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Originally published Sunday, August 5, 2012 at 5:02 AM

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William Bryant Logan's new book 'Air': it's everywhere

William Bryant Logan's new book, "Air: The Restless Shaper of the World," is an accessible primer to everything about, and in, the air we breathe.

Special to The Seattle Times

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'Air: The Restless Shaper

of the World'

by William Bryant Logan

W.W. Norton, 384 pp., $24.95

Robert Fitzroy, former captain of the HMS Beagle, was the first person to publish weather forecasts. He did so in 1860 in The Times of London. His colleagues in the Royal Society were aghast and maligned his forecasts as aeromancy, or "a divination based on the properties of the air."

This is the type of fact you can garner from William Bryant Logan's new book, "Air: The Restless Shaper of the World. "

As he did in his previous books, "Oak" and "Dirt," Logan has taken a single subject and teased out its every part to reveal a picture far more complex than might appear at first glance. And as before, Logan is an enjoyable companion with which to explore his subject. He is erudite and thoughtful, with an agreeable mix of the personal and scientific. His anecdotes are interesting and often good fodder for when you need a "Hmm, who knew" fact.

Divided into six parts, "Air" is classic noun-based biography, one that you would not need to read from cover to cover. Instead, you can open it anywhere and find something of interest. For example, in part two, Logan describes the components of a volume of air equal to a basketball: at least 15,000 bacteria, 10,000 grains of silicate dirt, a few thousand grains of brown dirt, 10,000 spots of carbon, 50,000 grains of pollen, 3,500 fungal spores, and 74 million to 299 billion aerosols of carbon, sulfate, and nitrate. And this doesn't even include pheromones, weather, thermals, sound, and love, all topics explored by Logan.

In a way, "Air" is a sort of deceptive title for the book is really about what fills the air. And full it is. Now when you say or hear the phrase "something's in the air," you will realize it how true it is.

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