The best books about geology that aren’t really about rocks

The Books I Picked & Why

One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead

By Claire Dudman

One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead

Why this book?

In this brilliant, evocative, and imaginative novel, Claire Dudman has written a fictionalized autobiography of Alfred Wegener. Best known for his 1912 proposal about continental drift, Wegener was a first-rate meteorologist, polar researcher, and balloonist (he held the record for longest continuous flight). Dudman’s insights into Wegener’s personality, the challenges he faced with his proposal, and his love of science shine through and create a unique and memorable portrait of a brilliant and fascinating life.


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Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape

By Barry Lopez, Debra Gwartney

Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape

Why this book?

Barry Lopez and his 40 plus contributors dive deep into the language of the land, providing colorful, literary, and sometimes opinionated definitions for more than 850 landscape terms, many of which owe their existence to geology, such as ‘a’a, erg, slickrock, and yardang. The book is an essential and timely contribution to the myriad ways that geology affects not only place but language as well. This is a book for anyone who wants to learn more about America, the nature of its landscape, and its history, and to develop a better connection to place. Or for anyone who wants to use correctly such fine terms as chickenhead, nubble, boondocks, and thank-you ma’am.


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In Limestone Country

By Scott Russell Sanders

In Limestone Country

Why this book?

Not only does geology shape the land, it can also shape the lives of those who quarry the stone. Rarely is this relationship between human and rock better portrayed than in Scott Russell Sanders’ thoughtful essays about the limestone country around Bedford, Indiana. With graceful and respectful prose, he tells the stories of a “piece of earth where the accidents of geology have yielded a special kind of stone, and where landscapes, towns, and the people themselves bear the mark of that stone.” And, if you seek to see this story on film, I can also recommend one of my favorite movies, Breaking Away, a humorous and passionate portrayal of life and biking in limestone country.


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Oil Notes

By Rick Bass

Oil Notes

Why this book?

A petroleum geologist working in the American South, Rick Bass writes poetically about the geology, personalities, and challenges of an industry that he clearly loves. I don’t agree with him about how great oil extraction is as an industry and feel that he omitted its downsides but I appreciate his insights, observations, and wonderful prose about the life of a geologist in the field. Plus, rarely will you meet someone so into Classic Coke.


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Hard Road West: History & Geology Along the Gold Rush Trail

By Keith Heyer Meldahl

Hard Road West: History & Geology Along the Gold Rush Trail

Why this book?

A simple, yet profound idea forms the basis for geologist Keith Meldah’s first book: how did geology influence the gold rush pioneers. Weaving pioneer accounts, modern science, and field exploration, he paints a unique and compelling picture of western migration and how the vagaries of the dramatic landscape played out in both small and large ways. Although gold was what drove many of the argonauts, they soon learned that the rocky world would affect them far before they reached their hoped-for destination.


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