The best books on the glories of global geology

Frederick Lin Sutherland Author Of The Volcanic Earth: Volcanoes and Plate Tectonics : Past, Present & Future
By Frederick Lin Sutherland

Who am I?

My final high school year in Tasmania added a new topic, geology. I and my school friends knew little about it but signed up. In the first lesson, the teacher pointed at the adjacent sunlit river gorge saying “There is your laboratory.” We were hooked and most of us became professional geologists. I started off in museums where mineral, rock, and fossil collections were a font of knowledge and generated field collecting, research, and educational activities. This led to MSc and PhD degrees from universities at both ends of Australia. A base at the Australian Museum led to travel around Australia and visits to many overseas institutions and meetings.


I wrote...

The Volcanic Earth: Volcanoes and Plate Tectonics : Past, Present & Future

By Frederick Lin Sutherland,

Book cover of The Volcanic Earth: Volcanoes and Plate Tectonics : Past, Present & Future

What is my book about?

The Volcanic Earth takes readers into Earth’s evolution over 4.5 billion years. Early fragments of rocks remain, while present active zones form a snapshot of newer global volcanism. Volcanoes may command spectacular scenery or hide under seas or ice. They interact with landscapes, the biosphere, the atmosphere, and human populations, often with disaster but some benefits. The book illustrates volcano genesis, within Earth’s underlying heat engine and the upheavals between continents and oceanic plates. 

The book especially illustrates three contrasting zones, born as the Supercontinent Gondwana split apart. Eastern Australia developed continuing basaltic volcanism and long migrating chains of shield volcanoes. New Zealand developed the classic explosive volcanoes of the Pacific margin collision zones, the ‘Rim of Fire’. Western Antarctica remained polar and formed ice-shrouded volcanoes.     

The books I picked & why

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Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World

By Marcia Bjornerud,

Book cover of Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World

Why this book?

This remarkable book unfolds the story of Earth’s passage through time, from inception to its present state. The author, a geologist, illuminates the long shaping of the Earth’s natural systems with expertise and clarity. She outlines initial conceptions of Earth’s origin by early historical forefront thinkers, controversies aroused, and then charts the amazing progress gained later in momentous scientific breakthroughs aided by advancing technologies. The understanding of geologic time is stressed as an important concept.

This background, together with the book’s apt black and white illustrations, enables readers to realize Earth’s long-term behavior is a crucial learning curve for humanity. Adoption of such a timely understanding by homo sapiens, in use of Earth’s geo-environments, will better inform future actions.

Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World

By Marcia Bjornerud,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Timefulness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why an awareness of Earth's temporal rhythms is critical to our planetary survival

Few of us have any conception of the enormous timescales of our planet's long history, and this narrow perspective underlies many of the environmental problems we are creating. The lifespan of Earth can seem unfathomable compared to the brevity of human existence, but this view of time denies our deep roots in Earth's history-and the magnitude of our effects on the planet. Timefulness reveals how knowing the rhythms of Earth's deep past and conceiving of time as a geologist does can give us the perspective we need…


Restless Earth

By Carolinda E. Hill (editor), John G. Agnone (editor), Bonnie S. Lawrence (editor)

Book cover of Restless Earth

Why this book?

This book is an awareness alarm for readers to comprehend the ubiquitous array of dynamic natural forces that impact the Earth. In local, regional, or global sweeping events, they need study to predict such happenings in advance and to learn from the aftermath for better future protection. The book shows a selection of events from historical to time of writing and provides gripping reading in seeing nature’s wayward effects in action.

A panel of seven expert writers well versed in these events documents and explains the forces unleashed in the visitations. Dramatic ground, aerial and satellite photography and explanatory diagrams give readers graphic grounding in the vagaries of storms, fires, floods, tsunamis, erosion, landslips, avalanches, volcanic outbursts, earthquakes, impacts from space matter, and even climate changes. 

Restless Earth

By Carolinda E. Hill (editor), John G. Agnone (editor), Bonnie S. Lawrence (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Restless Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Featuring more than two hundred color and black-and-white archival photographs, a large-format volume for adult and young adult readers explains the forces behind earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and geological and meteorological activity. 15,000 first printing.


Life. An Unauthorized Biography. A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth

By Richard Fortey,

Book cover of Life. An Unauthorized Biography. A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth

Why this book?

In this magisterial view of life’s progress, the author, a paleontologist, guides readers through its expansions and setbacks caused by the Earth’s ever-changing geological environments. This is no sterile account. Published in an excellent format, the writer’s travels and studies, and efforts of others, in uncovering past life are supported by vivid writing and splendid images. The book depicts landscape and submarine scenes of fossil finds, the creatures themselves, their relationships, and amazing reconstructions of past collective life scenes. 

In describing life from its primitive start through its explorative passages to human advent, the book opens up and pieces together the grandest story on Earth. 

Life. An Unauthorized Biography. A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth

By Richard Fortey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life. An Unauthorized Biography. A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A magisterial exploration of the natural history of the first four thousand million years of life on and in the earth, by one of Britain's most dazzling science writers.

What do any of us know about the history of our planet before the arrival of man? Most of us have a dim impression of a swirling mass of dust solidifying to form a volcanic globe, briefly populated by dinosaurs, then by woolly mammoths and finally by our own hairy ancestors. This book, aimed at the curious and intelligent but perhaps mildly uninformed reader, brilliantly dispels such lingering notions forever. At…


Child of GONDWANA. The geological making of Tasmania

By Keith Corbett,

Book cover of Child of GONDWANA. The geological making of Tasmania

Why this book?

This book dissects Tasmania, an island state of Australia, to reveal hybrid geology, diverse scenery, and exotic inherited origins. Its parental rocks once abutted North America and Antarctica in the Precambrian Super Continents Nuna and Rodinia. They split away and collided with the Paleozoic Super Continent, Gondwana. There they shared mountain building and mineralizing events with Australia. When Gondwana began to split, vast sheets of molten dolerite rock invaded across South Africa and Antarctica to enter Tasmania and buttress its highlands.

A remnant of Gondwana, carved by rivers, seas, and ice and host basaltic lavas, it is called a geological paradise. The author’s masterly explanations of its geology, superb photography of wilderness, highlands, coasts, rocks, and minerals, and clear diagrams, all combine in a mind-opening publication.  

Child of GONDWANA. The geological making of Tasmania

By Keith Corbett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Child of GONDWANA. The geological making of Tasmania as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


A Geologist Speculates

By John M. Saul,

Book cover of A Geologist Speculates

Why this book?

Here, a seasoned geologist gathers several themes of his research interests, poses critical questions on apparent anomalies within them, and considers their resolution. He does this by giving free rein to informed lateral thinking on these topics. This produces an unusual book in the annals of geological writing, presenting thought-provoking and rewarding reading.

The thematic chapters are written in a fluent expression of the concepts involved, reinforced through a range of illustrative means. There are superb photographs of gems, minerals, and rocks as specimens and rocky exposures from many sources. Geological diagrams underpin explanations, superimposed maps highlight large-scale geological structures, and even images of paintings, historical scenes, postcards, and stamps reinforce particular points. The closing sections enter the realms of life on Earth, seen as coordinated biological and geological evolution. 

A Geologist Speculates

By John M. Saul,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Geologist Speculates as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How did the Earth get its gemstones? · How did the Earth get its oil and gas? · What happened to the Earth's moonlike impact craters? · Why did it take 80% of the Earth's history for complex animals to emerge? · Do Darwinian principles apply to absolutely all creatures?


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in geology, Tasmania, and earth?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about geology, Tasmania, and earth.

Geology Explore 38 books about geology
Tasmania Explore 6 books about Tasmania
Earth Explore 216 books about earth

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Some Science Adventures with Real Magic, Momo, and Theory of the Earth Volume I if you like this list.