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Rain: A Natural and Cultural History
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Rain: A Natural and Cultural History

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,382 ratings  ·  324 reviews
Rain is elemental, mysterious, precious, destructive.

It is the subject of countless poems and paintings; the top of the weather report; the source of the world's water. Yet this is the first book to tell the story of rain.

Cynthia Barnett's  Rain begins four billion years ago with the torrents that filled the oceans, and builds to the storms of climate change. It weaves to
Hardcover, 355 pages
Published April 21st 2015 by Crown Publishers
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Zoe's Human I would say your analogy is apt. It is as though the world weeps with you in your grief. There is comfort to be found in that.

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3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,382 ratings  ·  324 reviews

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EDIT 28/12: HFK's Best Nature Read in 2016.

Like most humans, I too have a conflicted relationship with rain. Most of the time I quite enjoy it, but occasionally I wish it would just stop messing up my plans. That is the case more often than it is a case of me wishing rain to come and cool the air, make the ground wet and flourishing. That is one of the privileges of living in an area that gets just enough dry times as it does get enough wet times, too.

We all know the importance of water to our e
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I had a professor in grad school who once asked, "Why are there so few good books on the weather?" Finally, here's a good book on the weather - all about rain, just enough, too much, too little, and how rain affects human civilization, culture, and survival.

The writing is crisp and engaging. The stories are compelling and interesting.

Many of the historic effects of rain or lack thereof are presented through the experiences of real people and events. You will learn about the initial disdain of th
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Rain: A Natural History weaves together planetary science, geology, early earth history, meteorology, human history, cultural studies, travel stories, and even poetry into an entertaining and fascinating account of rain and our relationship to it. The book is beautifully written--vivid, sometimes humorous, and almost poetic without being flowery. It’s easy to fall under its spell. I especially enjoyed all the history and the sections on how depictions or evocations of rain have enhanced various ...more
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
I am the target audience for this book. I've sat in the rain at Arthur Ashe stadium for two days in a row, and I did this for two U.S. Open tournaments. I am a gardener who doesn't use chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or even the garden hose. I am a baker who knows that meringues are puffier on dry days. I have curly hair that blossoms into a cloud at the first hint of mist, and there still isn't a rainy day that I don't raise my face to the sky to catch the drops.
And yet . . . and yet . . . th
May 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This could be a dry subject (ha ha!) but Barnett's wide scope and engaging storytelling bring the wonder, mystery, and profound importance of of this seemingly ordinary phenomenon to life. Considering rain from the perspective of history, science, music, literature, politics, etc., Barnett explores her subject through the stories of a farmer on the Great Plains, TV weathermen, raincoat makers, an anthropologist exploring ancient Mesopotamia, a king convinced that witches are thwarting his effort ...more
Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher, and I must admit I was a little wary at first--how interesting can you make rain?

Very interesting, it turns out. First of all, the book is beautifully written. It is lyrical without being silly or overwrought, and the huge range of topics covered flow easily and smoothly from one to the next without feeling rushed or rambling.

As for the substance of the book, I feel that Barnett has written rain's definitive biography. She explores how
Laura Harrison
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I just love books like this. Truly a fascinating topic when you think about it. Rain really plays such a huge part of so many aspects of our lives. Beautiful and well researched book. I enjoyed it so very much. I think I may actually reread it then gift it to another rain lover :)
Kristi Richardson
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must by dark and dreary,
Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.

I was gifted this book through the first reads program at Goodreads. I love the rain and the color green. That is why I live in the Pacific Northwest. What did this book teach me?

I didn't know what I didn't know about rain but it seems it was a huge amount of information. I learned about the ancient peoples dependence on weather for the
Dov Zeller
This book has a lot of great, interesting information about drought, flood, rivers and their natural cycles, landscape, cities and rain, agriculture and rain, the making of raincoats and umbrellas, attempts to use weather in warfare. At times I was frustrated with the jumpy movement from one thing to another and because of that I am between a 3 and a 4 review-wise. There didn't seem to be a clear or meaningful structure in place. But I did enjoy what I learned from it and also left it feeling qu ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ใครทีหลงรักฟาอากาศ นาจะอินกับเลมนีเปนอยางมาก
แถมแปลดีดวย อานแลวไมติดขัดเลย

แมวาจะเบสออนทียุโรปเปนหลัก เนนหนักทีอเมริกาเพราะผูเขียนอาศัยทีนัน
แตการทีเธอขามนำขามทะเลมาทีอินเดีย เพือศึกษาถึงนำหอมกลินฝน

โดยรวมคอนขางชอบทีเดียว แอบมีภาษาวรรณกรรมเยอะอยูนะเวลาเปรียบเทียบ
Nov 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's one of the magical books I've encountered since a long time. Romance upon Rain. An Enriching work by the author.

Cruising the Americas, Western Europe and Indian subcontinent more often, it Covers cultural history of various civilizations BCEs and their rituals, history of rain articles and weather forecasting, geography and little science of planetary rainfall and speculations on climate change, flood warnings with the upcoming frontiers.

"What's for dinner?" - Wilderness.
May 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
I love the subject and I hate to abandon this book but I cannot abide the author's style. Everything is an overwrought metaphor, a lame cultural reference, or an outright cliché. Furthermore, there is no apparent organization of the material. One idea follows another in "Oh -- here's another interesting thing!" fashion. I gave the book its eighth chance and am finally bailing after a mere 35 pages in the middle of a sentence that begins "Think Indiana Jones"
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Talk about broad! Talk about abstract and literal at once! The subject is "rain" and the slant (if you can call it that) is its "natural and cultural history." With such a huge topic, Cynthia Barnett has her work cut out for her and, overall, she pulls it off with aplomb. Yes, this could have been an encyclopedic-style book, but Barnett has a way with words and instead steers toward story. Well, stories. Multiple.

The problem with such Herculean tasks as this is deciding what to write about. Rain
Not a bad book.
It was supple like rain. :)

The writing flowed easily and blended from one topic to the next with great ease.
The author I could tell had a soft kind voice filled with wisdom. This book literal read like rain which
I think is the highest compliment to this author.
Her fascination of rain blew my mind. I love rain. I love rainy weather. I love listening to rain. I love reading books near an open window on a rainy day. But this was nothing to how fascinated people are with rain.
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars

Read all my reviews on

Why ever did I decide to read a book about rain? It's not as if there isn't enough rain already where I live (although there's said to be extreme drought in my region compared to other years, I've seemed to have failed to notice this change). However, it turned out to be a very good decision since it was a very interesting take on not only rain in its many forms but many aspects of culture as well.

Human civilization has been in
Jamie Burgess
Mar 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book, and reading it made me feel at once like I was learning so much and seeing articulated ideas that I have known all my life. Rain is ubiquitous even to the point of being mundane, yet when Barnett explains how it has shaped civilization from the beginning of human existence, I realized how important it is. When thinking about environmental issues, as we often do around here, this book brings to light the human dependence upon rain and just how crucial and vital it is (an ...more
David Dinaburg
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In learning, you don’t usually find what you want; it is much better to want what you find. Take the story of mauve: the color was created while looking for an artificial malaria drug. It was the first wholly created color dye and ushered in a new age of synthetic fashion. The inventor ran with it, sinking his entire family’s fortune into a mauve-dying factory, and made a mint. Mauve didn’t fight malaria though, so if William Perkin—the creator—wasn’t adaptable it might have landed in the scraph ...more
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic
Reading Rain takes one on a tour across a gamut of emotions and experiences that cultures and people across the world have felt while experiencing this amazing phenomenon.

This is the first book I've listened to that was written by Cynthia Barnett, and she did an admirable job of describing rain, something, even as somebody who revels in it, I find a little hard to do. The fact that South India is facing an unseasonal spell of showers right now when I'm listening to this book might have helped th
May 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Another book that was not what I thought it would be. Given the current drought crisis in California, I was curious to see what was the history of rain. I love listening to the rain (real or on a white noise smartphone app), I love reading books inside while it's raining outside, I love coming inside and peeling off my wet clothes into warm dry ones, where I can enjoy the rain in warmth. :)
So when I saw this book I thought it looked like a great pick up. Unfortunately, not so much. The author t
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History is a great piece of research about the past, present, and future of the relationship between humans and this unpredictable part of the weather sphere. Barnett introduces the known scientific facts and popular (and sometimes unpopular) opinions about the notorious precipitation stretching from millions of years ago to the near future. A good blend of the personal and cultural with scientific and historical gives the book a well rounded feel; there is something ...more
Kelly Kittel
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
“Into each life some rain must fall; Some days must be dark and dreary.” So wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow way back in the 1800’s, who, I just learned, hailed from my mom’s home state of Maine. Indeed, as this book reminds, the history of our planet is linked inextricably to rain and by reading it, you will be much better informed about precipitation, which both giveth life and taketh it away. It also reminds us that we used to be much, much more vulnerable to the weather, in whatever form it ...more
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ซินเธียเปิดมุมมองใหมทีใกลตัวเรากวาทีคิดครับ ฝนอยูกับอารยธรรมของมนุษยมานาน และแนนอนมันเปนหนึงในปัจจัยทีสงผลตอการเกิด การลมสลาย การสรรคสราง และการทำลาย ในหลาย ๆ สิงของประวัติศาสตรมนุษยชาติ

จะจบเลมอาจตองใชความอดทนสักหนอย แตมันกชวยใหเราเหนการเปลียนไปของสิงแวดลอมไดมากขึนนะครับ
Emma Sedlak
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature-writing
Incredibly well-written non-fiction on weather and man’s influence (knowingly or unknowingly). I didn’t realise it took me almost exactly a year to read this book from first beginning it, but I was more actively reading it in the last few months. I tried my hardest to complete the majority of the book during the rainiest days in Sydney: suitably atmospheric for the content.
Jun 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Book groups, science, environment, history
An absolutely fascinating book about rain. Extremely well researched and diverse subject matter. The book explores ancient droughts, the history of rain through the study of tree rings, the smells of rain, the creation of Mackintosh waterproof fabrics by Charles Macintosh in 1822 and Bill and Robert Gore developing Gore-Tex in 1976 , the development of the umbrella and the oldest brolly shop in London dating back to 1830, the development of the windshield wipers in 1916 by two American women Mar ...more
Susan (aka Just My Op)
Who would have thought that a nonfiction book about rain could manage to maintain my interest throughout its almost-300 pages? This one certainly did, but then it is about much more than “just” rain.

It began with a lovely quote from Ray Bradbury, but the author's own words were quite wonderful too. It is obvious that she developed a great love and respect for the subject, that it became close to her heart.

The story covers rain and its relatives over the history of time, how it has and does affec
Jun 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Writing from sunny Seattle, where we're supposed to be in the depths of June gloom but are instead in a sunshine filled drought. Southern Californians don't think much of our drought, claiming theirs in dryer and much, much worse, but those of us in the NW have always known that SoCal is its own canto of the Inferno.

Good, now that that's out the way...

Seattle is not the wettest city in the US, that would be New Orleans, and Seattle doesn't even make the top 15. We do rank sixth in most rainy day
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
This ranks among the group of particularly successful popular science/history books I've read. It is ordered well, and gifted at covering topics in enough depth to get you interested (vs too little information or too much given to one event/issue) and yet still feel like a full picture. The writing is good, with bits of humor which come across as natural rather than forced.

The book is divided into five sections, which cover different aspects of rain and our relationship with it, with a very good
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What an enchanting book! I expected Rain would be well written, but I didn't realize it would be so fascinating. Although it reminded me some of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, Rain is a much better book.

For me, good nonfiction needs to have a strong, well-developed character (or more than one) that I can care about and an arc of a story. Here the main character is clearly rain in its presence and absence and many permutations from drizzles to monsoons. There's a whole chapt
Corinna Fabre
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love rain. I really do. Although I have fleeting moments during our Seattle summers where the Vitamin D tries to worm its way into my blood stream, by and large, I would be one happy lady if I could live only in the drizzly, gray moments of our fall and winter. It's no wonder that when I saw this book, I knew I had to read it.

In Rain Cynthia Barnett explores everything from the religious manifestations, cultural implications and historical stories of rain across the globe. It would have been s
Bill Zarges
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
from the whitman quote from "the voice of the rain" through the first few pages about rain on mars from ray bradbury, i'm hooked----living in the high chihuahuan desert makes the appreciation of every drop of rain a joy...........hope the rest of the book is as good as the first few pages!!!!!

7/7-----finished....when i read non-iction i hope to learn something new or be challenged. this book worked on both counts. i'd strongly recommend it---well-written, well=researched, lots of information, an
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Reading Along Wit...: Cynthia Barnett, "Rain: A Natural and Cultural History" 1 4 Apr 22, 2015 05:44AM  
Science and Inquiry: Rain 2 23 Apr 10, 2015 01:27AM  
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  • Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum
  • The Invention of Science: The Scientific Revolution from 1500 to 1750
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Cynthia Barnett is the author of "Rain: A Natural and Cultural History," longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award. Her previous books are "Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S." named by The Tampa Bay Times as one of the top 10 books that every Floridian should read, and "Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis" a Boston Globe top 10 science book of 2011.

The Globe
“Rain brings us together in one of the last untamed encounters with nature that we experience routinely, able to turn the suburbs and even the city wild. Huddled with our fellow humans under construction scaffolding to escape a deluge, we are bound in the memory and mystery of exhilarating, confounding, life-giving rain.” 3 likes
“Ovid recounts Jupiter’s disgust with the evil deeds of humans—their contempt for the gods, their violence, their lust for slaughter. He decides to wipe them out, which disappoints his fellow gods because…who will bring incense to their altars? No worries, Jupiter says, he’ll create another race of beings far superior to the first.” 1 likes
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