Todd Martin's Reviews > The Secret Knowledge of Water : There are Two Easy Ways to Die in the Desert: Thirst and Drowning

The Secret Knowledge of Water  by Craig Childs
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's review
Oct 31, 2011

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bookshelves: environment-science, outdoors
Read from December 10 to 17, 2011

I’ve read various magazine articles that Craig Childs has written in the past and would not count myself among his biggest fans. I’ve generally found his writing to be florid and overblown, and that he is prone to reading a deep and meaningful significance where none exists (beyond what can be generated by a hyperactive imagination).

All of which, makes it a pleasant surprise to report that The Secret Knowledge of Water is largely absent of these affectations and is, in fact, quite a pleasant book about nature in general and the desert southwest in particular. The book consists of a series of essays, each reflecting a different area (though he largely focuses on the state of Arizona). While there is still some overly gushy sentiment about the miracle of water in the desert, it is largely offset by the natural history, personal narrative, and history woven throughout the text. The fact that I had been to several of the exact locations discussed added an additional layer of richness to the book.

Although the essays begin to repeat themselves by the end of the book, overall they are nicely done. Childs captures some of the essence of the desert southwest in his prose. Not an easy thing to accomplish.

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