Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization
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Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  174 ratings  ·  47 reviews
"The unsung hero of human history was, of course, the Brain of Drains, the Hub of Tubs, the Power of Showers, the Brewer of Sewers...the humble plumber." -- W. Hodding Carter

When we consider the amenities that really make a difference in our well-being, surely good plumbing must rank near the top. But rarely have we taken the time to appreciate the engineering marvels tha

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ebook, 256 pages
Published May 23rd 2006 by Atria Books (first published 2006)
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Jessica
Since the book is subtitled "How the Plumber Saved Civilization," I was expecting that Carter would give more than a passing mention to cholera, and speak in depth about breakthroughs in sanitation in the 19th century. However, instead, he devotes a third of the book to talking about his own toilet, and the time one of his friends came over and took a dump at his house (I'm not joking). Another third is given over to the Romans, and whilst they were undoubtedly innovators, the rest of human hist...more
Michelle
It's really a very interesting read. I know it sounds like a bizarre topic and perhaps an even weirder premise but when you consider the effects of a lack of sanitation it's not so far-fetched. The author starts with ancient history and moves through history to present day as he examines the advances that allowed public health to improve. He also examines some rather groundbreaking ideas being implemented in the developing world that perhaps will not only solve serious problems there but should...more
Aimee
Read this in one evening. What a hoot. Learned quite a bit about how plumbing works, but the best part was all our crazy hang-ups about our waste! And that public bathroom "stalls" were something that monks invented in the Middle Ages! And, can I just say, the list of euphemisms for "bathroom" at the beginning of Chapter 8 was so funny, that, well, I nearly wet myself..... which would have been pretty fitting, when you think about it.

Great little read, and even better cause Hodding Carter is fro...more
Tim
11/19/09 For those of you who do NOT know, today is World Toilet Day (promulgated by Dave Barry, who also brought you "Talk Like A Pirate Day," but I digress...The intent of World Toilet Day is quite serious, having to do with advances in W.C.'s, but more seriously the disposal of human waste in third world countries. An international convention is held every year, so good for them! Doesn't mean the rest of us can't have some fun...This book was given to me by a good friend just today, has to do...more
Dale
An entertaining read

W. Hodding Carter covers plumbing from the Ancient Indians, Greeks and Romans to modern day Japanese badet toilet in Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization , a meandering romp through sewers, both past and present.

Carter's light-hearted writing style makes it a fun read. He meanders all over the world of bathrooms, pipes and open-pit sewers but the trip is a fun one. There are a lot of detours, but it's fun and informative.

That being said, there are a couple of stumble...more
Maria
This book is a pretty basic and quick introduction to the history of plumbing and waste management, which is truly the technology that allows cities and civilization to exist by letting people live in close proximity. Overall, it's a fun read, and interesting for people like me who know a little about the subject. (It'll be old news to plumbers, waste management professionals, or serious civil engineer/history buffs.) Carter writes for Outdoor magazine, and he has an engaging, journalistic, and...more
Erin
I never expected to enjoy a book about, essentially, sewers and poo, but this was a very entertaining and informative read. Hodding Carter just LOVES everything about pipes, plumbers, and toilets with truly a pure attitude that is not scatological or sophomoric in the slightest. Not that he won't make a poo joke now and then throughout the book, it's just that you can tell that his interest and passion are real. In my opinion, this is the best kind of nonfiction to read - it made learning and ca...more
Stephen
Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization
© 2006 W. Hodding Carter
241 pages




So, plumbing. You use it. Chances are you wouldn't be alive without it, because civilizations without plumbing tend to be miserable places rife with disease. Despite its importance, not much fuss is made about plumbing; in fact, the topic is studiously avoided by various modern cultures, who have placed a taboo on the discussion of human waste. W. Hodding Carter rejects that taboo and his breezy account of plumbing’s con...more
Felicity
Sep 12, 2009 Felicity rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Felicity by: Suzette
Shelves: history, humor, nonfiction
This is a quick read and does what it sets out to do well. That's particularly remarkable because it sets out to be an overview of the history of plumbing from the 6000 BCE Indus Valley civilization onward and a droll personal account of being obsessed with plumbing. (f.t.6k.BCE.I.V.c.o.)

It's informative (did you know toilet rooms at Roman baths had no privacy?), sweeping (what would happen if we used our sewage to make energy instead of spending energy to clean it?), and very funny. It made me...more
Sharon Zink
I was disappointed because I thought this book would be about how plumbing evolved through the ages. Instead it is a description of the improvement of several plumbing systems around the world. It is interesting, and probably people with a better knowledge of pipes and mechanics would enjoy it more than I did.
Nicole
Actual relevant historical information seemed almost accidental, as W. Hodding Carter spends the majority of this book either talking about himself or repeating himself. I expected talk of plague, how cleaning up city sewage saved countless lives. What I got was Carter talking about how weird he must have looked that one day crawling on the floor of an ancient Roman Bath to check out the pipes. Very disappointing.
Shonna Froebel
This very engaging book intersperses the author's experiences with plumbing with historical information on the development of plumbing worldwide. He also talks about the future with examples of new technologies, some already in place in certain areas of the world. I found the history very interesting and the most interesting new technology to me was that of biogas systems in India. The systems are used in commercial applications with the organically cleaned wastewater used for gardens and the bi...more
Connor
Mission accomplished Flushed, I have gained a whole new appreciation for plumbers everywhere. It was a really easy to read book, and Hodding Carter is a pretty funny tour guide in the land of all things plumbing. However, I felt as though there wasn't enough meat in the book to call it How The Plumber Saved Civilization. I would be fine Hodding Carter's Hilarious Plumbing Misadventures and A Brief Short History of Plumbing and its Societal Impact. Even still, I enjoyed the book and would recomme...more
Chris
Quick and easy read by a thoughtful and often humorous writer. I was looking for meat, but that's less a failure of this book than a mark of academia's negligence than producing a proper treatment of the history of waste management and human society.

I haven't read The Big Necessity, the other big sanitation book, but I might check it out to see if there is any more heft. I picked up this first because it had the historical bent I was looking for, and it delivered, just in a very light and frothy...more
Sybil
Really enjoyed this book. A quick read, but chock full of interesting tidbits about plumbing and history through the ages. I love this sort thing. When visiting museums I'd much rather look at items of everyday use than the flashy monuments, stele, etc. The author explains in simple and direct terms how toilets and sewage were built and used from the Romans and Harapan culture right up to modern times. He even includes a small chapter on new alternatives to treating sewage such as composting toi...more
Caroline
I seriously loved this book. I've always thought that what I would miss most if civilization was destroyed was a hot shower. And I have a weird obsession with wanting to know what happens to sewage. Mostly, if you enjoy being informed and entertained, and are in any way curious about what makes our lives so tolerable (because we have indoor plumbing and we don't walk through streets filled with our own waste), pick this book up. It's short too, another factor that determines how likely I am to f...more
Marigny777
While overall an entertaining and somewhat informative distraction, this book could have used more primary source citation and less personal anecdotes and kichy scatological references. That being said, Flushed has inspired me to investigate the checkered history of the Chicago sewer system. Interesting references to the night-soil trade of victorian london and cholera epidemics provide points of departure into other fascinating quagmires of the time. If only it somehow had made allusion to Burk...more
Cristin
Jan 14, 2008 Cristin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book rocked! I saw the cover and was compelled to read it and it was worth it. The author is quite funny. Sometimes, certain parts would drag just a little bit but it was so insightful to learn about the intricacies of plumbing and human waste. I think everyone should read this book to get a better understanding of what happens when we "flush" and to appreciate our modern plumbing capabilities. I felt grateful and enlightened after reading this. It isn't a typical pleasure read, that's for...more
Amy
Dec 06, 2007 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: water conservationists, do-it-yourselfers, anyone who likes to know how things work
I learned that I may want to re-think my desire to visit India someday.

Entertaining mostly. Now and then a little tedious when he moves into memoir mode.

I picked this up after we learned that our old house in town was still on a septic tank although the sewer mains had been laid on our street back in the 1940s. It was a great adventure with the city workers and I loved understanding where our wastewater was going and where it should have been going.
Wens Tan
Toilets are an essential but often suppressed part of life. It would have been interesting to explore the different perceptions of 'good' in toilets and hygiene practices across cultures and time, which this book attempts. But the book never got sufficient detail to make the topic come alive, and there are too many distractions from the author's personal life.
Sandy D.
A quick non-fiction read that rambles from do-it-yourself plumbing (try not to poison yourself with sewer gas), Roman lead pipes, early Christian influences on privacy in bathing, urinating & defecating, sanitation & water in third world countries, and how and why people become plumbers. Enjoyable, and almost perfect for the bathroom.
Rebekah
Fascinating and accessible information about plumbing through history from Rome's constantly running pipes through modern day toilet innovations in India. I would have rated this a high four until the increasingly expected call to arms, which seemed at odd with his excitement over his Jasmine bidet.
Tin Wee
A light breezy read about the history of plumbing and how humans dispose of their waste. There's also interesting description of the sophisticated sewage treatment in Boston, and a new, fairly low tech method of disposing waste being explored in India - which helps generate energy and keep the world green.
Darla H.
I knew the author's grandfather, which is probably the reason I picked up this "vacation read" at a friend's home. The book is both hilarious and serious. I intend to send it to public officials in New Orleans and Louisiana. It's certainly an important topic. (I feel sorry for his wife!)
Elentarri
An amusing, anecdotal book about plumbing and sewage systems. Starts off with the Greeks and Romans and ends up with new technology such as biogas digesters and microbial fuel cells. Not an academic book at all, but still interesting.
Joan
He doesn't pull any punches which makes it a little tasteless at times but considering the subject matter not surprising. I like my running water and enclosed water closet so I think plumbers are pretty awesome. And I agree with the author that plumbers saved civilization. ;-)
Ross
The author has no real expertise, and apparently wrote the book as a way to indulge his own curiosity about plumbing. He gets a few things wrong - nothing of consequence, but enough to make me wonder about the research for the rest of it.
Elfie
Going through a difficult time, friends sent me this book to make me laugh and they succeeded! Partially hilarious, but also informative - be it about the history of plumbing or the environmental problems caused by our wastewater.
Firebringer
A bit of a light read, but an interesting one. This is a sort of pop-history overview of one man's fascination with his own plumbing, and how that lead him to research plumbing and waste treatment facilities around the world.
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