Why I love it
Not many subjects of a history book can claim to have originated four billion years ago. Let's see, there's the Earth, of course. And dirt. Possibly Abe Vigoda. That's about it. And it's not as if there are existing black-and-white photos of Rain when it was just a drizzle in diapers, standing on a lawn with its parents, the Clouds, shaking its lightning bolt rattle.
As we all know, and California is unfortunately experiencing for itself right now, rain is one of the most necessary things for our planet. I applaud Cynthia Barnett's ambition in taking on such a broad subject. After all, rain isn't something you can readily sit down and interview. It can be elusive. It happens, or it decidedly doesn't happen, and both courses can cause great growth or despair, which you can find detailed in this book.
Did you know that there were torrential rains for thousands of years when the Earth was first formed? (You thought Seattle was bad.) Or that Thomas Jefferson was a big supporter of weather forecasting? Or that the Assyrians invented the first umbrellas? I could go on about rain for days, with all this book taught me.
From page one, Barnett deftly weaves rain-related literary references in with discussions about climate change, droughts, flood and the rain forest. (I hadn't noticed how often Ray Bradbury references rain in his work, and as a huge Bradbury fan, seeing all the information laid out in one place was a nerdy treat.) There's talk of witchcraft, kings, the Bible, and Shakespeare, along with scientific facts about rain that are in no way boring or tedious to read. This book will have you turning to the person next to you every few minutes, saying, "Hey, did you know…"
Suffice to say, I adored this book. I even found myself feeling a little verklempt reading it. Barnett does a lovely job of imparting to the reader a sense of awe and wonder. What a remarkable thing rain is! And it happens right here, right where we live! Rain rivals any biography where the subject has a more discernible origin story, and I'd recommend it to any inhabitant of our planet.