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"A human breath begins in the deepest reaches of the brain, where — far beneath consciousness — the body’s most basic and essential functions are regulated." 

US Edition

UK Edition

Choked is the landmark book on one of the world’s most urgent health threats   the dirty air that kills more people than AIDS, diabetes and car accidents combined.

Beth Gardiner takes readers from the halls of power in Washington and the diesel-fogged London streets she walks with her daughter to Poland’s coal heartland and India’s gasping capital. We hear the stories of those whose lives are shaped by air pollution —  whether they know it or not —  and meet the scientists who have transformed our understanding of its effects on the human body. And get to know the ordinary people fighting for something better.

It’s a sobering tale, but one infused with hope, as Choked makes clear that we hold the power to build a cleaner, healthier future. 


Reviews and excerpts

"Moving. ... By putting a human face on a problem of environmental chemistry, Gardiner shows us the devastation up close, creating a sense of dismay but also urgency to improve lives." — Washington Post


“Gardiner is nuanced but sharp in her judgments. She is concerned with the particularities of real lives as well as the particulates that often blight them. You couldn’t ask for a better guide for non-specialists and concerned citizens.” — The Guardian, Book of the Week

"Arresting ... Clear-eyed ... Gardiner personalizes the damage pollutants do with vivid portraits." Scientific American, "Recommended" column 

"A reader-friendly travelogue of the world’s contemporary pollution hotspots"

New York Review of Books

"Timely, eloquent and disturbing" — Nature

"Remarkable. ... An important book.  I recommend it to all who care about the air they breathe" — Science magazine

"Incredibly readable" — Refinery29

“Stark and vivid“  The Observer

"Such an important book. Its power is drawn from the author’s ability to pull focus between headline issues and individual stories, describing the impacts of pollution at scales both public and personal. ... Taken as a whole, these stories illuminate the way air pollution is both universally suffered and uniquely experienced. ... Beth Gardiner is an excellent and sensitive storyteller."

— Times Literary Supplement (U.K.) 


“An eye-opening read” — Evening Standard (London)

“Gripping and robust … skillful, deft … Gardiner’s coverage of the state of the science is thorough and up-to-date. … Choked gives a primer about why air pollution matters, who is at risk, and what we can do about it.”

— American Journal of Public Health

"Gardiner offers hope, not despair" — Library Journal, Best of 2019 list

"An essential book" — Pacific Standard

“Sobering and deft … A vital window onto one of the defining urban issues of our time” — Curbed, list of best books about cities

"A globe-trotting tour"  Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club

"Gripping ... at heart an optimistic book" Undark magazine

"Comprehensive … Gardiner is on a quest. She wants to create a roadmap for humanity" — American Scientist, book gift guide

“Urgent, vital work, with repercussions for everyone on the planet” — Earth Island Journal

Compelling” — BMJ, the British Medical Journal

“Choked includes crucial insights … Invaluable” — Planetizen

"What we'll be reading in 2019" — The Financial Times

"The best new environmental books" — The Revelator

Excerpted in The Atlantic — "Your Brain on Smog" 

Excerpted as The Guardian's Long Read — "Dirty lies: how the car industry hid the truth about diesel emissions"

Excerpted in Granta Magazine — "Exhale: What Comes Next" 

Excerpted on LitHub — "How Can We Stop the Air We Breathe From Slowly Poisoning Us?"

Excerpted on CityLab — "How Scientists Discovered What Dirty Air Does to Kids' Health" 

Excerpted on GreenBiz — "Cows, almonds and asthma: San Joaquin Valley's agriculture and air issues"

Excerpted on Environmental Health News — "Dirty air wreaks harm long before birth"

Advance praise for CHOKED

"Beth Gardiner’s powerful account of what the air we breathe is doing to our bodies couldn’t be more timely. Choked tells a gripping, complex tale full of memorable characters  — starring one of the deadliest villains of all time, air pollution. This is an urgent, essential read."

Arnold Schwarzenegger

"Some seven million people will die prematurely this year owing to the effects of air pollution. Beth Gardiner travels to some of the smoggiest places on earth to explore this grim statistic and explain what can be done to alter it. Choked is a compelling book about a critical subject.”

Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction 

Choked literally breathes life into the struggle for clean air in the U.S. and across the world. Gardiner is a masterful storyteller. This book doesn’t just make air pollution personal, it brings hope to all of us who remain in the fight for cleaner air and a stable climate.”

Gina McCarthy, former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

"Written with the profound wonder that defines the most engaging scientific narratives and with the deep concern that comes from being a parent, Choked is a personal journey to the heart of one of our planet’s most pressing problems.”

Elizabeth Rush, author of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore 

“Brilliantly reported and beautifully written. Gardiner sheds myths, wrestles with moral complexity, and reveals the social injustices that make air pollution a danger that both connects and divides us. Along the way, her candid interviews sketch an inspiring blueprint for how to move forward in one of our most elemental battles.”  

 Anna Clark, author of The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy 

"This important book tells so many touching stories from bold voices from all over the world, each making it clear that we can no longer accept air pollution and the devastation it causes."

Christiana Figueres, former United Nations climate chief

"The stories Gardiner tells paint a compelling picture of a critical issue. Choked weaves together science, politics and economics to show us the progress we’ve made toward healthier air and the work that still lies ahead."

 Christine Todd Whitman, former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

"With gripping stories and a keen understanding of science, Gardiner traces air pollution’s insidious impact on our bodies. Choked is chock full of frightening tales from places such as Krakow, London, Delhi and California’s San Joaquin Valley. Yet you’ll come away breathing a little easier, knowing that with the right choices we have the tools to make the world a healthier place."

Randi Hutter Epstein, M.D., author of Aroused 


"Weaving her curiosity as an investigative journalist with the concern of a parent (and human), accomplished journalist Beth Gardiner’s debut book Choked is an eminently readable exploration of air pollution across the globe. Taking her investigative skills from Delhi to Poland to L.A. and beyond, she brings back stories about how we are fundamentally fouling — and can save — that most essential element: the air we breathe."

Meera Subramanian, author of A River Runs Again

“With Choked, Gardiner renders the oft-invisible assault of air pollution on our lungs and cities not just visible, but gripping. Gardiner is a deft reporter and a vivid story-teller. Choked should be required reading for anyone breathing today.” 

Carla Power, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist If the Oceans Were Ink

“A brilliantly crafted, readable anatomy of an insidious but powerful threat. Choked exposes the tradeoffs and abuses that have left us breathing unhealthy air and also offers moving portraits of the clean air champions who are fighting back.”

Kate Winkler Dawson, author of Death in the Air

Choked is a deeply reported and powerfully written account of an invisible global health crisis. Beth Gardiner takes us on an eye-opening journey that packs an emotional punch, but also offers valuable lessons from scientists, politicians and ordinary people fighting for cleaner air."

Lisa Palmer, author of Hot, Hungry Planet


"Choked is a timely and potent look at the health threat air pollution poses around the world. The book’s focus on life’s most basic function -- breathing -- makes dirty air’s dangers both tangible and immediate. Gardiner has turned the fight for clean, healthy air into a compelling tale of the progress we’ve made and the work that still lies ahead.” 

Paul Billings, senior vice president of the American Lung Association

“What are we doing to our lungs by burning fossil fuels? That's the profound question that this engaging book answers, traveling the world from Los Angeles to London, Beijing to Berlin. Air pollution is an insidious and often invisible threat, which makes it easy to overlook. But you will learn just how dangerous dirty air really is — and what we can do to clean it up — in this illuminating tale.”

 David Biello, TED Talks science curator and author of The Unnatural World

"Choked is a vital book, both deeply reported and emotionally powerful. Beth Gardiner tells a sweeping, global story that also hits close to home, making the threat dirty air poses to every one of us frighteningly clear. As engaging as it is important, this book is a must read for anyone hoping for a healthier future." 

Terry Tamminen, President/CEO Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation

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