Ask a Bookseller: ‘The Devil’s Element’ by Dan Egan

Ask a Bookseller Podcast
Ask a Bookseller

On The Thread’s Ask a Bookseller series, we talk to independent booksellers all over the country to find out what books they’re most excited about right now.

This week’s recommendation comes from Carrie Koepke of Skylark Bookshop in Columbia, Mo. She suggests the nonfiction book “The Devil’s Element: Phosphorus and a World Out of Balance” by Dan Egan.

A green book cover
"The Devil's Element" by Dan Egan.
Courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company

The paperback comes out in June. And while you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, this one tells a powerful story from the book; that iridescent swirling green is an algae bloom and the boat in the picture demonstrates the massive scale of the problem.

Carrie says: Egan does a deep dive into humanity’s interaction with phosphorus and discoveries of its benefits and evils.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

Phosphorus is primarily used as a fertilizer, it gets into some of the fascinating stories of digging up old bodies for grinding the bones into fertilizer, the bat guano islands and then our current situation, which is kind of a very perilous situation with algae blooms and lots of toxicity in our lives.

So it’s one of our most critical environmental issues right now. But a lot of people don't know about it.

I think Egan is a writer to follow. He’s always been a fantastic journalist. His other book is “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes,” which oddly we sell a ton of in Missouri because it’s just that good.

It feels like you are there with him exploring and understanding at a pace that is comfortable. It’s very much conversational language and he’s very good at making you learn things without realizing you’re learning them.

— Carrie Koepke