Feel the burn…

Author:  Bill Streever

heat-cover-161x250Heat.  The monosyllabic title didn’t inspire much enthusiasm in this reader.  But much like he did in his preceding book, the best-selling and much praised Cold, Anchorage-based biologist Bill Streever has a knack for finding the fascinating in the seemingly mundane.

Sand dunes in Death Valley...very hot.

Sand dunes in Death Valley…very hot.

This time around, frequently accompanied by his wife, the author travels the world seeking out all varieties of heat, both natural and manmade.  Deserts, forest fires, fossil fuels, thermonuclear bombs and a quantum supercollider – checking in at seven trillion degrees Fahrenheit – all come under his scrutiny.

Deftly combining intriguing history and science in equal measure, the author creates a consistently compelling chronicle that’s frequently sprinkled with his own misadventures.  Whether he’s engaging in ill-advised experiments with his home microwave, walking barefoot on hot coals or poking at actively flowing lava with a small hammer, Streever’s numerous self-deprecating anecdotes provide plenty of entertainment.

Pahoehoe lava on the Big Island...even hotter.

Pahoehoe lava on the Big Island…even hotter.

I’ve been reading science books for a long time.  Over the decades, it’s become increasingly difficult for an author to really impress me.  But this book, my first exposure to Bill Streever’s work, may have reversed that trend.  He has all the ingredients needed to create stellar science writing.     Enthusiasm.  Fearlessness.  Tranquility.   All combined with a shrewdly inquisitive energy.  His uniquely warped sense of the world, balanced with a dry sense of humor and a willingness to approach complete strangers while he explores, makes for a consistently engaging narrative.

A wide-ranging adventure – from Hawaii to Long Island to the Chukchi Sea and beyond – Heat is sure to please science enthusiasts of any stripe.  Whatever the temperature, Streever’s  got a new fan in this reader.

Death Valley photo by Tuxyso (CC BY-SA 3.0)

— D. Driftless

Check out some of Dave’s other monosyllabic geek book reviews.  He liked Rain, didn’t like Rust.

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