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Penguin: Adult Hardcover & Trade Paperback Summer 2019

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The World in a Grain
The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization
By (author): Vince Beiser
9780399576447 Paperback, Trade English General Trade SCIENCE / Environmental Science Aug 06, 2019
$23.00 CAD
Active 6.02 x 9.02 x 0.74 in 304 pages Riverhead Riverhead Books
The gripping story of the most important overlooked commodity in the world—sand—and the crucial role it plays in our lives.

After water and air, sand is the natural resource that we consume more than any other—even more than oil. Every concrete building and paved road on Earth, every computer screen and silicon chip, is made from sand. From Egypt’s pyramids to the Hubble telescope, from the world’s tallest skyscraper to the sidewalk below it, from Chartres’ stained-glass windows to your iPhone, sand shelters us, empowers us, engages us, and inspires us. It’s the ingredient that makes possible our cities, our science, our lives—and our future.

And, incredibly, we’re running out of it.

The World in a Grain is the compelling true story of the hugely important and diminishing natural resource that grows more essential every day, and of the people who mine it, sell it, build with it—and sometimes, even kill for it. It’s also a provocative examination of the serious human and environmental costs incurred by our dependence on sand, which has received little public attention. Not all sand is created equal: Some of the easiest sand to get to is the least useful. Award-winning journalist Vince Beiser delves deep into this world, taking readers on a journey across the globe, from the United States to remote corners of India, China, and Dubai to explain why sand is so crucial to modern life. Along the way, readers encounter world-changing innovators, island-building entrepreneurs, desert fighters, and murderous sand pirates. The result is an entertaining and eye-opening work, one that is both unexpected and involving, rippling with fascinating detail and filled with surprising characters.

THE FIRST BOOK ABOUT A CRUCIAL RESOURCE. Human civilizaton is built on sand. It has been used in construction since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians, in transparent glass since the 15th century, and today is in just about everything we use. This is the first book that explores this important natural resource.

RAVES FOR THE HARDCOVER PUBLICATION: Reviews have been raving, calling the book “impassioned…artful” (Washington Post) and “eye-opening” (Nature).

A REVEALING LOOK. Apart from water and air, sand is the natural resource most consumed by human beings. It is an essential ingredient in detergents, cosmetics, toothpaste, solar panels, paint, silicon chips, and especially buildings: Every concrete structure is tons of sand glued together with cement. Sand is impossible to escape or ignore—as this book makes clear.

SINGLE-SUBJECT NONFICTION AT ITS BEST. Like other books that focus on single topics, from Traffic to Paper, The World in a Grain is both terrific reportage and a fascinating story. It brings to life a world most of us ignore and shows it to us in surprising ways.

Vince Beiser is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in Wired, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, and Rolling Stone, among other publications. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, he lives in Los Angeles.

Author Residence: Los Angeles, CA

Marketing: Social media and online promotion

Academic marketing and library promotions / Facebook / Twitter

Publicity: National print and online reviews and features

Author Website:

Author Social Media:; Twitter: @VinceLB

Praise for The World in a Grain:

“[An] impassioned and alarming report on sand…. In Beiser’s artful telling, the planet is caught up in a vicious, sand-fueled cycle.”—Washington Post

“Beiser peppers research with first-person interviews in an engaging and nuanced introduction to the ways sand has shaped the world…. stunning.”—NPR

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