My popular science book Stone by stone was published earlier this year and here is a summary of the great reviews:
«Sjeldent velskrevet, underholdende og innsiktsfull … denne boka er så underholdende, innsiktsfull og spennende at jeg nærmest vil kalle den en pageturner.» Cathrine Krøger, Dagbladet
«Boka er både underholdende, lærerik og spennende. Etter å ha lest den, forstår du mye mer om hvordan vulkaner og utslipp av gasser kan påvirke livet på jorda. Dessuten har du fått et interessant innblikk i livet som forsker.» Erik Steineger, Klassekampen
«Dette er en drivende god fortelling!» Aasne Jordheim, Forskerforum
«Innslagene av sakpoesi løper som vannårer i denne skriftens segmenter og kommer til overflaten med litterære kildespring. … Henrik H. Svensen skriver på sitt beste en sakprosa av internasjonalt format. Nasjonale Brage-lesere bør melde sin håndfaste interesse.» Freddy Fjellheim, Vårt Land
«…Svensen shares with us his moments of vulnerability while searching for answers – ranging from the intellectual confusion that comes from too many valid hypotheses to the physical misery of spending days in the field carsick and thousands of miles from home. But throughout the book, as a literal backdrop for the action, is a vision of nature: a view from a mountain top, a stone in your hand, a wall of rock that stands one meter in front of you. It is these fine descriptions of what the geologist sees as he works that allows the reader to fully taste the seduction of working outside, and learning to love the rocks that often mean so much but more often say so little.» Anne Hope Jahren, Nordic Journal of Science and Technology Studies.
«Svensen skriv lett og godt, han gir ei levande innføring i korleis forskingsarbeidet faktisk går føre seg, samtidig som han klarer å gjere geologifaget levande, også for ein humanist. … Knausgård har gjort stor lukke med å røre seg over på sakprosaens domene i romanane sine. Og skildringane til Svensen får faktisk noko av den same appellen når han går den andre vegen, det skal han ha! » Merete Røsvik, Prosa.
The review in Dagbladet is given below (translated from Norwegian by Matt Bagguley).
Stone by stone. Henrik H. Svensen
Review – Dagbladet, by Cathrine Krøger
12. April 2018
252 million years ago, Earth was in a deep crisis. More than 90 percent of all life
disappeared, and for the next ten million years conditions here were extreme. The sea
was acidic, the coral reefs vanished, the forests died. The period is considered to be
the largest of altogether five mass extinctions, the last and most famous of which
occurred 66 million years ago. It was far less dramatic, but good for us; The
dinosaurs died out and cleared the way for us mammals.
The question is, what actually caused the greatest mass extinction in Earth’s history?
This is something researcher and geologist Henrik Svensen has set out to investigate.
In 2004, along with his colleague Sverre Planke, he wrote an article in Nature that
received international attention. They believed they could demonstrate that this mass
extinction was not the result of a meteorite, as scientists had claimed, but from
greenhouse gases caused by underground volcanic eruptions. Since then, Svensen has
worked to substantiate the theory, and in this book he takes us along on his journey.
Grey stone like hieroglyphics
The book begins and ends in Siberia, site of the world’s largest subterranian volcanic
province, and where the stone might provide the answer to this mystery. Svensen
provides us with insights into everything from pesky mosquitoes, impossible
bureaucracy, ice cold nights and perilous drinking trips – to Nansen’s journey up
river, local geology and what a stone can tell us. He does the same when he takes us
to South Africa, and we go looking for sills; underground volcanic tubes that may
hold the key to what happened 252 million years ago.
Svensen has previously written the critically acclaimed books The End is Near: About
Natural Disasters and Society (2006) and Bergtatt: The History of the Mountains and
our Fascination with Heights (2011), the latter being named Mountain Book of the
Year. In 2017, Svensen was also awarded the Norwegian Research Council’s
communication prize. It is very well deserved. Svensen has a rare ability to bring this
material to life. He makes grey stone stand out like hieroglyphs, and gives us an
insight into the marvelous world of research. We are also taken to the world’s largest
geology conference, where the most famous geologists appear like rock stars.
A vibrant personal style
Svensen also taps into a current hobbyhorse of mine: Research language – which,
with its peer-reviewed formalistic demands, contributes to making subject material
both lifeless and inaccessible. To contrast this, if not ideally, he quotes the first
edition of The Norwegian Geological Journal, in 1905. In which the geologist Hans
Reusch gives the following colourful description of the river Glomma: “Glomma is
like a large whale attacked by small predatory blackfish (killer whales); And as such,
these eager, and powerful rivers of the Northern mountains have eaten into the
It is this vibrant personal style Svensen strives for in his book, told in the first person
where, to a degree, he too is personal. That alone is not what is most invigorating
about the book; nor are the transitions between the different themes always so
elegant. But this is nitpicking – because this book is so entertaining, insightful and
exciting, that I would almost call it a page-turner.