Rick Smith’s and Bruce Lourie’s Slow Death by Rubber Duck 
Knopf, 2009

By the time the average woman grabs her morning coffee, she has applied 126 different chemicals in 12 different products to her face, body and hair.

You’re thinking about it now, aren’t you? Even if you’re not a woman. Even if you don’t drink coffee.

Even if you’re a green-tea-drinking man who showers in the evenings, you’re calculating the products you apply daily.

Which is the really great and, simultaneously, the really troubling thing about Slow Death by Rubber Duck.

You might think this is a book about the environment (or science or industry or ducks) and it is, but it’s also a book about your everyday life.

And you might know as much about your everyday life in this world as you think you do. Maybe you choose your shampoo based on which one smells nicest, but you’ve never given a thought to what gives it that greasy-slicky-gooey consistency.

Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie have thought about that kind of thing.

And they’ve put their findings into a format that verges on being a page-turner, so that you’re compelled to read on, even when your jaw is already gaping from all the stuff you’ve learned in the chapter you just finished.

Here are some Random Things I Learned:

1. There was a Great Smog London, England, in 1952, which resulted in the death of 12,000 people because people burned more coal than usual when the temperatures dropped;

2. How to pronounce ‘phthalate’ (and not knowing had been driving me craaaazy, even before I knew there were 8.1 billion kilograms of them produced globally every year); and

3. Plastic is absolutely everywhere (even more places than I thought).

But it’s not really about the random details.

It’s about the fact that this book changed the way that I view the world.

I live my life differently because I read it.

What book (among many, I’m sure) has changed your life: lately? ever?