  • By: Vince Beiser
  • Narrated by: Will Damron
  • Length: 8 hrs and 49 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (324 ratings)

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The World in a Grain

By: Vince Beiser
Narrated by: Will Damron
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Publisher's summary

A finalist for the PEN / E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

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 listeners 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, listeners 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.

©2018 Vince Beiser (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

“[An] impassioned and alarming report on sand.... In Beiser's artful telling, the planet is caught up in a vicious, sand-fueled cycle.” (Washington Post)

“Beiser peppers research with first-person interviews in an engaging and nuanced introduction to the ways sand has shaped the world.... stunning.” (NPR)

“Beiser’s eye-opening study clarifies the science and the huge role of sand in heavy and high-tech industry. Perhaps most compelling is his exposé of sand mining, which obliterates islands, destroys coral reefs and marine biodiversity, and threatens livelihoods. A powerful lens on an under-reported environmental crisis.” (Nature)

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