Silk: A World History (Hardcover)

Silk: A World History By Aarathi Prasad Cover Image

Silk: A World History (Hardcover)


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A Next Big Idea Book Club Must-Read for April

“Aarathi Prasad’s Silk: A World History is a love song to this protean material. . . . Beautiful [and] fascinating.” —Wall Street Journal

"Aarathi Prasad spins a masterpiece of a story, as luminous, supple, and surprising as the wondrous threads themselves." —Sy Montgomery, bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus and Of Time and Turtles

Throughout history, across cultures and countries, silk has reigned as the undeniable queen of fabrics, yet its origins and evolution remain a mystery. In a gorgeous and sweeping narrative, Silk weaves together its intricate story and the indelible mark it has left on humanity.

Some four thousand years ago, the cultivation of silkworms began, the practice spreading to the far reaches of civilization. With it came a growing obsession with unlocking silk’s secrets to understand how the strongest biological material ever known could be harnessed.

Explorers and scientists, including groundbreaking women who pushed the boundaries of societal expectations, dedicated—even sacrificed—their lives to investigate the anatomy of silk-producing animals. They endured unbelievable hardships to discover and collect new specimens, leading them to the moths of China, Indonesia, and India; the spiders of Argentina, Paraguay, and Madagascar; and the mollusks of the Mediterranean.

Rich with the complex connections between human and nonhuman worlds, Silk not only peers into the past but also reveals the fiber’s impact today, inspiring new technologies across the fashion, military, and medical fields, and shows its untapped potential to pioneer a more sustainable future.

The culmination of author and biologist Aarathi Prasad’s own lifelong passion and grounded in years of research and writing, Silk is an intoxicating read that provides an essential illumination of nature’s most glamourous thread.

Aarathi Prasad is a writer, broadcaster, and researcher. Born in London to an Indian mother who wore only silk saris and a Caribbean father who loved the natural world, Aarathi was educated in the West Indies and the UK. After completing a PhD in molecular genetics from Imperial College London, she later trained in bioarchaeology. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London’s Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, and part of an international team excavating and analyzing ancient DNA from funerary sites in Spain, Rome, and Pompeii. She is the author of two books published in the UK, In the Bonesetter's Waiting Room: Travels Through Indian Medicine and Like a Virgin: How Science Is Redesigning the Rules of Sex.

Product Details ISBN: 9780063160255
ISBN-10: 0063160250
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: April 30th, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English

"In Silk, Aarathi Prasad spins a masterpiece of a story, as luminous, supple, and surprising as the wondrous threads themselves. Page after page I was shocked and spellbound by the efforts of researchers obsessed by silk's mysteries, and by the profound impact of a substance extruded by humble invertebrates on the course of human history. Most of all, I came away from this riveting book awed and humbled by the powers of silk-weaving animals themselves. I'm heartened to read of new efforts to create this magical substance, inspired by, but without subjugating, the animals who have given us this amazing gift." — Sy Montgomery, bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus and Of Time and Turtles

“The story of silk—a material simultaneously familiar and exotic—is more than an eye-opening history, more than a meditation on humans' complex relationship to nature. It is the very story, rich and deeply interwoven, of ourselves. There is no better guide to weave us through its science, its narrative, and its deeply human revelations than Aarathi Prasad.” — Brian Christian, author of The Alignment Problem and Algorithms to Live By

"Both scientific and poetic, this remarkable book shows how the great tides of history are shaped through human encounters with the intricate variety of the non-human world." — David Wengrow, co-author of the international bestseller The Dawn of Everything

“Aarathi Prasad’s Silk: A World History is a love song to this protean material. . . . Beautiful [and] fascinating.” — Wall Street Journal

"Prasad unwinds tangled threads to weave one arc. . . Fascinating facts abound." — Scientific American

"A vibrant cultural and scientific history . . . [R]ichly detailed . . . A colorful, wholly absorbing narrative tapestry." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Silk is entertaining and enlightening, brimming with story and scientific detail. It reveals a surprising history well worth knowing." — BookPage

"Thanks to [Prasad's] elegant prose, the book’s deeply informed scientific explanations are charming and accessible. Readers will revel in this exquisite deep dive." — Publishers Weekly

”Who would have thought that a book about silkworms and spiders could be so fascinating? Aarathi Prasad criss-crosses centuries and cultures to tell of the intrepid explorers, botanists, scientists, and entrepreneurs who were determined to unravel the secrets of silk production. Her book captures their persistence and her own in the search for the little-told but revelatory stories of human curiosity and ingenuity.” — Clare Hunter, author of Threads of Life

“Aarathi Prasad has woven a wonder of a narrative. Like the transformation of caterpillar to moth that she explores so beautifully, this is a network of threads that spin around the world and tell a story of science, of history, of humanity itself.” — Kate Strasdin, author of The Dress Diary of Mrs. Anne Sykes

"An incredible read. Deeply researched, dazzling. Prasad weaves a magical thread through history, culture, science and nature, unfolding the long and deep relationship we have with the natural history of silk and the creatures that make it." — Seirian Sumner, author of Endless Forms

"Prasad weaves her strands of science, history, and culture to create a rich narrative tapestry that's as sumptuous as the material itself. Full of fascinating detail." — Gaia Vince, author of Nomad Century