Walter Alvarez, T. rex and the Crater of Doom, Princeton U. Press, 1997. Story of the discovery of the buried impact crater in the Yucatan Peninsula for a six-mile-wide rock that hit there 65 m.y. ago, that sent out a tsunami wave a half-mile tall all over the Atlantic Ocean that overtopped the British Isles and even flooded mid-continent North America and Finland. Alvarez studied the problem alongside his father Luis (A-bomb physicist), and makes the case for the event causing a major mass extinction, including all dinosaurs. New work since then also clearly implicates massive volcanism of the Laramide orogeny, even though there was a likely second impactor four times the size that struck westernmost India - not mentioned in this account. What a story!
Amir D. Aczel, Pendulum: Leon Foucault and the triumph of science, Atria Books, (undated?). If you want a supreme problem in science, try unraveling Mach's principle - how Foucault's pendulum swing cycles are tuned to the outer edge of the universe. I love BIG problems, another being why mirrors reverse images left-to-right but not top-to-bottom. It's not as simple as it seems according to my favored physics professor.
Ron Blakey and Wayne Ranney, 'Geological History of the Colorado Plateau,' published by Grand Canyon Natural History Association, ~2005. A long series of computer-drawn paleo-geographical maps showing the development of the greater Southwest and continental drift positions through time. Accompanying text. Very good to see the changes the land has undergone.
David Darling, Life Everywhere, Basic Books (Perseus), 2001. His thoughts on the universality of life, by a self-proclaimed student of the 'maverick science of astrobiology.'
W. Scott Baldridge, Geology of the American Southwest, Cambridge U. Press, 2004. A more erudite geo-history of the region with photos and diagrams, meant for the more serious student. Has a few items I didn't know.
T. Scott Bryan, Arizona Rocks! - a guide to geologic sites in the Grand Canyon state, Mountain Press Publishers, 2013. Describes 44 sites of general geological interest and viewable from highways and roads, with drawings and photos. A fun-reading and informative short guide.
Halka Chronic, Roadside Geology of Arizona, Mountain Press Publishers, 1983. A roadlog of several major highways of the state, and a geologic summary of the geology, with photos and illustrations. Pretty good, with two people in the car, the driver watching the road. Lots of names of formations. Other Roadside books for other states are similar. Her New Mexico treatment in the same series is dated 1987.
Susan M. DuBois and Ann W. Smith, The 1887 Earthquake in San Bernardino Valley: historic accounts and intensity patterns in Arizona. State of Arizona, Arizona Geological Survey special paper # 3, 1980. Description of the last major quake felt across Arizona (and into California), epicenter south of Douglas in the northern Sierra Madre, on 3 May 1887, 2:30 PM, M=7.4. 51 people died in Sonora, none in Arizona but it stopped the pendulum motion on large clocks in Phoenix. The fault scarp east of Bavispe is very visible from the air.
Bill Fiero, Geology of the Great Basin, University of Nevada Press, 1986. A good account of the regional history of Nevada environs with many photos. A bit on rock identification. Nevada is an amazing place.
Philip Fradkin, A River No More: The Colorado River and the West. Alfred Knopf, 1981. The land, the environment and the politics of water-hungry people who need 50 golf courses per city in an era when the region's population is mushrooming.
Stephen Jay Gould, Full House, Three Rivers Press, 1996. He spent his life trying to fathom evolution. This book is typical of his continued infatuation and verbose style. Or try the archives of his articles in Natural History magazine, where he submitted letter-perfect hand-typed manuscripts, always on time, for two decades. And then he put out a call for more ribbon, and received a casefull.
Christopher Hardaker, The First American: the suppressed story of the people who discovered the New World, New Page Books, 2007. An alternate view of the 'peopling of the Americas,' in which I take stock, having seen some evidence. The standard story is quite too myopic, frozen into place, and missing big early chapters. They don't dig deep enough, and don't wish to recognize early stone tools for strange reasons.
Harris, Tuttle and Tuttle, Geology of National Parks, 5th edition 1997, Kendall-Hunt Publishing Co. Good summaries of all the parks with photos and diagrams, two pages per park. Seems accurate.
Lehi F. Hintze, Utah's Spectacular Geology: how it came to be; BYU Geology Department, 2005. Full of photos and illustrations, written by a flaming Utah geo-expert, just deceased. Utah's geology is amazing!
Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson, Journey to the Ants. Harvard U. Press (Belknap), 1994. The amazing story of ants, which may constitute one-half of all insect biomass, and equivalent in weight to all of 21st century humanity, all our billions against their zillions of trillions. This is a shorter and more readable version of their earlier mass-tome on the subject. Everything we do ants do too except build A-bombs. But they wage wars, have famines, use slave workers, practice genocide, do parachuting, utilize and protect honey farm trees, employ ugly monstrous mercenaries, and protect their queens at all costs.
Hannah Holmes, The Secret Life of Dust. Wiley & Sons, 2001. A lesson in invisible mundane reality. Dust particles travel the entire planet in the winds and settle where they will, a few per each raindrop, composed of anything imaginable, identified by electron microscopes--micron-sized razor-sharp glass shards from some volcanic eruption, cotton fibers from Egypt, pollen grains from everywhere, spider web silk (and baby spiders which survive the journey into the stratosphere--that's why spiders are everywhere), burned-up meteor particles, dozens of kinds of mineral grains, two dozen kinds of clay mineral particles, untold bacteria & viruses, uranium oxide, arsenic & selenium, industrial and diesel soot, cockroach eyeballs, dust mites, and then some pretty strange stuff. And you breathe it all in with each breath, and it nutrifies, good or bad, all soil. Half of all clay in our soils blows in across the Pacific basin from the Gobi. A grand example of cosmopolitan recycling.
David Lambert and the Diagram Group, The Field Guide to Geology (updated edition), Facts on File Inc, 1998. A great book for the beginner, filled with diagrams (but no photos) of everything geological, with examples from around the world, plate motions through time, volcanism, and sketches of a few famous geologists. Educational, fun & readable.
James F. Luhr (editor in chief), Earth. A photo encyclopedia in 520 pages, with lots on geologic sites and principles with plate tectonic diagrams, but also ecology, geography, humanity. Hundreds of geo-related photos. DK Books in association with the Smithsonian Institute, edition dated 2007.
John McPhee, Basin and Range. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1980. A good prose account of the regional origin by a gifted writer, transcribing expert opinions and blending it into a narrative, but without a single diagram of anything. He needed a few maps and photos for us optically oriented types.
Dale Nations and Edward Stump, Geology of Arizona. A good readable summary of the state's geology. Both are geo professors (Dale is retired). Kendall-Hunt, 1981. Get the second edition. Quite readable.
Wayne Ranney, Carving Grand Canyon: Evidence, theories, and mystery, Grand Canyon Association, second edition 2012. A lucid account of the problems and the people trying to understand the origin of the enigma. More modern Grand Canyon naturalist guides are pointing out the alternative--that much of the canyon was cut by a river flowing in the wrong direction. But some don't believe a word of it. Wayne and I have done field work together, and do believe. Whoever said that Earth history has to be simple?
Simon Winchester, A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the great California Earthquake of 1906. Harper Collins 2005. The San Andreas fault moves to the right by 21 feet and San Francisco burns down because the water mains broke.
Simon Winchester, Krakatoa, Harper-Collins/Perennial, 2003. The story of humanity surrounding a major volcanic eruption in Indonesia on August 27, 1883. A year later pumice and human remains were washing up on the coast of eastern Africa. Tens of thousands died. The world's temperature dropped one degree F, due to this big mama or small papa eruption, about equivalent to the blast that tore apart Thera in the Aegean in 1500 BC and certainly 10X the Mt. St. Helens puff of 1980. And meanwhile the big papas sit quietly, smile, distend and rumble.