Visualizing Geology, 4th Edition
Binder Ready Version (Visualizing Series)
By Barbara W. Murck and Brian J. Skinner
Reviewed by Boris Segel - January 29, 2016
Visualizing Geology, 4e is a textbook geared toward non-science majors and those just beginning to explore the fundamentals of geology and earth system science. This text is designed for the needs of visual learners and it is chock full of pictures and illustrations, charts, figures, maps, and other visual images that help to expand upon the book's text. There are also many online resources aligned with the text that will help students to expand upon their knowledge of the basics of geology.
I hate to use the words 'dumbed down', but this book provides only a basic and perfunctory overview of the earth systems. This, however, is an ongoing problem with many introductory geology books that tend to treat geology almost as if it was not a science - but that is a beef I might write about on another day. As it is, this book does not presuppose that the reader has had any previous science training, nor do you need any math skills to successfully work through this text. However, by the time you complete this book you will have gained a working vocabulary of 'geology' related words and terms and you will have a solid, even if it is only rudimentary, understanding of the fundamentals of geology including such essential topics as plate tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes, rocks & minerals, erosion, hydrology, and essential earth systems ranging from the atmosphere to deserts are also covered, and much more.
Because of the basic nature of this book, it is indeed ideal for use by non-science majors, and for those just dipping their toes into the wonderful world of geology. For those planning to major in geology or a related field, I would recommend that you take an introductory geology class that is a bit more rigorous than one that uses this book as its primary text. However, if you are in such a class, and you are having trouble understanding any of the topics that are being covered - or if you need to get up to speed before taking an introductory geology course geared toward science or engineering students - this book makes an excellent supplementary text or study guide. Best of all, if you are a visual learner, you will get to 'see' what you are studying in greater detail with this book than with most others. High school students interested in geology, or earth systems, will also find this book of value.
While I wish that the explanations in the text went into greater detail, I love the pictures in this book. The old saying that "... sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words" is absolutely true. Seeing a picture of a geological feature or representation of the various fault structures can greatly enhance your understanding of a particular topic, over just reading about it, and for this reason alone I highly recommend this as a supplemental text, or even as a unique coffee table book.
Visualizing Geology has gone through several editions, with the latest being the fourth edition, which is available both as a 'binder ready' version and as an eBook. If you are a student and need this book for class, be prepared to shell out some big bucks. The binder edition appears to cost more than US$130, and the eBook about half that. If your school also requires that you have access to the WileyPLUS version of this text, which includes online exercises and more, you can plan on shelling out another US$75 or more! If you don't need this book for class, or don't need the current edition, you are in luck as the older editions are much, much cheaper. Best of all, from what I can tell after giving the first and fourth editions a quick once over, not a whole lot has changed between versions except for some superficial additions. Now, it might be, that if I spent a great deal of time comparing the two books I might find some real differences, but since my interest in this book was primarily the pictures, I see nothing wrong with an older, and cheaper edition, if it will meet your needs!
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