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Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology Hardcover – June 23, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Stone buildings are symbols of urban denaturation, but in this engaging pop-geology excavation, Williams sees them as biological entities. That's literally true of the petrified-wood gasoline station in Colorado, the stately edifices made of Indiana limestone formed from the carbonate shells of ancient mollusks, and the fossil-strewn and dinosaur-tracked slabs of New York's ubiquitous brownstone facades. But Williams (The Seattle Street-Smart Naturalist) sets every kind of stone in an ecology, a habitat and a dramatic life cycle (Minnesota's celebrated Morton gneiss, he notes, owes its gorgeous black-and-pink swirlings to 3.5 billion years of fiery upheavals and catastrophic deluges). While telling these sagas, the author investigates the science of rock dating and techniques of quarrying, recounts the exploits of great geologists and the travails Michelangelo faced in transporting marble blocks from the quarry to his workshop, and ponders the often surprising structural and aesthetic character of different species of stone. (The coquina stone of St. Augustine's fortress is material for stopping cannonballs, even though it's as fragile as a Rice Krispies Treat.) Williams's lively mixture of hard science and piquant lore is sure to fire readers' curiosity about the built environment around us. 12 b&w photos. (July)
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“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
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