Your audiobook is waiting…

The World in a Grain

The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization
Narrated by: Will Damron
Length: 8 hrs and 49 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (118 ratings)

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

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

More from the same

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    76
  • 4 Stars
    26
  • 3 Stars
    13
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    2

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    66
  • 4 Stars
    32
  • 3 Stars
    6
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    0

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    70
  • 4 Stars
    24
  • 3 Stars
    12
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    0
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Best book of 2018

The book covers the science, engineering, history and economics of sand. It is amazing how important sand is to the modern world.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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

Much more fascinating that I expected

I enjoyed Kurlansky's books Salt, and Cod, and The Big Oyster. Knowing that I thought that a book about sand had potential to engage me. It exceeded my expectations.

Who knew that sand - really useful sand - is actually a finite, even scarce, resource? Who knew that sand has created criminal enterprises and violence? Who knew that sand could be a question of national security?

My only criticism is that the book, in places, tended to drag. And I thought there were questions of strategy and security raised that I would have liked explored more deeply - especially around international ownership of important sand mines in the United States. If there is a case for nationalism, I would think it would start there.

Vince Beiser is no Mark Kurlansky, but this is a worthy read nonetheless.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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

A broad overview of sand and civilization

The book is more a compilation of stories and excerpts of the influence of sand, rather than a logical progresstion of the effects of sand on human civilization. However, it serves as a great overview of the utilization of sand in our society and the environmental harm that the many sand based industries inflict.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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

awesome

awesome book I never knew that sand could be so fascinating and so much of it is being consumed on a global scale it was awesome read everybody that I came across I kept telling them all the things I was learning about saying and you will too

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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

Our world is just one big sandbox

Appears that we're still learning lessons and then we somehow missed playing in the Sandbox or at the beach.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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

interesting and important

I really liked this audio book. Learned a lot about a subject I never really thought about before. I think we should add sand to the elementary school curriculum lesson on natural resources along with water, air, soil, and trees. The narrator was very good too.

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

Terrifying

Such an informative book to listen to. Compelling, multi-faceted relations to our individual lives and the world we live in.

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

History given is only reason it gets 2 stars.

The beginning of the book was really good and if you believe that global warming is caused by CO2 and not that CO2 is caused by global warming, you'll probably love the whole book. Another author who has drunk the cool-aid and probably believes that Al Gore really did invent the internet.

The book starts with a great history lesson on the value of sand in our world today but about half way through, it began to spiral into a leftist environmental quagmire. In fact, I would give a rating of 4 stars for the first half of the book but when the author started quoting the Environmental Working Group, an organization that if they got their way would starve half of the population on the planet, he lost me. But I digress...

The history of sand is fascinating and the author did a very good job on giving the background and details of how it has been used over the years, is being used now and how we benefit today with the things made from sand. I really liked how he divided the use of sand into sectors. From glass, to land filling, to fracking just to name a few.

One more side note. He might want to check his information on fracking. It has been proven that fracking does not cause earthquakes. It is the injection of those waste fluids far below the fracking zone that may cause seismic activity. Again, assumptions without true knowledge colors the end product and that is why I give the book's story 2 stars.

Hats off to Will Damron. Dang good job of reading this one. Had it not been for the good narration, I wouldn't have made it through to the end.

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

​Sand Pirates

I have to agree with other reviewers that this is one of the best informational books that I've read. I'm read my fair share on water, dirt, dust and now sand. "The World in a Grain" is an awesome book on how we are depleting natural resources. Never knew that sand is so important to the construction industry and there are sand pirates out there as criminals.

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

it would have been a 5 if he stayed on topic.

returning several times to a very repetitive dialogue about the environmet ,climate change, water usage ,food resource, fossil fuels, etc. was more like the lecturing we hear constantly from the media today. if you can get past that you learn an enormous amount about sand

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for ValaDrew
  • ValaDrew
  • 07-19-19

Interesting Insight

A very interesting book which made me think about our impact on the planet and the need for sand in everything. Well worth listening to/reading.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Paolo
  • Paolo
  • 10-12-18

An eye opener on the most underrated commodity on earth

Vince Beiser does an amazing job in describing the multiple uses of sand in our daily lives. Filled with research results and many encounters with people involved in this crisis, this is a master piece that hopefully will help us to understand the crisis and do something about it. Worth reading 100%

Sort by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Stuart Hodge
  • Stuart Hodge
  • 02-12-19

Super interesting history of the most mundane

from mega rich Qatar to Indian slums, from mundane piles to Ultra pure silicon, this book presents a pretty convincing argument as to why the world is built on sand. while sometimes bogged in minutia, it's nevertheless really interesting.