Can You Recommend a Good Petrology Book?

You know those times where your woeful ignorance rises up like someone in a slapstick comedy and smacks you right in the face? Yeah, this is one of those times. Some recent research (having nothing to do with Christianist textbooks – yet) has caused me to again confront the fact I know bugger-all about petrology.

It’s about bloody time I fixed that problem.

So, my darlings, can you recommend to me a good beginner’s book about petrology? Preferably one that gives good coverage to as many types as possible? Hopefully one under $50? Do you have favorite websites, sources and such? Tell me all about them! I promise to give you lovely results. Lockwood and I certainly get around enough to find you some gorgeous examples of petrology in action, and I’ve already got a piece I’m working on that’s all about garnets in rhyolite. Oh, indeed.

Image is a calico cat sleeping on petrology textbooks. Caption says,
Evelyn’s kitteh Samira, being a petrology cat. Caption by Lockwood DeWitt.

Thank you in advance! You know I couldn’t be the science writer I am without you. I never forget it!

Also, have some slapstick comedy. Just because.

Can You Recommend a Good Petrology Book?
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12 thoughts on “Can You Recommend a Good Petrology Book?

  1. 1

    Press & Siever “Understanding Earth” is always great to start something. The “bible” of metamorphic petrology is Frank Spear’s “Metamorphic Phase Equilibria and Pressure-Temperature-Time Paths” As the title suggests, that one is heavy meat, though.

  2. 2

    My first recommendations, before you even try to tackle petrology, and keeping in mind that igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary petrology are very different beasts, are 1) make sure you’ve got your lithology (i.e. rock identification) down solid. 2) Likewise chemistry, especially the dozen or so common rock forming elements. For example, if I say “Iron,” and you aren’t immediately bringing “Valence +2 or +3, ionic radius similar to magnesium,” to mind, a lot of petrology is going to be very slow going. Many people tend to dismiss much of that retained data as inconsequential. “You can just look it up,” they say. Yes, but the second or two it takes to recall memorized info is worth it when you consider it will take literally hundreds of times longer to look it up, not to mention the disruption of smooth, continuous, focused, thought processes. 3) Likewise mineralogy, though for the most part I think it would be safe to limit yourself to the common rock-forming minerals- Bowen’s reaction series plus a few others. But absolutely make sure you understand those as well as you can before plowing forward. 4) Finally, you are going to need a decent understanding of phase diagrams. In my experience, mineralogy texts introduce those, but not well or thoroughly. Petrology texts assume more facility with them on the students’ part than is warranted. Start with ternary diagrams (Sandatlas did some good posts on these; I’ll track them down sooner or later), then work into liquidous-solidous eutectic diagrams. Once you’ve got these with respect to simplified elemental rock compositions, most of petrology with be filling in the blanks- you’ll have the framework for understanding in place. Good luck.

  3. 4

    I lent her a copy of Hurlbut and Klein Mineralogy (After Dana) about a year and a half ago. It was the same edition that I used as an undergrad (1980, if I recall), and as an introductory text, I found it quite satisfactory. Though that edition is dated, I doubt much beyond details has changed, especially at the intro level. I will say, at an advanced level, particularly for petrography, this text would be quite inadequate.

  4. 5

    Here’s one of the posts I was thinking of.
    We haven’t seen any feldspathoids on out trips,as far as I know. They’re a bitch to recognize in the field, and not that much easier in thin section. For the time being, concern yourself with the upper triangle, delineated by QAP. As a primer though, “feldspathoid” means “feldspar-like,” which they very much are (hence the difficulty with ID’s). The foids (for short) are silica deficient: each is basically a variety of feldspar missing one SiO2 from its formula. You can think of the vertical bisector of the diamond-shaped field, from Q to F, as a number line of sorts, ranging from 1 (Q) to -1 (F), with the A to P line (which indicates no uncombined quartz) representing 0.

  5. 6

    I learned ig/met in one class and sed pet in another so I can’t really recommend a single book. My own library is full of mineralogy texts and thin-section identification texts, neither of which you really want. But I’ve passed along the question to my good friend and former thesis advisor, and we’ll see what he comes up with. These things all cost the earth when new, but used copies abound.

  6. 7

    Heh. I rummaged around a bit, and found that I have a copy of the 1977 edition. Probably picked it up from a table of free stuff at a conference. Now I just need to find time to dive into it.

  7. 8

    While this is in no sense a recommendation of the book, I thought I would quote from a textbook I had in a lithology class in 1972 at Michigan State. The book was by L. E. Sprock ” A guide to the study of rocks” dated 1953 (second edition 1962). It is an interesting piece showing the thinking just before plate tectonics reached the scene. I will quote from page 68 on the origin of serpentinte ” The origin of serpentinite is obscure. In several notable occurrences it is distributed along narrow curved belts that may be traced for several hundred miles. The prevalingly low dips of these bodies, together with the regional structure, suggest they have been intruded along thrust planes. “Intruded” is used here in a general sense because these serpentinites, except for their sill like form, are unaccompanied by other igneous phenomena. One opinion holds that the serpentine was forced upward either as a pseudo-plastic solid or as an aggregate of loose mineral grains, generally lubricated by an interstitial liquid”…”More localiz3d and smaller bodies of serpentinite represent perioditite in an advanced state of alteration” So he had it a little bit right.
    Discussions on granite are also interesting from an historical point of view.

  8. 11

    I asked my friend Dave, who teaches petrology, for a recommendation. His reply:

    “The book we’re using in Geology 122 this semester is Petrology, by Blatt, Tracy, and Owens (2006). I think it is by far the best book available, but it’s very expensive. There must be used copies on the market.

    We used a newer book a few years ago: Earth materials, by Hefferan and O’Brien (2010). It has the advantage that it also includes mineralogy, so we used it for both Geol 120 and Geol 122. Ellen didn’t like it for Geol 120, and we prefer Blatt for Geol 122, so we went back to Blatt.

    There are other books, and it would be hard to go wrong with anything fairly current. One thing to note about a book, though, is whether it includes igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks, or just the igneous and metamorphic ones. “

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