Rain: A Natural and Cultural History

Crown, April 2015

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History

A natural history of rain, told through a lyrical blend of science, cultural history, and human drama

It is elemental, mysterious, precious, and destructive. It is the subject of countless poems and paintings; the top of the weather report; the source of the entire world’s water. Yet this is the first book to tell the story of rain.

Cynthia Barnett’s Rain begins four billion years ago with the torrents that filled the oceans, and builds to the storms of climate change. It weaves together science—the true shape of a rain drop, the mysteries of colored rains—with the human story of our attempts to control rain.

Rain is also a travelogue, taking readers to Scotland to tell the surprising story of the mackintosh raincoat, and to India, where villagers extract the scent of rain from the monsoon-drenched earth and turn it into perfume.

Now, after thousands of years spent praying for rain or worshiping it; burning witches at the stake to stop rain or sacrificing small children to bring it; mocking rain with irrigated agriculture and cities built in floodplains; even trying to blast rain out of the sky with mortars meant for war, humanity has finally managed to change the rain. Only not in ways we intended. As climate change upends rainfall patterns and unleashes increasingly severe storms and drought, Barnett shows rain to be a unifying force in a fractured world. Too much and not nearly enough, rain is a conversation we share, and this is a book for everyone who has ever experienced it.

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