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"Planet Earth: A Beginner's Guide" by John Gribbin

Possibly the most gentle introduction to the spheroidical land we were born in and the life cycle it governs among us living creatures.

Nothing is more satisfying than learning something about our home planet. All this learning actually started back in 2007, having watched, and recorded, tons and tons of documentaries about Earth (including everything around us and the Universe itself, of course). Though I understood most of the general knowledge, and passed a Geology class back in Fall 2009, I thought it wouldn't hurt getting a book about planet Earth in an essence to refresh some of my knowledge I learned previously, and taking note of any new information.

Author John Gribbin, and his wife Mary Gribbin, seem to be made for each other: I enjoyed everything I read—everything. Easy to say, but the chapters and information are presented ever-so gently and precisely enough that they don't lose the focus of the reader come introducing to information and/or theories like plate tectonics, the planet's history and the various 'spheres' (i.e. atmosphere, troposphere, ionosphere, etc). Reading through the chapters, from cover to cover, will have one feeling very comfortable learning about our wonderful planet without any pain and/or confusion. There's no excuse as to why readers won't be able to absorb such a well-written book like this. And you also get some useful references at the end of the book via appendixes.

You get all the intangibles compiled in one book: Astronomy, Geology, Geophysics, Earth history (along with natural disasters) and a bit of Meteorology and Anthropology. Of course, if you need a more in-depth look at such subjects mentioned, you'd find another book on it. Nevertheless, these elements compliment well, and should provide the reader(s) lots of cushion, bringing forth the true nature, birth, history, its past and present life and the future and preservation of our planet; it's only fitting as we're the creatures currently running this place. Being only less than 200 pages long, you get more than what you paid/will pay for. That's always a good thing isn't?

Besides learning about the physical features from the inner and outer body of the Earth, you learn some of the biggest natural disasters that has brought scientists thoughts as to whether we're even welcome to roam this home of ours. From tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanoes, Gribbin has mentioned the exact timelines of those disasters from how it started, what happened during its period, the aftermath and, my favorite, the repeated pattern in which these disasters seem to always happen as the years go by. These chapters should make you feel as if somehow, there is/are no safe spots on this planet; the earth is always changing and it will certainly affect populations of many. Are we to blame? If we did go all out to preserve this planet and love it for what it is, will the planet return the favor (sort of sounds like a question I'd hear from the hit classic video game Final Fantasy VII)?

"More than fear for personal safety, I felt a growing apprehension for all of us living on a planetary crust so fragilely afloat atop such terrible heats and pressures. Never again, it came to me then and remains with me to this day, would I regain my former complacency about this world we live on."
— Rowe Findley, writer for National Geographic (quoted by Gribbin, 2012 ed, p. 110)

I read this quote more than twice after reading the chapter listing the tragic volcanic events that took place in Earth's history. Take note because as you finish this book, you'll think twice about our planet, its functions and its 'serial killer' tendencies against us humans living in this home currently, as it did back before the rise of humans. That, and this quote, ultimately are the skepticism considered as you continue life here.

One last bit I'd like to mention is that because I'm an extremely visual person, it was hard to envision the action of the tectonic plates explained and the other planetary geometries mentioned. (Maybe it's because I'm so used to seeing it in documentary form.) Gribbin could've provided some illustrations to help those visual learners (strangely enough, this was one of the rare books which never had a single of those sideboxes—boxes containing extra information to extend the reader's curiosity and whatnot; this is a staple among Beginner's Guides series and other resources and guides). An image or drawing would've helped out a lot. Other than that, it was fine since this may be a concern for others whose learning strengths are by vision.

Silly as this sounds, I tried to go as far as to find and purchase a large Earth toy plushie (haven't purchased it yet). This book really made me embrace this planet that much more. Only problem is other humans are ruined it for us, and for me, as Gribbin stated:

"If planet Earth is to continue to be a comfortable home for humankind, we are going to have to learn to live in harmony with the natural systems that have allowed life to flourish here for thousands of millions of years. And we are going to have to learn that lesson soon." (Gribbin, 2012 ed, p. 153)

How soon is what my question would be. Hard to say despite all the pollution being ascended into the atmosphere due to our technological innovations, numerous industrial waste and more. This and other issues are up for debate, but then again, will the rest of the world be able to adapt if such changes will commence? I'm not sure, but we will see.

Other than ecological possibilities and advancements, I learned everything about our Earth. I learned more things than I would pick up from a regular TV documentary, which is why I've given this book some serious praise.

Having appreciated the beautiful writing and gentle introductions throughout the whole book, it's a rare read that I wish never ended; that's how good and how much I enjoyed it. Little did I know that being Gribbin has been a renowned and excellent author of hundreds of books, I went and picked up his book In Search of Schrödinger's Cat, and hopefully more if and when my bank allows it.

Mr. and Mrs. Gribbin, if you're reading this, I absolutely loved the book. Seriously. I can't wait to read more of your [other] books.





  • A nicely-written release accessible for all ages.
  • A huge recommendation to students of Earth sciences.
  • Gribbin pushes questions about our fate living on this planet.
  • Contains more information than the average documentary.
  • None.
100% (A+)
Fan Rating
Title Planet Earth: A Beginner's Guide
Author(s) John Gribbin (with Mary Gribbin)
Description In this lively expedition into the origins, evolution and workings of our planet, John Gribbin does what he does best: gathers 4.5 billion years of geological history and shares the best bits.

Taking an astronomer's perspective, Gribbin follows Earth's development from its beginnings in cosmic gas and dust to the explosion of human life after the last ice age, combining stories of scientific discovery with gripping accounts of geological activity - earthquakes, volcanoes, and climate change. Along the journey we consider Lord Kelvin's time-scale for the life of the sun; the meteorologist who first championed the idea of continental drift; and an intriguing proposal that Earth has expanded substantially in recent millennia.

Told in Gribbin's dynamic and beloved voice, this is the perfect introduction to geology and an essential guidebook for anyone wanting to better appreciate the wonders of our shared home.
Dedication --
ISBN 978-1-85168-828-9
Book Dimensions Width: 5.06″ (5 1/16″)
Height: 7.81″ (7 13/16″)
Depth: 0.56″ (9/16″)
Page Count 192
Contents Foreword, ten (10) chapters, Epilogue, Appendix 1: The Earth in Numbers, Appendix 2: The timescales of planet Earth, Further reading, Acknowledgements, Index
Typeset Cenveo Publisher Services, Bangalore, India
Cover Design vaguelymemorable.com
Author Photograph --
Published January 19, 2012
Publisher Oneworld Publications (www.oneworld-publications.com)
Copyright © John and Mary Gribbin 2012
Printed in / Bound in Great Britain by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
Book Format Paperback, Kindle
Quoted Reviews "Here really is everything you might want to know about the bowels of the Earth - and inevitably about plate tectonics, the atmosphere, and more ... An intimate exploration of this unusual (at least in our solar system) and beautiful planet." — Brian Clegg - author of Inflight Science and Before the Big Bang

"Concisely, authoritatively, and very clearly, John Gribbin has produced an engaging and very up-to-date picture of how the Earth and it organisms have developed over time. A wonderful narrative." — Andrew Goudie - Emeritus Professor in Geography at the University of Oxford
Best Seller's List --
Other John Gribbin is the bestselling author of In Search of Schrödinger's Cat, The Scientists, Deep Simplicity, and In Search of the Multiverse. He trained as an astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge and is currently Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex, England.

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