The cover of Quaternary Sediments features an attractive young woman crouching before a section showing different levels of sands. The explanation inside tells the story of that section and is a great appetizer for the study of these sediments, relating how each level represents its own particular episode of the British Quaternary. But you should not judge a book by its cover? The authors repeatedly refer to Quaternary Sediments as a manual. Of course, a manual is not intended to be fun reading, but is to be used. The danger of such a text is that its readability suffers. Not so for Quaternary Sediments. The book is very well written, indeed; particularly, the descriptions of experiments are clear, concise and to the point.

The book consists of three parts. The first deals with basic laboratory techniques and how to handle various instruments. ‘Scrupulously clean’ appears so often in this part that I wondered if the writers are acquainted with my ex-wife. Having said that, the point the writers are pressing is that good science begins with good data which, in turn, begins with good lab work. This identifies the main target of the manual. It is for people who are making their first acquaintance with the many techniques for analysing sediments. I imagine that the authors required many a freshman to purchase their book. Given the overall quality, it is laudable that they made this work available to undergraduates all over the world.

The second and third parts of the book deal with the analyses of physical and chemical properties of sediments, respectively, with the former making up the bulk of the manual. There are ample examples on how these analyses have been used in studies. Cross-references to other sections of the book will aid the novice. If you have forgotten how to riffle the sediment, check this and that section; remember the procedure for air-drying, and the use of the measuring boat was explained earlier. Quaternary Sediments was written by authors that not only knew what they were doing, but also how to convey their skills to a future generation.

Quaternary Sediments is a fine book. However, in creating a second edition of a book that first appeared in 1991, the authors were faced with a choice; rewrite or republish. They choose for the latter for a number of reasons. Basic techniques have not changed and these can be carried out by someone who does not have access to all the expensive modern equipment. Computers and software are notably missing; when the book requested me to check statistical tables, that was a real trip down memory lane. A strength in the book lies in the many examples. In a world in which we urge students to check the recent literature, examples from the 1970s and 1980s, although excellent studies, reduce the credibility of the book. The only addition the authors make is a series of what they refer to as ‘second thoughts’ in the prologue. Useful additions, but I can vouch that it is not a good idea to give your second thoughts first. In the manual, they simply get lost.

I advise anyone who wants to read the manual to check out their first edition. The contents haven't changed and, as I noted above, the content is well worthwhile. To the authors I would suggest to start writing the third and revised edition.