The Big Necessity

Adventures In The World Of Human Waste

Rose George

Published: 6 July 2009
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 272 pages
ISBN: 9781846270703


Produced behind closed doors, disposed of discreetly, hidden by euphemism, shit is rarely out in the open in 'civilized' society, but the world of waste - and the people who deal with it, work with it and in it - is a rich one.This book takes us underground to the sewers of New York and London and overground to meet the heroes of India's sanitation movement, American sewage schoolteachers, the Japanese genius at the cutting edge of toilet technology and the biosolids lobbying team. With a journalist's nose for story and a campaigner's desire for change, Rose George also addresses the politics of this under-reported social and environmental effluent, and the consequences of our reluctance to talk about it. Witty and original, The Big Necessity proves that shit doesn't have to be a dirty word.

About the author

Image of Rose George

Rose George is the author of A Life Removed: Hunting for Refuge in the Modern World (long-listed for the Ulysses Reportage Prize), The Big Necessity: Adventures in the World of Human Waste (Portobello, 2008; shortlisted for the BMA Book Prize) and Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that Brings You 90% of Everything (Portobello, 2013; winner of a Mountbatten Maritime Award), and Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Mysterious, Miraculous World of Blood (Portobello, 2018). Rose writes frequently for the Guardian, New Statesman and many other publications, and her two TED talks, on sanitation and seafaring, have had 3 million views. More about the author


‘A fascinating, wise, calm and scrupulously drawn portrait of the world and its waste ... [this is] a seriously important book’ Simon Winchester



‘An exhaustive analysis of lavatorial history that offers a snippet of information at every opening’

‘George bravely submerges herself in the tragedy and occasional comedy of global sanitation. Sludge, biogas, sewage: I ate up and wanted more! The most unforgettable book to pass through the publishing pipeline in years’ Mary Roach, author of STIFF and BONK

‘The first popular study written on the subject. And popular it deserves to be. George has the right kind of breezy serious approach needed with this universal taboo’

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