Tuesday, 11 December 2012

"Structural Geology", by Haakon Fossen

Structural Geology, by Haakon Fossen
Rainy summer day in Delft, The Netherlands. I look for cover and I enter into a bookshop -how convenient for a book-addict-. I end up buying a nice Parker pen and an uncommon souvenir: a copy of “Structural geology” by Haakon Fossen. Somehow, it sounds slightly like “The Neverending Story”. Like Bastian, I have been absorbed by a book. It's a long time since I bought my last geologic book in an actual physical shop, and not on a website. It must be special.

Haakon Fossen is Professor of Structural Geology at the University of Bergen. Apart from his academic background, Haakon has also worked in the oil and gas industry. You can learn more about him and his interests on his website.

Haakon Fossen, Structural GeologyThe book, published by Cambridge University Press, is an excellent manual on the principles of structural geology. But before commenting on the text itself, I'd like to remark that the material quality of the book is superb. This book simply says “read me, read me more”. Published in an A4 (kind of) size hardback format and full colour glossy pages. Rich in illustrations, sharp photographies and analogues.

Divided in twenty-one chapters, the text covers a wide range of topics organised in a sequence that travels from the realm of the small and the infinitesimal to the tectonic regimes that shape our planet. After an introduction to the basics of structural geology, Haakon immediately continues with topics on strain and stress, brittle and ductile deformation and regional regimes (i.e. contraction, extension, transpression and transtension and salt tectonics) and relevant techniques in structural analysis (i.e. cross-section balancing and restoration). The last chapter provides an integral view of structural geology, as a summary.

Basement window, Haakon FossenEach chapter is thoroughly illustrated, from an opening full-page image to the broad variety of tables, illustrations and block diagrams that feed the reader's sight page after page. Most of the examples are taken from up-to-date literature, displaying field photos, seismic features, sand-box and other scaled analogues, etc.; all very sharp and with very good printing quality.

The 3D block figures are nicely drawn and fit perfectly their aim. They portrait the discussed topics clearly and in detail. End-member diagrams are also abundant in the text They are clear, complete and not overloaded with too much detail that would mask their purpose. Just for that reason this book is a “must” for any student and professional of the Earth sciences.


Fossen, Rift developmentHaakon's writing is very enjoyable. Easy to follow, fluid and precise. He writes straight to the point, with accuracy and efficiency. The text is easy to follow, as it is very careful in providing good and rich definition and continuous examples. I personally like very much the constant use of mathematical expressions supporting the definitions. A very basic knowledge of linear and matrix algebra will suffice. In depth explanations and short case studies are left for very handy and visually attractive boxes. Each chapter closes with a summary, review questions and a recommendation on further reading. The book closes with two appendixes (one on the deformation matrix, very enjoyable -really!-, and another on stereographic projection) a very useful glossary, the description of the cover pictures of each chapter and the index.

Is that all? No. Because the book, actually, extends out of itself. At the end of each chapter the reader can find a recommendation on a e-module, also authored by Haakon, and freely available online in the companion website at cambridge.org . The reader can also find in there all the images of the book in different resolutions, presentations, excel spreadsheets, sample chapters and so forth. Find out more here.

If you have to recommend or buy a book on the principles of structural geology, this is the one.

Structural Geology, by Haakon Fossen (2012). Hardback published by Cambridge University Press. 480 pages, 549 colour illus. Dimensions: 276 x 219 mm.

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