Rain: A Natural and Cultural History is exactly a book as its title suggests. It has a little bit of everything: some science, some history, some legend, some anecdotes, some poem, some literature, some music, some travel, some comedy, some tragedy…all related directly or indirectly to rain and water. And it is a lovely book. After finishing it, I immediately went on Goodreads and gave it a 5/5. However, when coming to a review, I felt somewhat lost – I just didn’t know how to describe why I love it so much. The book is simple, the language plain, and the viewpoint straightforward almost common sense. So why does it stand out so much for me?
In search for some interview/discussion about the book, I ran into a Podcast episode where Cynthia Barnett was interviewed by Modern Notion. In the interview she mentioned that the book was actually conceptualized while she was looking for a way to talk about climate change in a more engaging way. And right there I found my reason – the book has a strong message, yet the author chose to deliver it in the background with the interesting tidbits, rather than building a grand theory. This is a lot like water itself – important, pervasive but never intrusive. Instead, the book leads the reader into a immersive experience, with stories, sounds, touch, and smell.
Some say that the book is rather weak on science and casual in tones, which entirely missed the point. The book is never intended to be educational, but rather conversational. There are no stage or tricks or designs or lectures. Everything is plainly and honestly delivered, intimate yet dignified.
This is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read.