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The Southwest Inside Out: An Illustrated Guide to the Land and Its History

By Thomas Wiewandt and Maureen Wilks, 2001, Wild Horizons Publishing.

In the past several years there's been a growing trend toward publishing books in the earth sciences that are appealing and accessible to a general audience. This book is one such effort. The 300-plus color photographs by photographer (and co-author) Thomas Wiewandt provide a remarkable overview of the Southwest landscape. These photographs, by a world-class photographer with an eye for knock-your-socks-off images of landscapes and wildlife, are clearly the focus of the book. But complimenting those photographs are maps and illustrations (mostly full color) that round out the book's educational value in a visually striking manner. Co-author Maureen Wilks, a geologist with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources in Socorro, brings a level of integrity and professionalism to the text, making it far more than a book of eye-catching photos. It is clearly written for a popular audience, but the book is graphically exciting enough to appeal to almost anyone with an interest in the subject.

The book is divided into chapters that address broad topics related to the shape and origin of landscape. The chapters themselves are further subdivided into those specific features that draw our attention—dune fields, slot canyons, hoodoos, volcanic necks, and arches, to name a few. There are sections on ghost towns and mining history, color and texture, and some discussion of ancient landscapes, including a handy list of state fossils for seven states that comprise the greater Southwest.

Several lengthy appendices include resource information for over 100 parks and public lands throughout the region, a list of 37 related websites, and over 67 suggestions for further reading. And for those unfamiliar with the region, there's a foldout map of the greater Southwest in the back. While clearly not a guidebook per se, nor an authoritative treatment of process and landscape evolution in the Southwest, the book nonetheless provides a tantalizing glimpse of this extraordinary landscape.