Worlds of the Past:
Geology Textbooks
Cutaway view of Earth's interior structure

I have a number of college textbooks on various aspects of geology, mainly because textbooks have more detailed information that any pop-science book does. Most of these are written for someone who is both serious about the subject and already has a basic working knowledge of rock types and such. A few are even more advanced than that.

If you look for any of these, please keep two things in mind. One, as college texts they are expensive to buy new. I've bought just about all of them used. Two, as college texts they're often revised, so where I have a 4th edition, the current might be a 5th or 6th edition.

Basic textbooks Advanced textbooks

Basic textbooks

These are general, fairly simple high-level textbooks, the kind you would encounter in a "beginner's geology" sort of course. If you want a good quick introduction to geology or one of its major subfields, one of these can do the job nicely.

EARTH AND LIFE THROUGH TIME, 2nd Ed.
Stanley, Steven M.
c.1989, WH Freeman & Co.
ISBN: 0-7167-1975-4
Of all the textbooks and "general overview" type books I have on historical geology, this is my favorite and the one I always reach for first when I have a question. I kept it from the basic-palaeontology class I took in college. It's a combined text on historical geology and palaeontology, tracking changes in both Earth and life over geologic time. It's surprisingly thorough for a general text, going into considerable detail on the events it covers.

EARTH SCIENCE, 5th ed.
Tarbuck/Lutgens
c.1988, Merrill Publishing
ISBN: 0-675-20748-7
"Earth science" is a general term for all the sciences that deal with the study of the Earth and its place in the universe. The earth sciences include geology, paleontology, oceanography, meteorology, and local astronomy. This text is a basic introduction to all the earth sciences, devoting two or three chapters to each one. I kept this text from a 'basic earth science' course in college; it's a very good introductory text, and requires little prior knowledge of the subjects covered.

THE EARTH, THROUGH TIME, 4th ed.
Levin, Harold L.
c.1994, Saunders College
ISBN: 0-03-098594-3
Another basic college text on the geological and paleontological history of Earth.

PHYSICAL GEOLOGY (7th Ed.)
Plummer and McGeary
c.1996, Wm. C. Brown
ISBN: 0-697-26676-1
Freshman college textbook on physical geology. Physical geology focuses mainly on geology in the here and now: descriptions and definitions of rocks and minerals, major geologic phenomena like earthquakes and volcanoes, etc. This is one of the best geology texts I have; it combines clear explanatory text with excellent photographs and diagrams. Accompanied by workbook and free Plate Tectonics CD-ROM.

A TRIP THROUGH TIME: PRINCIPLES OF HISTORICAL GEOLOGY
Cooper, Miller, Patterson
c.1990, Merrill Publishing
ISBN: 0-675-21134-4
Where physical geology focuses on geology in the here and now, historical geology focuses on using the rocks to reconstruct the history of Earth over geologic time. This is more or less what the title says: a basic look at the science and principles of historical geology. I have others that I think are better, but this one is a bit shorter and simpler. It might be a good place to start if you just want an introductory course in the subject.

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Advanced textbooks

These are more advanced textbooks about specific, complicated topics. These are the kind of textbooks you would expect to encounter as part of advanced undergraduate or even graduate (master's degree program) courses. I don't recommend them for the person with just a casual interest.

DEPOSITIONAL SYSTEMS: A GENETIC APPROACH TO SEDIMENTARY GEOLOGY*
Davis, Richard A.
c.1983, Prentice-Hall
ISBN: 0-13-198960-X
Sedimentary geology, or more simply sedimentology, is an advanced subsection within geology. This is a college text on sedimentary depositional systems and patterns. Not for the casual reader.

FACIES INTERPRETATION AND THE STRATIGRAPHIC RECORD
Hallam, A.
c.1981, W. H. Freeman
ISBN: 0-7167-1291-1
The facies of a rock or rock layer is its appearance, particularly those aspects of its appearance that let you distinguish it from other layers around it. This is a supplementary or secondary text on facies interpretation and what that appearance can tell you about the rock layer's history. I'm not sure if it's meant for upperclass or post-grad students, but either way it includes some heavy slogging.

PRINCIPLES OF ISOTOPE GEOLOGY, 2nd Ed.
Faure, Gunter
c.1986, John Wiley & Sons
ISBN: 0-471-86412-9
Isotope geology is the specialized field of using radioactive isotopes in geology. This is an upperclass-level college text on principles and techniques of isotope geology. It includes explanations of the theory and some of the techniques behind all known methods of isotope-based radiometric dating.

PRINCIPLES OF SEDIMENTOLOGY
Friedman, Sanders
c.1978, John Wiley & Sons
ISBN: 0-471-75245-2
Advanced geology text on sedimentology. Sedimentology is the study of sediments and sedimentary rocks: limestone, sandstone, siltstone, shale, and all the types in-between. This is an upperclass-level text on sedimentology; probably not a good choice for a casual reader.

PRINCIPLES OF SEDIMENTOLOGY AND STRATIGRAPHY
Boggs, Sam, Jr.
c.1987, Merrill Publishing
ISBN: 0-675-20487-9
Another advanced text on sedimentology.

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