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Introductory geology books (potentially with a caving focus)?

Andrew N

Active member
I think it's inevitable that any caver will start to show an interest in geology eventually, which is what has now happened to me. I don't know the first thing about it but I'm keen to learn.

Is anyone able to recommend any beginner level geology books which give a basic overview of the field? Something that has a particular focus on caves would be nice, but I'm more than happy for the book to be non-specific and just give a general overview. I'd love to be more detailed in my request, but I don't even know what I don't know at the moment!

Ideally the book would be an engaging popular science type text rather than a textbook, although I'd be happy to read the latter if it was the best option available. I'd also be happy to hear about other resources to learn from - potentially some good websites or podcasts?

Thanks in advance for any responses.


Well-known member
The BCRA did a number of nice little publications as I recall. Very readable and short.



Well-known member
Tony Waltham's 1974 book "Caves" gives a good 27 page overview in chapter 5 with pictures (some in colour).

you can buy it on Amazon for ?13 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Caves-Tony-Waltham/dp/B0007AH114

And amongst other things it will also give you an insight into some of the history of caving too.

I picked my copy up from South Wales Caving Club, for a very good price in a Library duplicate clearance. and gained some lovely books owned by Peter Harvey. Including a quite delicate book on Lascaux from May 1949.


Well-known member
Or I guess there is always the BGS (British Geological Survey) website.



New member
For a really approachable textbook, "Earth: Portrait of a Planet" by Marshak  is pretty hard to beat. There's lots of editions but any one is fine; you should be able to pick up a secondhand copy for under a tenner.

For a recent popular science book, I would recommend "Notes from Deep Time" by Helen Gordon. It's a great read, and told from the perspective of someone who didn't have a formal education in Earth Science but clearly loves and is fascinated by the science.

Finally, for something that is half way between a textbook and a popular science book, I would recommend "How to Build a Habitable Planet" by Langmuir and Broecker. It covers the history of our planet from dawn of the solar system to the evolution of life and what humans as a species are doing to it. A little technical but an excellent book.

Andy Farrant

Active member
Art Palmer's book 'Cave Geology' is a good overview of the geology and hydrogeology of caves Palmer, Arthur N. 2007, Cave Books
ISBN 978-0-939748-66-2
vi + 454 pages, Paperback |Geoloogy


Active member
+1 for 'Cave Geology'. Tonnes of excellent photos and diagrams.

The first (more general) volume BCRAs two-volume 'caves and karst of the yorkshire dales' is also a great general starting point even if you don't cave in the dales, as you're certain to recognise at least some of the landforms and it also contains loads of great photos and illustrations. The second volume focusses on the caves in each area of the dales and will be very insightful if you know the caves well. The language is generally not technical and is written for cavers more than for geologists.


New member
I really like the 'Rock Trails' series from Pesda Press (https://www.pesdapress.com/index.php/product-category/land/guidebooks/). They're aimed at hillwalkers rather than cavers, but offer a great introduction for the lay reader.  The first half of the book gives and overview of the geology and geomorphology of the area covered, with the second half giving a selection of recommended walks to see the theory in action, as it were. There are two titles covering caving areas (Peak District and South Wales - there isn't one for the Dales unfortunately).


New member
In a similar vein, I'd also recommend 'Granite and Grit' by Ronald Turnbull, which gives a good general overview of the geology of all of the upland areas of the UK (including the Dales).


Well-known member
Geology of Britain - An Introduction - Peter Toghill. Great book, putting british geology into a depositional and tectonic context.