Alanna Mitchell
The Spinning Magnet: The Force that Created the Modern World—and Could Destroy It

Book Cover

Our future might be a world without electronics or protection from lethal solar radiation.

The magnetic North Pole will eventually trade places with the South Pole. Satellite evidence suggests to some scientists that the move has already begun, but most still think it won't happen for many decades. All agree that it has happened many times before and will happen again. But this time it will be different. It will be a very bad day for modern civilization.

Award-winning science journalist Alanna Mitchell tells in The Spinning Magnet the fascinating history of one of the four fundamental physical forces in the universe, electro-magnetism. From investigations into magnetism in 13th century feudal France and the realization six hundred years later in the Victorian era that electricity and magnetism were essentially the same, to the discovery that the earth was itself a magnet, spinning in space with two poles and that those poles aperiodically reverse, this is an utterly engrossing narrative history of ideas and science that readers of Stephen Greenblatt and Sam Kean will love.

But the recent finding that the Earth's magnetic force field is decaying ten times faster than previously thought, portending an imminent pole reversal, ultimately gives this story a spine tingling urgency. When the poles switch, a process that takes many years, the Earth is unprotected from solar radiation storms that would, among other things, wipe out all electromagnetic technology. No satellites, no internet, no smart phones—maybe no power grid at all. Such potentially cataclysmic solar storms are not unusual. The last one occurred in 2012 and we avoided returning to the dark ages only because the part of the sun that erupted happened to be facing away from the Earth. One leading US researcher is already drawing maps of the parts of the planet that would likely become uninhabitable.

Praise for Alanna Mitchell's The Spinning Magnet:

“[Mitchell] makes vivid the process of science. . . . A complex, well-told account of ‘this spinning magnet we live on.’” —Kirkus Reviews

“In The Spinning Magnet, Alanna Mitchell weaves a scientific mystery in the best possible way, exploring the ancient puzzle of our planet's electromagnetic field, following scientists as they attempt to decipher its clues, leading us to a better understanding of Earth's invisible and powerful electromagnetic field. The result is a compelling tale of unseen and unforeseen natural forces—and a reminder that we've staked our home on a planet that remains infinitely strange, dangerous—and ever full of wonder.”
—Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

“The Earth's magnetic field—an invisible cloak that shields our bodies and our technologies from deadly harm—tends to be taken for granted. In reality it's a fickle, ill-understood phenomenon. Alanna Mitchell delves into the mystery, in an engrossing book that features a new surprise on every page.”
—Sean Carroll, author of The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself

Praise for Alanna Mitchell's Malignant Metaphor:

“Mitchell has crafted a book with a very easy entry point. We have all been touched by cancer in one form or another. We’ve all crafted our own bespoke way of coping with its impact. I think we’d all do well to approach it with the openness and candour Mitchell brings to the table.”
The Globe and Mail

“It is a prudently contrarian view of cancer’s real and perceived threat to humankind that runs throughout Malignant Metaphor: Confronting Cancer Myths by Mitchell, a lauded Toronto journalist and author. The book is a modern incantation of the 1978 classic Illness as Metaphor by American essayist Susan Sontag, which rebuked the guilt complex that patients have about disease. . . . In her efforts to distill fears from facts, Mitchell is careful not to undermine the devastating impact of this disease. . . . In dissecting the cancer metaphor, Mitchell had disarmed it.” —Maclean's

“In addition to her clear medical explanations, Mitchell’s compassionate attitude will bring comfort to those readers and their loved ones facing a cancer diagnosis.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Mitchell] uses her keen investigative skills to demystify our most dreaded disease. . . . Mitchell’s research is rooted in science, while her writing remains grippingly personal. Propelled by cancer diagnoses in her brother-in-law and daughter, the author probes both conventional and alternative treatments in search of answers.” —Quill & Quire

Praise for Alanna Mitchell's Sea Sick:

National Bestseller
Winner of the 2010 Grantham Prize

An Amazon Best Book of the Year (so far)
A 2009 The Globe 100 selection, The Globe & Mail
Finalist for the Lane Anderson Award

Sea Sick is an adventure tale with scientists as the heroes. With wit, style and a powerful sense of history it takes us on a wonderful fact-finding tour beneath the surface of Earth’s largest habitat. It could help change the way we think about our relationship with the seas.”
—Roger Harrabin, BBC Focus Magazine

“Don't be seduced by Mitchell’s easy style. This is an important book about the state of two-thirds of our planet.” —New Scientist

“[Mitchell] writes intelligently and passionately. You need to read it too.”
—The Globe and Mail

“Keeping the ocean’s life switch turned on will require all of us to, like Mitchell, choose hope and to do something about it. Reading this book is a good first step.” —Montreal Gazette

“A strong examination of degraded global ocean health based on years of research with top world scientists.” —Vancouver Province

“Each chapter in the book blends lucid, factual explanation of complex subjects with engaging chronicles of the author’s travels to far-flung parts of the globe.” —Quill & Quire

“This book is spectacularly good and will be an important contribution to the publicly accessible literature on the environmental changes being wrought
on our fragile oceans.” —The Quarterly Review of Biology

“A riveting book of revelations about Earth’s largest and most important habitat.” —Tim Flannery, author of The Weathermakers

Sea Sick is the most comprehensive book to date on the state of our oceans. With a writer’s eye for detail and a reporter’s expertise in pulling in disparate information, Mitchell has woven a powerful and deeply unsettling story about our collective abuse of the cradle of all life. Fortunately, she also gives us hope and a path forward if we have the wisdom to act.”
—Maude Barlow
“Alanna Mitchell has brilliantly woven together the threads of science taking place all over the world pointing to an accelerating crisis in the world’s oceans. She makes the case compellingly that the declining health of the planet's oceans — the place where life began, larger than our atmosphere and where 99% of life exists — is an imminent threat to survival on land. I thought I was sufficiently well-informed and alert to the risks of planetary collapse before reading this book. Turns out I was wrong. The climate crisis is more an ocean crisis. That she still finds reasons to hope is one reason you must read this book.” —Elizabeth May
“Humanity is visiting a desolation upon the world. We already bear primary responsibility for the extermination of more than 100,000 fellow species/fellow travelers. During the next few decades, that colossal massacre may well be doubled or trebled. Death is running amok on the earth, but especially in the sea. If you would know how and why, read Sea Sick . . . although it may make you heartsick.” —Farley Mowat

Genre: Non-Fiction/Speculative Science
Length: 320 pages (hc)
Publication Date: January 2018

North America English rights, Penguin
UK English rights, One World
Simplifed Chinese rights, The Commercial Press

For all other rights contact The Cooke Agency.
Author Name
ALANNA MITCHELL is an award-winning journalist and author, who writes about science and social trends. She is a global thinker who specializes in investigative reporting. Her most recent full-length book, Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis, is an international bestseller that won the prestigious Grantham Prize for excellence in environmental journalism. Her one-woman play based on that book was nominated for a Dora Award and she is performing it on a national tour. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.