Ye Olde Natural Philosophy Discussion Group

Reviews and comments on
John McPhee: Assembling California [1993]

Many of us felt somewhat conflicted about this book. Kirby deemed it rather schizoid, with some interesting and well written passages but also with many pages filled with names of rocks and minerals and geologic processes that lay people cannot be expected to be familiar with. Rich agreed with that and said that the book sorely needed some pictures of the rocks and minerals it was constantly talking about. Rosie also agreed and remarked that the main things missing in the book are good visuals.

Barbara and Scott liked the book a lot, though they also agreed it really needed more and better illustrations. Barbara was impressed by the story of all the great geological changes that have so drastically altered the globe over the ages.

Scott said the book could use an index, glossary, and many more graphics. A map of the locations and boundaries of the separate terranes which together went to make up California would especially be appreciated. But he very much enjoyed reading about the geology of so many familiar areas of northern California, and felt that the book served to bring him more up to date about some of the newer aspects of plate tectonics. The focus of the book on how "ophiolites" of a deep ocean floor origin have provided so much evidence of what has happened over the eons was especially useful.

Even without good graphics, our group's average rating for this book (on a scale of 0 to 10) was a fairly respectable 6.2. Except for those with some pretty substantial previous knowledge of geology, it would probably be a good idea to read Assembling California with a mineral field guide in the other hand. But if you do that, you will learn a lot and have an enjoyable time doing it.

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