The Best Geology Books

The best geology books aren’t just textbooks — rock hounds and people interested in the science of geology are more common than you might think. Geology, after all, is the study of the history of our very planet, and many other sciences require an understanding of geology. The next time you’re at the beach and see people using metal detectors, they must in fact be amateur geologists looking for interesting rocks, meteorites, etc.

The best geology books are those that are easy to read but still crammed with hard scientific fact to educate and keep you up to date with recent innovations in geology tech. Look for one of the following three titles at big name bookstores — you won’t even have to set foot on a college campus to increase your understanding of geology.

Top Geology Text Books

Top geology text books are quite naturally the best selling books of that genre. Though you may not be able to buy the best geology books at your local Barnes and Noble, the Internet is a great source for books on rock science.

Here’s the most popular geology books based on sales alone.

The Practical Geologist: The Introductory Guide to the Basics of Geology and to Collecting and Identifying Rocks, Dougal Dixon

This is considered one of the best geology books because it consider geology not just a hard science but an outlet for people looking to collect unique and interesting rocks and gemstones. Dougal Dixon was a geology student in college and has become a well-known science writer who specializes in all the earth sciences in general. His other popular books include titles like A Zoology of the Future, The New Dinosaurs, Man After Man, and Time Exposure. This book explores some of the most basic principles of geology all the way up to details of starting and maintaining a rock, mineral, and gemstone collection. As far as a basic introduction to the world of earth science, you could do much worse.

The book starts out with a brief and easy to understand history of how the Earth was formed and developed, and continues by defining the substances that make up our planet. There are chapters on tectonic movements of the Earth, the impact of weather and water on geology, and a cool and detailed description of geological formations underwater and underground.

But it doesn’t stop there — The Practical Geologist is a primer on how to find, identify, and collect samples of all kinds of rocks and minerals. For each rock and mineral type, there is an explanation of what it is, why it is important, and where you might find it. If you’re looking for a non-textbook guide to rocks, minerals, and gemstones, Dougal Dixon’s text is a must-have.

Geology: A Self-Teaching Guide, Barbara W. Murck


Further proof that you don’t have to take college classes to gain an understanding of geology, this book (by a female geologist, something of a rarity in that field) advertises itself as “a learning journey through billions of years of Earth history.”

Considered indispensable by amateur geologists, Murck’s guide to geology fundamentals is a great way to introduce yourself (or the future college student in your life) to everything from the basics of geology and rock formation to minerals and why they’re important. Murck also throws in a brief history of fossil fuels (and an explanation of why and how they work) as well as a guide to earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, and other “pop topics” in geology.

Even better, Murck’s book offers quizzes and self-tests to help make sure you remember what you’ve read. Because of these quizzes, Murck’s book is an even handier guide than the Dixon test for future students of geology. There are also tons more illustrations in the Murck text than with Dixon — one hundred beautiful illustrations commissioned specifically for this edition. Not just illustrations, but color photographs used to clear up hard-to-understand geology concepts make this text easy to read, easy to learn, and super interactive for students and amateur geology hounds alike. Allowing you to check your progress as you go and quiz yourself, there’s no better into to geology outside of a college textbook.

The Field Guide to Geology, David Lambert

This book, unlike the others on our list, is aimed more at the professional geologist or scientist who needs a handy guide to practical geology. This book has gone through multiple editions, and is often used as a textbook in geology departments around the country. While not one of the overall “best geology books” because of its limited range, there’s at least one section of this book that outshines others in the field.

First published in 1998, since the technology for fieldwork in the science of geology keeps improving, so do the new editions of this text. There’s even a special chapter for innovations in geology, “Monitoring Earth”. To be honest, this chapter is the most striking feature of this text, with all kinds of general overviews of new geology tech, some written and analyzed in great detail, and always using a vocabulary that is relevant to the field without being over the head of the new student of geology. Concepts covered in “Monitoring Earth” include the newer technologies of satellite laser ranging (a new technique scientists use to measure continental drift and change) and the use of satellites for mapping the ozone layer in all its glory.

Unfortunately, the rest of The Field Guide to Geology is pretty much ersatz textbook type material — how the planet was formed, the basics of plate tectonics, the formation of Earth, and figuring out Earth’s history by examining fossils and other old rocks. Some critics argue that the information presented here is too generic, too “dumbed down” for the true student of geology, but I found the illustrations beautiful and illuminating, on the level of the Barbara Murck text above.

For people interested in geology, there are a multitude of textbooks available at the local campus bookstore. The downside to textbooks is that they are dry and aimed more at students of the hard sciences than the casual fan. Luckily, there are plenty of books in this field that can be called the “best geology books” without requiring a bachelor’s degree in Earth Science to understand. If you want to learn more about the fascinating history of our planet, are interested in collecting rocks, gemstones, or minerals, or just want to expand your science library, the tree texts above are perfect choices.