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You are browsing the archive for books Archives - Page 2 of 17 - Mountain Beltway.

27 March 2019

Timefulness, by Marcia Bjornerud

[Note: this book review was scheduled to run in the July 2019 issue of EARTH magazine, but with the announcement two weeks ago that EARTH was being shuttered, I was notified that nothing contributors or freelancers had written scheduled for after April 2019 would be published, and the rights were returned to me. While that’s disappointing, it frees me up to publish it here instead. Enjoy!] _____________________________________________ Geology is a …

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25 March 2019

The End, by Phil Torres

I’ve been fortunate lately to get to meet and interact with Phil Torres, independent scholar of existential risks. At my prompting, Phil came to a GSW meeting where Peter Brannen was talking about mass extinctions, and later he came to my class to talk to my Historical Geology students at NOVA about risks humanity faces. I figured it was about time I read his books, and now I can report …

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20 March 2019

The Dinosaur Artist, by Paige Williams

A book review of Paige Williams’ “The Dinosaur Artist,” a tale of international trade in dinosaur skeletons.

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23 February 2019

Michael Crichton vs. Charles Dickens

Because of my commute, I consume multiple books at the same time. I listen to one in the car, and I read another (or more than one other) at home, on traditional paper. This past week, I read Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton and listened to David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens. I chose the Dickens volume just to have something to listen to that wasn’t NPR coverage of our disastrous …

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18 February 2019

What the Best College Students Do, by Ken Bain

Periodically, the administrators at my college will buy a lot of copies of a particular book, and then distribute them to the faculty as a way of sharing a useful resource or message. Generally, I find that I have other more urgent ways to spend my reading time: books about astronomy or rocks or ancient life or politics or philosophy. But this semester there are a couple of new variables …

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11 February 2019

When Bugs Were Big, Plants Were Strange, and Tetrapods Stalked the Earth: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Before Dinosaurs, by Hannah Bonner

It has been a while since I’ve reviewed any kids’ books here, but this one was so good that I just have to tell you about it. My son is now 6 and a half years old, and he’s interested in all sorts of natural history topics. Given that I’m a geologist, he’s probably more Earth-science-focused than the average kid, but my wife is a biologist, so he’s got plenty …

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4 February 2019

Adventures in the Anthropocene, by Gaia Vince

I just finished reading Gaia Vince’s 2015 volume called Adventures in the Anthropocene. The book chronicles the new version of Earth that humanity’s actions have enacted, exploring all sorts of relevant topics including biodiversity, energy use, urbanization, human population, ocean pollution, fish farming, deforestation, architecture, solar radiation management, etc. It’s quite comprehensive. The book I’m familiar with that comes close in scope and subject matter is Earth Odyssey by Mark …

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19 December 2018

The 50 State Fossils: A Guidebook for Aspiring Paleontologists, by Yinan Wang

Here’s a kid’s book to consider for the holiday season: The 50 State Fossils: A Guidebook for Aspiring Paleontologists, written by Yinan Wang and illustrated by Jane Levy. It has a simple structure: each state gets a page, and that page is divided into four parts: a map of the state w/ areas highlighted showing where the fossil can be found, an illustration of the organism as it looked when it …

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17 October 2018

The Big Oyster, by Mark Kurlansky

Mark Kurlansky might be the king of the micro-history. His books Salt and Cod were both excellent examinations of history in the context of those minerals and fishes. So when I saw The Big Oyster on the audio-book shelf at my public library, I checked it out, knowing roughly what I would get – a history anchored to that particular delicious mollusk. In this case, it’s a history of New …

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19 September 2018

The Tangled Tree, by David Quammen

The talented science writer David Quammen has a new book out, and it’s excellent. The Tangled Tree explores endosymbiosis and horizontal gene transfer, two aspects of evolution that undercut the traditional ever-more-branching “tree of life” vision for the relatedness of living things. The lineage of organisms is not only divergent, but convergent too: populations diverge and sometimes merge, in whole or in part, complicating the traditional “ramose” structure of phylogenetic …

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