A copy of this book was provided by the publisher and netgalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Content Warnings: Mentions of drug cartels and a previous assault, not detailed.
- Well now I just want to be a Volcanologist
- This is the sort of book that makes you go ‘damn I wish I was a scientist!’
- Phoenix’s sheer enthusiasm for the universe is just amazing
- Anyone willing to face down a car full of potentially armed Narcos for a hammer immediately becomes my hero for life. I don’t make the rules.
Curiosity is our birth right, our shared human heritage that connects us to every being on Earth, and to the stars beyond.
Jess Phoenix is a geologist, volcanologist and all-round badass and after listening to her talk about her career in an episode of Ologies I leapt at the chance to request this book on netgalley! A memoir at heart, this book is also a love letter to geology, to the wonders that make up the natural world and to our ability as human beings to explore and discover more about those wonders.
An English Literature graduate myself, I suppose I always (evidently wrongly) assumed that scientists have always been aware that they are scientifically minded, but Phoenix began as a humanities student, finding her love of Geology through a college course (and it has always confused me how you can study so many things at once at American universities, but evidently it has its uses!). From that first geology class to standing atop active volcanoes in Hawaii, in need of medical attention but out of range of the helicopter, on to chasing down cartel members for a hammer, Phoenix’s career has taken her all over the world in pursuit of scientific knowledge.
Then of course there’s the additional bonus challenge of being a woman in a scientific field which leads to such wonderful scenarios as being asked to wear sexy leggings while filming a tv show on an active volcano site.
You know, leggings, made of synthetic fibres that melt when exposed to heat.
On a volcano.
Pure logic right there from the production team. Gold star.
But from battling imposter syndrome at her first Explorers Club dinner to facing down Wall Street’s charging bull and deciding to run for office, Jess Phoenix is unapologetically a total badass and one of my icons for life. Her sheer enthusiasm for the world around us is infectious even through text, and the way she champions scientific knowledge for all, especially in positions of power where decisions are being made, is immensely admirable.
I think what was missing for me was, honestly, photographs. All through the book, Phoenix details the pictures she has taken at each location discussed, and there’s a gorgeous image at the beginning of the book of solidified waves of lava – but the photographs mentioned are not included in the actual text. I found myself frequently pausing in my reading to look up a volcano crater, or a lake, to properly visualise what was being described to me. I felt that some images, even just of the mountains and volcanoes if not Phoenix herself at these locations, would really have brought that one last thing to this book for me. The things being described were incredible, from eruptions lasting decades to camping out atop precarious mountains, travelling around glacial lakes and out to underwater volcanoes for important research. I wanted to see them.
I loved this book overall. Phoenix has such a great way of writing, of putting across just how much she adores what she does. I challenge anyone to read this book and now come away even slightly passionate about the study of the world we live in. Below our feet, sometimes bubbling up to the surface, is a completely alien world that we are only just beginning to understand and this book made me want to learn all I can about it!