Oakland Geologist Drills Into East Bay History from the Ground Down in New Book

In Deep Oakland, Andrew Alden excavates the ancient story of Oakland’s geologic underbelly, revealing how its subterranean sinews are intimately entwined with its human history—and future

ON-SALE: MAY 2, 2023

BERKELEY, CALIF. — When we look at the history of a city, rarely do we see it from the “ground down,” says Andrew Alden—but it’s there that the story of any place truly begins. In Deep Oakland: How Geology Shaped A City, Alden surveys with winking insight and contagious enthusiasm the distinctive terrain of Oakland, California, revealing how quaking rocks, alluvial fans, and bubbling magma have formed the lands and the lives of everyone who has tread upon them since time immemorial.

“Geology is how the Earth works—how planets work,” writes Alden, and in this illustrated guide—featuring 11 pen and ink maps by Laura Cunningham—visitors to planet Oakland can see this corner of the world as never before, from the “shimmering heart” of Lake Merritt to the slumbering volcano at the city’s edge. 

Like its modern-day demography, Oakland boasts unparalleled diversity in its bedrock, being home to more kinds of rock than any other city in the U.S. To these rocks Oakland owes its one-of-a-kind landscape: a belt of coastal flats arrayed in front of a range of high hills over a million years old perched atop the tremulous, creeping Hayward Fault that has shaken, shunted, and shifted the East Bay into its present-day configuration. With a true local’s delight, Alden plunges readers into this cosmic backstory of some of the Town’s most beloved pockets—the wineglass valley of Claremont Canyon, the rocky melange of Mountain View Cemetery, and the soulful stream valley of Indian Gulch, to name a few—showing us how what lies beneath has carved out what we abovegrounders see today.

Throughout, Alden traces how Oakland’s layered natural history has formed and been formed by all who have stepped upon it, from the oak-grove-dwelling Ohlone to the 19th-century squatters who incorporated the town, to today’s urban melting pot. Bearing the vatic scale of geologic time in mind, Alden encourages his readers to think, like the Town’s first peoples did, seven generations ahead and imagine how human action may shape this city’s landscape in the next half-century to come.

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Andrew Alden is a geologist and geoscience writer who has worked for the US Geological Survey and reported for KQED and Bay Nature. Long fascinated with rocks and landscapes, Alden is one of the foremost experts on Oakland’s natural history and found inspiration for his debut book, Deep Oakland, in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which, as he writes, “ripped the city open and revealed to us its heart and character.” Through his writing Alden raises awareness for what he calls the deep present: the appreciation of the ancient underpinnings that shape the modern-day surroundings of daily life. His website is