Physical Geology - 2nd Edition

September 23, 2019 | Updated: July 15, 2022
Author: Steven Earle, Thompson Rivers University

Physical Geology is a comprehensive introductory text on the physical aspects of geology, including rocks and minerals, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, glaciation, groundwater, streams, coasts, mass wasting, climate change, planetary geology and much more. It has a strong emphasis on examples from western Canada, especially British Columbia, and also includes a chapter devoted to the geological history of western Canada. The book is a collaboration of faculty from Earth Science departments at Universities and Colleges across British Columbia and elsewhere.

Subject Areas
Earth and Ocean Sciences, Geology

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"Mt. Meager" by Isaac Earle is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (

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Physical Geology - 2nd Edition by Steven Earle, Thompson Rivers University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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Reviews (1) Avg: 3.8 / 5

Paul Alexandre

Institution:Brandon UniversityTitle/Position: ProfessorCreative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

This book is very comprehensive: it covers virtually all parts of the Earth Sciences, with the notable exceptions of Geochemistry and Biogeology. In a way, the book is too comprehensive: it attempts to cram the sum total of our understanding of geology in one book. While this may be a valuable pursuit, it also can be counter-productive: few topics are dealt with to any reasonable depth, there are many oversimplifications, and the book is much too long. A beginner may be intimidated by this book, as it runs to more than 800 pages and covers too many topics.
Overall, the book suffers from information overload. This is not necessarily a prohibitive factor, but not many topics have received the attention that they deserve, in particular those that are fundamental in Geology (petrology, structures). On the other hand, there are some topics that did not need to be present in this book (e.g., geophysics, glaciation, climate change, geology of Western Canada) and have not been treated with a sufficient degree of depth.
A reasonable glossary is provided, but no index table.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

Overall, the accuracy of this book is high. This is marred a bit by a few typos and small inaccuracies, but also by a few excessive simplifications.

Content Accuracy Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

While the content of this book is mostly up-to-date, it sometimes presents information that is a bit outdated. In a way, this may be a good ting, as this is the most reliable information that has withstood the test of time. From that point of view, the book has reasonable longevity: it will remain relevant for the next two decades.

Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

By and large, the text is clear to follow. Sometimes the language veers towards the excessive accessibility and thus oversimplification, while at other places it assumes knowledge that the students might not have. Nevertheless, the language is clear and easy to follow.

Clarity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

The book is fairly consistent in terms of terminology and framework.

Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

Theoretically, the book is highly modular, as the different sections are of reasonable length and contain relevant sub-divisions. However, there are a few sections that can hardly stand alone (e.g., Geochronology, Geological Resources), as they are treated rather superficially and hardly could be used alone. Other chapters can be used alone as separate modules. The text is not too self-referential, but still, modularity is not ideal .

Modularity Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

The structure of the book is good, with chapters that are logical and well organized. However, the order of the topics may have been different: for instance, why have The Origin of Earth and the Solar System at the very end, rather than at the beginning? The flow between chapters is also not always very good: we jump from Geology of the Oceans to Climate Change to Geological Resources to Geological History of Western Canada without any apparent logic.

Organization Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

Overall, the interface is fine, at least in the PDF version reviewed here. There are a few problems with some figures and tables (e.g. figure 19.3.5, figure 15.2.12, figure 20.3.5), which distracts from their message.

Interface Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

There are very few grammar and spelling errors, but they are not absent. Nevertheless, the grammar and spelling are very good.

Grammar Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

It is somewhat unfair to judge a book on geology by its diversity and inclusiveness. This being said, there is no evidence that the authors have attempted to be inclusive and diverse in any way. All examples are from North America and specifically Canada, there is a chapter on Geological History of Western Canada (why only Western Canada? Because the book is intended for UBC students? This is not very inclusive). There are no people of colour in the photos with people in them. So, overall the diversity and inclusiveness are low.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 2 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

If I was to use this book, and I would be reluctant to do it, I would use only some chapters and ignore others: the quality of the instruction provided is a bit variable. The sheer length of it doesn’t make me want to recommend it to my students. The book tries to be too many things and is less than perfect at some of them. I would have preferred a shorter book covering fewer topics, but treating them in more depth.