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Deciphering Earth’s History: the Practice of Stratigraphy

12 June 2023

This is a welcome first book in a new series from the Geological Society: Geoscience in Practice. It is an excellent guide to the various methods of stratigraphy, combining and discussing both “traditional” and more recent and innovative disciplines that are available in the armoury of geologists. The quality of the text, step-by-step approach to the various techniques, and multitude of diagrams and flow charts make this an easy-to-read reference guide. The diagrams are produced at a good size and are therefore accessible to all. This is a useful tool for everyone, whether an undergraduate or a professional practitioner. 

The book does not shy away from discussing the relative merits and limitations of the various techniques and this means that the reader is able to develop their understanding. Certainly for me it has proven beneficial as a tool in my teaching, allowing me to discuss with much more clarity the different methods available to the modern geologist. At the end of each chapter is a useful set of references for further reading that allow the reader to delve into particular topics in more detail if the reader so wishes. Online resources are also helpfully available, which means that one can practice some of the techniques and develop skills.  

This is an excellent textbook, which is very well organised and excellently conceived. It is very reminiscent of Open University texts that are engaging and accessible to a wide readership. Helpfully, key vocabulary and definitions are dealt with at appropriate points in the chapters, in the form of explanations in the margins. The thought that has been put into the layout of the book and the clearly delineated case studies mean that it is something that will be used and accessed frequently. If this is a foretaste of other books in the series, then it is an excellent advertisement. I particularly enjoyed and have made use of the final chapter, where techniques have been applied to planetary surfaces.  

I have already used this textbook to help me develop my teaching resources and have it as a readily accessible reference in my classroom, to help not only with my future planning, but also as a tool for developing materials that will allow me to stretch my students. This is an excellent example of how to make science readily accessible and deserves the very widest readership. 

Reviewed by Gordon Neighbour 



BY: Angela L. Coe (2022). Geological Society of London. 349 pp. (pbk). 

ISBN: 978-1-78620-574-2 

PRICE: £45.00 www.geolsoc.org.uk