In spite of all that, I have a handful of delights for you. Without further delay, then.
Wayne Ranney, who is one of the best writers on Arizona geology you'll ever encounter, wrote this very short, sweet, to-the-point and richly illustrated guide to the geology of the Verde Valley, which is not all Sedona all the time. The Verde includes some truly amazing rocks. You'll find everything from Precambrian formations near Jerome to the truly remarkable Cenozoic Verde Formation - limestone from a lake! - near Camp Verde, along with some lovely recent volcanic stuff and intriguing gravels. I know, most people wouldn't find gravel intriguing, but Wayne turns it into something of a detective story.
This is definitely one of those books you should pack around with you when you go visit the area. Read it beforehand so you can plan your itinerary accordingly - there is so much geological goodness that it takes careful planning not to miss something essential. And don't let the red rocks of Sedona steal all your time. Some of the greatest places Arizona have to offer are in that wild, wonderful valley.
Yes, another book by Wayne Ranney. Didn't I mention he's one of the best sources for Arizona geology? I meant it.
This one goes beyond Arizona, though. Canyon Country includes most of the Colorado Plateau. And here, within these pages, you'll be taken on a jaw-dropping, eye-popping tour of some of the most rugged places on earth, canyons carved deep into ancient, colorful formations, unobstructed by all that pesky biology. Wayne shows you Salt River Canyon, Fossil Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Antelope Canyon, Grand Gulch, Bryce Canyon, Canyon de Chelly and Tsegi Canyon, and, of course, the Grand Canyon, in loving yet succinct detail. It ain't just biology that has endless forms most beautiful: so does the geology of these canyons.
This is another slim book suitable for packing about with you in your peregrinations. And I can advise you from experience that having it on your desk excites interest: our department manager came by, flipped through it, lost his breath, and looked at me like I was nuts for living here when I told him I used to live near there. He might be right, actually.
Defining the Colorado Plateau: A Geologic Perspective
This. Oh gods, oh, this. Wayne Ranney wrote the bulk of it, and at the end we have contributions from Richard Holm, Ivo Lucchitta, G. Kent Colbath, and Ron Blakey, and all of them together created something of beauty and power. The Colorado Plateau is one of the most remarkable areas in all the world, and I don't just say that because I'm from there and rather partial. Read this book to find out what makes it so very, very incredible.
It can be a confusing place to people trying to understand it. Wayne minimizes the confusion, explains everything that's currently known clearly, simply, and with economical beauty. The illustrations ensure you get a proper sense of the place. Well, when you're not drooling all over them, that is.
Slip it in to your pack alongside The Verde Valley and Canyon Country, and you're set. All three are easily available directly from Wayne, and he might even be kind enough to autograph them for you.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to slink off and be desperately homesick for a while...
The Colorado Plateau: A Geologic History
Why yes, I am a glutton for punishment, whyever do you ask? Is it because I've made myself homesick and yet still read another book on the geology of my old home country?
If Wayne's whetted your appetite and you want to read more on the Plateau, this is a very good book for that purpose. It covers the whole of the area in admirable detail. Donald Baars has a very clear writing style that's comprehensible even to an amateur such as myself. The features, formations, and all of the intriguing yummy bits are explored, and you can even vicariously head down the Grand Canyon in a rubber boat. That, I have to say, was one of my favorite chapters and very nearly had me booking a raft trip.
After Wayne's three-course meal, I could've done with some more color photos. Alas, this is all grayscale. But it's still got quite enough to give you a sense of what things look like, and there are diagrams to help you puzzle everything out, and all-in-all, it's worth your time and money.
But I have to stop with the Arizona geology just now, because I'm in terrible danger of moving back, and while the geology is outstanding, the politics of the area aren't so much. Not to mention, most of the jobs are in Phoenix, which is, shall we say, not quite so much fun...
The Joy of Chemistry
Want fun, need fun, need joy. I have a book with joy in the title. And hey, I could use some chemistry in my life. So I turn to this one.
I mean, seriously, wow. You have to understand, the last time chemistry and I had more than a brief flirtation was back in high school. I'm so not-versed in chemistry it's pathetic. This book took me from abject ignorance to near-competence in just a few hours. And it's a hell of a fun read. The authors intended to get across the joy of chemistry, and they did.
It's even got experiments.
Since reading this book, I've found it leaping back up into my consciousness in just about everything else I've read, from blog posts to - well, mostly blog posts, because I haven't read many more books. But I'm in the middle of one that would have defeated me completely if I hadn't read this first. There's so much more I understand because it was covered in the Joy. If you need an introduction to chemistry, or a simple reminder of why chemistry is a lovable science, this is your book. Go and buy it forthwith.
The God Delusion
This is a re-read, actually, as I read this a few years ago but got the sudden hankering to read it again.
A lot of ink and pixels have been spilled over this book, so I shall just say this about it: it's a damned good book. You may despise it if you're religious - it does not leave religion standing. Religion is the emperor without clothes, and Dawkins is one of those people along the parade route going, "Well, that guy's nekkid." Not that he puts it like that. Dawkins is a gorgeous writer, just simply wonderful. Every sentence is elegant, even the very simplest ones, even the most uncompromising ones.
I wish all of my religious friends would read this book. It's not so strident as some terrified theologians would have you believe. It's just that it's true, and religion and truth don't mix. So I can imagine it is a painful read for those who believe, but religion causes too much harm to leave it to blind faith. If you read this, and understand there's a compelling argument for the fact that religion hasn't got any clothes, and that it's dangerous in very many ways, and has caused a great deal of harm, and does society no favors, and is something humanity can do without, yet you still choose to believe, that's your choice. But at least you'll know where I'm coming from, because reading this book the first and second time showed me that I wasn't at all alone in thinking the way I do.
Also, a lot of myths about atheists are debunked. That's a necessary thing: people, in this country especially, have got very little idea what atheists are really like, and how they can get along without a god. The God Delusion goes a long way toward explaining that.
For me, and for quite a few atheists, I think, this book is a sheer pleasure to read. Richard Dawkins is a fabulous writer, and it's one of those you can settle in with and savor the language as much as the ideas. Wonderful. I can't wait to read it again.