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The Bookshelf: April 8, 2015

In this week's Bookshelf, our content partner Kirkus Reviews highlights Water to the Angels.

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Trib+Water is joining with respected books authority Kirkus Reviews to bring you select reviews of books of note in the field of water studies. For more book reviews and recommendations, visit

WATER TO THE ANGELS: William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct, and the Rise of Los Angeles

by Les Standiford

Dutiful story of a man who, not having finished high school, let alone set foot in an engineering class, designed a metropolitan water system that is still in use today.

Irish immigrant William Mulholland’s construction of a water grid centered on the Los Angeles River … in 1877, inarguably made the LA of today possible, for better or worse; more than 10 million citizens depend on it to some degree or another. Yet Mulholland was nearly condemned to oblivion after a dam collapsed in 1928 in the mountains above the city, an event considered by some to be the worst engineering failure in American history … The added value of Standiford’s book largely comes in its closing pages, in which he examines the now-canonical script for Chinatown and separates history from fiction.

Generally sympathetic to its subject and well-written but to be consulted only after William Kahrl’s Water and Power (1982) and Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert (1986).

For full review, visit

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