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The Ground Beneath Us: From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are
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The Ground Beneath Us: From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  159 ratings  ·  39 reviews
When a teaspoon of soil contains millions of species, and when we pave over the Earth on a daily basis, what does that mean for our future? What is the risk to our food supply, the planet's wildlife, the soil on which every life-form depends? How much undeveloped, untrodden ground do we even have left?

From New York (where more than 118,000,000 tons of human development res
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 21st 2017 by Little Brown and Company (first published 2017)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  159 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: environmentalists, history geeks
Who knew a science and history book about dirt could be so interesting? Paul Bogard does a excellent job explaining soil and our environment. It will make you look at the whole world in a different way. It is a wake up call for all of us to stop destroying our soil which contains life itself. I loved his writing on Mexico City and how the earth has sunk at least 30 feet there because the people are extracting the water from below ground. Five star read to everyone who cares about our planet's fu ...more
Jul 16, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a riveting book about what we are doing to the land. It goes from cities like New York--talking about the amount of concrete it holds--and London--where centuries of archeological treasure lie beneath the streets--to studying the effect of farming practices, and fracking. The book is divided into concise chapters, each painting a comprehensive picture of what the author encountered in his research and visits. As I turned the last page I realized how many more books were added to my TBR ...more
Apr 30, 2017 rated it liked it
It's truly closer to a 2 star. It's not what the first 60 or so pages seemed it would be.

It's more like a series of short stories, if this were fiction. It only congeals in his preaching to hold it all together -but he applies several interesting locations (Gettysburg was intriguing) to some examples of how we are Earth. The dirt itself and back to that state.

I wanted far more experience of layers and details of earth differences and far less fear mongering applications.

Truly, I suspect he woul
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I was a goodreads giveaway winner of the book "The Ground Beneath us" by Paul Bogard. This is a hard book to read and a real eye opener. It is about the Earth we live on and what is happening to the land. It focuses on many categories. One is the vanishing farmlands and grass.. Huge cities like New York City and Mexico city are examples of almost all cement and buildings. We are losing a lot of our farms yet the population is growing. it is estimated that in 50 more years we will be up to 9-10 b ...more
May 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: eco
Paul Bogard's The Ground Beneath Us is about our relationship to the earth. Not the planet, by the way, "earth" here means soil, rocks, worms, turf... Bogard travels from Manhattan to Mexico City to fracking sites to show that we have strived to detach ourselves from the earth. Our agricultural system has tried to transform enriching soil into a holding ground for synthetic inputs. But we are deeply tied to soil, and not just because we need it for food and water. Bogard also travels to multiple ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Riveting book. I never thought dirt could be so interesting! Soil provides for us and yet we really don't think that much about it all. The author did a thorough job of researching his theme. I liked reading about the Appalachian area and fracking; it had many valid points. I love the Appalachians, but too many industries are destroying the area and nothing is being done for the plight of it's people. sad. farmed and Wild was sad, too, but well worth reading. Good solid, well written book. Kudos ...more
Steve Wiggins
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an important book. Accustomed as we are to the mundane, the very ground under our feet is often more exotic than it might seem. Bogard, with the heart of a poet, explores how we're losing our ground with a sense of poignant loss. The sheer amount—and more—rate of paving in the United States alone is frightening. Our misuse of the soil translates to maybe 60 good harvests left. You read that right—60. If I were the selfish sort I'd cross my arms and smirk that I'm covered, and maybe even ...more
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
You might pick up this book--and you should--because you are a gardener, an environmentalist, a history lover, or just someone who loves a good book about traveling the world. It is about topsoil, how we have dug into the earth's crust and why. It is about walking, city planning, and the sacred and profane spaces we create on top of our thin slice of living earth. There are so many beautiful, moving, and disturbing moments in Bogard's book, I think that most people--any of the generalists listed ...more
Andra Legge
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
The book is probably fine, but from almost every aspect, when you pick it up it looks like it will be a study of the actual ground in various cities and locations of the earth. . A look at the layers of earth and human and geologic histories of each location. Once I started getting into the book I found a limited mention of each location and a larger essay on an environmental issue tied to the chapters. This was not at all what I though the book would be from its cover and blurb, and as I had wa ...more
Sydney Doidge
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2019
It was gripping the whole way through with chapters that felt like the right length to just propel you along. Ultimately while the book bordered on alarming, it was tempered because of the inclusion of passages about places and grounds like Treblinka and Gettysburg - looking at more aspects of ground and what it means to us than purely an environmental stance. The book was wide ranging and not entirely just about science but felt personal and storylike as well.
Max Carmichael
Jun 28, 2017 rated it liked it
A real mixed bag, this book is a treasure trove of haphazardly compiled data on the destruction of natural habitats and ecosystems by Anglo-European societies. Bogard offsets the doom and gloom with warm and fuzzy tributes to the power of love and suggestions that we could start cherry-picking the places and species we want to save from the apocalypse. His subject is vital and his heart is clearly in the right place, but his story of soil is far from definitive. Like most of the non-fiction we g ...more
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I stopped reading The Ground Beneath Us for a few weeks. It's a good book so I wondered why I wasn't reading it. I looked at the place where I'd stopped reading. It was right in the middle of the chapter on Treblinka, the most famous Nazi death camp that most of us have never heard of. Why? Because there were no survivors to tell the story. 900,000 people were gassed there, their bodies roasted and the local peasants were forced to fill their wagons with the ashes and scatter them on the roads a ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
This was part eulogy of the liberal conservationist's platform, part elegy of dirt. So I liked it, was educated, but its heavy-handed approach often shut me down with apocalypse fatigue. I'm starting to believe anyone so deeply entrenched in a single platform/ideology compromises the universal applicability and benefit of their position. The ability for a position to value the truth in contrasting viewpoints immediately makes that position more useful, and frequently closer to the truth (at leas ...more
Sara Van Dyck
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bogard’s book is nominally classified under applied sciences, but should be read with another mindset I think. It dips deeply into history, sociology, and what many consider sacred. While the author acknowledges the sorry state of our soils and the dangerous direction big ag is taking us, Bogard goes deeper to consider the emotional, personal, and spiritual connection many people and peoples have with the ground beneath their feet. This is soil, ground, not just as a source of oil or food, but a ...more
May 17, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is more of a collection of essays held together - at times tenuously - by the theme of the earth we walk on/farm on/venerate/desecrate, and so on..

If I had never read a book or magazine article on the various topics he covered, such as Gettysburg, fracking, industrial farming, this book might have had more impact.

As it is, Michael Pollen and others got there first.

This sometimes reads like the work of a clever undergraduate writing their senior thesis on everything they had read and
This book was disappointing. This book is 95% biographical anecdote (which got boring after a while) and 5% science, environmentalism and politics explained in the most vague manner possible. The message this author wishes to convey is important, he just doesn't do the subject justice.

Other recommended books:
- Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery
- Earth Matters: How Soil Underlies Civilization by Richard D. Bardgett
-Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civiliza
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A strong paeon for ecology, the message is not disguised. Mr Bogard throws in just about everything he sees to recall that has to do with soil and our connection to it, he might have done better to elaborate further on his topics as many of them, such as the Colombian tribe. I must admit being old fashioned, and noting that other authors have this note of caution to offer, that sentences do not being with conjunctives and that an author should be an example of good sentence construction! The boo ...more
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Who knew dirt could be so fascinating? This was a great mix of history, science, current events and literary influences. I kept it way to long from the library and was threatened to be sent to collections if I didn't return it in time, which thankfully I did.

It touches on many issues we and future generations will need to face as the reality of what we have done to our planet (especially soil) becomes less in the margins and we no longer can ignore the effects of "progress".

This also made me i
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a very important book. As our society's relationship with the ground we inhabit has become increasingly distant and estranged, Bogard invites us to really see it again. While demonstrating just how severe the consequences of our current relationship with soil have become, he also outlines ways of living on it that better sustain and remember communities of people, plants, and all the other little lives which depend on the ground. ...more
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Author visits 15 places around the world, meets with experts of various kinds, advocates for preserving, and ideally expanding, the increasingly limited areas of unpaved, living soil. Very interesting but sometimes confusingly discursive as he weaves in quotes and philosophies that are not directly related to the ostensible topic at hand. Valuable introduction to numerous writers who have prized the environment.
Luis Cuesta
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I received this book as a giveaway. I like how Paul Bogard describes life on and under the pavement in cities like Mexico or New York. He does a good job chronicling his interviews with activists trying to preserve bits of nature. Highlighting current and future predicaments, Bogard ponders what humans have sacrificed in the name of progress.
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
This book really got me thinking about our connection to the ground, and to the world around us. I have been thinking a bit lately about how little I get outside anymore, so this book was a timely reminder about the importance of recognizing what is around us and it's importance. ...more
Kathy Heare Watts
Jul 24, 2019 added it
Recommended to Kathy by:
I won a copy of this book during a Goodreads giveaway. I am under no obligation to leave a review or rating and do so voluntarily. So that others may also enjoy this book, I am paying it forward by donating it to my local library.
Aug 12, 2019 marked it as couldnt-get-into
This collection of essays was well written enough, but somehow, after reading a couple of chapters, I could not make myself go back to it to finish. More my mood than the book, perhaps, but I haven't read enough to give it a star rating. ...more
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book is largely composed of subjective opinions, multi-page diatribes that are removed from the topic, and an almost obscene amount of quotes and external references that are irrelevant or obscure.
May 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Quick read, soft science. Left me feeling gloomy about the future of the earth under human care.
Ray Smithee
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
A book about the bonds between humans and the natural world, specifically the ground we take for granted underneath us.
Jul 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Love the subject, and the author did a lot of research. However the book is not organized very well and jumps around a lot. Some really eye opening information for sure and much needed.
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it
This really got me thinking about dirt. It made me want to go and walk barefoot on the grass. And yet, lurking in the background, are the villians - faceless heartless corporations.
Carolyn Rose
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Parts of this - the sections on soil and fracking particularly - should be mandatory reading for anyone who cares about the future of this planet and anyone in any position of political power.
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Born and raised in Minnesota, I have lived in Minneapolis, Albuquerque, Reno, northern Wisconsin, Winston-Salem, and now Harrisonburg, Virginia. Ah, the academic life.

I have a wonderful dog named Luna, a Brittany who is nearly 15. Her favorite place to live was Reno. Dog heaven, she says.

Every summer, we leave wherever we are and drive to New Mexico and Nevada to see old friends and walk old walks

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