100 books like Annals of the Former World

By John McPhee,

Here are 100 books that Annals of the Former World fans have personally recommended if you like Annals of the Former World. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

Keith Heyer Meldahl Author Of Rough-Hewn Land: A Geologic Journey from California to the Rocky Mountains

From my list on geology that tell great stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I first crossed the American West nearly 4 decades ago in my ’67 Chevy, it changed my life. I had never imagined mountains built of contorted rock shoved miles into the sky, faults slashing like fresh scars across the landscape, and starkly beautiful deserts where people seemed an afterthought. After many happy years of researching and exploring the West with my geology students, I knew I wanted to tell the story to a larger audience. The result has been three books: Hard Road West, Rough-Hewn Land, and Surf, Sand, and Stone. 

Keith's book list on geology that tell great stories

Keith Heyer Meldahl Why did Keith love this book?

Written with the clarity and zest of Bryson and McPhee, but with the added benefit that Hazen is a professional geologist. I like this book because of how Hazen takes the reader into the process of how a geologist works and thinks. Hazen’s specialty is mineralogy, and his main thesis—that living organisms and minerals evolved together with each shaping the other’s future—makes for a unique and thought-provoking take on the history of our planet. 

By Robert M. Hazen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hailed by The New York Times for writing "with wonderful clarity about science . . . that effortlessly teaches as it zips along," nationally bestselling author Robert M. Hazen offers a radical new approach to Earth history in this intertwined tale of the planet's living and nonliving spheres. With an astrobiologist's imagination, a historian's perspective, and a naturalist's eye, Hazen calls upon twenty-first-century discoveries that have revolutionized geology and enabled scientists to envision Earth's many iterations in vivid detail-from the mile-high lava tides of its infancy to the early organisms responsible for more than two-thirds of the mineral varieties beneath…


Book cover of Principles of Geology

Robert M. Hazen Author Of The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

From my list on planet Earth.

Why am I passionate about this?

Robert M. Hazen, Senior Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Earth and Planets Laboratory and the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, received the B.S. and S.M. in geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Ph.D. at Harvard University in Earth science. His most recent book is The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years from Stardust to Living Planet, which explores the intricate coevolution of the geosphere and biosphere.

Robert's book list on planet Earth

Robert M. Hazen Why did Robert love this book?

Lyell’s Principles, though published almost 190 years ago, is a masterful argument for the veracity of deep time. Drawing on his skills as a lawyer as much as his scientific perceptions, Lyell lays out the case for the power of gradual processes operating over vast expanses of time to change the face of our planet. His lucid, compelling case that “the present is key to the past” greatly influenced many subsequent discoveries, including Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. And, happily, various editions are freely available in facsimile on the web.

By Sir Charles Lyell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the key works in the nineteenth-century battle between science and Scripture, Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology (1830-33) sought to explain the geological state of the modern Earth by considering the long-term effects of observable natural phenomena. Written with clarity and a dazzling intellectual passion, it is both a seminal work of modern geology and a compelling precursor to Darwinism, exploring the evidence for radical changes in climate and geography across the ages and speculating on the progressive development of life. A profound influence on Darwin, Principles of Geology also captured the imagination of contemporaries such as Melville, Emerson,…


Book cover of Understanding Earth

Robert M. Hazen Author Of The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

From my list on planet Earth.

Why am I passionate about this?

Robert M. Hazen, Senior Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Earth and Planets Laboratory and the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, received the B.S. and S.M. in geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Ph.D. at Harvard University in Earth science. His most recent book is The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years from Stardust to Living Planet, which explores the intricate coevolution of the geosphere and biosphere.

Robert's book list on planet Earth

Robert M. Hazen Why did Robert love this book?

At their very best, textbooks synthesize knowledge in new, informative ways. Understanding Earth is a classic, covering the basics of geology, geophysics, and environmental science with stylish prose, classy illustrations, and the insights of two great scientist educators (earlier editions were championed by Frank Press and Ray Siever, who began the franchise). It’s a whirlwind tour of modern science, from the microscopic view of rocks and minerals to the global sweep of plate tectonics.

By John Grotzinger, Tom Jordan, Frank Press , Raymond Siever

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The field of physical geology continues to evolve with new tools, new ideas new approaches. Working closely with Frank Press and Ray Siever, the new co-authors of the fourth edition, John Grotzinger and Tom Jordan, have introduced a wealth of more recent data and applications to keep the science in the text on the cutting edge. This introductory physical geology textbook aims to help students understand what physical geology teaches us about the world and what it brings to our lives. It is designed to bring the worldview of the working geologist to an audience not only new to this…


Book cover of Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth

Robert M. Hazen Author Of The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

From my list on planet Earth.

Why am I passionate about this?

Robert M. Hazen, Senior Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Earth and Planets Laboratory and the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, received the B.S. and S.M. in geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Ph.D. at Harvard University in Earth science. His most recent book is The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years from Stardust to Living Planet, which explores the intricate coevolution of the geosphere and biosphere.

Robert's book list on planet Earth

Robert M. Hazen Why did Robert love this book?

Harvard geobiologist Andy Knoll vividly captures the dynamic field of Precambrian paleontology in this unique, zippy read. Personalities—both fossils and the people who study them—come alive as Knoll races across the eons. With episodes from life’s enigmatic origins, to scrappy contentious black smudges that might or might not be the remains of cells, to some of the most exquisite and revealing microfossils on Earth, Life on a Young Planet takes its readers on a unique journey.

By Andrew H. Knoll,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life on a Young Planet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Australopithecines, dinosaurs, trilobites--such fossils conjure up images of lost worlds filled with vanished organisms. But in the full history of life, ancient animals, even the trilobites, form only the half-billion-year tip of a nearly four-billion-year iceberg. Andrew Knoll explores the deep history of life from its origins on a young planet to the incredible Cambrian explosion, presenting a compelling new explanation for the emergence of biological novelty. The very latest discoveries in paleontology--many of them made by the author and his students--are integrated with emerging insights from molecular biology and earth system science to forge a broad understanding of how…


Book cover of The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History

Robert M. Hazen Author Of The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

From my list on planet Earth.

Why am I passionate about this?

Robert M. Hazen, Senior Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Earth and Planets Laboratory and the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, received the B.S. and S.M. in geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Ph.D. at Harvard University in Earth science. His most recent book is The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years from Stardust to Living Planet, which explores the intricate coevolution of the geosphere and biosphere.

Robert's book list on planet Earth

Robert M. Hazen Why did Robert love this book?

All of us have a vision of what it means to be a vibrant, blue, and green “Earth-like planet,” but our home has fit that familiar description for only the past 400 million years or so—a mere 8 percent of its changeable history. Beerling’s revealing Emerald Planet tells the surprising tale of the rise of the terrestrial biosphere, as plants ever so gradually established their foothold on dry land and became a major geological force. Who would have thought that roots and leaves hold such drama, but our existence and survival are intimately tied to those transformative innovations.

By David Beerling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Emerald Planet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Plants have profoundly moulded the Earth's climate and the evolutionary trajectory of life. Far from being 'silent witnesses to the passage of time', plants are dynamic components of our world, shaping the environment throughout history as much as that environment has shaped them.

In The Emerald Planet, David Beerling puts plants centre stage, revealing the crucial role they have played in driving global changes in the environment, in recording hidden facets of Earth's history, and in helping us to predict its future. His account draws together evidence from fossil plants, from experiments with their living counterparts, and from computer models…


Book cover of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of Their Lost World

Michael J. Benton Author Of Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World

From my list on dinosaurs from a palaeontologist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been mad about dinosaurs and ancient life since I was seven. I have been amazingly lucky to be able to develop a career as a professional palaeontologist and to be able to research and talk about the subject. We were first to show the original colours of dinosaur feathers, and this discovery provides a perfect way to open the discussion about how palaeontologists know what they say they know. In my books, I seek to amaze, amuse and inform. I have written many books, including pop science, textbooks, technical-scientific works, and books for children, and every year brings new discoveries to be transmitted to the world.

Michael's book list on dinosaurs from a palaeontologist

Michael J. Benton Why did Michael love this book?

The best seller of all time, a lively romp through dinosaur research (and researchers).

This is for all readers, and you’ll be hooked by the lively, pacy text by Steve, as he hurtles from continent to continent, digging up bones from China to Poland, working on Tyrannosaurus rex and other great beasts in the basements of the world’s museums, and sharing with readers what it’s like to be a working paleontologist.

For aspiring young bone-diggers, this is an inspiration, although it’s not like this all the time: paleontologists also sometimes have to mark student essays and fight with university systems to get their field trip costs refunded!

By Steve Brusatte,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Times Science Book of the Year.
A Sunday Times Bestseller.

66 million years ago the dinosaurs were wiped from the face of the earth. Today, Dr. Steve Brusatte, one of the leading scientists of a new generation of dinosaur hunters, armed with cutting edge technology, is piecing together the complete story of how the dinosaurs ruled the earth for 150 million years.

The world of the dinosaurs has fascinated on book and screen for decades - from early science fiction classics like The Lost World, to Godzilla terrorizing the streets of Tokyo, and the monsters of Jurassic Park. But…


Book cover of Earthquake Storms: The Fascinating History and Volatile Future of the San Andreas Fault

Keith Heyer Meldahl Author Of Rough-Hewn Land: A Geologic Journey from California to the Rocky Mountains

From my list on geology that tell great stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I first crossed the American West nearly 4 decades ago in my ’67 Chevy, it changed my life. I had never imagined mountains built of contorted rock shoved miles into the sky, faults slashing like fresh scars across the landscape, and starkly beautiful deserts where people seemed an afterthought. After many happy years of researching and exploring the West with my geology students, I knew I wanted to tell the story to a larger audience. The result has been three books: Hard Road West, Rough-Hewn Land, and Surf, Sand, and Stone. 

Keith's book list on geology that tell great stories

Keith Heyer Meldahl Why did Keith love this book?

The title is a bit misleading. This book is more of a history of thinking and discovery about seismology—the study of earthquakes—with a focus on the San Andreas fault. What I like best is how Dvorak weaves the personal stories of scientists into the geologic story. Too often in textbooks and general-audience books, scientists don’t exist as human beings with foibles, preconceptions, and occasional bursts of insight. I wish that other books presented the human side of science as effectively as Dvorak. 

By John Dvorak,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of A Short History of Nearly Everything

Greg Brennecka Author Of Impact: How Rocks from Space Led to Life, Culture, and Donkey Kong

From my list on books to teach you something cool and make you laugh in the process.

Why am I passionate about this?

I didn’t know anything at all about meteorites (or, really, space in general) until I took a cosmochemistry class during my first semester of a PhD program in geology. As soon as I learned that meteorites captured information about the start of the Solar System – the material we started with, hints about how planets evolve, and how meteorites changed the course of Earth – I was hooked. At the end of that class in 2007, I switched the main topic of my PhD research to studying meteorites and what they can tell us about the past, and I have been doing it ever since.

Greg's book list on books to teach you something cool and make you laugh in the process

Greg Brennecka Why did Greg love this book?

In my opinion, this is the best book ever written. By anyone. Of all time.

Sure, that is a bold statement, but A Short History has everything I personally want in a book: thoughtfully presented information that explains things I previously did not know and, of course, humor. Importantly, Bill Bryson has Bill Shakespearean abilities at storytelling, without all that troublesome early modern English obscuring the prose.

Bryson’s preeminent work is singularly responsible for getting me into reading (and writing) as an adult, and even played a big role in me doing the science I do today.

By Bill Bryson,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked A Short History of Nearly Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The ultimate eye-opening journey through time and space, A Short History of Nearly Everything is the biggest-selling popular science book of the 21st century and has sold over 2 million copies.

'Possibly the best scientific primer ever published.' Economist
'Truly impressive...It's hard to imagine a better rough guide to science.' Guardian
'A travelogue of science, with a witty, engaging, and well-informed guide' The Times

Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely at home he can't contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to…


Book cover of The Street Beneath My Feet

Suzanne Preston Blier Author Of The Streets of Newtowne: A Story of Cambridge, MA

From my list on the idea of streets, history, and places.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art and architectural historian whose field also includes the histories of cities. My area of specialty is Africa. I am also a professor at Harvard who has lived in Cambridge, Ma. for over 30 years where I have become a civic leader, co-founding the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association to help bring improvements to the city and preserve historic buildings here. I teach a class on Harvard Square (and the city of Cambridge) and following January 6, I felt it was important to rethink the way we teach young people – encouraging them to understand the diversity of all our communities. 

Suzanne's book list on the idea of streets, history, and places

Suzanne Preston Blier Why did Suzanne love this book?

This book, which takes one on a journey below ground in a city as well as a rural area, providing a glimpse of both the man-made infrastructure (tunnels and pipes) as well as the burrowing trails of animals and many layered rock formations.

The book encourages its readers to think more about the paths and streets on which we and others have long traveled.

By Charlotte Guillain, Yuval Zommer (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Street Beneath My Feet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This award-winning, double-sided foldout book takes you on a fascinating journey down through the layers of the Earth, all the way to the planet’s core and out the other side.

When you’re out walking around, whether on the city streets or a country trail, there’s always so much to see and hear. But do you ever stop and look down? Have you ever wondered what’s going on deep in the ground under your feet?

There are so many amazing sights to see! One side of the foldout shows the ground beneath the city, while the reverse side shows the ground…


Book cover of Earthshake: Poems from the Ground Up

Brenda Z. Guiberson Author Of Yours 'Til Niagara Falls

From my list on the fascinating and connected layers of world.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer of dozens of books for children, I always learn much more that can go into each effort. A “wow” moment gets me started. It could be a giant cactus that grows so slowly, frogs that don’t ribbet, maybe a moment with a sea turtle, or thoughts on geology and natural wonders. Each book comes into a hazy focus after tons of research but much gets left out. What goes in? The best “wow” details get woven into an incredible story full of surprise, joy, and admiration for this world of constant change and those struggling to survive.

Brenda's book list on the fascinating and connected layers of world

Brenda Z. Guiberson Why did Brenda love this book?

Humor and poetry brought to the natural wonders of earth? Wow! This book has twenty-two poems such as “Recipe for Granite,” “Obituary for a Clam” and “Instructions for the Earth’s Dishwasher.” A favorite is a plea for a glacier, so sluggish and slow. “Just once, when no one is looking, peel out!” The illustrations are bright and fun and the endnotes provide extra information.

By Lisa Westberg Peters, Cathie Felstead (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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


5 book lists we think you will like!

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