The best geology books 📚

Browse the best books on geology as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Principles of Geology

Principles of Geology

By Sir Charles Lyell

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books on planet Earth

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Book cover of Annals of the Former World

Annals of the Former World

By John McPhee

Why this book?

Every geology book collection should include this Pulitzer Prize-winning classic. McPhee travels with four different U.S. geologists, visiting their outcrops and laboratories while tracing the evolution of geologic thought and discoveries. McPhee has the eye of a scientist, the soul of a poet, and the pen (keyboard?) of a master author. The result is fluid and beautiful writing about science and those who practice it. 

From the list:

The best books about geology that tell great stories

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Book cover of Oil Notes

Oil Notes

By Rick Bass

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.
From the list:

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

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

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

By Keith Heyer Meldahl

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.
From the list:

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

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Book cover of Assembling California

Assembling California

By John McPhee

Why this book?

This book is an enthralling field trip through my home state. McPhee--in company with a larger-than-life California geologist--takes apart and puts together the wildly varying regions of the state. He roams the coast, the mountains, the valleys, the rivers, the cities, and even puts the reader into the cataclysm of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. What more could a reader want? Well, staggeringly good writing and lively wit. Done.

“It is said that if a cow lies down in California, a seismologist will know it.” John McPhee.

From the list:

The best badass geology books

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Book cover of Land and Wine: The French Terroir

Land and Wine: The French Terroir

By Charles Frankel

Why this book?

The most misunderstood word in any discussion about French wine, terroir is not only the French word for soil, but it refers to place, the specific place where grapes are grown to make wine. Thus, terroir does mean the soil in the vineyard, but also the ground beneath the soil, climate, weather, indeed, everything at any particular place that affects the grapes grown in that specific place. This book written by a geologist is no boring technical and scientific study of taste, but a clear and convincing explanation of why wines grown in different places, and wines even grown in…
From the list:

The best books on French wine, history, and culture

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