555: Colliding Continents by Mike Searle

by Gerard


555.496: Searle, Mike. Colliding Continents: A Geological Exploration of the Himalaya, Karakoram, and Tibet. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013. 365 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-965300-3.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Pure Science
  • 550: Earth sciences
  • 555: Earth sciences of Asia
  • +496: Nepal

Well, folks, this is my 200th book for this project. I knew it was coming up, so I immediately dove into this one right after yesterday’s book and I’ve been fascinated by it all day. I have a soft spot in my heart for science books, so I’m glad this one landed where it did. 200 books in 473 days seems a bit speedy, but it can be done if you dedicate yourself to the task at hand. I’m a little over one-fifth of the way through this project, which means I should finish up somewhere around Fall 2017. All the Deweys in under six years? One can only hope…

New on to today’s book.

120 million years ago, the Indian tectonic plate broke off from the main continental masses and began a northward trek that lasted 70 million years. Even though it was only moving 5 to 6 centimeters a year, the landmass moved into the Eurasian Plate with such force that it raised massive geologic structures. As the two plates joined and buckled, the Himalayan and Karakoram mountains were formed, the highest and most daunting peaks on the Earth. Mike Searle, 2008 winner of the Geological Society of London’s Murchison Medal, is our guide in Colliding Continents, a combination travelogue, adventure guide, and a geology textbook (though, to be fair, it’s much more the latter).

Searle walks the reader through the development and geology of the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges in technical but not overly-wrought language. The goal here is impart both a knowledge of geology and a healthy respect for the forces and science involved. The illustrations included are plentiful, wondrous, and extraordinarily educational. While nothing can take the place of actually being there, the pictures do give a sense of the grandeur of the mountains. The book is written from a first-person perspective, which is a little weird for a textbook, but it works well if you want novice learners to feel engaged with the science. There is a ton of geological knowledge here and at times I was a little lost, but I did a general feel for the field and how massive mountains ranges are formed. A dense but rewarding book.