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Geology for Dummies

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Geology for Dummies
By Alecia M. Spooner
John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (2011)
ISBN: 978-1-118-02152-1

Reviewed by Boris Segel - April 10, 2015

The 'for Dummies' books have an unfortunate name, but don't let that keep you from taking a gander at Geology for Dummies, by Alecia M. Spooner. This book is definitely not for dummies. Rather, it is a book for anyone with an inquisitive mind who is interested in learning the fundamentals of physical geology. It is also, in my estimation, the best 'dummies' book that I've ever come across, and I've read quite a few!

Geology for Dummies can be used as an able introduction to physical geology for anyone interested in learning about the earth and the earth's process. A prior scientific background is not required to understand this text. Topics covered are those that you will find in almost any undergraduate 101 level basic geology or physical geology course. Much of the information presented in this text is also applicable in several other disciplines including environmental science and physical science courses. Topics covered in Geology for Dummies include the scientific method, the development of modern geology, the study of rocks & minerals, plate tectonics, the rock cycle, geologic time, how fossils develop, and much more.

The information in this text is organized into six parts. There is also a short introductory section. In part two: Elements, Minerals, and Rocks, Spooner explains how minerals are the building blocks of rocks and how to identify the component minerals in a rock via a variety of characteristic. She details what igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks are and how they are formed. She explains the rock cycle and how rocks can change over time. In addition to this plethora of information, she also provide a concise and thorough understandable overview of atoms and atomic structure as part of her lead-in to chemical bonding - a topic that is essential for anyone seeking to understanding how minerals and rocks form and interact. Other topics such as the ins-and-outs of plate tectonics and surface processes such as mass wasting, erosion from both water and wind, glaciers, and shoreline processes are reviewed in equal detail.

Geology for Dummies can be used as a stand-alone text, or as a review or study guide text to be used in conjunction with a traditional geology textbook being used in advance placement or college level courses. Her explanation of earthquakes, what causes them and how they are measured, is eloquent in its simplicity. If most textbooks were written with the same degree of clarity as this, many more students would flock to the sciences! Throughout, figures are included that help to elucidate the text, and a nice selection of color illustrations and plates can be found in the center of the book. In addition, Spooner offers tips that will help you to prepare for geology exams or which will help you gauge how well you understand the material you have studied. Check lists with important information and vocabulary you need to know are also provided.

Spooner is an Associate Professor of Earth Science at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. In Geology for Dummies, her writing is energetic and engaging. Throughout she strives for clarity. Technical terms and scientific jargon are explained, and she does not talk down to the reader by simplifying these terms. Rather she explains what they mean, how they are used, and then she uses the correct terms at the appropriate time - but she does this without making the text pedantic or complicated. In addition, while you will find some elements of humor in the book, these forays into humor do not distract from the main text.

If you've never studied geology before, are simply looking for a review of the basics, or need a study guide to help you with an introductory geology course - this is the book for you. Geology for Dummies will serve the needs of independent-learners and traditional students alike, who are looking for a solid overview of the fundamentals of geology presented in a friendly and understandable style. Best of all, this is simply a fun book to read!

On a side note: For those planning on only taking only one geology course, that course is usually in physical geology. In most cases it will not cover fossils, or if it does, it will be only a brief introduction. For a more detailed overview of fossils, you have to wait until you take a course in Historical Geology. If, however, you are only planning on taking one course, this is unlikely to happen. Therefore, you'll be pleased to discover that Spooner offers a very nice introduction to fossils, including how and when they were formed, a glimpse at the various types that abound, and in what types of rocks they might be found. This introduction, like the rest of the book can be used as a springboard to further study and exploration in the exciting field of geological science.

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