Monday memo #14: Water

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Each day at the The Browser we recommend five or six pieces of outstanding new writing. In the Monday Memo we plunder our archives to bring you our all-time favourites on a current theme. This week: that miraculous molecule, Water
Subscribe to The Browser! (
Get daily recommendations to your inbox


This Is Water

David Foster Wallace | Kenyon Commencement Address | 21st May 2005

"None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness ... of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: "This is water, this is water" (PDF) (2,930 words)

After Water

Susie Cagle | Longreads | 2nd June 2015

Despatch from the California drought. Residential wells go dry across the San Joaquin Valley and the last ground water is tainted with nitrates. "Is it better to cook with precious bottled water or eat fast food every night? Whose truck can you borrow to pick up the water you need from the fire station to bathe your babies? How dirty does it have to be for you not to drink it on a 110 degree day? How long can you live like this?" (5,160 words)

The Cost Of Pure Water

Shaun Raviv | Mosaic | 13th April 2015

Government failure in Ghana. "Access to piped water has massively decreased over the past decade". Electricity goes down for days at a time – even though there is a giant hydroelectric dam 100km from Accra, and the world's largest reservoir behind it. Private companies sell drinking water in plastic sachets, which alleviates the water problem, but creates a garbage problem, since nobody collects the garbage (5,100 words)

The Universe's Most Miraculous Molecule

Richard Gunderman | The Conversation | 8th October 2015

The "miracle" of water, critical for life, and the second most abundant substance in the universe. Its extra-strong hydrogen bonds give it a high boiling point and surface tension, as well as "capillary action", the molecular attraction which defies even gravity. It is a universal solvent for many substances, though not fats and oils. Expanding as it freezes, water forms floating ice cubes and dazzling snowflakes (1,080 words)
Why subscribe to The Browser?

Subscribers get unlimited access to our vast archives; the full text of selected articles from paid sources like the New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, The Economist and Foreign Affairs; the option to receive our daily content by email; and an extremely neat set of buttons for saving recommended articles to Pocket and other read-later services.

If you're an avid Pocket user, you can have everything we recommend delivered to your Android or iOS device for offline reading.

A subscription is $34 for a year. If you're a former subscriber, here's a link ( which will renew you right away. If you're new, click here ( . We will ask you for an email address, nothing more, and then show you a little pop-up window from Stripe to make the payment. We don't see your financial details.

With best wishes,

Robert Cottrell, Editor
Duncan Brown, Publisher

Join 150,000+ curious readers who grow with us every day

No spam. No nonsense. Unsubscribe anytime.

Great! Check your inbox and click the link to confirm your subscription
Please enter a valid email address!
You've successfully subscribed to The Browser
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in
Could not sign in! Login link expired. Click here to retry
Cookies must be enabled in your browser to sign in