It may be a cliché to say that earthquakes do not kill people, buildings do. Yet humankind continues to engineer inappropriate structures and to underestimate seismic risk.
Bruce Bolfe's Earthquakes makes a welcome reappearance. Since it first appeared more than 20 years ago, it has remained probably the best introduction to earthquakes, particularly from a human perspective. This fourth edition is a superb resource: it is immensely readable and has a list of websites so you can check out reports on the net within hours of any major tremor. The book has revamped chapters on faults and plate tectonics and discussions of recent earthquakes. Its great strength lies in showing how a vast range of disparate information can be pulled together to study earthquakes. New methods of studying temblors, such as satellite radar interferometry, sit alongside images of devastation shown in medieval wood cuttings.
This is required reading for all those interested in earth hazards, which ought to include even those of us living well away from active faults. Quite apart from the fact of shared humanity, just think whose pensions are invested in construction projects and underwriting insurance in the cities that sit on the faults.
Rob Butler is reader in orogenic geology, University of Leeds.
Earthquakes. Fourth Edition
Author - Bruce Bolt
ISBN - 0 7167 5040 6 and 3396 X
Publisher - Freeman
Price - £23.95 and £16.95
Pages - 366