Pipe Dreams: The Urgent Global Quest To Transform the Toilet

Avid Reader. Apr. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9781982116217. $27. SCI
Science journalist Wald brings humor and curiosity to this history of the toilet and the ongoing environmental concerns surrounding it. Mindful that not everyone is at ease reading about this topic, Wald keeps it entertaining throughout, with clever chapter titles and illustrations of scientific wonders. What actually goes into toilets? How is the water treated? Why is the toilet the shape and size it is? Wald answers these questions and more with the inquisitive mind of an investigative reporter. Her research also brings medical history into focus when she describes how infectious diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever, compelled scientists and engineers to find a solution for waste management that led to the development of modern Western sanitation. With candor and ease, Wald details everything from the intricacies of ancient Roman sewers to the sewage works in mid-19th-century Chicago, and describes what life was like before the invention of the modern Western toilet. She touches on the status surrounding the number of bathrooms in private homes and ends with a fascinating history of the rise and fall of the public toilet.
VERDICT A surprisingly lively read about the science and history of waste that will engage fans of Mary Roach and popular science.
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