Dr. Fred Bortz

Review of Wind: How the Flow of Air Has Shaped Life, Myth, and the Land

by Jan DeBlieu

(Houghton-Mifflin and Mariner Paperback, 320 pages, Amazon.com hardcover price $16.80, 1998)


Reviewed by Dr. Fred Bortz

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Other Wind- and weather-related reviews on The Science Shelf include the following:

We live surrounded by an ever-changing ocean of air, its currents both capricious and predictable, its swirls and swells shaping the surface of our planet and the evolution of all that lives on it.

To Jan DeBlieu (Meant to Be Wild), who lives amid the shifting dunes of North Carolina's Outer Banks, the wind is the breath of divinity. It defines her spirit and her being, just as it has defined the shape of the land and the evolution of the creatures that live on it. It is the protagonist of a story that continues to unfold, and humanity is the antagonist. We have blessed the wind, cursed the wind, and struggled to learn its ways. We taunt the wind, mistaking scientific understanding for mastery. As if in vengeance, the wind spreads our poisonous pollution and shifts its global patterns, producing climate changes yet to be revealed.

This book's strength is also its weakness. Its story is told not in focused narrative, but in scattered bits of science, history, personal experience, myth, mysticism, and religion. The joy -- and frustration -- in reading such a book is trying to assemble the pieces in your mind before the next gust disperses them. Its evocative prose deserves praise, but the absence of concrete images diminishes its value to scientifically inclined readers. They will crave diagrams of wind and weather patterns, historical drawings and maps, and photographs of people, birds, aircraft, and research balloons. Alas, they will find none.

Fred Bortz is the author of numerous children's science books, including Dr. Fred's Weather Watch.