Book Review: Window Seat

Window Seat: Reading the Landscape from the Air by Gregory Dicum
Chronicle Books, 2004
Paperback, 176 pages

Although billed as the "perfect inflight companion", Window Seat is more than a guide to what you see out your airplane window as you cross North America. Using primarily satellite images, the accessible book helps explain geology and the history of human settlement, as well as ecology and - more importantly - the effects we have on the land. Split into geographic sections, rather than by states, each section illustrates the prevalent natural features of the region, in addition to highlighting special places. For example "The Great Plains" shows the agricultural grid indicative of the region, as well as the massive Monfort Feedlot, a collection point for beef from all over the region. This example further illustrates the ultimate focus of the book; as the circles within the squares are signs of pivot irrigation, drawing water from the huge Oglala aquifer at a rate that threatens the future of the Great Plains. Across its 175 pages and seventy aerial photographs, the reader learns to interpret the land, not just gawk at it, learning to see things in a different way.