Heat: Adventures in the World's Fiery Places
by Bill Streever
Little, Brown and Company, 2013. 349 pgs. Nonfiction
Bill Streever is not a spotlight-seeking man. He is so reticent, in fact, that his jacket photo doesn't show his face. But he is not shy about burning his hand in a candle flame, or firewalking for 15 feet, or stirring around in a lava flow with a carpenter's hammer, all in pursuit of an encyclopedic variety of experiences with heat. Following (logically) his previous bestseller (Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places), Streever travels from Death Valley to the peat bogs of the Netherlands to the defunct oil fields of Pennsylvania, considering the nature of heat and its sources. The sun itself comes into play here, as does the Brookfield supercollider, and Mauna Loa, earth's largest volcano. My favorite story is of the refinery worker who named his son Carbon Dubbs. Carbon, second-generation refinery worker, was so besotted with oil production that he gave himself the middle name of Petroleum and named his daughters Methyl and Ethyl. It doesn't get better than that. Nor do information books get much better than this one.