on 3 May 2011
`Does exactly what it says on the tin': provides a very short introduction to the earth. That is almost exclusively the earth beneath our feet. Although the first chapter gives an insight, the book does not devote much attention to our earth as a planet, or to the dynamics of our atmosphere and oceans. In fact in my view the author cites but fails to explain one or two atmospheric phenomena - most irritatingly that under the heading `Hot Air'. Of course he can't do a lot with only 130 small pages at his disposal.
However, his description of the earth below us is very interesting, with a good balance of fundamentals, intriguing detail and current theories. His dual analogies of flow in old stained glass windows and of lava lamps to describe convection cells in the mantle are clear & memorable.
Some history of the earth, geological timescale and periods are described, as are the radio-isotopic techniques for dating. But the real emphasis and strength of the book is in his descriptions of the core, the mantle, tectonic plates, their movement and the consequences - earthquakes & volcanoes. For this, it is well worth buying: 4 stars in my view!
If you want a broader introduction, including our earth as a planet and the dynamics of our atmosphere and oceans, buy The Rough Guide to the Earth, by Martin Ince - also a very good read.
I've been reading these very short introductions for years, and I am still really impressed with the quality of writing and the insights that these small books provide. This introduction to the planet Earth is no exception. It is a book largely dedicated to Earth's geology, but it also covers many other aspects of what makes this planet of ours so unique. The book is written in an accessible and easy to follow style. Some of the earlier chapters are suitable even for the bright middle school pupils. I was always particularly interested in the whole subject of plate tectonics, and this book provides a very interesting coverage of that topic. Plate tectonics is far more important for the possibility of life on Earth than most people realize. If our planet were much hotter (like Venus) or colder (Mars) the plate tectonics would not be possible, and without it neither would the complex life of which we are one part.
This is a very readable and interesting book that will kindle - or rekindle - your interest in the big picture of our planet. Highly recommended.