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Those of you who have read a few of my book reviews will know that I love geo-guides to small geographical areas, rather than just the big geological scientific issues. In fact, there are lots of good UK guides like this one, to areas such as Dorset and Yorkshire, and many areas of Scotland and Wales, for example. And this is another excellent example of that genre.

This book would seem to be the follow up to the well-received A History of Life in 100 Fossils. However, this time, this glossy hardback tells the story of plants on earth using significant fossils that are, for the most part, kept at the Natural History Museum in London. Like that other book, it is set out in a simple format, in which a couple of sides of text are used to describe a full page colour photograph of the fossil in question.

This is one of the oldest of the GA’s guides and is currently in its third edition (the first having been published in 1957 and the second in 1972). Although there have been changes in classification and so on, the general exposures are largely as good as they used to be – or they were the last time I went!

Howgill Fells

This little guide contains excursion guides explaining and exploring the relationship in the UK between hillslope gully erosion and the response by stream and valley systems within the Howgill Fells of Cumbria. The author’s choice of this area rests on the fact that it is one of the most active landscapes in Britain from the point of view of erosion, with the steep slopes of the headwater valleys, which are riddled by networks of erosional gullies that have been active in the relatively recent past.

The is a second edition of Prof John Cope’s excellent geological guide to the Dorset coast for the Geologists’ Association. It is slightly shorter than the first edition, with some minor corrections and some of the figures revised, together with new photographs. It also now includes the huge quantity of data amassed over last few decades during the hydrocarbon exploration work in the county.

Nebraska has an excellent geological record, which is celebrated by some fine mosaics at the Nebraska State Capitol. When the building was being constructed, and at the request of Prof Hartley Burr Alexander of the Philosophy Department and from drawings by a colleague, the artist, Hildreth Meière, was asked to create a series of mosaics. These are now set out on the floor of the rotunda for all to see.

I remember reading and enjoying this book when the first edition came out many years ago. I am also a keen hillwalker and have stood on top of many of the Scottish mountains referred to in the text. In fact, I particularly enjoyed climbing Ben More on the island of Mull, which I remember reading was the last volcano in northwest Europe.

Almeria is a province in southeast Spain, situated in the furthest southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. And it is a classic area for southern European and Mediterranean Neogene and Quaternary geology. In fact, it is not far north of the southern boundary of the European tectonic plate and, as a result, has been profoundly affected by the interaction of this and the African plate.

Geology of South Wales

I quite like regional guides books, even about areas I haven’t been to and am unlikely to visit. That isn’t the case for South Wales, which is one of my favourite areas in the UK for both scenery and geology. Therefore, this guide is another good addition to my collection and will no doubt accompany me soon on another holiday in the Principality.

For anyone like me who finds the immensity of geological time (‘deep time’) both fascinating and fundamentally difficult – both emotionally and intellectually – this is a great book. Paul Lyle has written it for environmentalists and policy makers to help them explain their concerns and decisions more clearly in the context of geological time, but these are not the only people who should read it.

As a former ‘Munro bagger’ and now keen geologist, this book combines two of my favourite pastimes. While the body is not quite so willing as before, the ability to read about the geology of some of my favourite Scottish walks is an absolute pleasure.

Red Coast Revealed

The Jurassic Coast Trust has certainly producing some good books. As is well known, in recognition of its wonderful geology, the coast between Orcombe Rocks in southeast Devon and Old Harry Rocks in south Dorset was granted World Heritage status in December 2001. In this respect, these two guides cover the western and the eastern thirds of this remarkable coastline.

Normally, I wouldn’t be interested in semi-precious stones and other pretty things. Personally, I prefer grubbing around in the dirt, perhaps for those far more beautiful, elusive and perfectly formed Cretaceous terebratulids or Silurian trilobites. However, some semi-precious stones have the advantage of also providing a tangible link to the ancient history of life that is so fascinating.

The island of Cyprus is a truly classic area of geology in Europe. Perhaps nowhere else on Earth does so small an area provide such an excellent illustration of the dynamics of Earth processes through abundant exposures of spectacular and diverse geology.

The fossil bearing rocks of the British Isles contain the remains of life from the last 2,900Ma and the UK is seen by many as the cradle of modern geology. With this is mind and using a geological map of Britain, palaeontologist Peter Doyle offers a comprehensive guide to UK fossils.

This is certainly a somewhat different sort of book from those I usually review. As it makes clear, women have always played key roles in the field of vertebrate palaeontology, going back centuries. However, other than perhaps the most best known historical female vertebrate palaeontologists, comparatively little is known about these women scientists. As a result, their true contributions have probably been obscured. In this context, the book aims to reveal this hidden history, thereby celebrating the diversity and importance of women VPs.

As the author says, “The abundance and diversity of Foraminifera … make them uniquely useful in studies of modern marine environments and the ancient rock record”. And this book represents an interesting, enjoyable and informative ‘one-stop-shop’ treatment of precisely that subject.

This is another of GA’s guides, this time to the geology and geomorphology of the popular holiday destination of the Castleton Area in Derbyshire. I love this area and have visited there both for the geology and the beautiful scenery.

Maybe it’s a result of my social anthropology and geological background, but I found this difficult but fascinating book a great read. It’s about nineteenth century India. It is not about the modern geological science or social anthropology of the subcontinent, but rather, the geological imagination of India, as well as its landscapes and people, and its history.