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March 2015 Vol. 52 No. 7

Pegasus Books

The following review appeared in the March 2015 issue of CHOICE:

Gaudet, John. Papyrus: the plant that changed the world--from ancient Egypt to today's water wars. Pegasus Books, 2014. 300p bibl index ISBN 9781605985664, $28.95.

Disguised as a book about a single species, this work actually illuminates large swaths of issues from the ecological importance of wetlands to competition for water in developing Africa and the lifestyles of swamp-dwelling peoples.  Along the way, Gaudet (ecologist) introduces readers to the history of water projects throughout Africa, including the Aswan High Dam and the fight over the future of the Sudd.  Having lived in Africa and the Middle East and studied papyrus in those regions, the author is well versed in the interplay between environmental issues and social ones.  Poor development and water use have harmed many parts of Africa, but the ultimately hopeful message found here is that wetlands, incorporating plants such as papyrus, have the capacity to mitigate and even repair that damage.  Though a working knowledge of African geography would benefit readers, Gaudet provides enough background information and maps to pave the way, including eight pages of color diagrams.  A solid index and suggestions for further reading help balance an occasionally confusing organization of topics.  A good addition to collections in botany, hydrology, African history or development, environmental sciences, and ornithology.

--C. H. Chenard, Plymouth State University

Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries.