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Rocks and Minerals: A Guide to Familiar…

Rocks and Minerals: A Guide to Familiar Minerals, Gems, Ores and Rocks (1957)

by Herbert S. Zim, Paul R. Shaffer

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Like other reviewers, this was one of my first rock and mineral books when I was quite young, and it holds a fondly-lit place in my memory for that reason, certainly. Nostalgia is a powerful trap, and one of which all readers should be wary. However, in the case of these little guides, the clarity and intelligence of the presentation is as useful now as it was sixty years ago.

What is additionally pleasing to me is that, each time I now open the book, with thirty years more experience and education behind me (although I don't claim any greater wisdom, having learned the hard way that it's best not to claim to be "wise" under any circumstances), I still find Zim and Shaffer's effort to be essentially sound. Zim didn't pull any punches with these books: in this book on mineralogy for younger readers, you are expected to bring your curiosity, and a dictionary if you don't understand the terms used. A good basic book on chemistry might also be helpful. I find that refreshing, particularly having seen some of the positively idiotic efforts to bring science education to kids in the past twenty years and despaired. That is why, when I worked for a specialist hobby shop dealing with all things scientific (a shop now sadly in the throes of its demise, though it was never particularly well-run), when a parent would ask for a book about rocks and minerals for kids, I would always show them this one first. I've given away several copies of it out of my own pocket when I encountered young people who might happen to appreciate it, in various workshops that I've taught on minerals and rock tumbling, and I still keep an extra copy or two, just in case.

Zim's book is thorough, without being burdensome, and it gives a lot of simple and useful information on mineral testing for identification purposes, which due to fear of litigation, one assumes, is missing from nearly all new "field guides". As I have complained elsewhere, none of these books is really useful "in the field" as it were, but for working on minerals at home, they can be most helpful. Interestingly, the pages on blowpipe, bead, and flame tests have been retained in the newer edition published in 2001, although such tests require some use of acids (and here I would urge anyone considering such tests to seek the advice and assistant of a qualified chemist or mineralogist, and to ensure that adequate and reasonable safety precautions are undertaken when handling corrosive materials), as are the pages on identifying and storing radioactive minerals (again, not something I oppose at all, provided one takes appropriate steps to ensure proper containment, most small radioactive samples can be collected without incident or concern). As most collectors now tend to do their rockhounding at their local annual gem and mineral show, identification is not perhaps as important as it was, but it is still a fascinating undertaking for the older student or mineralogy undergraduate.

Certain references have been updated across editions, but on the whole, this book is still a sound and delightful presentation, knowledgable without being preachy (something which I wish I could master), and full of interesting facts. Some might consider the illustrations a drawback - the book is thoroughly illustrated in color with beautiful renderings of mineral specimens, as well as some slightly dated depictions of rock hunting "in the field", but I find that the watercolored pictures give a more general sense of what a specimen might look like, something which the almost too-harsh precision of modern mineral photography sometimes fails to achieve.

On the whole, if you're interested in this area, don't gloss over this book. If you know mineralogy well, it will be an enjoyable bit of light reading. If you're a newcomer, or a keen amateur, you're pretty certain to find something to interest you, which in turn will encourage you to read further. Either way, good hunting! ( )
1 vote Bill_Bibliomane | Jun 5, 2014 |
One of my childhood books. I carried it around with me on many a day trip and vacation during the 1960s. ( )
  bamajasper53 | May 29, 2014 |
Golden Guides is a quaint collection of somewhat useful, pocket-sized field guides for amateurs wishing to delve into a particular field. While the books themselves won’t get you to where you need to be in order to start hitting the fields seriously, they do present a very large coverage over the subject with enough information (some of it potentially outdated!) to point you in the right direction to begin your apprenticeship in the particular field.

In Rocks and Minerals, Herbert S. Zim, the brains behind the series, presents a guide that covers the eponymous subject. It gives the reader enough lingo to be able to understand what mineralogists or geologists are talking about, and enough useful at-home experiments to make rock identification simple.

The series, originally published in the 1950s-1970s has recently been revived. While I’m not sure of the quality of the new books (I’m especially curious as to what their stance is on radioactive materials, something Zim et al. freely encouraged the collection of), I certainly hope that it helps today's amateurs and hobbyists hit the ground at the pace as yesterday’s.

The target audience for such a book may be older children to young adult, but adults could enjoy it as well, especially with their adventurous children. ( )
2 vote aethercowboy | Dec 3, 2012 |
An identification guide to only the most common knds of rocks and minerals. This guide describes and illustrate their physical and chemical properties, their origin and the geologic structures associated with them, their geologic and economic significance, and where and how to collect them. A handy pocket guide with accurate full-colour illustratins.
  plaris | Dec 21, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Herbert S. Zimprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shaffer, Paul R.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Perlman, RaymondIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Foreword: Nothing is as important in the natural world as our own earth and the rocks beneath our feet.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Originally published as Rocks and Minerals. Under St. Martin's press, the book was revised and updated under the title Rocks, Gems, and Minerals.
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This is a guide to aid you in identifying rocks and minerals.
But it is more than that. This book will also help you to understand the importance of rocks and minerals in our daily lives. Hence you will find information on sues of minerals and mineral products as well as aids in identification.
Skill in identifying rocks and minerals comes with experience. Take this book on hikes, trips and vacations. Visit collecting places, examine specimens, and try simple field tests. Remember that only the most common kinds of rocksa and minerals are shown in this book. EVen those may vary considerabley in their physical properties.
Thumb through this book before you go out on trips. Read the introductory sections. Next, become familiar with the pictures of minerals, rocks and rock structures. this may enable you to identify some common rocks and minerals at sight. Maps on some pages show were important deposits are located. Books listed on p 156 will help further, but local inquiry is often needed ti pin-point locations.
As you make observations and collect specimens, check your book or make marginal notes for later reference use. In the long run, your records may be as important as the specimens you collect.
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Includes information on collecting and identifying minerals, and sections on metallic, nonmetallic, gem and rock-forming minerals, and on igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.

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