Category Archives: Book Review

Geology Books in Chennai (Madras) Libraries

Not exactly a “geoscience” post but something related and important. Yes, this is about Geology books.

Let me clarify what I mean when I say “books on Geology”. I primarily refer to the text books used at University level and beyond. There are many “general” books on Geology with glossy finish and colorful pictures. These are for kids and people who have no knowledge of Geology. For example, books on Dinosaurs appeal to many. Fiction based on Geology – novels to be precise – is rare and the ones that come to mind are Michael Crichton’s Lost World and the lesser known Sarah Andrews’ novels where the setting often “includes geology”.

So back to our topic: Geology text books in Chennai libraries.

For some reason, the text books we want on Geology never seem to be available. In this day of Internet, Kindle, Mobile devices, and digital books, physical books still have a charm. Many text books are available online and you can download them instantly. However, like print books, digital books are just another medium and cannot be a substitute for quality content. Although, new text books are available on the different geoscience subjects, not every new book can replace the existing books that were the pioneers. Most universities still recommend the “old” text books as they are good for learning the concepts. Indeed, very similar content is available in newer books on the same subject, but the older books don’t often have a good substitute.

While some new books are better than the old books for many reasons,  the older books are still the best. Colleges must have a basic mandatory syllabus or curriculum and recommend courses for that. This means teaching the basics – and these are still available in the books printed 40 or 60 or even 80 years ago.

However, these “classic” (or old) texts are not easily available. Even on Amazon, probably the best website for buying books, many old books are not available. If you purchase these old books (second-hand) from other sellers, often importing is not easy.

Also many of these books are expensive. The only way to access them is through libraries.

In Chennai quiet a few libraries have Geology text books. Yet, not all have all the books. Here is a list of libraries available for students and staff:

  • Department Collections – these are only accessible to staff of the department. These have the best collection of books ever. But is internal. The geology departments of Madras University, IIT, Presidency College, and Anna University are examples.
  • Madras University Library (Chepauk) – Most Geology books (and other books) are badly maintained and now are available for reference.
  • Madras University AC Tech Campus Library – available to students and staff. Collection is OK but some books are not available.
  • Anna University Library – available to students and staff. Collection is very good and has books on mining, water, and geoengineering but some books are not available.

Similarly, other geoscience departments provide access to books for students and staff.

So how do others who are neither students or staff of Universities refer to Geology text books? Through government organizations and public libraries. Here is a list of such libraries in government organizations:

  • Geological Survey of India (GSI), Chennai Reference – This is quiet an advanced collection of maps, papers, and journals. Text books are less but this is not a typical library. Is more for researchers and people who work in the geology domain.
  • Secretariat Library, Fort St. George – Had a small collection of books on Geology. For staff.

Here is a list of public libraries and libraries of foreign consulates:

  • Connemara Public Library – used to have a fine collection, but most books are gone. Either lost or have been worn beyond repair. Poorly maintained. Still okay with a reference and lending collection.
  • The Directorate of Public Libraries. A no-cost library and has a few books on Geology.
  • The American Library of the US Consulate General. Very few books on geology.

Overall the two best libraries for Geology Text Books are:

    1. The British Council Library: professional, neat, and modern. Many books on Geology, Hydrogeology, Sedimentology, and Petrology. You can become a member, borrow and read. Online access to journals is useful. Probably the best in India in terms of management and services – the drawbacks being that only text books by British authors are stocked and the cost of membership could be high for students.
    2. The Anna Centenary Library at Kotturpuram. Has a mouth-watering collection of Geology books! Is quiet modern but has no membership options. Could be much more professional with a better reception and enquiry facility. If this library can be run like the British Council Library, it could be the world’s best. The library has the following:
        • A whole geology section with racks dedicated to Geomorphology, Tectonics, Hydrogeology, Geophysics, crystallography, Petroleum geology, and so on
        • The engineering section has books on Mining, Groundwater, and Environmental Science
        • A separate section for paleontology!

      I found some new books such as Groundwater Geoscience by Fitts, Introduction to Hydrogelogy by Nonner – very colorful and illustrated to make reading a pleasure. There are books on Groundwater Modeling as well (by Nevin K)! Even the ESRI GIS book on Arc GIS for Groundwater! Apart from this – Shelly’s Petroleum geology and Seibold’s Sea Floor are available.  Disappointed at not finding Submarine Geology by Shepard or Mining Geology by Arogyaswamy or Bowen’s Igneous Petrology. These are the classic old books.

Pictures are of the Anna Centenary Library at Kotturpuram.

Technical English for Geosciences: A text/workbook – Short Review

Technical English for Geosciences is a text plus workbook for students and others who wish to improve their command of English language with regard to geosciences communication.

The author Brigette Markner-Jager is a lecturer for English as a language for special purposes. Since 2001 she has been teaching Technical English and Business English at the TFH Georg Agricola in Bochum, Germany.

Geology and geosciences have plenty of terms and words that are unique to the field. Although, students have some exposure to terminology in subjects such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, business, and even law, there seems to be a bit of difficulty when geological terminology is used. Words such as schist, gneiss, porphyry, bedding, marble, footwall, and so on are either new or mean something else for those unfamiliar with geological sciences. Speakers of other languages other than English find it even tougher to get a good hold of the vocabulary.

This is where the book helps. The book is ideal for students who need to learn and use geosciences terms. Students belonging to any stream of study – from applied geology, mining, hydrology, to environmental science – will find this book useful.

The book is structured based on various branches and disciplines of geosciences. This is very convenient as students from a particular stream can go directly to the lesson. The chapters use text from various sources and have tasks to check reader understanding. The book can be used as a self-study material or in classes.

I have studied a master’s in geology and have worked as a writer and I found this book a bit basic at times. I wish this book had been part of my studies though! Springer published the book in 2008 and has used text extracts from different sources. I found a few errors in punctuation in the extracts and I wonder whether students without adequate English knowledge would be able to understand the errors. Springer might not have changed the text due to copyright issues.

Some of the examples used in the book such as Chapters 18 to 20 (Tara Mines) are interesting and add subject knowledge too.

Overall this is a good book to have especially in the undergraduate degrees. The book is available on www.amazon.com

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