Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Review: The Devil's Milk: A Social History of Rubber by John Tully

I came across this book while visiting the UNCA library and walking past the new book section. We all know the drill: I am fascinated by concise histories of random, interesting things. Enter rubber.

Rubber, much like plastic, is ubiquitous, and most people go through life not realizing just how dependent their everyday lives are on it-- or the social, environmental, and human costs that have been (and continue to be) associated with its production.

Tully begins with an easy-to-understand description of rubber's physical and chemical properties, an brief overview of a few types of rubber production, and a quick but exhaustive list of things that the modern world wouldn't have if humans hadn't figured out how to harvest and process it. From there, he launches into a history of rubber that takes the reader from plantations in South America and Southeast Asia to the fledgling union movement in the American Midwest to World War II in Europe-- and beyond.

All told, this book is not only very interesting and enlightening, it is cogent, entertaining, and easy for a layperson to understand. Tully does an excellent job juggling narratives in multiple times and places, weaving them into a cohesive whole. A must-read for anyone who enjoys social histories, is interested in industrialization/globalization and their discontents, or simply wants to learn more about where rubber comes from. 5 out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds awesome! Must add to my list :)