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#8: The encircling sea

Rachel Carson's The Sea Around Us is another swipe at the project she attempted with the initially-overlooked Under the Sea-Wind - to pen a popular science book that made the vastness of the ocean appreciable yet accessible. Around Us was much more successful commercially, and it's easy to see why - it's the forerunner to the structure of the modern pop-science tome, dividing a complex subject up into several aspects tackled by a chapter each, the concepts illustrated with lots of historical first-person anecdotes and golly-gee notable phenomena. It's not as lyrical as Sea-Wind (and it has more of a physical than biological focus), but it's clearer and more understandable to the layman; the chapter-to-chapter structure gives Carson a moment-to-moment focus that her first book lacked. Around Us has the readability of a Dava Sobel or less-obnoxious Bill Bryson tome, and it's a joy to discover the material from which these authors spiritually descended.

Since it was written in 1951, however, it also unavoidably advocates many outdated theories: this was before plate tectonics was in wide circulation, after all. The modern publisher would've been well-advised, though, to include a few footnotes as to how geologic theory has evolved over time and tell the careless reader that, no, mountains weren't formed by the Earth's crust wrinkling as it contracted while it cooled, etc. I was reading the Kindle edition, which should've been the easiest to append, and yet no such effort was made; negligent.



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