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Earth Materials

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Earth Materials
Introduction to Mineralogy and Petrology
By Cornelis Klein and Anthony Philpotts
Cambridge University Press (2013)
ISBN: 978-0-521-14521-3

Reviewed by Richard S. Rodgers - December 24, 2015

I was recently asked if I could recommend an introductory text on mineralogy that was suitable for an interested amateur. While I do not know of any text that would suit someone without any previous knowledge of basic geology or chemistry, I can recommend a text for those with a fundamental grounding in the fore mentions fields. Namely, I recommended Earth Materials: Introduction to Mineralogy and Petrology. Although this is a college level textbook, it can readily be used by a motivated self-learner, and it will greatly enhance your understanding and appreciation of geology and more important, rock and mineral structures.

This book was written by Cornelis Klein and Anthony Philpotts, and it is intended for use in a one-semester course covering both the fundamental of mineralogy and petrology. If you are familiar with Klein's earlier book, The Manual of Mineral Science, and became discouraged using it, never fear. Earth Materials is written in an engaging and less dogmatic style than was Mineral Science. In addition, the newer book includes a copious number of full color illustrations, whereas the older book had only black and white illustrations. [At least, all the pictures where in black and white through the 22nd edition. There is a newer, 23rd edition, but I've not yet seen it.] While the older book is still a useful text for mineralogist, if you are just beginning your foray into this field, go for the newer book. Not only is it more up-to-date in regards to new research and methodologies, but it is also an easier and more understandable read. This is not to say that Earth Materials is a 'dumbed-down' book. Rather the authors simply chose to use a more accessible writing style, the information is more intuitively organized, and it was written specifically as an introductory text.

This book covers a broad range of topics from a general overview of earth systems, how minerals are identified, the basics of crystalline structures and crystallography, the microscopic study of rocks and minerals, and a section on economic minerals. Detailed sections are devoted to igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks and minerals - from how they formed, where they are found, and how they are identified and classified. The authors also look at the juxtaposition of earth materials and human health, from a variety of perspectives ranging from the effect of fertilizers on soil to the dangers posed by tsunamis.

Throughout the text is filled with full-colored graphs, charts, illustrations, and diagrams. While a basic understanding of the fundamentals of geology and chemistry are necessary in order for the reader to most benefit from this text, higher math skills are not required - in fact there is very little math, of any sort, in the book. The text also includes a handy glossary of terms, and each chapter ends with a chapter summary and a selection of review questions that will help reinforce the information learned in a given chapter, and to help you pinpoint those areas that you need to review. A list of online resources is also included with each chapter. The book also includes a link from which you can download a CrystalViewer. This handy program allows you to view 3-D illustrations of various crystal structures.

Earth Materials is a great book for both students and motivated rock-hounds. It will greatly increase your understanding of rock and mineral structures. Most important, it will help you identify the various rocks and minerals that you might come across, and to get a better understanding where you might find specific types of rocks. For working geologists, this book will also serve as an excellent reference book - as well as a refresher course on basic mineralogy. In short, this is an excellent textbook that is sure to become a textbook classic.


Related Reviews:

Chemical Fundamentals of Geology and Environmental Geoscience, 3e, by Robin Gill.
This introductory chemistry book focuses upon those elements of chemistry that are most relevant to the study of geology and environmental geoscience. It assumes no prior background in chemistry and it is suited for use in the classroom and as a refresher course for more mature students.

Introduction to Radioactive Minerals, by Robert Lauf.
Focusing on uranium and thorium, this book provides an excellent introduction to radioactive minerals, including how they are formed, mined, and used. It also provides advice on how and where you can collect them.


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