Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, by David. R. Montgomery
I’ll have to give both a thumbs up and a thumbs down to this book. It sounds like an interesting topic, and in a way it is, but overall the book was just way too much ancient history for my tastes.
I did think I would like reading it, as I enjoyed listening to Jared Diamond’s Collapse on CD several years ago. Alas, not so for Dirt, and I did not finish it.
I did really enjoy the first two chapters though, which discuss what dirt is, where it comes from, the role it plays in ecology, and how, ultimately, life on Earth could not exist without it. However, the rest of the book is mostly about ancient civilizations and how agriculture and soil erosion precipitated their collapse (or at least I think so, as I didn’t read the entire book, as I mentioned).
If you like ancient history, geology, or ecology, you’ll probably appreciate this book. I think you’ll find it both informative and, in all likelihood, fairly accurate too.
I will also have to sing the praises of Montgomery’s writing style. He is a very competent writer. The book is easy to read and very accessible to the lay person. One does not have to be a scientist, or a morphogeologist like Montgomery, in order to enjoy Dirt.
I am attaching a PDF scan of chapter 2 if you are interested in reading it.