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A Practical Guide to Rock Microstructure (Second Edition)

A Practical Guide to Rock Microstructure cover imageThis is a substantial, almost ‘coffee table’ sized, book that is intended ‘… to help you interpret what you see when you look at thin and polished sections …’. The text, clear and well-written, is appropriate for its target audience (senior geoscience undergraduates and above) and, as the author acknowledges, much of the content would also be relevant to material scientists involved in the study of ceramics, glass and metals.

Compared to the first edition (2004), this edition has more figures (up by about 10%), and the photomicrographs - key to the book’s ‘practicality’, though much the same size as in the previous version - appear clearer and somewhat sharper, at least to this reviewer’s eyes. All the figures have informative captions, which include the linear dimension of the image where appropriate. The text has been partially re-written and in places expanded and the reference list has grown to include works up to and including 2016.

The substance of the book is undoubtedly the chapters on the textures of igneous, metamorphic and deformed rocks. There is also a chapter on sedimentary rocks, but this is rather short and, to this author’s mind, rather superficial, especially when compared to the coverage given to the ‘hard’ rocks.

Complex relationships (e.g. as between temperature and the rates of nucleation and crystal growth) are generally explained by way of numerous clear and well-argued diagrams – these invariably repay close and careful study. The treatment is generally discursive, and accordingly there appears to be only one mathematical equation (it’s on page 30 and forlornly labelled equation 3.1….), an approach that will certainly endear it to much of its target audience.

There are few rivals to this work as a working text. Available competitors lack either the breadth and/or depth of coverage and/or the comprehensive coverage of photomicrography and all are now, in any case, rather long in the tooth (dating mostly from the 1990s). 

One small point: the link on page iv supposedly to ‘additional resources’ appears to be empty (accessed 9th October 2019).

One is never sure whether it is worthwhile upgrading from a first to a second edition. In this case it is suggested that you pass your old copy on to a deserving undergraduate and buy the new edition for yourself! Colleagues studying igneous and/or metamorphic rocks will want their own copy to hand and institutional libraries should certainly have a copy in their collection.

Reviewed by Trevor F. Emmett

A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO ROCK MICROSTRUCTURE (Second Edition) by RON H. VERNON, 2018. Published by Cambridge University Press 440pp (hbk) ISBN: 9781108427241 List Price: £74.99. W: