Friday, February 8, 2008

Reading list suggestions?

I've got this gift certificate from Amazon that I received for Christmas. I should use it before I lose it (literally). I'm looking for suggestions of good books to read - especially anything about geology/general science/environmental stuff/feminism & science. (I'm also looking for suggestions of movies with spectacular scenery - for example, one of my favorite movies is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which I love especially for its landscapes.)

I'm planning to get Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which was recommended to me by several friends at GSA. (And I've read McPhee. Love it, own Annals of the Former World in two versions per essay, and use The Control of Nature and Assembling California regularly in classes.)

Anything you've found lately that is engaging, thought-provoking, and a pleasure to read? (Or, for that matter, do you have a favorite classic popular science book? There's a lot that I haven't read.)

13 comments:

MJC Rocks said...

I don't know if you have run into Sarah Andrews at GSA conference book-signings, or Susan Cummings Miller, but if you haven't heard of them, they both have some fun murder mystery series that include women geologists as the protagonists. I have enjoyed both series, and I just love knowing some of the localities and insights that are parts of the plots.

I like Tony Hillerman novels a lot, because of the sense of place, which is all the more special since I only occasionally get to see the Four Corners region. As a Durango resident, maybe that doesn't necessarily appeal to you so much since you live right there!

A science-related book that I really enjoyed was The Wild Trees by Richard Preston. It is about researchers in the Redwood Forests of northern California, who study the bizarre ecosystems that exist 300 feet above the forest floor.

Two of my other favorites are Nevada Barr and Jessica Speart. Nevada's protagonist works for the National Park Service, and Jessica's for the Fish and Wildlife Service. Once again, the scenery is often as much a part of the story as the plot line.

It's funny you should post about book-buying...I just walked in the door after spending my gift certificates at Barnes and Noble. Picked up the latest Janet Evanovich, and a Michael McGarrity novel.

Happy hunting!

BrianR said...

"Geo-Logic" by Frodeman ... short, philosophy-rich book about earth and environmental sciences

Ron Schott said...

First, buy any John McPhee you haven't already read.

It's really much more geography- than geology-focused, but I'd recommend Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. Many have criticized Diamond's thesis, but I found the book to be both interesting and thought provoking.

In the realm of geology I can recommend Naomi Oreskes' The Rejection of Continental Drift, which might be well paired with Walter Alvarez' T. Rex and the Crater of Doom for their insights on the practice of the science of geology.

Wallace Stegner's Beyond the Hundredth Meridian was excellent and may have a regional appeal for you, as might Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert.

A fascinating biography would be Alan Cutler's The Seashell on the Mountaintop about Nicholas Steno - who knew he was almost sainted by the Roman Catholic Church?

And finally (for books), although I already knew most of the story before I opened it, Dick Thompson's Volcano Cowboys was nevertheless an exciting and interesting page turner.

In terms of scenery in the movies you can't go wrong with a good Western - I'm quite partial to True Grit, which was shot (in part) up in the San Juans.

For one set in the eastern US you could do a whole lot worse than The Last of the Mohicans.

And the award for the most spectaular cinematography of deserts in a motion picture goes to Lawrence of Arabia.

Have I spent your gift certificate yet?

Chuck said...

I found a short history to be extremely boring, especially compared to his earlier travel books. So maybe try Ron's list?

Callan Bentley said...

How about the gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? It's available on Amazon. Haven't read it myself, but it's getting good reviews.

On the same evolutionary beat, the best book I read in the past four years is Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale. Absolutely amazing -- a trek to the last common ancestor of everything that's alive on our planet today, with hundreds of mind-blowing evolutionary lessons along the way.

Maria said...

I have been wanting to read Naomi Oreskes' books for ages, but of course haven't yet.

Walter Alvarez has a new book out on the geology and history of Italy, looks like it's available for preorder.

Have you seen Himalaya? It's gorgeous.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles has spectacular scenery in it.

Silver Fox said...

I've been reading "The Map that Changed the World" by Simon Winchester, which is about the first geologic map made - William Smith's map of England in 1815. And I'm looking forward to checking on some in Ron Schott's list that I haven't read.

Elli said...

I've heard Jared Diamond speak and have read Guns--I would definitely recommend it. He has some very interesting ways of looking at old problems in new ways that at least encourage discussion and critical thinking.

And I'm still reading John McPhee due to your influence :)

Kim said...

Thanks, everyone! Out of the geology possibilities, I decided to get Beyond the Hundredth Meridian - I've read Cadillac Desert, and I've vaguely known of Stegner's work, but I've never read any of it.

I'm probably going to get Oreskes' book on my own - since I teach plate tectonics, I can justify deducting that one from my taxes. (And I'd never heard of Himalaya. I would like to see that, too.)

I should bookmark this, or come up with a good tag so that I can remember this entire list next time I'm in a city with a major bookstore.

KC said...

Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee have co-written Rare Earth (which combines brief overviews of geology, paleotonology, and astrobiology into a unifying theme) and The Life and Death and Planet Earth (a look into the future geological and biological evolution of the Earth until the Sun's death) which are both highly recommended.

I also found Neil Shubin's recent Your Inner Fish a decent read - great for the layman like myself, but perhaps a bit 'light' for paleos or biologists.

Maja said...

The Riverworld Sagas by Phillip Jose Farmer. Awesome series.

Ed Warren said...

Riverworld Sagas are poorly written as far as I am concerned. They do not hold a candle to the Ringworld or Ender's Game series
Ed Warren