Bottlemania (Hardcover)

How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It

By Elizabeth Royte

Bloomsbury USA, 9781596913714, 256pp.

Publication Date: June 1, 2008

List Price: 24.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Having already surpassed milk and beer, and second now only to soda, bottled water is on the verge of becoming the most popular beverage in the country. The brands have become so ubiquitous that we're hardly conscious that Poland Spring and Evian were once real springs, bubbling in remote corners of Maine and France. Only now, with the water industry trading in the billions of dollars, have we begun to question what it is we're drinking.

In this intelligent, accomplished work of narrative journalism, Elizabeth Royte does for water what Michael Pollan did for food: she finds the people, machines, economies, and cultural trends that bring it from distant aquifers to our supermarkets. Along the way, she investigates the questions we must inevitably answer. Who owns our water? How much should we drink? Should we have to pay for it? Is tap safe water safe to drink? And if so, how many chemicals are dumped in to make it potable? What happens to all those plastic bottles we carry around as predictably as cell phones? And of course, what's better: tap water or bottled?

About the Author

Elizabeth Royte has written for the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, National Geographic, Outside, Smithsonian, and The New Yorker. She is the author of Garbage Land and The Tapir's Morning Bath.

Praise For Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It

“Fantastic.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Ingenious.... Amiably, without haranguing or hyperventilating, this veteran environmental writer has produced what could be, assuming enough people read it, one of the year's most influential books.” —Boston Globe

“Royte's lively investigation of water politics will leave you ashamed to drink out of plastic, uneasy about the tap, and impressed by her ability to synthesize complicated material into such a witty and engaging book.” —Entertainment Weekly

“An easy-to-swallow survey.... after you read it you will sip warily from your water bottle (whether purchased or tap, plastic or not), as freaked out by your own role in today's insidious water wars as by Royte's recommended ecologically responsible drink: 'Toilet to tap'.” —Lisa Margonelli, New York Times Book Review

“Light and easy-to-read narrative…lots of interesting factoids…” —Providence Journal-Bulletin

“At a time of climate change and increasing risks to global water supplies, we must change the way we think about this crucial resource and begin treating it as a public good to be preserved, rather than the equivalent of an oil deposit or timber forest, ripe for corporate exploitation.” —New Scientist

“An intriguing look at a totem of the ultramodern, perhaps selfish, way we live now” —Time Out Chicago

“a well-balanced, interesting and instructive book about our fundamental human need to drink water” —Chicago Sun Times

“Seamlessly blending scientific explanation and social observation” —LA Times Book Review

“Bottlemania makes the case that it's not in our interests to let private multinational corporations float their boats on our nation's water. That's not democracy, it's dam-ocracy, and it could damn us all if we let their unquenchable thirst for profit take precedence over our right to clean, safe, free drinking water.” —Kerry Trueman,

“An intrepid, intelligent analysis of Americans' raging thirst for bottled water.” —BookPage

“An essential, if somewhat disturbing, read.” —

“A breezy, accessible history of water through the ages....a good account of the tensions in the little town of Fryeburg, Maine.” —New York Post

“A sharp indictment of the bottled-water industry” —New York Observer

“Informative” —Meghan O'Rourke,

“Compelling and dynamic” —Library Journal

“Entertaining and eye-opening” —Publishers Weekly

“Bottlemania is eye-opening and informative; you will never look at water – either "designer" or tap – in quite the same way. Royte demonstrates how everything is, in the end, truly connected.” —Elizabeth Kolbert

“Royte deserves credit for her tenacity and well-balanced approach….Lively investigative journalism.” —Kirkus Reviews