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Paperback reprint of a 2009 book.
Most people do not think to observe geology from the sidewalks of a major city, but all David B. Williams has to do is look at building stone in any urban center to find a range of rocks equal to any assembled by plate tectonics. In Stories in Stone, he takes you on explorations to find 3.5-billion-year-old rock that looks like swirled pink-and-black taffy, a gas station made of petrified wood, and a Florida fort that has withstood three hundred years of attacks and hurricanes, despite being made of a stone that has the consistency of a granola bar.
Williams also weaves in the cultural history of stone, explaining why a white fossil-rich limestone from Indiana became the only building stone used in all fifty states; how in 1825, the construction of the Bunker Hill Monument led to America's first commercial railroad; and why when the same kind of marble used by Michelangelo clad a Chicago skyscraper it warped so much after nineteen years that all 44,000 panels of it had to be replaced. This love letter to building stone brings to life the geology you can see in the structures of every city.
David B. Williams is a freelance writer focused on the intersection of people and the natural world. He is the author or coauthor of six books, including Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle's Topography and Cairns: Messengers in Stone. He lives in Seattle.
"Williams's lively mixture of hard science and piquant lore is sure to fire readers' curiosity about the built environment around us."
– Publishers Weekly
"Each line of inquiry coaxes out some expressive scientific, emotional or philosophical nugget from a piece of travertine, slate or, in one Pop Art extravaganza, a gas station made of petrified wood. Makes stone sing."
– Kirkus Reviews
"Stories in Stone is chock full of fascinating geologic tidbits [...] [but] how the geology is intercalated with the architectural and engineering aspects of building stone is really what this book is about and why it is a good read."
– WIRED, reviewing a previous edition or volume
"Williams' record of human dreams worked in stone is as richly textured and full of life's imprints as a fossil-rich piece of travertine."
"The more people live in cities, the less they see of the natural world. David Williams has neatly hacked this problem by using urban building stones as polished portals to intriguing stories about Earth's history."
– Kirk Johnson, Sant Director, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History