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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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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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.

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    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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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  • 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%