Tomes 2010: A Mere Quartet

I’ve been reading a lot lately, I promise, but it’s just that I’ve been dipping into many books at once, sampling here and there, and so I haven’t got as many completely read as usual.  I’m on the verge of finishing a few more, so I figured I’d best get these out there before we ended up with a monster book dump.

Geology Underfoot in Illinois

This book actually depressed me horribly, but that’s not a strike against it.  Everything about the Midwest (Chicago excepted) depresses me horribly.  I was born a Hoosier, but I just can’t live there.  This book reinforced that: the author talks about relief of 120 feet as if it’s amazing.

That’s just a wee bit pathetic.

However, that doesn’t mean that Illinois doesn’t have interesting geology, and this book points out quite a lot of it, including places I’d be happy to see.  There’s plenty o’ continental glacial landforms to peruse, some utterly delicious rock formations created by inland seas, and I’ve got to see Bell Smith Springs before I die.  That’s old-home stuff – I cut my teeth on sandstone landforms.

This book made me feel marginally better about the Midwest.  Perhaps my visit to my dear old mother won’t be unmitigated hell after all….

The Street-Smart Naturalist: Field Notes From Seattle

You know what, it’s hard to praise this book enough.  I loved and respected Seattle before I read it.  I understood, loved and respected Seattle afterward.  And now I know “it rains a mere 11 percent of the time.”

After reading this book, I have a better relationship with the neighborhood crows.  I don’t mind goose shit as much.  I know where to go downtown for a good round of geology as revealed in the buildings.  I’m planning a field trip for next summer to follow the glacial erratics.  I’ve got a handle on the invasive vs. native species.  And I’m more conversant with our local fault.  Few books can immerse you in the natural world contained within your city; fewer can do it with David’s silken-smooth prose.  If you want to know Seattle, buy this book.  Carry it with you when you come visit.  And then open yourself to the natural wonders you might be able to find right in your very own city.

Natural Grace: The Charm, Wonder, & Lessons of Pacific Northwest Animals and Plants

I bought this at B&N along with The Street-Smart Naturalist, figuring they made a perfect pair, and do they!  I’m normally not that interested in babblings about plants and animals that look like nothing more than groovy granola musings on how majestic the natural world is, maaan, but this book had one particular selling point: its opening line.  Observe:

“You animal, you.”

I fell in immediate love, and unlike most romances, this one survived its first young blush.  I read it as a follow-up to The Street-Smart Naturalist, and it proved the perfect compliment.  It expands the scope to the whole of the Northwest, taking us all the way from the most taken-for-granted animals round here (learned a lot about jellyfish and deer, f’rinstance), through dirt (which deserves more respect), up through geology, the tides, and killer whales.

After reading these two books, I’ll never see the Northwest in the same way again.  Especially not now that I can tell the difference between various trees.  They compliment each other with their knowledge, wisdom and humor.  Both are elegantly written, but not pretentious, and worth every instant I spent with them.

Beyond the Moon: A Conversational, Common Sense Guide to Understanding the Tides

The tides are a mystery to me.  They go in, they go out, I look at a tide table to understand when and where and how much.  I knew the moon and, to a lesser degree, the sun had something to do with it.  Suspected geography might as well.  Didn’t know jack diddly about how this stuff actually worked.

Well, thanks to this book, I know a bit more now.  I can kinda sorta explain why there’s only one high tide in the Gulf of Mexico, and why the Bay of Fundy has 50ft tides whereas many places only have 3-6ft.  I know the factors taken into account when making tide tables, how different bits interact, and why the Pacific Coast tides are so damned weird.  My city even makes a special guest appearance!

This is a book written by a (former) amateur for amateurs – James McCully isn’t a scientist, but he practically became one in writing this book.  And he gets definite kudos for this paragraph I marked out:

When people say, “Ignorance is bliss,” they mean the ignorance that is oblivious to the problem.  There is another kind of ignorance.  Once you become aware that you are ignorant, it is anything but blissful.

True, dat!

There are a few things in the writing style that grate, but overall, this is a good introduction to how tides work, and you’ll be less ignorant for having read it, which is a different kind of bliss.

And that’s it.  That’s all I’ve got – for now.

Tomes 2010: A Mere Quartet

3 thoughts on “Tomes 2010: A Mere Quartet

  1. 2

    Hmmm, going to have to get the Illinois book, even though I totally get what you're saying about "Wow! 120 feet!" I have to work hard to find this state very interesting.Years ago when I moved to East Tennessee the locals proudly pointed to "Buffalo Mountain". Yes, that bump was a bit bigger than the other bumps. It'd only been two years since leaving Washington State, you see.

  2. 3

    In you discussions you don't say if you are going north of Indianpolis or South. North with very few exceptions everthing is glacial till or lake deposits and the like. Its flat to rolling in moraine country. South of Indianapolis is a very different story, you have rocks, including the Bedford Limestone around Bedford, Rocks are exposed in places such as the falls of the Ohio at Jeffersonville (from an IN point of view, its really Lousiville). If in the Se you also can get to the edge of the Cumberland plateau in N Ky. Il has about the same variety althought S IL is Coal country, like SW In.

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