Cover of The Chemistry of Fire: Essays by Laurence Gonzales.

“Reflective essays explore what it means to be human. Whether he’s swimming in an underwater cave or touring a NASA center in Huntsville, Alabama, ‘a kind of hillbilly heaven,’ these savvy essays are a pleasure. An appealing collection about all the ‘rough and joyful realities’ of life.”
Kirkus Reviews, August 2020

In 1989, Laurence Gonzales was a young writer with his first book of essays, The Still Point, just published by the University of Arkansas Press. Imagine his surprise, one winter day, to receive a letter from none other than Kurt Vonnegut. “The excellence of your writing and the depth of your reporting saddened me, in a way,” Vonnegut wrote, “reminding me yet again what a tiny voice facts and reason have in this era of wrap-around, mega-decibel rock-and-roll.”

In The Chemistry of Fire, the latest collection from celebrated essayist Laurence Gonzales, we go from the top of Mount Washington and ”the worst weather in the world,” to 12,000 feet beneath the ocean, where a Naval Intelligence Officer discovers the Titanic using the government’s own spy equipment. We experience night assaults with the 82nd Airborne Division, the dynamiting of the 100-foot snowpack on Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, a trip to the International Space Station, the crash of an airliner to the bottom of the Everglades, and more.

“Gonzales, a former National Geographic feature writer, proves himself a chronicler par excellence of nature—including of the human variety—in this excellent essay collection.The psychological nuance and vivid detail throughout will dazzle readers.”
Publishers Weekly starred review, July 2020

Several books, many articles, and a growing list of awards later, Gonzales—known for taking us to enthralling extremes—is still writing with excellence and depth.

The Chemistry of Fire is now available for preorder.