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The Hidden Landscape: A Journey into the Geological Past Paperback – 4 Feb 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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  • The Geology of Britain
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  • Geological Map of the British Islands - An overview of the bedrock geology of the whole British Isles on a single poster-sized sheet
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head (4 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847920713
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847920713
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 2.4 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 173,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A superbly exciting work of popular scientific writing" (AN Wilson The Financial Times)

"A very well written book about geology and geological history" (Sir David Attenborough, The Times)

"We have a new classic... this is popular science at its best; it's beautifully written, constantly witty and excellently illustrated." (Financial Times)

"Imbued with its author's deep sensitivity to shifting atmospheres, his overwhelming passion for England, Wales and Scotland as living bodies pulsing, breathing, twitching beneath our feet, and his contagiously personal view of his subject." (Jonathan Keates Observer)

Book Description

An updated edition of the classic book about Britain's geology, by the bestselling author of Life: An Unauthorised Biography and Dry Store Room No. 1.

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By A Customer on 23 Jun. 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is quite simply one of the best books I've ever read. The book explains why the landscape of Britain is the way it is, and also talks a bit about the different sorts of plants that grow in different areas. The book relates scenery to the underlying geology, and explains how Britain has evolved. I'd have liked more colour photographs, but that presumably would have made the price soar. It is accessible to anyone; background in geology isn't necessary to enjoy this wonderful book.
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By J. Charlesworth VINE VOICE on 25 Mar. 2004
Format: Paperback
Quite simply one of the most engaging books on geology I've read. Fortey's prose is memorable and scattered with analogies & anecdotes which make the science memorable, and accessible. I've always been interested in geology, but never made an effort to pursue it, other than picking up rocks, and learning the very basics. The Hidden Landscape takes the reader into the field, and clearly describes what the rocks are and why they matter. It contains enough science not to be boring to those with some knowledge [I did a paleontology course at university that covered basic geology], but is clear enough not to baffle those with none.
While this book is enjoyable to read all the way through, it's also useful to return to as a reference.
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Once again Richard Fortey has managed to bring to the public one of the best and most easily read books of this type. His way of relating the geology to his own experiences is unsurpassed. It is one of those few books on geology and geomorphology which can you can go back to time and time again without it becoming stale. Novices and experts alike will learn something of the British landscape from this book. A must for any one interested in the make up of Britain.
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Whether or not you have a background in geology this book will add a new dimension to your appreciation of the British countryside and the English Language. In one passage he describes Knockan Cliff, an unassuming crag in the lonely wilderness of Assynt, where the collision of two ancient continents 400 million years ago is recorded along a single rock surface which you can put your hand on if you know where to look :
"there is something about the Moine Thrust that is almost poetry. What could be more dramatic than the grind of rock against rock beneath the terrible grip of a vanished mountain range? And who could doubt that to see upon the ground the vestiges of a distant past adds to the richness of our experience of the present? There is an exquisite irony that sheep, the most nervous of animals, now peacefully graze slopes where continents came to rest. We may see only the ooze of a small, rush-rimmed spring to mark where rocks of unlike type came to lie one upon the other. The subtle differences in (drainage) of the rocks recognise the truth, where the ignorant walker could pass by enlightened, and the wind blows in the cotton grass as if none of this had ever been."
Thomas Hardy would have been proud.
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This is a fascinating book and a joy to read BUT it needs a knowledge of geology to follow it as there are almost no diagrams. Many of the photos are beautiful but did not explain the geology to me. For the student of geology it must be an exciting and interesting read explaining geology and landscape of Britain. However, for the beginner it needs to be complemented by a book such as Peter Toghill's "The Geology of Britain"The Geology of Britain. With the diagrams Fortey's book would be 5+ stars. For the amateur it's worth the effort to read both books together.
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Having also got Peter Toghill's superb The Geology of Britain, there is an interesting contrast between the two books.

"The Hidden Landscape" is a wonderful, poetic journey through the time and place (Geology and Geography) of Britain, from the earliest rocks in the far north-west, down to the youngest rocks - rather conveniently located in the south-east. Along the way we are treated to the author's gentle humour, and many vignettes of places he has visited (with a curious emphasis on pubs?). I learnt a lot from this book (which I read first) but was a bit frustrated by descriptions of places (and interesting rock formations) that were left to my imagination. This is OK for poetry or fiction - but perhaps not for a science book.

I then found "The Geology of Britain" - which may not be as poetic or redolent of the glories of Britain, but does have lots (and LOTS) of photographs. Pretty much everywhere that frustrated me in The Hidden Landscape with its invisibility is pictured in this second book.

So I recommend this book (The Hidden Landscape) but also suggest you try The Geology of Britain - more science and more photographs.
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Another great book by Richard Fortey. It was published in 1993, but this edition adds photos and other illustrations. A classic when first published, and a classic now
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For me this is a delicious book which I read with enjoyment.

This book, focusing on England, Scotland, and Wales with a bit of Ireland, is a little like a Historical Geology text, but it is different. First it is a personal text written almost like a memoir. Second, although it is organized stratigraphically, that is, beginning with the oldest rocks and finishing with the youngest, the information is tied to landscape rather than to modern stratigraphic nomenclature. And, landscape here means not just rocks but plants, architectural building materials, roads, water, walks, and more and more.

Attempting to think of an American equivalent to this book, and the nearest I can come is something like a mixture of C. B. Hunt's Physiography of the United States and something written by Ann Zwinger. It is possible that for students this might be better (more interesting) than a typical Historical Geology text.

Fortey states that: "Instead, what I want to explore are the connections between geology and landscape." (page 1). It seems to me that Fortey chose what to include in the text by choosing his favorite "connections" and then stringing the most interesting "connections" together into historical sequence. "This is a book about connections between geology, natural history and ourselves." (page 14). He has something here which may help us learn and enjoy the vast factual detail that goes with landscape and geology: "Somehow, the enjoyment of the trick is more satisfying than the the explanation." (page 1). His connections that have irony or represent a paradox seem to give him and the reader special delight. Part of his theme is: "Much of the character of our country is governed by its geology, and determined by the rocks." (page 13).
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