If all your worldly possessions were set alight in a fearsome blaze, which five books would you save? This thought came to me in the midst of churning some particularly puzzling data; naturally, I disturbed the whole office with my ponderings and ended up starting a heated discussion. Given full literary scope, I would obviously save my all time favourite Plop the Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark, but keeping on-trend with the topic of this blog, here are my geology-themed choices:
A romp through the modern advances in volcanology told from the perspectives of the scientists involved the eruptions of Mt St Helens and Pinatubo. Science is pitched in turn against equal quantities of political crises, heart-rending decisions and personal angst. Written for the American audience, chapter titles include “They’ll Think You’re a Hero” and “The Musketeers”. Deliciously sensationalist.
The undergraduate bible and a must for any petrologist’s bookshelf. Colloquially known by its monkier “DHZ”, this weighty tome lists hundreds of minerals. Chemical composition, optical properties, paragenesis, structure, distinguishing features: you name it, it’s in here. An indispensable reference book; only bedtime reading for the über-keen.
Now I’m no palaeontologist, but I do love a good trilobite. There’s something about their spindly legs and crystalline eyes that really does it for me. Richard Fortey clearly feels the same. His third book is a tour de force of science writing, blending a heady mix of culture, evolution and witty anecdotes into a dissection of the anatomy of Trilobita. A lesson in how to take an esoteric subject to mass-market without losing sight of the original passion.
A little obscure perhaps, but a nod to my homeland, and the book that I credit with sparking my interest in geology. Shropshire’s rocks span 700 million years and consist of some of the world’s most important geological sites. Descriptions of rock units and notable outcrops are seamlessly linked to clear explanations of global tectonic processes. Look out for the substantially updated second edition with new figures and text, the highlights of which are photomicrographs of local specimens.
Do the terms “chemical potential”, “ideal mixing”, and “fugacity” send shivers down your spine? Then you need to read this. Chapter by chapter, this book demystifies the fundamentals of thermodynamic theory and has the potential to turn you into the PhD student of your supervisor’s dreams. Who knows, one day I might understand further than the first two chapters…
Which books would you save?