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Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind
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Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind

3.3 of 5 stars 3.30  ·  rating details  ·  87 ratings  ·  23 reviews
In Elixir, New York Times bestselling author Brian Fagan tells the story of our most vital resource and how it has shaped our history, from ancient Mesopotamia to the parched present of the Sunbelt. Fagan relates how every human society has been shaped by its relationship to our most essential resource. This sweeping narrative moves across the world, from ancient Greece an...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Bloomsbury Press (first published June 1st 2011)
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Jun 20, 2013 Chris rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History lovers and water lovers, and everyone
I quite honestly didn’t think I would enjoy this book quite as much as I did. This was really fascinating, so fascinating that it was totally absorbing. While accessible to the common reader, Fagan’s book is one that students could use, so it can, at times, be technical. Still fascinating. Though, a general knowledge of world history would be helpful.
But honestly, I didn’t think reading about water management would so engrossing. Okay, I should have known better, after all I enjoyed the book ab...more
I always enjoy reading (or listening) to something new, and "Elixir" was definitely something I hadn't read about before. Fagan, however, managed to tire even me with an incredible amount of detail about historical water management systems. I gave "Elixir" 2 stars because the book is very informative and there were sections that I found fascinating.

I enjoy a lot of things, but I got bored with very detailed descriptions of sluices, catchments, qanats, etc. Fagan doesn't even define many of these...more
Dennis Hidalgo
This is one of the best books I have ever read. It is not your traditional World History, or even your common environmental history book. It does not serves as a beginner history book either. The reader may benefit more with a broad context of world history since Fagan assumes the reader knows the periods of time, the places, and many of the people to whom he refers in his book.

He proves that through the study of water usage we can understand human societies both in comprehensive and detailed w...more
Lianne Burwell
If you've read some of Mr Fagan's previous books, such as The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization, this book covers a lot of familiar ground, just using water and it's uses to cover human history and changes in civilization. From the earliest attempts at simple irrigation to the Roman aqueducts, to industrial age technology, with warnings about the current attitude that water is in infinite resource and the resulting overuse.

The writing is clear and concise, and the book has just the r...more
Andrew Updegrove
Apr 13, 2014 Andrew Updegrove rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in anthropology, nature, and/or science
Recommended to Andrew by: Review
Brian Fagan is an astonishingly prolific producer, for a non-fiction writer, having produced more than three dozen, research-basee books (at the rate of more than one a year!)focusing on the areas of archaeology, anthropology and the impact of climate change over the millenia on humanity. I've read at least a half a dozen of them, and he continues to pump them out faster than I've been knocking them off.

That's rather remarkable, given the fact that they are all intensively detailed, although so...more
Gregg Sapp
As Brian Fagan demonstrates in Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind , reliable access to water resources has been a requisite of human civilization from their origins. Fagan proposes that there are three historic eras of humanity’s relationship to water. Until the Industrial revolution, owing to its scarcity and its unpredictability, water was treated as a divine gift and thus was central to many rituals and belief systems. With technology, water came to be viewed as a commodity, which could...more

We have a history regarding water: When we dance with nature, we live and when we don't, we don't…it's that simple. After reading this book, in my reality, water wars are no longer an unlikely fantasy. I fear for the futures of Los Angeles, Phoenix and Salt Lake City. Everyone needs to read this book and then examine their impact regarding the use of this planetary resource…or maybe I'm just a-whistn' in the wind…

cynthia Clark
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is an excellent exposition of the historyof water managment by humans and is quite readable. If the author had stopped there, I would have given it a five. But in the last chapter, he provides a supposed solution to amn's water woes that is ludicrous. I am ot at all opposed to water conservation measures - I've lived in Southern California and I wish some areas of the East Cot were better about employing similar measures. But to go back to subsistence management of water, as he suggests, wo...more
Mignon De Klerk
One of many interesting points made by this book: There is not enough water on the planet for drinking and irrigating to support 7 billion people. Food for thought.
I wanted to like this, and it had interesting stuff in, but I just couldn't get into it. Maybe a bit repetitive and maybe too much detail. He obviously really knows his stuff though, Try the first and last chapters.
I am not mechanically inclined enough to absorb the rich detail about all the ways people have moved and rendered water potable over the millenia. Also found that I did not agree with the point of letting the local collective wisdom decide how best to manage the water since not all ancient local collective wisdom turns out to be wise. But some of the ancients really did have it going on, and this book provides some great examples.
I picked this book up because I saw it on some best sellers lists and heard good things... I didn't even finish the first chapter! I thought it was a great concept for a book, but it read more like a text book or an encylopedia than something I would expect to find on best sellers lists. Good information - terrible writing style.
Don't. Really, don't. Unless you have to, don't. My personality disorders are squabbling about which one caused me to finish this torture. I like microhistories, but ELIXIR reads much more like a textbook, with many, many dates & relating every measurement in both English and metric terms. Read ot listen to something else.
Jan 01, 2014 Karl marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I will try this book again in print, but the book's structure and the narrator's plummy voice combined to make it impossible for me to follow while driving.
Chariss Walker
Another great resource on water. The author gives much detail on ancient societies to present day and the relationship these societies had with water. Fagan urges the reader to return to a time of respect and reverence for this miraculous resource.
This book was -- considering its subject matter -- oddly dry in places. But it did have a lot of genuinely fascinating discussions of various water technologies and the cultural significance of water in different environments.

While I found the topic, and therefore the book, very interesting, the book is technical and reads like a textbook on the subject.
Just plain interesting. I love it when a book tells me how stuff works - or doesn't. Naturally there is a warning involved but it is never preachy.
Enlightening...and sobering!
Good so far.
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Brian Murray Fagan is an author of popular archaeology books and emeritus professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Prof. Fagan is an archaeological generalist, with expertise in the broad issues of human prehistory. He is the author or editor of 46 books, including seven widely used undergraduate college texts.

Additional information at Wikipedia.
More about Brian M. Fagan...
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850 Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations The Rape of the Nile: Tomb Robbers, Tourists, and Archaeologists in Egypt (Revised and Updated)

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