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Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize ** A Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year
Rust has been called “the great destroyer,” the “pervasive menace,” and “the evil.” “This look at corrosion—its causes, its consequences, and especially the people devoted to combating it—is wide-ranging and consistently engrossing” (The New York Times).
It is the hidden enemy, the one that challenges the very basis of civilization. This entropic menace destroys cars, fells bridges, sinks ships, sparks house fires, and nearly brought down the Statue of Liberty’s torch. It is rust—and this book, full of wit and insight, disasters and triumphs—is its story.
“Jonathan Waldman’s first book is as obsessive as it is informative…he takes us deep into places and situations that are too often ignored or unknown” (The Washington Post). In Rust, Waldman travels from Key West to Prudhoe Bay, meeting people concerned with corrosion. He sneaks into an abandoned steelworks and nearly gets kicked out of Can School. He follows a high-tech robot through an arctic winter, hunting for rust in the Alaska pipeline. In Texas, he finds a corrosion engineer named Rusty, and in Colorado, he learns of the animosity between the galvanizing industry and the paint army. Along the way, Waldman recounts stories of flying pigs, Trekkies, rust boogers, and unlikely superheroes.
The result is a man-versus-nature tale that’s as fascinating as it is grand, illuminating a hidden phenomenon that shapes the modern world. Rust affects everything from the design of our currency to the composition of our tap water, and it will determine the legacy we leave on this planet. This exploration of corrosion, and the incredible lengths we go to fight it, is “engrossing…brilliant…Waldman’s gift for narrative nonfiction shines in every chapter….Watching things rust: who would have thought it could be so exciting” (Natural History).
Environmental journalist Waldman offers a lively collection of musings on the history of humans' age-old battle with corrosion, telling a story as much about professional specialization as about materials science. He focuses less on the technicalities of combatting this ubiquitous Industrial Age enemy than on the individuals who find their joys and livelihoods in something many of us consider below our notice. Waldman inserts himself into the worlds of those who are passionate about rust: on an adventure with an ever-trespassing photographer in the abandoned Bethlehem Steel Works, on the set of a Pentagon training video featuring actor LeVar Burton and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense's "corrosion czar," talking to the introverted and underappreciated men who attend the annual gathering of the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (and the salespeople who make their living selling anticorrosion paints), and locking horns with a journalist-fearing members of the metal-packaging Ball Company while sneaking into their corporate Can School (devoted to canning). It's a detailed, fun read with a valuable reminder that every seemingly irrelevant item we take for granted each day is front and center for someone else.