The Secret Life of Dust

  • by Hannah Holmes
  • Narrated by Eliza Foss
  • 11 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A mesmerizing expedition around our dusty world.
Some see dust as dull stuff, useless at best, and sneeze-inducing at worst. But in the hands of writer Hannah Holmes, dust becomes a dazzling and mysterious force. As Holmes says, dust is a messenger, and air is its medium. And by the end of this fascinating journey through The Secret Life of Dust, we cannot help but agree.
Humble dust, we discover, built the very planet we walk upon. It tinkers with the weather and it spices the air we breathe. Billions of tons of tiny particles rise into the air annually - the dust of deserts and forgotten kings mixing with volcanic ash, sea salt, leaf fragments, scales from butterfly wings, shreds of T-shirts, and fireplace soot. And eventually, of course, all this dust must settle.
The story of restless dust begins among exploding stars, then treks through the dinosaur beds of the Gobi Desert, digs into Antarctic glaciers - and probes the dark underbelly of the living-room couch. And there is good company on this journey: Holmes gathers for us a delightful, and, by necessity, highly inventive, cast of characters - the scientists who study dust. Some investigate its dark side: how it killed off dinosaurs and how its industrial descendants are killing us today. Others sample the shower of Saharan dust that nourishes Caribbean jungles; still others venture into the microscopic jungle of the bedroom carpet. Like The Secret Life of Dust, all of them unveil the mayhem - and the magic - wrought by little things.


What the Critics Say

"You will never again look disparagingly upon dust. Hannah Holmes has written my favorite kind of bookone that takes a seemingly mundane subject and trumpets its significance in our lives not only on Earth, but in the Heavens." (Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson, Director, Hayden Planetarium and author of One Universe: At Home in the Cosmos)
"Hannah Holmes is a science writer to watch. Who ever thought dust could so shine?" (Kirkus Reviews)
"Eliza Foss has a clear, likable voice and a good sense of pacing. Her genial tone helps maintain interest and makes the information easier to absorb." (AudioFile)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Awful Environmentalist Diatribe

Absolutely horrible! Just goes on and on about man-made this and man-made that! Has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of "science writing" at all! Angry with myself I wasted a credit on it!
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- Nick

Informative and fun exploration of our dusty lives

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Secret Life of Dust?

The tour through the dusty bits and bobs that make up our homes. Memorable and unsettling!

Have you listened to any of Eliza Foss’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not, but I thought she did an admirable job. Her voice was pleasant and made the subject matter interesting, with just the right amount of humor and seriousness. The only complaint I have is that she read "OSHA" as "O-S-H-A" when pretty much everyone just says it phonetically. But that is a tiny, nitpicking complaint. The performance was, on the whole, excellent.

Any additional comments?

Very interesting book exploring many different kinds of dust (from the dust that formed the planets and stars, to the pollutants in the air, to the remnants of dust particles, to the ground up bits of living creatures) and the way they impact our lives. The author manages to have fun with the subject while marshalling interviews with many scientists for candid and informative explanations ranging across various specialties. The chapters on the dusts in our homes and how much dust, in general, ends up in our bodies, are not for the squeamish. But overall, it was a learning experience, enjoyable, and has aged well since its 2003 publication (much of the science is still good and, perhaps unfortunately, we still don't know exactly how dust interacts with the skyrocketing rates of asthma). Recommended for nerds who like to know about the minutiae all around us.

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- S. Yates

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-28-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios