Non-Fiction Reviews

…A Very Short Introduction

(2018) , Oxford University Press, £7.99 / US$11.95, pbk, xxi + 145pp, ISBN 978-0-198-80445-1


Geology is a huge discipline with specialist areas that cover categorising different minerals, biological evolution (the geological record has been invaluable to evolutionary biologists), climate change (the way the Earth system has changed over centuries, millennia and millions of years is critical to disentangling 'natural' and human causes of current warming), let alone applied activities such as oil exploration, mining, tunnel construction, aquifer (ground water) management, etc.  So for geology to be the subject of one of Oxford University Press' introductory booklet series presents any science writer with a tough challenge.  Here Jan Zalasiewicz acquits himself well, in this nearly impossible task, with his whistle-stop tour of the discipline.

Having defined geology and charted its early days, he goes on to cite some of the modern, often paradigm-shifting discoveries.  He then takes us deep into the Earth down to its core, before looking at the basics – including the history – of geological fieldwork.

In the book's closing chapters he examines the benefits of geology including geology for resources as well as for society and the environment. Finally, his last chapter is a fascinating brief history of the Earth.

Some of the book's photographs do not come out that well (the image of plastic waste is an exercises n the psychology of perception in itself) but the line diagrams are clear. The subject index at the back is also useful to aid quick reference.

If you do not want to have to wade through heavy tomes and are equipped with only school-level knowledge of science, to gain a basic appreciation of this subject, then this 150 page short book could well be just what you need.

Jonathan Cowie

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