Every Breath You Take - A User's Guide to the Atmosphere

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

Every Breath You Take is a highly informative book on the Earth's atmosphere and everything that humanity has been polluting it with. Chapter by chapter environmental scientist Mark Broomfield describes harmful and hazardous substances, how their levels are monitored and what steps have been taken to reduce their emission. 
While the book is packed with information and is at times very technical, there are also fun stories and witty remarks dispersed in there. 
Broomfield's passion for the subject and his engaging writing style make Every Breath You Take a truly enjoyable and recommendable read!
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This is another book I really, really wanted to love. After trying the excerpt, I decided to read it. The writing style is knowledgeable (well, obviously since he has a PhD in this and has worked in the field for 30+ years), easy going and accessible. But after a brief trip through the cosmos (which I would have loved to read more on), he settles down to talking about Earth and specifically the UK. Things then began following a pattern - he'd mention something cool, then smother it with depressing specifics. He also larded the book with warnings as to what we're doing to the planet and ourselves with climate change and air pollution. Yes, I get it. I'm all for doing something about climate change - I know we need to and soon! The statistics about air pollution are equally grim. The more I read, the more depressed I got.
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Four out of five NOx particles to Every Breath You Take: Exploring the Science of our Changing Atmosphere by Mark Broomfield.

I don’t read a huge amount of non-fiction these days because it takes a lot more energy than reading fiction, and a lot more concentration. This sounded really interesting though, so I requested it from Netgalley and was sent a copy. And it did indeed take about a week to read which, even now, is a pretty long time for me.

There’s a ton of information in Every Breath You Take. Seriously, if you’ve ever had a question about air quality and pollution you’ll almost certainly find it in this book. Mark Broomfield is an air quality scientist and it’s clearly a subject he’s passionate about, plus having done a huge amount of research for this book.

I also have to mention the writing style. I hate it when experts write a book but half the words are over four syllables and most of the sentences are at least three lines long. It makes them incredibly inaccessible and also bloody boring. Sometimes they’re bloody boring even when they use normal language and sentence structure. Mark Broomfield does not have this problem. His style is down-to-earth and easy to read, even mildly humorous on occasion. It’s nice to read a book by an expert which is chock-full of information and technical detail but still very readable. 

It’s worth noting, since the book description doesn’t mention it, that Every Breath You Take is almost exclusively about air quality and pollution in England (occasionally Scotland). Mark Broomfield does branch out and talk about the rest of the world once or twice, mainly to mention pollution issues in, notably, China and India. This is a bit frustrating to be honest, because he talks about whether they’re dealing with their problems well or not, but barely acknowledges the UK’s – and other European countries’ – role in causing this by sending so much of our manufacturing overseas. Also I was not here for him calling a Chinese place name ‘pleasing if mystifying’. It was not mystifying. It was a perfectly simple abbreviation of the names of three Chinese cities, as I discovered after a quick google (and not an acronym as he also says). Not cool.

Luckily these parts are so brief as to be almost non-existent in the book and the rest of it is really excellent. I have the Kindle edition but this is the sort of book where I’d probably prefer to read a hard copy because it’s so much easier to flip back and forth if you want to check something that came up several chapters – or even a few pages – ago. But if air quality and pollution is a topic that interests you, I highly recommend Every Breath You Take. It’s well written, well researched, and will definitely teach you a lot.
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Every Breath You Take features gold-standard research as it lays out a case for what makes up an atmosphere and why that’s important to our every day lives. It’s an admittedly complicated narrative, filled with equations, charts, and complex explanations of the many elements that combine to make our planet livable. The science is compelling and the overall scope is most fascinating.

My knowledge of our atmosphere is extremely limited, and I assume that’s the norm with most people. We take it for granted but it’s an amazingly complex structure that’s tough as nails and extremely delicate. Broomfield presents everything you need to know in a mostly easy-to-read format, tending toward an academic approach. If you want to understand why pollution makes a huge impact on human and planetary health, this is your guide.

Broomfield’s excitement and vast knowledge of the topic shows through on every page. He’s able to boil complex science down to understandable facts. It goes beyond the chemical makeup to analyze how we’re changing the world and what that means for our future. It’s a call for us to wake up and pay attention to what we’re doing to the air around us. You’ll leave the book with a wealth of knowledge and a better understanding of the world we call home.

Review to be published on 8/6: http://reviewsandrobots.com/2019/08/06/every-breath-you-take-book-review
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The author's painstaking research and attention to detail is obvious in the writing of this book.  There were many facts that I only discovered after reading this!
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