Synopses & Reviews
To many of us, the Earth's crust is a relic of ancient, unknowable history. But to a geologist, stones are richly illustrated narratives, telling gothic tales of cataclysm and reincarnation. For more than four billion years, in beach sand, granite, and garnet schists, the planet has kept a rich and idiosyncratic journal of its past.
In Reading the Rocks geologist and Fulbright Scholar Marcia Bjornerud takes the reader along on an eye-opening tour of deep time, explaining in elegant prose what we see and feel beneath our feet. Both scientist and storyteller, Bjornerud uses anecdotes and metaphors to remind us that our home is a living thing with lessons to teach. She shows how our planet has long maintained a delicate balance, and how the global give-and-take has sustained life on Earth through numerous upheavals. But with the rapidly escalating effects of human beings on their home planet, that cosmic balance is being threatened: and the consequences may be catastrophic. Containing a glossary and detailed timescale, as well as vivid descriptions and historic accounts, Reading the Rocks is literally a history of the world, for all friends of the Earth.
"In this engrossing volume of pop-geology, geologist Bjornerud chronicles the watersheds in Earth's history from the primordial supernova that seeded the nascent solar nebula to the man-made cataclysms of global warming and habitat destruction, visiting along the way such 'near-death experiences' as the Moon's apparent birth from a collision between Earth and a wandering planet, the 'Snowball Earth' period when the oceans froze over, and the asphyxiating 'Permian-Triassic oxygen crisis,' when 90% of the world's species died out in less than a million years. Adopting something of a Gaian perspective of Earth as a self-regulating superorganism, the author attributes the planet's stability in the face of upheaval to dynamic mechanisms that cycle elements back and forth among the atmosphere, the oceans, the biosphere and Earth's crust and interior. Bjornerud conveys these lessons through a stimulating introduction to the geological principles by which Earth's past is teased out of obscure but telling details of rocks and fossils. Her thematically structured chapters, reminiscent of Stephen Jay Gould's essays, are written in an expansive, erudite style ranging from science to philosophy, history and the occasional admonition against humanity's reckless remaking of the environment 'like spoiled children.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
For readers of John McPhee and Stephen Jay Gould, this engaging armchair guide to the making of the geologic record shows how to understand messages written in stone
About 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.