Review by Booklist Review
Legend has it that miners used eagles to extract diamonds from the earth by throwing meat into caves. Since diamonds are lipophilic (attracted to fat), they were plucked up along with the meat. There is even a connection between formal black-tie attire and the processing of stones. These surprising and other fun facts about rocks, including the tale of Pele's Hair, formed by volcanic glass, populate Judah's lively lapidary history of 60 stones found around the world. Divided into such sections as "Stones and Power," "Sacred Stones," "Living Stones," and more, the book's coverage of myths, true stories, spirituality, art, and science will delight readers with new perspectives on the roles stones play in civilization. The subtitle, "The Secret Lives of Stones," hints at more intrigue than is covered in these nuggets which, nonetheless, form, as Judah writes, a "chamber of stones--a jumbled collection of lithic curiosities." Readers can dip in and out, digesting tiny pearls of fascinating information that make for lively conversation starters. A fresh and enjoyable addition to materials history.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Judah (Frida Kahlo), senior art critic at the British newspaper The i, offers a beautifully illustrated collection of insightful essays that "explore how human culture has formed stone, and the roles stone has played in forming human culture." Judah digs into 60 types, describing, for example, how people in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia turned alunite into alum, a compound used for tanning and textile production: "You could make a fortune from rock and old urine. You just needed the right rock. And the right recipe." Marble offers a look at "the Roman Empire in its pomp" as well as its decline, and diamonds are shrouded in tall tales: "As long as gemstones have been associated with magic, silver-tongued storytellers have attributed powers for both good and ill," Judah writes. Pink ancaster, a form of limestone, is the material used in Barbara Hepworth's 1934 sculpture Mother and Child, and haüyne, a rare mineral, "occurs in a zippy blue that declares modernity." Judah elegantly mixes archaeology, mythology, literature, and philosophy, building a solid case that "so much of what we think of as culture--our modes and places of worship, the tools we use, the materials in which we adorn ourselves, the stories we spin, our graven images--is formed by geology." This clever outing fascinates. (Oct.)
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