November 13, 2021 8:16 AM   Subscribe

I LOVE reading about the intricate logistics of things I never would have considered - my favorite example of this is John McPhee's Out in the Sort (John McPhee has lots of these), and I was recently delighted by Defector's Why Jordan Love’s Family Was Seated Near The Stratosphere. Seeking suggestions for similar pieces (article or book length is fine).
posted by everybody had matching towels to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't read either of the two things you linked, so I don't know what tone you're looking for, but if you like to read about large complex projects, you might enjoy:

Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-69

Mother Earth Mother Board an article from Neal Stephenson about laying undersea communication cables.
posted by willnot at 8:26 AM on November 13, 2021 [5 favorites]

Not sure if this is exactly what you're looking for, but I really enjoyed Preston Lauterbach's The Chitlin' Circuit and the Road to Rock 'n' Roll, a deep but very engaging-written dive into the personalities, economic + cultural forces, and street-level-to-underworld logistics and financing involved in creating and running a regional (and then nation-wide) network of Black-oriented venues ranging from the Apollo to tin shack juke joints in the rural South, and developing the talent to fill them.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:36 AM on November 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Charles C Mann does history with this attention to details. Sample his great books about the American continent: 1491 before European contact and 1493 after. Among many other vivid details, he explains how Chinese monetary policy drove the silver mining in what’s now South America.

His latest work isThe Wizard and the Prophet which explores the lives of two scientists with dueling visions of agriculture’s future: William Vogt’s advocacy of cutting back to more sustainable levels or Norman Borlaug’s contributions to the green revolution. "Living on Earth" radio interview with transcript

Metafilter introduced me to Mann: many previouslies
posted by Jesse the K at 9:36 AM on November 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I also haven't read either piece, and am not sure entirely what you're looking for, but it might be worth taking a look at the books:

Johnathan Waldman's Rust: The Longest War
Mark Levinson's The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger.

In five hour podcast form, Containers by Alexis Madrigal is also fun.
posted by eotvos at 10:19 AM on November 13, 2021 [5 favorites]

I also recommend checking out Adam Minter's writing about the used goods trade - his recent Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale is a good place to start.

Related is Rowan Moore Gerety's 2019 article for Harper's about the mechanics of the junk trade along the Miami River.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:24 AM on November 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the Forecast describes the history and evolution of international infrastructure used by meteorologists. I have not read the book, but I heard an extended interview with the author on 99% Invisible and found it both unexpected and fascinating.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 11:42 AM on November 13, 2021

I asked a similar question awhile ago and got some good answers. Enjoy exploring!
posted by kinsey at 11:44 AM on November 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Dunno if this is "logistics" exactly, but you might like Gretchen McCulloch's Because Internet, which is all about the history of how people talk online — including the evolution of online communities and the rise and fall of different social norms. Lots of "technology, nature, and human behavior have always been intertwined," which is my favorite thing about John McPhee, so it might scratch that itch for you too.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:04 PM on November 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

You might enjoy Michael Ruhlman's Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America.
posted by box at 12:35 PM on November 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

William Langewiesche (Longform, The Atlantic) writes about transportation, shipping, and general industrial topics, like how big ships are salvaged or broken up. (His most famous piece is probably this grim account of the exceptionally lethal sinking of the passenger ferry Estonia. It is not really logistical the way his other pieces are, just extremely harrowing. Mentioned so you aren't lured in without warning.)

His book The Outlaw Sea is mostly a collection of his previously published sea stories, but I enjoyed it even though I had read much of it before.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:44 PM on November 13, 2021 [4 favorites]

I like how Michael Lewis tells a story. Flash Boys hinges on building a fibre optic link and, well, Moneyball is all about the logistics of getting baseball batters to first base (and an the right team rosters).
posted by k3ninho at 1:36 PM on November 13, 2021

This write-up of a search and rescue mission in Death Valley was interesting and involved logistics that I would not have ever considered.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 7:24 PM on November 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

This classic post on replacing an underground power main goes into all kinds of fascinating detail I didn't realize about how difficult and complicated the process is.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:28 PM on November 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

I read it many years ago, but I remember The Movie Business Book being a fascinating and hugely detailed look at the complex logistics that take a movie from the idea stage all the way to your local cinema.
posted by yankeefog at 1:16 AM on November 14, 2021

Why are the world's greatest mangoes almost impossible to buy in the US?
Desis of all backgrounds still ask me, “How can I get Pakistani mangoes in America?”

The best option, still, is ordering them off WhatsApp and picking up at least eight boxes from your local Southwest Airlines cargo bay. But why, more than a decade after the mangoes were allowed to be imported here, is it so hard to find them? Over the past three years, I’ve spoken to the customers, middlemen, and scientists so hungry for the fruit that they’ve managed to create an American fruit subculture unlike any other.
posted by yeahlikethat at 5:29 AM on November 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Fast Food Nation used to get regular callouts here on the green.

Longitude (Link goes to the illustrated version of this classic, which is beautiful.) Can’t have a global economy without a way to reckon longitude!
posted by notyou at 6:21 AM on November 14, 2021

Tubes: behind the scenes at the Internet is a good, popsci-level, coverage of what's under the hood.
posted by unearthed at 9:31 AM on November 14, 2021

I really enjoy The Prepared, a weekly newsletter around manufacturing and logistics. It's a curated list of links, most which take some pretty specialized subjects and makes them super interesting for laypeople (or at least, this layperson).
posted by taltalim at 7:06 PM on November 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Not sure if it’s quite right, but portions of The Walmart Effect cover how Walmart is integrated with various supply chains to optimize logistics.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:58 PM on November 16, 2021

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger
by Marc Levinson

Amazon Global Supply Chain and Fulfillment Center Network

Incredibly detailed yet approachable explanation of how SABRE, the main airline ticketing system, works. The link jumps to a point in the middle of the talk, but watch the whole mess.
posted by Cris E at 11:34 AM on November 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

William Langewiesche and Simon Winchester are two of my favorite authors in the "what's under the hood"/"what's in the past" genre.

The gCaptain blog talks about shipping and ships and insurance and stuff, and it's always a great read: https://gcaptain.com/about/
posted by wenestvedt at 6:49 AM on November 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Supership by Noel Mostert is from 1974, so outdated, but it describes the business of shipping oil by tanker.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:04 AM on November 18, 2021

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