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Earth: An Intimate History

by Richard Fortey

ISBN 0375706208 / 9780375706202 / 0-375-70620-8
Publisher Vintage
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

The Earth: An Intimate History is prize-winning science writer Richard Fortey's latest book and an ambitious attempt to tell the geological story of planet Earth for the general reader. Several centuries and the combined efforts of thousands of professional geologists have been required to make any real sense of the Earth's structure and its 4.5 billion-year history. That Fortey manages to turn the most important aspects of all this into an enjoyable narrative for the general reader is a considerable achievement.

The book is a sort of guided tour around a number of geological sites with which Fortey is personally familiar, such as the Grand Canyon, the European Alps and Vesuvius (the description of the eruption of Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii in AD 79 by Pliny the Younger is probably the first clear and objective description of a geological phenomenon.) He then uses their particular geological details to build a more general story of the geology of earth as it is generally understood today.

As a professional geologist at London's Natural History Museum, Fortey is well-qualified to tell this story. His writing skills have been widely acclaimed in earlier books such as Life: An Unauthorised Biography and Trilobite Eyewitness to Evolution. By giving the story a historical slant we can more readily understand how the present understanding of the earth story has been built up over the centuries and it introduces real people into the narrative. Consequently, the more technical aspects of present day earth science are rendered more palatable and understandable. The text is supported by a number of black and white diagrams and other pictures, which help illustrate some of the more complex processes and features of the earth. --Douglas Palmer. [via]