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The unexpected and unexplored ways that ice has transformed a nation—from the foods Americans eat, to the sports they play, to the way they live today—and what its future might look like on a swiftly warming planet.
Ice is everywhere: in gas stations, in restaurants, in hospitals, in our homes. Americans think nothing of dropping a few ice cubes into tall glasses of tea to ward off the heat of a hot summer day. Most refrigerators owned by Americans feature automatic ice machines. Ice on-demand has so revolutionized modern life that it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always this way—and to overlook what aspects of society might just melt away as the planet warms.
In Ice, journalist and historian Amy Brady shares the strange and storied two-hundred-year-old history of ice in America: from the introduction of mixed drinks “on the rocks,” to the nation’s first-ever indoor ice rink, to how delicacies like ice creams and iced tea revolutionized our palates, to the ubiquitous ice machine in every motel across the US. But Ice doesn’t end in the past. Brady also explores the surprising present-day uses of ice in sports, medicine, and sustainable energy—including cutting-edge cryotherapy breast-cancer treatments and new refrigerator technologies that may prove to be more energy efficient—underscoring how precious this commodity is, especially in an age of climate change.
About the Author
Amy Brady is the executive director of Orion magazine and coeditor of The World as We Knew It: Dispatches from a Changing Climate. Brady has made appearances on the BBC, NPR, and PBS. She holds a PhD in literature and American studies and has won writing and research awards from the National Science Foundation, the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference, and the Library of Congress.
One of The Next Big Idea Club's June 2023 Must-Read Books
“[A] colorful new history of America’s pursuit of crystalline cold...Touches on the complex, often counterintuitive science of ice...Ms. Brady’s eye for such hidden connections is sharp, and her curiosity is infectious.” —Wall Street Journal
“You can’t possibly imagine what’s inside this cover! Fidel Castro is there, eating 18 scoops at a sitting and negotiating with Canada so US sanctions won’t cut off access to his beloved HoJo’s. People are skating on summertime rinks of hog fat. Ice men are stealing housewives' hearts and bars are hiring teams of "shaker boys” to keep up with America's sudden passion for iced cocktails. Machine-made ice goes from blasphemy to medical miracle to environmental disaster. In Amy Brady’s expert hands, ice is sexy, mysterious, funny, and endlessly fascinating.” —Mary Roach, author of Fuzz and Stiff
"Amy Brady has written a sweeping historical narrative on a uniquely cool topic in a style that is both thoroughly informative and buoyantly engaging." —Timothy Winegard, author of The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator
“[A] lively history of ice in America…Bursting at the seams with icy facts and trivia.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Brady's history of ice focuses a fascinating lens on how our modern world came to be.” —Booklist
“[A] vibrant history of America’s ‘obsession’ with ice...Overflowing with intriguing arcana and colorful personalities, this is an eye-opener.” —Publishers Weekly
“In an engaging narrative, Brady weaves historic, political, culinary, sports and business details that illuminate how ice helped shape American life.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Brady [illustrates] the trajectory of ice's journey from an amenity to an everyday item, emphasizing how quickly it became mainstream…Ice makes an important case for securing the future of those freezing old cubes in a warming world.” —BookPage
“Ice is a fortune teller's ball in which we can glimpse who we were, what we have become, and, perhaps, most importantly, where we might be going. In this crisp account of an often-overlooked subject, Amy Brady takes readers on an endlessly engaging journey into the heart of our "ice-obsessed" culture, asking whether we control our desires or if they control us.” —Elizabeth Rush, author of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore
“Whether you eat it, skate on it, or plop it in your cocktail, ice is part of your life. In prose as crystalline as a frozen pond, Amy Brady’s Ice details the history of this civilization-shaping substance—one that climate change melts faster every day. You’ll never view a freezer, a popsicle, or the Winter Olympics the same way after reading Brady’s delightful ode to an enigmatic, indispensable state of matter.” —Ben Goldfarb, author of Eager: The Surprising, Secret Lives of Beavers and Why They Matter
“A life without ice? I could not, but people shockingly did for thousands of years until the arrival of the brilliant people at the center of Amy Brady’s colorful history of a world-changing substance. Amy weaves a deliciously chilled and masterfully written tale of creativity and innovation that resulted in—among so many things—cocktails on the rocks, life-saving vaccines, and the entire sport of hockey. Talk about refreshing!” —Daniel Stone, author of The Food Explorer, The True Adventures of a Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats
“Rich as ice cream, brisk as iced tea and clear as a frozen lake, Amy Barry’s Ice is a marvelous excavation of cultural and culinary history. Like a bartender carving a perfect cube, she peels back superstition and myth to reveal delightful facts you’ll want to relate to friends—maybe over an icy cocktail.” —Maryn McKenna, author of Big Chicken, Superbug and Beating Back the Devil
“Amy Brady illuminates America through the translucent ice that cooled the nation. Fascinating, fast-paced, fact-based: cultural history at its best.” —Giulio Boccaletti, author of Water: A Biography
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