Reading a shockingly good nonfiction book about a subject that I don’t really care about

Was in the mood for a nonfiction type book, so I picked up the last Pulitzer Prize winner for nonfiction: Toms River: A Story of Science And Salvation. Generally, the Pulitzer committee picks these weighty nonfiction tomes that examine some overarching societal issue through the lens of one specific incident or place or person, and this book was no exception. In this case, it’s about how the confluence of science, corporate business, and local politics created a situation wherein a Swiss chemical company was able to create a massive dye-works in this tiny New Jersey town and then systematically poison the inhabitants of aforementioned town in a truly horrific fashion.

I like the book. I’m only a fifth of the way through, but it’s amazing to me how nobody had any compunctions about dumping all this stuff into the local water supply. It’s also amazing to me that America used to be a place that had these kinds of industrial concerns. Like, America was (and to some extent still is) a center of industry! For instance, when I walk around in my own neighborhood, in West Berkeley, I see cement factories and other weird quasi-industrial stuff. And when I drive north on San Pablo, into the Richmond and Hercule areas, there are massive chemical and industrial plants (Chevron is headquartered just ten miles from where I sit).

That part of America still exists (though it’s smaller than it was), but it’s so divorced from the part where I live. In my part of America, people would not be enthused by the prospect of a chemical company coming to town. They’d band together and lobby the zoning board and get that shit nixed in a hurry.

Anyway, I’m surprisingly fascinated by this book. Not sure why I’m surprised; I just hadn’t imagined that I could be interested in this sort of thing before.

Comments (



%d bloggers like this: