Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681373690
Pages: 400
Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Heaven's BreathA Natural History of the Wind

by Lyall Watson, introduction by Nick Hunt


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Heaven’s Breath, the first history of the wind, looks at this ubiquitous and invisible entity from the point of view of geography, biology, physics, sociology, physiology, psychology, history, and philosophy. Lyall Watson shows how wind shapes the world and maintains its life, functioning as the circulatory and nervous systems of the planet, sharing our energy and information, distributing warmth, bringing rain, enriching or stripping away soil, air-conditioning the globe. Wind also disperses plants, animals, and human communities, shaping history: trade winds have influenced human migrations and shaped imperial destinies; wind affected the outcome of wars between the Greeks and Persians, the Mongols and Japanese; wind contributed to the destruction of the Spanish Armada. And wind works on our most intimate feelings: the foehn, mistral, sirocco, Santa Ana, and other “ill winds” of the world can lead to disease, suicide, and even murder.

Watson had written a book that is full of strange lore and new perspectives on history, nature, and humanity.


A comprehensive and fascinating study.
—Bernard Levin, The Observer, Bernard Levin’s 1984 Book of the Year

A book which fascinates, delights and stimulates with a thousand fascinating facts.
Daily Mirror

This is the kind of book that answers dozens of questions first arising in childhood and lingering unresolved until there was Lyall Watson.... Watson’s pot-pourri of wind poetry, wind jokes and wind facts is so diverting that one hardly minds losing the thread now and then.
—Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post

Collectors of curious bits of information and odd statistics will find Heaven’s Breath a gold mine.... Mr. Watson discusses the wind’s role in geology, plant and animal evolution, cultural history, trade, health, mythology, art, literature and language.
—Patricia T. O’Conner, The New York Times