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Reading the Rocks: The Autobiography of the Earth

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  223 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
To many of us, the Earth’s crust is a relic of ancient, unknowable history. But to a geologist, stones are richly illustrated narratives, telling gothic tales of cataclysm and reincarnation. For more than four billion years, in beach sand, granite, and garnet schists, the planet has kept a rich and idiosyncratic journal of its past.Fulbright Scholar Marcia Bjornerud takes ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 26th 2005 by Basic Books (first published 2005)
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Bill Mutch
Apr 26, 2015 Bill Mutch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the geologically ignorant but curious
Recommended to Bill by: random pick on library shelves
This gal can really write. Among books in the genre "Science Not For Dummies." it's a standout. I had no background in geological earth science to speak of so I found the material rather dense (sorry, we're talking rocks here) but Prof. Bjornerud explains her terms and uses parallels from common experience to help the reader relate. There's a glossary worth using. I've started reading this again. It's worth it, and I expect by the second time through I'll have learned enough to take on other wor ...more
Aug 08, 2007 Mason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good intro to earth sciences. Despite the title, this book is only partly about rocks. The reason I got it was to get an introduction to geology, and it gave me a little of that, but not as much as I was looking for.

But it does an admirable job of overview not only geology, but also covers the evolution of life, the origins of the solar system, and other far-flung subjects--all in 200 pages.

The sections on subjects I already knew well were still interesting, but I'm not sure how well the geol
Apr 03, 2010 Converse rated it liked it
When the author focuses on geology, I liked it very much. Good attempt to find homely metaphors for geological processes. When she start on how we're running everything into the ground, I got bored
Nov 26, 2014 Connie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My dear most brilliant man,
I can see why you are using this book with your students. It reminds me very much of your own teaching style. I love her use of analogy to common, well-known, everyday situations, events and things to explain these concepts of science. That is so you. I particularly liked the analogy she used when explaining radioactivity. That was helpful. And I loved how detailed she got in explaining the problems and difficulties of the process. It was all most interesting.

Once I hi
Jan 24, 2016 Natasha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I love the concept of learning anything through stories. Maybe it shows my lack of creativity, but I'd never considered the idea that rocks have a story to tell. I'm so glad to learn they do!

I don't speak the language of rocks, however, so I really appreciate Bjornerud's ability to translate their stories for me. An excellent tool she used to accomplish this was through metaphors. This helped me "get it" (oh, the joy of the ah-ha moments).

Entertaining read. I love it when you can say that abou
Jan 26, 2010 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in pop geology
Recommended to Adam by: Freshman Studies
Reading the Rocks is a perfect book for me, since its two themes, geology and humanity's atrocities against the planet, are both things that fascinate me more than most things. And as a pop geology book, Bjornerud makes a contribution worth reading alongside books that are perhaps better written or give more information, like Richard Fortey's Earth, or Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. She does give information that is still new and fascinating after reading those two books.

Oct 30, 2008 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title, Reading the Rocks, made me think this would have more to do with actual rocks than it did. There was some bits about rocks but more of it was on a much bigger scale. Thus the sub-title. Definitely a book chock full of information without getting overly technical. It was very consistent throughout making it relatively easy to follow. I say relatively, because it will definitely make you pause and think. At least it did for me, because the information was so far beyond what I previously ...more
Lina Baker
This was a very accessible and enjoyable read about the major geologic events shaping Earth's history. I definitely learned some new things (a time before plate tectonics???) and was thoroughly engrossed in discovering exactly how delicate the balance truly has to be in order for our planet to sustain life.
This book is a good overview/intro about how geologists use rocks to make educated guesses about the earth's climatological and biological history - a very difficult topic to explain to an average citizen with a vague recollection of high school science class. Because the subject is so huge (history of the planet Earth) and the science so technical (chemistry of how rocks change over time), it felt at times that the author had to simplify many concepts and that I was not fully understanding what ...more
Mar 24, 2016 Barb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A real mix - parts explained complicated earth processes well, some parts over explained controversies between geologists and lost me entirely.
Joel Allen
Jul 12, 2014 Joel Allen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simple introduction into the significance of rocks and minerals. Not a "how to identify rocks and minerals", but explanations of their meanings.
Oct 14, 2014 Virginia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most important books I have read. It has given me a deep appreciation for the thin biosphere that is covering our orbiting rock planet. The depth of awareness offered by Marcia Bjornerud, if truly perceived, is the essence of enlightenment. What more is there to be said, except, read this book.
Dec 25, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bjornerud loves her metaphors and analogies! This book all in all, was a great piece of work. Since I'm a geology major, some of the ideas presented (mainly in the first few chapters) were all review, but she talked about rock types in a clear, interesting manor - enough so that I believe anyone with a small background of rocks would really learn from and enjoy this book. My only frustration with it is that it's more of an intro to geology, which I wasn't really looking for.
Jun 03, 2015 Shawn rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, science
This book was really about a 3.5. Generally a good semi-basic book about Earth's biogeochemical history. The author did a good job explaining concepts in biology, geology and in environmental science in clear and concise ways. Generally, her explanations were entertaining and enjoyable. There were some times, however, when (even knowing a fair amount of geology) I had to reread to ensure I was understanding where she was going with her explanation.
Aug 22, 2016 Hazel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I liked Reading the Rocks. It has lots of little (often amusing) comments in parentheses, which is a lot like the way I think (and it comes out in my writing). I liked reading about geology and prehistory, and it was interesting to see all of the writing techniques I've been learning in Language Arts and English finally pop up in my reading. I would recommend this book to anyone who is curios about geology.
Aug 19, 2013 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm only 1/3 of the way into this today but I'm delighted. Bjornerud explains what seems like capricious indecisiveness of geological terms for naming/describing rocks. Every definintion comes with her clear cautionary commentary. She's a born teacher. I'm finding after my 5 years of geology lectures and field trips,she's finally pulling it together for me. This book is my platinum-find.
I liked the first part of the book a great deal but the last 30 pages or so, I could have done without. I don't feel like the added content to the book at all. While the prose was interesting and the topics with interesting for the first part, the last didn't interest me and I felt like it was even written differently.
Russ Painter
Sep 21, 2011 Russ Painter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I learned a lot about geology from this book. It was a surprisingly easy read, but there were way too many metaphors, and some were really awkward. She should have stuck to geology though. When she touched on biology her lack of understanding was a bit embarassing and I didn't appreciate the preachy tone.
Jan 11, 2014 Marg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent introduction to geology that made me think I would have enjoyed majoring in it in college. The author knows her stuff and knows beginners, challenging us to learn terms and processes early on so that we can understand the more complex ideas later on. Well worth reading.
Dec 18, 2012 Michaela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant and lyrical account of how the earth functions (machine, organism, neither/both) through the lens of geology and mysteries it unlocks. This is the second time I've read this and will read it again at some point.
Dec 30, 2015 Megan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
First of all, it's not really an AUTObiography, is it? Also, lots of mixed metaphors. Other than that, a little too preachy. Finally, a few good passages about geology.
This is one enjoyable read. I can't put it down. Read parts of it to my Geology 101 class--they wanted more.

Pat P.
Caroll Vrba
Mar 11, 2015 Caroll Vrba rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and new information about our earth's formation for me.
Aug 19, 2012 Corinne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book- very informative on how the earth was formed.
Marts  (Thinker)
... chronicling the geological evolution of planet earth...
Pretty boring book, unless you love geology.
Lucy Murphy
My book club. Hmmmmm.......
Steve House
Steve House marked it as to-read
Aug 27, 2016
Steve Jones
Steve Jones rated it really liked it
Aug 28, 2016
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“With each integer on the Richter scale, there is a tenfold increase in the number of earthquakes that occur annually. On average, there is one magnitude 8 event, ten magnitude 7 events, a hundred magnitude 6 events, and so on, each year. If we consider this from an energy standpoint, the smaller earthquakes account for a significant fraction of the total seismic energy released each year. The one million magnitude 2 events (which are too small to be felt except instrumentally) collectively release as much energy as does one magnitude 6 earthquake. Although the larger events are certainly more devastating from a human perspective, they are geologically no more important than the myriad less newsworthy small ones.” 1 likes
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