The favourite books of Pete Smith (Scotland, UK)
Working in a multi-disciplinary field like global change, I must say that I do not read many pure soil science books. Indeed, many soil science books now cover more ground than the traditional soil science books of 20 or 30 years ago they have to science has changed and we no longer work within our strict disciplinary boundaries. I think this is a good thing. Soil science is no longer seen as an obscure and marginal field of research, but an extremely important component of wider ecosystem, environmental and earth sciences. We now see countless papers refering to soils as the critical and uncertain component of our understanding of earth system feedbacks, which has raised the profile of soil science dramatically over the past 20 years.
My first book choice is an excellent example of soil science in the wider context. Richter & Markewitz s book Understanding soil change: soil sustainability over millenia, centuries and decades uses the Calhoun Forest Experiment as its basis. Yet, the book is not simply an excuse to describe a long-term experiment. They use the knowledge gained from this experiment, and place it in a global context using a wealth of knowledge spanning many hundreds, even thousands, of years. The spatial scale of the book is equally impressive; taking examples from Calhoun, the authors make observations on soil sustainability that are derived under the particular circumstances of their experiment, and demonstrate how these principles hold true in many regions of the world. The book effortlessly spans spatial and temporal scales and draws on subject matter that even the most widely read soil scientist will be unlikely to have considered previously. The book demonstrates the rich wealth of knowledge that long-term experiments can provide, and is a shining example of how this data can be used to educate students, researchers and the public, on a range of environmental issues.
My second choice is Brady & Weil s The Nature and Properties of Soils , currently in its 13th edition. This is an undergraduate textbook, but like many soil scientists, I came to soil science from another discipline, without specifically studying soil science as an undergraduate or postgraduate! As such, I often need to go back to basics when outside my particular area of expertise. Brady and Weil s book is encyclopaediac but very accessible and clear. It is especially useful when one is lecturing on soil science. I am often feel that there is much more that I do not know about soil science than I do know, but Brady and Weil always help me out.
My third book choice is From this Soil, Selected Poems by Walt Whitman . A copy of this book was given to me at the first soil science conference I organised in 1995. It contains great poems and great art. It puts soils (and nature more widely) in the human context.
Details of the books
1. Understanding soil change: soil sustainability over millenia, centuries and decades by DD Richter, Jr. and D Markewitz. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001. Hardbound, 255 pp. ISBN 0 521 77171 4.
2. The nature and properties of soils, 13th Edition by N.C. Brady and R.R. Weil. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2002. Hardbound, 960pp. ISBN 0 13 016763 0.
3. From this soil. Selected poems by Walt Whitman. C. Gudis (ed.). The Nauture Company, AME Publishing Ltd, New York, 96pp.