Yep. Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash by Edward Hume is really a book about garbage, and it not only passed the magazine article test*, but I found it really hard to put down. What happens when we throw something away? Where does it go? And at what cost? Humes is able to answer these questions and along the way you meet people who have studied trash patterns (archeologists!), people who have eliminated 99% of the trash in their lives, people who are dedicated to inventing devices to take plastic out of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and artists who fight for the opportunity to create art out of garbage from the dump.
This isn’t a book to help you create a plan to eliminate extraneous garbage from your life and house, but it is a book to start the discussion of want, need, waste, and our impact on this world. This book is nonpartisan, and straightforward in the presentation of facts, research and options but also completely fascinating and often shocking!
And once you finish that and are ready for something maybe a little less dirty, try one about water. The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman isn’t about how to make changes in your lifestyle with regards to water conservation. It isn’t a how-to book for urban or rural planners. It is a book that will challenge what you think you know about water from the big picture including where it comes from and what do we really mean by “clean”. This book will also identify our emotional connection with water and will put those assumptions to the test. Near the end of the book, an economist presents a model for future water use that makes sense for both dry places like Las Vegas and Australia should also be considered for places like Atlanta and even smaller places, or where you might live. There are pages and pages of research, calculations and notes at the end, but the book was captivating, accessible and provides ample food for thought.
This book presents major challenges to safe water use and also offers solutions that while make sense, are a big shift in thinking at the household, municipal, state wide and federal level. I’m not sure we are ready yet. This would be an easy suggestion for fans of narrative nonfiction, current events or even trivia buffs. I couldn’t put it down.
Stars (for both/each): 5
*The magazine test is a simple question I often ask at the end of a nonfiction book. “Could this story be told just as well in a 12-18 page magazine article?” When the book is bad and the author makes a bunch of unnecessary arguments or presents examples that don’t serve to further the point the answer if often yes. In this case, both Garbology and The Big Thirst passed the magazine test.