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Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology Hardcover – June 23, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“David B. Williams can see the invisible. He notices the lost dramas fossilized in brownstones and statues, in the doorsteps and roof slates we walk by every day. Only such an operatic theme as the enduring grandeur of stone could encompass in a single book everything from Martian meteorites to school blackboards to dinosaur tracks. Williams's epic story is rich in colorful eccentrics, from Michelangelo to Robinson Jeffers, but no character comes alive more vividly than the restless, creative Earth itself.” ―Michael Sims, author of Apollo's Fire and Adam's Navel
“From the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston to the Colosseum in Rome, David Williams distills gripping stories from building stone--of deep geologic time and the human quest for permanence and beauty.” ―Chet Raymo, author The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe
“This is the best sort of book, one that makes you see the familiar in strange new light. Now that David Williams has warmed our stone façades with beautifully told stories, never again will I pass a brownstone without looking for its telltale flaws or walk the Granite City without thinking of the natural wonders that produced its stony poetry.” ―Jennifer Ackerman, author of Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body
“By assigning human stories and values to stone in this fascinating book, David B. Williams links the living and the non-living. In the process, our homes and buildings come alive.” ―Robert M. Thorson, author of Beyond Walden and Stone by Stone
More About the Author
A central goal in my writing is to encourage people to look more carefully at the natural world around them. I hope that my essays and articles will provoke the reader to ask more questions, to go outside and investigate, to delve deeper into the subject, to reevaluate what they may have taken for granted. I have written for publications as diverse as Smithsonian, Earth, Northwest Palate, and American History.
I grew up in Seattle, went to college in Colorado, worked as park ranger at Arches National Park and the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Park, and moved back to Seattle in 1998. I write full time, like to hike and bike, and explore urban nature.
Top Customer Reviews
The 10 chapters of the book are entitled:
1. "The most hideous stone ever quarried" - New York Brownstone
2. The granite city - Boston granite
3. Poetry in stone - Carmel Granite
4. Deep time in Minnesota - Minnesota gneiss
5. The clam that changed the world- Florida Coquina
6. America's building stone - Indiana limestone
7. Pop rocks, pilfered fossils, and Phillips Petroleum - Colorado petrified wood
8. The trouble with Michelangelo's favorite stone - Carrara marble
9. Reading, writing and roofing - East Coast Slate
10. "Autumn 20,000 Years ago" - Italian travertine
Some of changes in taste are ironic. The use of brownstone, a brown sandstone readily available from near the Connecticut River and used as a sort of siding rather than as a structural feature of the building, declined not so much as a result of changing tastes but as a result of poor construction and quarry practices. The carrara marble used by Michelangelo, whatever its merits for sculpture, is not a good choice for the exterior of a building, because it is weakened by the daily swings in temperature and by the infiltration of water between the grains of the stone - but his use gives it prestige.Read more ›
Having lived in Bedford, Indiana I was particularly interested to learn that when my ancestors entered the United States at Ellis Island the first stones they saw were the off-white, fossil-rich stone quarried here. Williams also puts you the reader into the picture. The discussion about fossils will have you rushing out to examine every building made of stone while the description of the house designed and built by poet, Robinson Jeffers will spur you on to travel to Carmel, California the site of that building. In other words Stories in Stone is not only filled with interesting facts it is a very good read. I could hardly put it down as I eagerly wondered what secrets the next chapter would divulge.
My favorite chapter was the one on Indiana limestone and its proliferation across the United States as a building material. The descriptions of the creativity and artistic skill of the stone masons as they shape limestone into ornamentation and monuments was fascinating. One can learn that such a solid stone, used to build the Empire State building and Pentagon, is based on a simple and tiny Paleozoic foraminifera sea creatures. The story about Florida's coquina clam fossils and how they helped Spanish stay in North America was educational.
One does not have to have geological background to read this book. After reading, a person should gain some knowledge in the basic rock types of sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic. The author discusses the formation of rock through time, fossil creation, continental drift, and quarrying techniques. A helpful glossary of geological terms can be found toward the back of the book.
On the inside of the book jacket, a Web site address can be found which will lead to the author's blog. The blog has more color photographs of sites shown in the book along with expanded material on subjects covered in the book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Could have provided a lot more information about the stone used in cities, which I thought was the point of the book. Read morePublished 2 months ago by steamduck43
This book is on architecture and masonry. I was expecting gravestones. I was very pleasantly surprised once I started reading the book. It is extremely interesting.Published 5 months ago by S. Andrews
Geology is all around us, even if you live in a completely unnatural environment, you don't need to leave the city to read the stories in stone. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Steve
Even as a kid I loved rocks and stones, and examining whatever I ran across, then looking up my finds at the library, labeling what I'd found and tucking them away. Read morePublished 16 months ago by RJT
most interesting book I've read yet on use of and aquiring stone. Even bought the audible book to listen to.Published 23 months ago by Amazon Customer
This book explains where stones used for houses, sidewalks, courthouses and so on came from. It gives the history of the stone, how it was formed, where it was found and why it is... Read morePublished on January 4, 2014 by Mark A. Ardagna
Every chapter gives an interesting geologic history of a particular stone, along with recent history and uses of that stone. This was a very worthwhile readPublished on August 1, 2013 by Writer/Reader
Since the other reviewers have done a good job of discussing Williams's book substantively, I'm just here to cheer. Read morePublished on March 24, 2013 by J.B. Lyle
Floods can fill quarries with water. The development of gas lighting with its soot made people choose brownstone over marble. Read morePublished on December 28, 2009 by Himri