Reading the Rocks: The Autobiography of the Earth


For readers of John McPhee and Stephen Jay Gould, this engaging armchair guide to the making of the rock record shows how to understand messages written in stone
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For readers of John McPhee and Stephen Jay Gould, this engaging armchair guide to the making of the rock record shows how to understand messages written in stone
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A lively introduction to current concepts in geology, pitched to the undergraduate reader but well suited to generalists as well. Readers who learned their geology two or three decades back have a little catching up to do: The chronologies have changed, certain theories have changed and indeed the planet itself has changed, for, as Lawrence University geology professor and debut author Bjornerud notes, "the magnitude of human actions on the Earth now matches those of natural agents." (And more: she notes that humans add 16 times more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than do volcanoes, the next-biggest contributor to the old greenhouse effect.) Bjornerud obliges in this well-paced survey of such things as the rock cycle, thermohaline ocean circulation, and convergent evolution. Those daunted by the formidable language of geology, the stuff in which John McPhee revels, will be pleased by Bjornerud's plain-English approach, by which, for instance, she likens the Earth to a great recycling system: "There is no natural equivalent of a landfill. Nothing is unusable waste, and nothing will last forever, at least not in any particular form." Bjornerud covers a lot of ground, so to speak, with the result that some big-picture processes earn rather hasty treatment; pyroclastomaniacs are likely to clamor for more on volcanism, for instance, while fans of continental drift may want a little more plate tectonic action for their buck. Still, such are the shortfalls of surveys, and all the fascinating asides will spur motivated readers to dig deeper on their own. Who knew, for instance, that the oceans may once have been frozen during the period called Snowball Earth, that a little zircon chip fromAustralia is "the very oldest discovered object native to the Earth," that the seas of the moon are actually big holes punched into the lunar surface by massive meteorites, and that a rock has only to be ten inches wide to qualify as a boulder? These are the kinds of things of which naturalists' dreams are made, and Bjornerud introduces them memorably.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465006847
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/2006
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 636,977
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Marcia Bjornerud is a Professor and Chair of Geology at Lawrence University. She is a Fellow of the Geographical Society of America, and was a 2000-2001 Fulbright Scholar. She lives in Appleton, Wisconsin.

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Table of Contents

Prologue : stone crazy 1
1 The Tao of Earth 7
2 Reading rocks : a primer 25
3 The great and the small 65
4 Mixing and sorting 99
5 Innovation and conservation 149
6 Strength and weakness 173
Epilogue : the once and future Earth 193
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    More earth than rocks

    The title, Reading the Rocks, made me think this would have more to do with actual rocks than it did. There was some bits about rocks but more of it was on a much bigger scale. Thus the sub-title. Definitely a book chock full of information without getting overly technical. It was very consistent throughout making it relatively easy to follow. I say relatively, because it will definitely make you pause and think. At least it did for me, because the information was so far beyond what I understood before. And I've read books on geology before. Still, the ending was a bit of a let down for me, since it didn't really add anything compared to the contents of the meatier chapters. And the title reads a little better for me as first an autobiography of the earth. And she explains quite well how they came to know these things by reading the rocks. Highly recommended!

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