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Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England's Stone Walls
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Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England's Stone Walls

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  112 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
There once may have been 250,000 miles of stone walls in America's Northeast, stretching farther than the distance to the moon. They took three billion man-hours to build. And even though most are crumbling today, they contain a magnificent scientific and cultural story—about the geothermal forces that formed their stones, the tectonic movements that brought them to the su ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by Walker Books (first published August 2002)
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Robert Wechsler
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
What makes this book so special can be seen in the subtitle’s preposition, "in." It’s not a history of walls, but of what’s in them, that is more geological than historical (but the history’s there, as well). There’s too much information, of course, and there's at least one entire chapter the book could have done without, but it’s the oddness of the book that makes it so special. The writing isn’t bad either, and it did manage to answer the questions I had about the stone walls all over the area ...more
Chris Leuchtenburg
Only a brief section concerns the building methods and purposes of the walls. Thorson gives and extensive explanation of where the stone came from (a couple of hundred million years of geological processes) and why the walls were built only during a few decades starting in the mid/late 18th century. As a result, the walls themselves don't come into the story until well past page 100. There is also an extensive discussion of the fate of the walls and the various reasons why they are gradually dis ...more
Aug 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic
Robert M. Thorson is a geologist, and he truly loves stone. His deep regard for the substance shines through in Stone by Stone. Anyone who's been to rural New England is familiar with the scene - low, tumbled, gray walls snaking through just about any "undeveloped" patch of woods. While it's true that these structures were "built" by farmers, it was surprising to learn that the walls aren't all that ancient. Contrary to popular belief, the soils of New England were not stony and inhospitable whe ...more
Nancy Van Iderstine
May 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Yes, it's a book about rocks. And yes, it's really interesting!

When you think about New England, one of the images that probably comes to mind is the ubiquitous stone wall. Many of the stone walls there were erected decades, and in some cases, a couple of centuries, ago. You may notice that they don't seem tall enough to contain animals, so you assume they're there as a statement to neighbors: This is my property.

But that's not the real story behind stone walls and all of New England's rocks,
Jon Howard
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this brief, lively and surprisingly far-ranging history of New England stones and stone walls. It's full of "did you know" facts and phenomena that will amaze and confound your fellow New Englanders who think they know all about stone walls (they don't). Spoiler alert: the stones weren't just laying around - English immigrants had to "grow" them to build the walls. Thorson is a creative thinker and a good writer, finding persuasive connections between his simple topic and th ...more
Jason Williams
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
The author is exceptionally knowledgeable and passionate about the topic of the book.

He answers many questions that came to mind when I drove through rural Maine, New Hampshire and

Vermont in the fall of 2012. Why one field was covered with small stones and the one next to it appeared to have no rocks present with cattle grazing on it.

Thorson's explanations of the size of the fields versus the optimum distance of carrying rocks, and the amount of calories required to perform the work shows the d
Feb 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Geology intersects with history in this accessible and enlightening examination of New England's stone walls. Thorson goes beneath the surface of the earth to ground nostalgic myths about the regions past by merging science with history to explain a material cultural phenomena and deconstruct the cultural meanings of stone walls that have been built over generations. Superb; a paradigm shifting interdisciplinary work that engages material cultural studies, agricultural history, literature, cultu ...more
Eli Mandel
Nov 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book builds the history of stone walls in New England slowly and carefully.
Starting with the formation of Earth billions of years ago, through the last ice age, into the time of the Pilgrims who first encountered the stones, then to the next generation who moved into privately owned farms on hillsides and had to deforest the land in order to farm it. How and why people built stone walls, why they were eventually abandoned, what effect the walls had on the people building them and what effe
Chris Wolak
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
From the Hadean Eon to present days, this book contains just about everything you didn't know you'd be interested to know about New England's stone walls. You learn about the geology of New England and how the land and its stones both shaped and was shaped by human activity.

I found this book while browsing the used section at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT. As a newbie to New England who lives in an area with lots of stone walls, I've been intrigued by them, now even more so. Even th
Nov 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
I found this book to be well written and very easy to understand. I enjoyed learning about how and why the beautiful rock walls were created in New England. I also learned (remembered) much about the geological make-up of the north east. After reading this book, I have a deeper understanding and appreciation the rock walls I find while walking through the woods or driving down the small country roads of New Hampshire.
Sep 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
I love the stone walls that meander throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic area and, just as I love stumbling upon an old wall during a weekend hike, I love stumbling upon a little treasure of a book when digging around in a bookstore. This one sits on the "keeper" shelf readily available to re-read.
Jan 26, 2008 marked it as to-read
His first book. It has a lot of geology -- a LOT of geology -- but it ridiculously thorough. You can tell he is passionate about his subject, to say the least.
Dec 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: dave, nature, history
This is a very interesting book however the author becomes a bit repetitious and perhaps the subject would have been better handled in an article.
Sep 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Fascinating to learn about the geological and pragmatic reasons why there are so many stone walls in New England.
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
perfect for the new englander or Frost lover. Everything you'd want to know about our wonderful, rolling stone walls.
Mark Molloy
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you are from New England, or just interested in the passage of time, read this book. There's a lot going on in the making, maintenance and decay of a stone wall.
J. D.
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an absorbing natural & secular history of New England stone walls, debunking many myths that have grown around them.
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy learning/reading facts such as easy to read history of New England's topical creation by glaciers, the resulting rocks, why rocks are here, and why fields seem to grow rocks.
Nov 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: geology, history
Great reference list
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Mar 11, 2015
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Mike Weinstein
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James Schmeling
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