Microbes, Volcanoes & Good Old-Fashioned Dirt: Three Good Books on Soil Health

Book Suggestions

Since starting this blog, we’ve noticed a lot more people talking about rock dust—its origins, how it interacts with beneficial microbes, and how it can improve soil health and the health of our own bodies.

It’s a little like the Yellow Volkswagen Bug Theory. When someone you know gets a yellow VW bug, suddenly you begin to see them everywhere you go. Of course, they were there all along. You’ve just become more aware of them.

The same goes with books.  Here are three books that touch either directly or indirectly on soil, soil health, rock dust and remineralization.


Destruction and Renewal: A New Look at Mount St. Helens

Much has been written about the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, so another book about the volcano and the destruction that it left behind seems unnecessary. Yet “Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens” (W. W. Norton & Company, 2016) by author Steve Olson is different. He writes about the event in the context of the times (high unemployment, a gloomy economy, and general malaise) and how these thing affected local and federal decision-making before, during and after the single most powerful natural disaster in American history.

The author ends by applauding the decision to preserve 110,000 acres around the volcano, giving scientists a chance to observe how the land has bounced back. Today, the area enjoys more biological diversity than it did before the blast, thanks largely to the mineral-rich volcanic ash and rock that was deposited on the soil.

On our blog: Read articles on Mount St. Helens and other volcanoes around the world, including “Rich, Healthy Soil with Volcanic Soil Amendments” and “Secrets from the Deep: Volcanic Basalt’s Mineral Benefits Are Far-Reaching.”


Microbes and Rocks: A Symbiotic Relationship

A geology professor at the University of Washington, David Montgomery is the author of “Dirt,” an influential book which takes a fascinating (and often dim) look at the history of soil and civilization. His newest book is “The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health” (W. W. Norton & Company, 2015) which he wrote with his wife, biologist Anne Biklé.

Montgomery and Biklé tell the story of buying a home in Seattle and finding a yard filled with hard, compacted soil.  As they bring it back to life, they learn about the role of microbes and the promise they hold for restoring depleted soils. When Biklé gets cancer, she learns that microbes work to benefit our digestive systems in much the same way they work to benefit the soil. Soil health and human health go hand in hand.

In the following passages, the authors describe how microbes and rocks work together for soil health and human health:

“We can’t eat rocks, yet our bodies are made of nutrients that come from rocks. Microbes play key roles in breaking down and extracting elements from rocks and getting them into biological circulation.”

“In something akin to a refining process, microbes help remove essential elements from rocks and keep them in play thereafter in the game of life.”

“Without the help of microbes transforming nutrients into forms plants can use, important elements remain uselessly parked just outside a plant’s roots, like a cargo ship stuck outside port.”

On our blog: Learn more about how rock dust fragments help feed hungry microbes in “Keep Soil Microbes Happy: Feed Them a Healthy Diet of All-Natural Volcanic Rock Dust” and “Soil Minerals and Microbes: A Partnership That Benefits Plants, People and Planet.”


Healthy Soil, Health Food, Healthy Kids

“We are only as good as the dirt our food is grown in and our kids play in.”

The quote is from Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein, a pediatric neurologist and the author of “The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil” (Atria Books, 2016). Beginning with her own son, Dr. Klein discovers that much of our conventionally grown and highly processed food is harming our children’s immune systems and interfering with their gut microbiomes.

The result is lifelong, chronic illness. What is the solution? According to the author, it is good old-fashioned dirt. The “dirt cure,” as the author calls it, includes the following:

  • Eating fresh, nutrient-dense food from healthy soil
  • Exposing kids to a diversity of microbes
  • Spending more time outdoors in nature

On our blog: Learn more about taking control of our children’s health by reading “Going from ‘Fed Up’ to ‘Fired Up:’ Teaching Kids About Soil Health & Nutrition” and “What do Rock Dust and Recess Have to do With Getting Kids to Eat Better?


Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Please share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions….and happy reading!