Rock solid, but short on colour


May 26, 2006

Petrology (from the Greek " petra ") is the study of rocks, and it remains a core discipline in any undergraduate geology degree. Rocks are classified into three main groups - igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic.

This book, written for the generalist, covers the formation, origin and occurrence of all three.

Its 23 chapters follow a fairly standard format, the first ten dedicated to all things igneous, the next six dealing with sediments (siliciclastics and carbonates), plus soils, and the last seven focusing on metamorphism. The book ends with four appendices that include isotopes in petrology and applications of trace element data, a useful glossary and index. Overall, it is skewed marginally towards igneous petrology.

Unlike many other North American geology texts, it is not accompanied by the ubiquitous CD-Rom nor a dedicated website. Unfortunately, it is also printed in black and white. As most rocks and minerals are identified chiefly by their colour, this could be a drawback for the struggling petrologist, who may be tempted by a glossier competitor text.

On the plus side, the authors have kept pace with many of the latest developments, and the text is still well crafted and easy to read. The summaries and study exercises at the end of each chapter are a useful resource. After nearly 25 years as a basic introduction for first-year undergraduate petrology, the book still holds its own and provides a useful jumping-off point for more advanced study of the three primary rock types.

Nick Petford is professor of earth and planetary sciences, Kingston University.

Petrology: Igneous, Sedimentary, and Metamorphic. Third Edition

Author - Harvey Blatt, Robert. J. Tracy and Brent E. Owens
Publisher - W. H. Freeman
Pages - 530
Price - £52.99
ISBN - 0 7167 3743 4

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