Advertisement

You are browsing the archive for books Archives - AGU Blogosphere.

23 January 2023

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, by Steve Brusatte

A terrifically told update on dinosaur paleoecology and evolution by an enthusiastic practitioner of the Mesozoic arts. Brusatte paints himself as coming of age in the time of Jurassic Park, an obsessed ‘fanboy’ of dinosaurs and celebrity paleontologists, who then matures and innovates through an impressive series of field experiences and methodological devices to become a professor, author, and leader in the field. Brusatte’s own story isn’t the centerpiece of …

Read More >>


21 January 2023

Plate Tectonics: a very short introduction, by Peter Molnar

This slim volume (130 pages of ~10 point type) is the 425th in Oxford University Press’s vast series of dense little books about various subjects. Browsing the geology shelves at my college’s library this week, I saw it and thought I might as well check it out. I’ve shifted through the years in what I put weight on when teaching plate tectonics, and I always appreciate reading/hearing/seeing what different professionals …

Read More >>


19 January 2023

Miseducation: How climate change is taught in America, by Katie Worth

A quick read through a disheartening topic: journalist Katie Worth reports on the state of climate change education in the United States. There’s good news and there’s bad news in this slim volume. First, it’ll be no surprise to hear that many talented, dedicated educators are working hard to incorporate scientific thinking about climate into their teaching. They are inspiring! Worth briefly profiles a handful of these exemplary teachers, and …

Read More >>


17 January 2023

Life’s Edge, by Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer is a veteran science writer, a journalist who has been pumping out terrific popular natural history explorations for decades now. His latest explores the marginal zone between living and nonliving: Life’s Edge. I found it to be an interesting and enjoyable volume, entirely as I’ve come to expect from Zimmer. Biology is a science with an interesting conundrum at its heart – it’s not totally clear what qualifies …

Read More >>


11 January 2023

Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver

Now here’s an interesting book: a retelling of David Copperfield (by Charles Dickens) but set in modern-day Appalachia, specifically Lee County, in the furthest-west tip of Virginia, where it makes a triangular insert between Kentucky and Tennessee. The arc of the original bildungsroman is a rags-to-riches tale set in Victorian England. Because of the physical and temporal distance between my current point in space-time and that of Copperfield, much of …

Read More >>


31 December 2022

On Writing, by Stephen King

This is a little book about writing by Stephen King, renowned author of 50+ best-selling novels. It’s mainly autobiographical, detailing King’s childhood, alcoholism, and being run down by a distracted driver, but also includes good general writing advice: Ditch the passive voice. Don’t use adverbs. Write solo in an effort to purge the story from your mind, then let it sit for some time and come back to it, looking …

Read More >>


29 December 2022

Platypus, by Ann Moyal

The platypus is extraordinary, and this is a book about how we came to know that. Written by a historian of Australian science, Platypus is subtitled, “The extraordinary story of how a curious creature baffled the world.”  Moyal recounts the first specimens being sent back to the intellectual centers of western Europe (London and Paris, principally) from Australia, the subsequent suspicions that it was a hoax of taxidermy, and then …

Read More >>


24 December 2022

The Last Volcano, by John Dvorak

A new week, a new nonfiction geology book by John Dvorak! This one is a biography of Thomas Jaggar, who founded the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. It was a really interesting portrait of a man driven to spend time with erupting mountains. The book begins with the eruption of Mt. Pelee in Martinique, a harrowing pyroclastic flow that kills almost everyone in St. Pierre. The son of a bishop, young Jaggar …

Read More >>


15 December 2022

Beasts Before Us, by Elsa Panciroli

So many books have been written about dinosaurs, but this one looks at a deeper history of another important group: our own. Beasts Before Us is “the untold story of mammal origins and evolution.” The Cenozoic is often dubbed “the age of mammals,” but the story of our hairy, milk-guzzling brethren goes much deeper into geologic time. There have sort of been two ages of “mammals,” author paleontologist Elsa Panciroli …

Read More >>


1 December 2022

Mask of the Sun, by John Dvorak

Inspired by How The Mountains Grew, I ordered the rest of John Dvorak’s oeuvre recently. I read the first over Thanksgiving break – a great nonfiction look at eclipses. The basics of lunar and solar eclipses are dispensed with early on, and Dvorak then spends his time on understanding of eclipses in antiquity, the gradual accumulation of insight into the causes and timing of eclipses – thus permitting them to …

Read More >>


27 November 2022

Book report

Callan offers reviews of a suite of good reads – some old and some new, some geology and some general science, and some social justice/history.

Read More >>


13 November 2022

A Geological Miscellany, by G.Y. Craig & E.J. Jones

A fun, if a little musty, compendium of random writings about geology and geologists from a wide variety of sources, excerpted and packed together into a slim paperback volume. It begins with Mark Twain and concludes with Russell Baker, and there are hundreds of entries in between – some poems, some short essays, some clipped correspondence, some newspaper articles, and so on. It’s miscellaneous, as the title suggests. Many of …

Read More >>


12 November 2022

Catastrophes and Lesser Calamities, by Tony Hallam

This is a thoughtful volume on mass extinctions written for the novice. One thing I really liked about this book is that it was written very clearly from the mind of a skeptical scientist who is conscientious about explaining each step in his thinking while explaining fairly complicated, murky stuff for a lay audience. Hallam succeeds magnificently in defining ideas first, and only later attaching jargon or terminology to the …

Read More >>


11 November 2022

How the Mountains Grew, by John Dvorak

Callan reviews a recently-published book that offers “a new geological history of North America.”

Read More >>


12 October 2022

Geopedia, by Marcia Bjornerud

My favorite popularizer of modern geology is Marcia Bjornerud. Her sensibility for what is interesting and important matches very nicely with my own – I feel she is a kindred spirit, though one infinitely more talented with language than I am. Lovers of geology found much to delight them in Reading the Rocks. She took the geological into the realm of the philosophical and political in Timefulness. This book (her …

Read More >>


11 October 2022

Book report

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, by Amitav Ghosh Marcia Bjornerud put me onto this one. An interesting book that explores the roots and results of our response to climate change. The author, an acclaimed Indian novelist, is particularly interested in the unwillingness of artists and novelists to grapple with climate change, citing this failure to engage as evidence of a great derangement in society: society’s awareness of …

Read More >>


5 September 2022

Book report

Callan reviews five books, both fiction and non-. In this batch, we get Neal Stephenson’s latest techno-thriller, about geoengineering and its discontents, Barack Obama’s first memoir, a novel by Charles Dickens, a collection of short stories by Andy Weir (author of The Martian), and Bill Bryson’s sole foray into popular science writing.

Read More >>


19 August 2022

Second Nature, by Nathaniel Rich

This volume is a compilation of reporting that author Nathaniel Rich previously published (sometimes in rather different form) in a variety of periodicals, but mainly the New York Times Magazine. The general theme is humanity’s alteration of the natural world, for good or (usually) for ill. The first piece, on West Virginian lawyer Robert Bilott, was the basis of the recent Mark Ruffalo film Dark Waters. Other essays examine a …

Read More >>


17 August 2022

Book report

Beneath the Rising, by Premee Mohamed A novel of adventure, science fiction, and magic. Two teens from Canada embark on a mission to save the world. Though “mismatched” in terms of their demographics and wealth, they are united by the fact that they met as children when one terrorist’s bullet pierced them both. The story is told from the perspective of the boy, Nick, but what’s immediately crazy about the …

Read More >>


15 August 2022

Book report

Five books get the Callan mini-review treatment: two novels from Amor Towles, an account of life in prison under solitary confinement, a history of Virginia slavery during the War of 1812, and finally a family account of the discovery of the fossil Hesperornis, a toothed bird, and various associated tangents.

Read More >>