Rivers: A Very Short Introduction by Nick Middleton is a wide-ranging account of the impact of rivers on land, human history, animals, plants, and in artistic expression.
The book explores the cultural resonances of rivers with their own myths and romance, and considers the role rivers have played in human history from settlements and trade to warfare.
The book begins by discussing the formation of rivers, which are formed by water moving from a higher elevation to a lower elevation due to gravity.
Rainfall either seeps into the ground or becomes runoff, which flows downhill into rivers and lakes, on its journey towards the seas.
Middleton then moves on to discuss the impact of rivers on land, human history, animals, plants, and in works of art. He covers a wide and eclectic range of river-based themes, from physical geography to mythology, to industrial history and literary works.
He also looks at the cultural resonances of rivers with their own myths and romance, and considers the role rivers have played in human history from settlements and trade to warfare.
- Rivers form from water moving from a higher elevation to a lower elevation due to gravity. It’s super-obvious, but amazing how this simple fact dictates so much geography, and, in turn, human settlement and countries
- Rivers have had a significant impact on land, human history, animals, plants, and in works of art.
- Rivers play an important role in our lives.
What I Liked
The Very Short Introduction series of books is always simply brilliant. They are exactly what their name says – and it’s great for topics that I sort of want to know about…but don’t want to track down the “best” book on the topic, or wade through a college textbook.
I liked how this book did not juts introduce the science, but also translated the science into how it affects humans. I picked this up after planning a backpacking trip that took me through different watersheds – it definitely gave me some perspective on how those watersheds work.
What I Did Not Like
The introduction to this introduction wasn’t as strong as others. It definitely took a few pages to get into the topic. Granted, “Rivers” is a a very broad topic, but still.
Like all Very Short Introductions, it’s worth a read.