Book Review: The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan

Title: The Death and Life of the Great Lakes

Author: Dan Egan

Genre: Nonfiction

Subgenre: Science/Environmental


The Great Lakes—Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior—hold 20 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water and provide sustenance, work, and recreation for tens of millions of Americans. But they are under threat as never before, and their problems are spreading across the continent. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is prize-winning reporter Dan Egan’s compulsively readable portrait of an ecological catastrophe happening right before our eyes, blending the epic story of the lakes with an examination of the perils they face and the ways we can restore and preserve them for generations to come.

My Review

I’ve read several books about pandemics and global warming and what not over the past couple of years, but when I spotted The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, I realized that I hadn’t read much of anything about America’s important bodies of water and how pollution, global warming, and other human-related activities have been affecting them in recent decades. So I decided to give this book a read.

The book follows the downright tragic mismanagement of the Great Lakes over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, which caused numerous, repeated collapses of native fish species and continue to have serious repercussions for the Lakes today. From building canals to reversing the flow of the Chicago River, from introducing salmon to the Lakes on purpose to introducing ocean mussels by accident, humans have inadvertently upset the delicate ecology of the Great Lakes over and over.

I honestly had no idea just how much damage people had done to the Great Lakes until I read this book, as I live on the East Coast and have never been anywhere near that region of the country. But the important lessons that this book teaches about the delicate nature of America’s waterways and the repercussions of destroying their natural food chains are applicable to far more than the Lakes themselves.

For example, I live near the Chesapeake Bay, which has suffered its own innumerable manmade issues over the years—and this book gave me a much better understanding of why those issues have such far-reaching consequences.

If you’re the sort of person who’s concerned about the environment, but you haven’t done much, or any, reading about America’s important bodies of water, I’d highly suggest you read The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.


Rating: 4 out of 5.