This is an elegant little atlas of islands around 5 km wide, with numerous fascinating histories of the strange things that have happened there. The tThis is an elegant little atlas of islands around 5 km wide, with numerous fascinating histories of the strange things that have happened there. The typography and cartography are wonderful to behold. Sadly, the entire book is undermined by the complete lack of citations. You can't tell the story of a European who inexplicably spoke some Polynesian language, met a woman who spoke the same language natively, and then married her and left for the island without citing some sources. Without citations, it might as well be fiction....more
I'm skipping around in this compilation mostly focusing on regions that I know: re-read part of Basin and Range, just finished Assembling California (I'm skipping around in this compilation mostly focusing on regions that I know: re-read part of Basin and Range, just finished Assembling California (August 2010). I find this book...troublesome. McPhee's a good writer, no doubt. His sentences are interesting, occasionally beautiful, often surprising, and the languid structure of his books is pleasant... if that's what you're after. I'm not, of course. I want goddamn facts! I picked this up because I spend a lot of time outside and while I'm usually able to provide informative answers to questions about local flora and fauna, I know almost nothing about geology. After finishing Assembling California, I now know this place is the result of three successive terranes on the Pacific plate colliding with the North American plate at times when the former was subducting under the latter. I know that one kind of surface evidence for these events is the presence of ophiolitic rocks like serpentine and basalt, rocks that formed as ocean crust and were scraped off onto North American land during subduction. What I don't know is how to recognize any of these rocks in the field! Sure, I've accreted some slivers of theory, but I'm no better off making statements about what kinds of rock constitute a scene, let alone what those rocks tell us about the land.
Basically, this book would be massively improved by a ton of diagrams and pictures. Gabbro, you say? Show me. The Smartville Block. Where is it on a map. If you have a passing interest in geology and you don't leave your living room very often, you might find these books more satisfying than I did, but if you prefer getting out there and walking on rocks instead of reading about them, you might want to get something a little more down to earth....more