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David Owen

The New Yorker staff writer and author of Green Metropolis and Volume Control

Why Noise Pollution Is More Dangerous Than We Think | The Backstory | The New Yorker
  • About David Owen

    David Owen has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1991. Before joining The New Yorker, he was a contributing editor at The Atlantic Monthly, and prior to that, a senior writer at Harper’s and a frequent contributor to Esquire. He is also a contributing editor at Golf Digest, and the author of more than a dozen books.

    In 2004, Owen’s New Yorker article Green Manhattan sparked a new way of thinking about everyday sustainability by extolling the virtues of city living. The article gave rise to Owen’s 2009 critically acclaimed and controversial book, Green Metropolis. In its review, The Boston Globe called the book “an important contribution to our understanding of how we live.”

    David Owen’s next book, The Conundrum, tackled common misconceptions about environmental efficiency,  sustainable energy, and climate problems, and his follow up, Where the Water Goes, is an eye-opening account of the Colorado River and the water crisis facing the Western United States.

    Owen turned his attention to a less-visible environmental hazard with his reporting on noise pollution in the New Yorker, which drew attention to the risks that current noise levels pose to an aging population and younger generations coming of age. His book, Volume Control, is a series of essays exploring the causes and consequences of widespread noise pollution, as well as the vital, unseen ways that hearing connects us with the world.

    He lives in northwest Connecticut with his wife, writer Ann Hodgman, and their two children.

    Contact us for more information about booking David Owen for your next event.

  • Speaking Topics

    Volume Control

    Millions of Americans suffer from hearing loss. Most are over fifty, but for the vast majority the problem begins in youth, with repeated exposure to the deafening sounds of modern life. Fortunately, there are exciting new ways to prevent damage and to address it once it has occurred. In this lecture, David Owen will explain how to preserve and enhance this critical but neglected sense.

    Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability

    The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions Can Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse

    Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River

  • Video

  • Praise for David Owen

    Praise for Volume Control

    Owen's writing and thinking about the nature of ears, sounds, and communication are lively enough that you don't need to know someone suffering from deafness or tinnitus to find value in the book (though with 37 million Americans having lost some degree of hearing, you're likely to know at least a few of them). The World Health Organization projects that a billion people on Earth will experience a disabling hearing loss by 2050, as the world grows louder and more populous—meaning that the concerns of Volume Control will remain relevant for decades to come.

    Pacific Standard

    Informative and entertaining… In clear, appealing prose, Owen explains how loud sounds—machinery, live music, etc.—can leave people no longer noticing smoke alarms, sirens, gunshots, and backup signals… he makes earwax interesting… The book brims with useful advice.

    Kirkus (starred review)

    This well-researched and accessible introduction to the complicated subject of hearing loss is highly recommended for all science readers, not just those experiencing hearing impairments.

    Library Journal (starred review)

    Accessible and surprisingly entertaining, [Volume Control] addresses an important issue for the growing pool of aging baby boomers.


    Praise for Where the Water Goes

    Owen has the keen observation of a birder combined with the breezy writing to draw you in with unusual insights. . . . As Owen shows, the Colorado River is a great, sad, terrifying, possibly hopeful example of the pervasive, permanent mark people are making on the planet.

    The New York Times Book Review

    Where the Water Goes makes an eloquent argument for addressing the impact of human inhabitants on the natural world.

    Mr. Owen owns our attention. We have a lot to learn, but this is not a textbook. Mr. Owen offers a detail-rich travelogue, an amalgam of memoir and journalism and history.

    Wall Street Journal

    [A] revealing investigation of hydroecology in extremis. . . Rather than simply bemoan environmental degradation, Owen presents a deeper, more useful analysis of the subtle interplay between natural and human needs.

    Publishers Weekly

    An essential read for not only the environmentally minded but also citizens who are curious about where their water comes from. Highly recommended

    Library Journal

    Owen offers a wealth of engrossing and often surprising details about the complicated nature of water rights, recreational usage (worth $26 billion a year), and depletion threats from climate change and the fracking industry. With water shortages looming across the globe, Owen’s work provides invaluable lessons on the rewards and pitfalls involved in managing an essential natural resource.


    It’s a rare writer who can explain the inexplicable, but David Owen manages to do just that. Where the Water Goes is at once informative, entertaining, and unsparing—essential reading for anyone who cares about the American West.

    Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction

    Fascinating, thoughtful, and wise. David Owen is an extraordinarily gifted writer.

    Bill Bryson, author of The Road to Little Dribbling and A Walk in the Woods

    An important work that brings the questions surrounding water use in the American Southwest forward to the era of climate change. With humor, an acute eye, and un-showy skill, Owen has written a book that deserves to stand with Marc Reisner’s classic, Cadillac Desert.

    Ian Frazier, author of Great Plains, On the Rez, and Hogs Wild

    I have traveled the American West all of my life and thought that I knew everything about its fabled water wars. But David Owen fills in so many gaps that I feel that I’ve been to water reeducation camp. Whether you read for fun, or edification, this is a gem.

    Rinker Buck, author of The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
  • Books by David Owen

  • Media About David Owen

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and Availability

  • 212 572-2013
  • David Owen travels from Washington, CT

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