How the Mountains Grew: A New Geological History of North America

by John Dvorak

I enjoy reading local history.  City of Richmond has a relatively short history of about 150.  European presence in the area is only about 300 years.  Indigenous people have been here since time immemorial.  But I’ve also been curious about the whole history of BC and North America.  Going back all the way to the beginning, not just of human history but of everything. How the Mountains Grew: A New Geological History of North America by John Dvorak tells that history. Going back to the formation of the Earth, Dvorak tells the story of life on Earth with a focus on the evidence both in life today and the fossil records, as well as the rock formations and every other clue left over the course of hundreds of millions, even billions of years.

How the Mountains Grew covers the cataclysmic events of supervolcanoes, meteor strikes, and floods wiping out millions of creatures, burying them in mud and silt at the bottom of the ocean only for continents to crash into each other and break into pieces. It’s the tale of mountains thrusting into the air and plains and prairies sinking to the bottom of the oceans. For a bunch of rocks that don’t seem like they move a whole lot, over the course of billions of years it’s basically an action movie of epic proportions.  It might not feel like it, but it’s almost as if we live on a trampoline floating in a pool.

My inner science nerd really liked this book for a pretty specific reason: it really shows the progression of science since I was young. When I was a kid the concept of “continental drift” had only really just been accepted, and not a whole lot was yet known about how it worked.  But over the years, the march of technology combined further experiments and research showed how the Earth works, with earthquakes, volcanoes, rivers and oceans moving about and churning above and below the surface. Until I read this book, I hadn’t really grasped how far our understanding of our planet had come.  Mountains are amazing, let me tell you.

How the Mountains Grew is an engaging, informative story of the past, present, and potential future of our continent and our planet on a scale far bigger than humanity, yet still relatable and personal.