One of my favourite sources for ideas of what to read is the Literary Review. You can be sure that amongst the latest Irvine Welsh or tedious study of the Bloomsbury set, will be lurking reviews of unusual publications.

The eclectic mix is shown by my discovering, (in the same issue), a fascinating insight into the Italian theatre of battle during the Great War and a few pages later, this work, The Big Necessity.

It covers a subject of which we’re all familiar on a day to day basis, but of which we have but a superficial knowledge: human excrement. Once flushed it’s usually forgotten, but as the author warns, we do so at our peril. A gram of faeces can contain 10 million viruses and 100 worm eggs for example and that 2.2 million people die from poo-related diseases each year.

We learn so much in its pages: how many years a person spends on the loo, that Martin Luther ate a spoonful of his own waste daily and that even in wealthy Ireland, a fifth of its towns risk infection through poor waste water treatment.

Rose George enthusiastically explores the sewers of New York; the public conveniences of Japan and the UK and their not so salubrious cousins in the Third World. She is a fervent advocate of recycling effluent and of ensuring everyone has access to better facilities and that we all become more interested in her chosen field of study.

Buried amongst our technology sections, not far from those tedious workshop manuals, this is a book that deserves a wider readership.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s