There is a ton of great outdoors and nature writing. I’ve been slowing working my way through National Geographic’s list of the 100 best adventure books of all time, for example (not in order), and books like A Beast the Color of Winter and Desert Solitaire rank high on my all time favorites. For some reason though, I’ve always had a harder time finding science writing that I am captivated by. Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb is an all-time great, and there are plenty of books that I’ve read and found interesting, but not that many that have really grabbed me. Even more annoying is how few geoscience books or authors I have on my list. On my old blog I’d started a challenge where I was going to try in earnest to read more popular science books. I think the only one I actually posted about was the fantastic T. Rex and the Crater of Doom by Walter Alvarez. So I am going to restart in a modified sense. I am not specifically going to focus on books necessarily, but great writing in general. Be it books, papers, articles, blog posts, or whatever, I want to try to collect and advertise great earth sciency writing. These will be mainly just excerpts and brief reviews, and will be linked to the new page I’ll be creating that will compile some of my favorite geo-quotes.
A few weeks ago I checked Language of the Earth out from our geology library. The first edition, edited by Frank Rhodes and Richard Stone, is a collection of writings that are focused on geology. The excerpts deal with the science, the experience, and the beauty of the science, and include some gems. The one that I first came across, and that inspired me to re-start posting on this subject, was by Hans Cloos, the early 20th century German structural geologist and early pioneer in using scale models to study faulting and rock deformation. The following phrase is taken from his book Conversation with the Earth:
For me, geology was far superior to all other fields, and that is as it should be. In geology, too, there were books, numbers and other ballast for my memories. Like the rest, I wore out books and filled blank papers with notes. But by far the most important books for geology students were the quarries and clay pits, the cliffs and the creek beds, the road and the railroad cuts in woods and fields. Our words and letters were the imprints of plants and animals in stone, the minerals and crystals, and our vast, inexhaustible, incorruptible, and infallible library was nature itself.