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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Dirt by William Bryant Logan

Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth by William Bryant Logan. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1995. ISBN: 1-57322-004-3

This is an earlier book (10 years earlier, to be precise) than the author's Oak: The Frame of Civilization, which I thoroughly enjoyed and wrote about back in March of 2006. Apparently Logan gets better with time, as Oak, based on my recollection, and also on my ecstatic review, was definitely the superior book.

Which is not to say that Dirt isn't a good book too; it is. Just not at quite the same level as Oak. Still, if you liked Oak, you'll probably like Dirt too, maybe just not quite as much. At least I didn't. But Dirt has its good points too. It's another amazing topic, one that we don't often think about. But without dirt, where would we be? Just about everything that makes life possible on earth is connected in some way with dirt.

And Logan, whose main qualification is always listed as “a certified arborist” (you have to wonder about the use of that term “certified”), is certainly, certifiably, I suppose, qualified to tell this story. My only complaint about the book's content is that it just somehow doesn't seem very well organized. While reading it, you don't have any sense that you're covering the topic in any kind of systematic way. It's just a little too random for me.

On the upside, the same aspect of the book makes it one that you can put down and pick up whenever you like. The individual pieces read like little vignettes, or secular “morning watch” pieces. You don't have to read major portions at any one time, but can read it in bits and pieces over time. That aspect I like. It makes a possibly arcane or dry subject much easier to swallow and digest.

I do have one major complaint about the book apart from its content, and that is the font size. At least in this paperback edition which I read. It's TOO SMALL!. I've rarely read a modern book in which the print was so tiny.

Despite my various grumblings, this book is highly recommended, especially to anyone with any kind of ecological, naturalistic kind of bent or interest.


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