From the acclaimed author of Life and Trilobite!, a fascinating
geological exploration of the earth's distant history as revealed by its natural
The face of the earth, crisscrossed by chains of mountains like the scars of old wounds, has changed and changed again over billions of years, and the testament of the remote past is all around us. In this book Richard Fortey teaches us how to read its character, laying out the dominions of the world before us. He shows how human culture and natural historyeven the shape of citiesare rooted in this deep geological past.
In search of this past, Fortey takes us through the Alps, into Icelandic hot springs, down to the ocean floor, over the barren rocks of Newfoundland, into the lush ecosystems of Hawai'i, across the salt flats of Oman, and along the San Andreas Fault. On the slopes of Vesuvius, he tracks the history of the region down through the centuries to volcanic eruptions seen by fifteenth-century Italians, the Romans, and, from striking geological evidence, even Neolithic man. As story adds to story, the recent past connects with forgotten ages long ago, then much longer ago, as he describes the movement of plates and the development of ancient continents and seas. Nothing in this book is at rest. The surface of the earth dilates and collapses; seas and mountains rise and fall; continents move.
Fortey again proves himself the ideal guide, with his superb descriptions of natural beauty, his gripping narratives, and his crystal-clear, always fascinating scientific explanations.
Here is a book to change the way we see the world.
Up and Down
It should be difficult to lose a mountain, but it happens all the time
around the Bay of Naples. Mount Vesuvius slips in and out of view,
sometimes looming, at other times barely visible above the lemon groves.
In parts of Naples, all you see are lines of washing draped from the
balconies of peeling tenements or hastily constructed apartment blocks:
the mountain has apparently vanished. You can understand how it might be
possible to live life in that city only half aware of the volcano on
whose slopes your home is constructed, and whose whim might control your
As you drive eastwards from the centre of the city, the packed streets give way to a chaotic patchwork of anonymous buildings, small factories, and ugly housing on three or four floors. The road traffic is relentless. Yet ...
"It should be difficult to lose a mountain, but it happens all the time around the Bay of Naples." Thus Fortey begins Earth: An Intimate History, described by reviewers as 'a tale of high drama', 'a treasure-house of mind-expanding lore', 'enthralling', 'a dazzling voyage of discovery' - and that's just a small taste of the glowing praise for Fortey, whom the Economist describes as 'the Raymond Chandler of science writing' and then goes on to say, 'his prose is angelic, his phrases well-turned. . . . And though Earth is no murder story, it is a mystery book and, in its own way, a thriller.'
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (286 words).
Richard Fortey is a senior paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London. Life was short-listed for the Rhône-Poulenc Prize in 1998, Trilobite! was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2001, and The Hidden Landscape was awarded the Natural World Book of the Year in 1993. He was Collier Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Technology at the Institute of Advanced Studies in 2002 and is now a Fellow of the Royal Society.
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