The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters
By Rose George Metropolitan; 288 pages
Excrement. Stool. Defecation. S___. This unlikely tour of the underworld of human waste grew out of the author's 2006 series on sewage for the online magazine Slate. George, an accomplished London-based writer, has inarguably hit on an important topic. As many as 2.6 billion people lack sanitation--meaning no access to a latrine, a toilet, a bucket or even a box. The health consequences are, not surprisingly, catastrophic: "A gram of feces," George writes, "can contain 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 worm eggs." The privileged Westerner winces. Yet in an upbeat, inquisitive manner, George travels the sludge-filled world--from the sewers of New York City to the latrine pits of Tanzania to plumbing-deprived rural India--breaking one of our last taboos for an insightful discussion of health policy. For the average reader, though, a treatise on toilets (or the lack thereof) can be simply too much to stomach. A series of articles was plenty on this topic; reading a whole book on the subject is an ordeal by ordure. Our advice: Flush.
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