Ronald Turnbull's "Granite and Grit" makes a superb addition to the bookshelf of anyone interested in walking or climbing on British mountains: or indeed anyone wanting to gain a better understanding of the uniquely complex geology of Great Britain.
Geology ought to be the most accessible of serious sciences. It relates directly and obviously to the real world around us, and its ideas, concepts and descriptions are expressed in words, rather than the mathematical symbols of so much of the rest of science. If you open just about any geology textbook, understanding what is being said takes no special skills beyond being able to read. And yet, despite all this, while the words in a geology textbook may be comprehensible, the meaning and the underlying ideas are all too often just beyond the grasp of the casual reader. Perhaps this is because geology is a three dimensional subject, adding, literally, depth to the visible surface of the land around us. Or perhaps, and more likely, it is because geology deals in timescales that are so long they are very difficult to grasp.
Ronald Turnbull has tackled geology in a highly innovative way. Most significantly, he has taken as a common reference point with his readers the structure and origins of British mountains above 600m: an approach which, incidentally, means that large parts of the book relate directly to Scottish mountains. Having forged a common understanding with his readers through his subject matter, the author then sets out to build on it with a text that is accessible, well informed, thought provoking, irreverent and humorous. The large format of the book then allows him to add into the mix a wealth of extremely good and highly relevant photographs and diagrams, many tied closely to the points in the text they are illustrating.
As a result, "Granite and Grit" is a triumph. Here, at last, is a geology book that describes the complex processes and even more complex results of 4500 million years years of change on planet Earth in a way that is easy to follow and understand: and in a way that applies directly to the audience at which the book is aimed, hillwalkers and climbers. Most impressively, this is a book that leaves the reader feeling that significant parts of what they have read will stay with them and actually inform their excursions into the mountains of England, Wales or, especially, Scotland.