A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals – A Review

With over 700 stunning photographs and detailed descriptions, A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals by Frederick H. Pough is a must-have reference guide for any rock and mineral enthusiast. As one of the Peterson Field Guides published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, this handy pocket-sized book enables you to accurately identify rocks, gems, crystals and minerals you find in fields, forests, deserts and along shorelines.

The book begins with a succinct but informative introduction to mineralogy and petrology, explaining key concepts and terms like crystal systems, streak testing, cleavage, fracture, hardness, luster and more. These basics give you the knowledge you need to understand the in-depth mineral and rock descriptions that follow.

The bulk of the guide is dedicated to mineral and rock descriptions, with sections organized by mineral type or rock family. Each entry has useful details like a photo, common chemical formula, crystal system, hardness scale rating, distinctions for identification and geological information. For example, the entry on quartz has photos of smoky quartz crystals and quartzite, plus facts like its chemical composition is silicon dioxide, its hardness is 7, its luster is vitreous and it has a conchoidal fracture.

With the mineral descriptions, you’ll learn to identify minerals like pyrite, magnetite, hematite, azurite, malachite, fluorite, calcite, gypsum, mica, feldspar, tourmaline, topaz, beryl, sulfur, graphite, halite, sylvite, gems like diamond, sapphire, ruby, emerald, garnet and so on.

For rocks, there are sections on igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic types. Igneous rocks like granite, diorite, gabbro, obsidian, pumice, basalt, andesite and more are covered. For sedimentary rocks, you’ll find details on rocks like shale, sandstone, limestone, flint, iron ore, coal, evaporites, fossils and amber. Metamorphic rocks include gneiss, schist, quartzite, marble, soapstone, serpentinite and others. Photos allow you to compare the visual characteristics of each rock while details equip you with knowledge to distinguish between similar varieties.

In addition to mineral and rock sections, the guide has other helpful extras. These include:

  • A section on gemstones like jade, opal, turquoise, lapis lazuli, agate, jasper and more. Details on physical properties, distinguishing features, cuts and colors aid identification.
  • A guide to mineral exploration and prospecting, covering tools like the rock hammer, hand lens and ultraviolet lamp and principles like rock color, veining, crystal shape and special gravity.
  • Charts highlighting diagnostic properties, streak colors and cleavage angles for quick reference.
  • An overview of geological time and fossils found from each era.
  • A section on rock-forming minerals, explaining silicates, carbonates, oxides, sulfides and more.
  • A glossary defining over 200 key terms on minerals, crystals, rocks and geology.

Overall, A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals lives up to its reputation as the quintessential portable reference guide on minerals, crystals, gemstones and rocks. With its stunning photography, detailed descriptions and diagnostic tips, it gives rock hounds, geology enthusiasts and casual collectors the knowledge to identify a broad range of specimens. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to unlock the mysteries of the rocks and minerals they discover. Keep this indispensable book handy on your expeditions and you’ll have the expertise of a professional geologist right in your pocket.