on 8 October 2003
As a first year geography student, I was recommended to buy this book by my lecturers. My first thought was that it would be dense, waffley text, and of little interest. However, I was very wrong! The 'Earth Story' is a fascinating book (based on the BBC TV series of the same name), covering billions of years of the Earth's history, and answering those questions like how the Earth was formed, how our climate is carefully controlled by the location of the continents and what triggers ice ages. The text is easy to understand, and broken up by some truly amazing photographs from around the globe (and from outside the globe!), making this book an excellent purchase for anyone - you don't need to be a student to buy this book, but simply have an interest in the amazing planet we live on! A must buy!!!
on 30 May 2001
Having followed the series on television, which was very interesting, I immediately went out to buy this book, which turned out to be even better. It gives really good detail on all areas, yet everything is explained so clearly that it makes no difference how much or how little you know about the topic. As a university geography student I find this book extremely useful for references and basic explanations, or simply for reading out of interest. If you're any way interested in anything to do with geography, geology, or simply knowing about our planet, this book is the one to read! Excellent!
on 5 April 2001
I'm not a geologist, but I'm finding this book riveting (about 1/2 way through at the moment).
Loosely following the TV programme, it adds more detail, lots of clear diagrams and drawings, and lucid text.
Each chapter is on a separate topic, which makes it well suited to reading over an extended period, and though there are certainly links between the chapters, they are almost self contained, so you dont have to remember all the details of the previous ones. I'd say this is the best book I have bought for quite a while.
on 11 February 1999
'Earth Story' has been published in conjunction with the excellent television series of the same name but I was glad to see that it did not merely repeat the text of the series. It deals lucidly with the complex processes which shape the Earth, is lavishly and stunningly illustrated and has many helpful insets summarising the issues. I studied geology in school twenty years ago and was astonished at how far the science had advanced and how much had been discovered in the interval. The chapter on ice ages and climate change is particularly interesting and throws worries about global warming into perspective. This book is a must for anyone interested in the landscape around them and the wider environment.
In 1998, when this book was published, Simon Lamb was a lecturer in earth sciences at Oxford University and David Sington was the producer of the TV series to which this book was linked. The book comprises an introduction and eight chapters. It operates quite separately to the TV series (available on DVD), following an alternative but by-and-large parallel path.
In his three-page introduction, Sington wrote, “in this book … we contend that it is not merely coincidence that the planet which, uniquely, harbours life is a place of ceaseless geological change … ‘Earth Story’ explores the emerging scientific realization that only a planet which is geologically active can sustain life …”, implying that if all the volcanic activity ceased, then life on Earth would end. If right, then this leads to “an astonishing conclusion. Without water there would be no life, but without life there would be no water, and without water there would be no plate tectonics; and so the earth’s geological and biological activity have been inextricably linked throughout its long history. (Those thinking that this theory has certain resonances might be surprised to find that neither ‘Lovelock’ nor ‘Gaia’ appear in the books index.)
What follows is only the briefest of outlines of the contents of each of the eight chapters to show the journey of the authors’ narrative. The first chapter is a summary of the history of geology and how rocks can be dated; the second sets out Wegener’s theory of continental drift, ending with evidence of how life exists even in the underwater vents of the mid-Atlantic ridge.
Chapter three uses the Pacific to explain oceanic plate subduction and hence confirms the theory of plate tectonics. The reader journeys to the centre of the Earth in chapter four, focussing on plumes in its mantle that energise Earth movements. ‘The Flow of Continents’ is the title of the fifth chapter, continents which “are like a slab of soft toffee.” The fluid nature of mountain-building is explained with contrasting examples culled from Alaska, New Zealand, and Tibet.
The Ice Age, or rather ice ages, are the subject of chapter six, which looks at how the earth’s climate has changed over geological time and exploring its causes. The final chapter attempts to link the development of life on Earth with geological events that have affected climate and the chemical composition of the land and of the atmosphere. ‘A World Apart’ is the title of the last chapter, where the authors consider other planets with solid cores in the Solar System (Mercury, Venus, Mars) and asks why Earth is unique in having life. The conclusion is that the presence of liquid water is vital to creating and maintaining life as well as maintaining the geological processes that keeps the planet relatively stable.
I cannot claim to have understood it all, but if the text sometimes becomes too dry or difficult to follow, throughout the book there are plenty of explanatory diagrams in colour, many spread across two pages. No doubt, research since the publication of this book in 1998 has expanded the horizons of geologists and life-scientists since then, but as a basic modern introduction to the subject, this volume might be a good option.