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Stories in Stone by David B. Williams

Stories in Stone (2009)

by David B. Williams

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9922187,398 (3.63)18
Documents the author's discoveries of geologically relevant materials that have been used as construction and artistic elements in major cities, revealing what can be learned about ancient and recent history through such structures as the Bunker Hill Monument, a 1935 gas station, and a St. Augustine fort.… (more)

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found myself less interested in this than perhaps the book deserved -- I thought I was going to read a different book. I thought there would have been more geology in it, but the stories are more about how the stone went from quarry to building, instead of what the stone could tell us about plate tectonics and ancient seabeds. That said, I don't fault the author for doing a thorough job of the book they did write, but found it heavy lifting to read through one more story about mines or differing types of brownstone. ( )
  appleby | May 18, 2011 |
Focuses on ten different stones used in contemporary and ancient buildings and then follows their geological and human-use history. Everything was interesting: how the stones form, how they're quarried, how they are (and were) transported, why they were chosen for the various architectural projects (their strengths/weaknesses and/or human's preferences) and even the back stories of the people and places he researched. It's not uber technical so even if you're not a geology geek, it's still a fun read. ( )
1 vote dandelionroots | Apr 24, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Interesting but not absorbing. I put it down months ago and only now decided to finish it. I like the idea - that the stone found in man-made structures tells us about both the geological history of the stone itself and about the human history that led to it being used in this way for this building. Some of the framing is a little awkward, especially the chapter that starts with him looking at and describing stone, and only after two and a half pages does he say that he's on a college campus, not in a field somewhere. Sometimes the time-jumping gets confusing - from modern day to ancient times when the stone came into existence to old to ancient human times - 1800s, Roman times, 1600s - when the stone was quarried and used. No one jump is confusing, but for instance in the coquina chapter he keeps switching between the Spanish settlers and modern-day tourists, including him, with occasional diversions to the ancient seashore where the coquina was laid down. There are probably twenty switches in the eleven pages of the chapter - it becomes disorienting. I enjoyed it, I'll probably read it again, but it wasn't wonderful. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Nov 14, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I remember picking up stones as a kid wondering where they came from and wondering if anyone could know their history. In this book, David Williams tells the stories behind a number of notable bits of stone, emphasizing those that make up the architecture of the U.S.
I loved this book and even bought copies for relatives for Christmas. The writing is straightforward: nothing spectacular. However, it has a charm to it. Williams clearly has a passion for these stones loves the story that is behind them.
I even got an added surprise. He started chapter 7 with an 80 year old quote from my Grandfather. I was certainly not expecting that since my Grandfather was a Baptist Minister in a small town in Colorado at the time; but it was certainly a bonus.
I recommend this to anyone interested in geology or architecture. I hope he continues this direction. I am sure there are quite a few stories like these yet to tell. ( )
1 vote davesmind | Jan 3, 2010 |
I like pop science books a lot. I enjoy learning about things I've either avoided in the past or simply never thought thing one about. This subject is one of the latter.

Williams has an extra-interesting (to me) chapter on brownstone(s)...as I'm a few miles from Brooklyn, and a former resident of a brownstone-clad building in Manhattan, I've seen a lot of stuff about them. I've noticed, for example, a fact that Williams explores at some length...the rotten condition of a lot of brownstone facades...and always thought, "whatinaheck made people use this stuff?! It's ugly and it's fragile!" Well, Mr. Williams goes into the bad-condition part (cheap construction) and even comments on the changes that took place in attitudes towards the stone. Originally the brownstone wasn't thought highly of by the cognoscenti of the day, being drab and uniform and inidicative of a certain bourgeois striving that the haut ton has always smirkingly dismissed. Then it came to be seen as charming, for some damn reason, and now it seems that we're heading back into condescenscion. Fashion...plus ca change....

Granite, my personal favorite stone, gets a lot of play in this book, and I learned a great deal about its genesis and its manifold strengths. I lived in a part of Texas that is a big ol' granite shelf with dead coral reefs atop it (the Hill Country), whence cometh a lovely pink granite.

I think books like this offer a very useful meditation on the world around us. A built environment is every bit as complex and interesting and worthy of quiet contemplation as a natural environment is, and too few people afford the built environment more than a disparaging glance. It's foolish to think that a state of nature has more inherent interest than humanity's considered labors. Why should we humans dismiss the fruits of our labors? Why not appreciate both for their different strengths?

I don't think Williams exactly meant to bring this idea to the fore, but it's the first thing that sprang to my mind. I'd recommend the book more highly, but the author isn't a prose stylist of any great note. He's solid and informative and able to convey a sense of his pleasure in the stones we build our life-caves from, but his words take flight exactly never and I see that as a demerit. I'd like for people who *don't* like science to read the book. It's worth your while because you'll get a small sense of what science does...explain the universe to us in useful and interesting ways. ( )
6 vote richardderus | Dec 29, 2009 |
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