I am usually drawn to the particular, the specific details that make a person or place or thing unique, and therefore interesting. Still, these are all big-picture books– the major forces of the sea, the sweeping changes of global temperature change over time, the efforts to piece together broad swaths of geologic time through local observations– and yet they’re all quite intriguing. It will be difficult to choose just one.
550.92, The Map that Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology, by Simon Winchester (2001).
551.46, The Power of the Sea: Tsunamis, Storm Surges, Rogue Waves, and Our Quest to Predict Disasters, by Bruce Parker (2010)
551.694, The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850, by Brian Fagan (2000).