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Hardcover Annals of the Former World Book

ISBN: 0374105200

ISBN13: 9780374105204

Annals of the Former World

(Book #5 in the Annals of the Former World Series)

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

The Pulitzer Prize-winning view of the continent, across the fortieth parallel and down through 4.6 billion years

Twenty years ago, when John McPhee began his journeys back and forth across the United States, he planned to describe a cross section of North America at about the fortieth parallel and, in the process, come to an understanding not only of the science but of the style of the geologists he traveled with. The structure of...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

We read it through every other year. Geology 101 on the road and in boots.

jSize of War and Peace or Moby Dick but much more interesting. Up to date Geology on the Go. East Coast across to the West. Drive. Hike and put the pieces together. Great Reading, again and again.

Received as a treasured gift, honored by it.

After daily driving the humpbacked esker from Rangeley to Kingfield Maine with a former student, who was tuned in to my love of the geological processes shaping our world, he gave me McPhee's Annals of the Former World. It was a touching gift that I treasure still, and I read it all. When I moved from Maine to Colorado, I made it a point to use I-80 for as much of the trip as I could, and kept the book in the front seat with me, stopping for breaks to appreciate the work even more. This book is a wonder of writing about a subject almost too large to fit between its covers, yet McPhee has done it. Excellent for any amateur who appreciates the great forces acting on our planet, and who does not see every quake and tremor as signs of impending apocolypse, but rather an ongoing reshaping of our beautiful planet.

Geology for the masses...........

Comprised of the books Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrain, Rising from the Plains, and Assembling California, "Annals" is a geologic history of America along the roadcuts of Interstate 80 and it is masterfully done. John McPhee's talent as an essayist is to take the technically, though superficially, mundane and present in such a way as to hold the reader captive. Stripping bare the jargon, dismissing the rote explanation, and uncovering the sublime, Mr. McPhee is a first-rate tour guide through the topographies of Pennsylvania, Wyoming, California, and the glacially scored Midwest.His hook is the braiding of travelogue and human history within the geologic record. This truly comprehensive style of survey is quite effective in developing a page-turning reading experience. When I purchased this book in a museum bookshop, I prepared myself for what I presumed was quite possibly stuffy and dry. However, much to my pleasant surprise, it's the best science-related text I've read in a very long time. Rising from the Plains stands alone as absolutely outstanding, but the combination of all four remarkable books that comprise Annals of the Former World merit a resounding 5+ stars.

Let yourself get buried in the rocks...

Lovers of McPhee will have no trouble burying themselves in this book, for it has as many layers and interests as the folded-and-faulted mountains that are its theme. Anyone new to McPhee should not hesitate to pick it up, as one might, given the size and presumed topic. My only trip to Wyoming was 30 years ago, but now I ache to go back, and see it not as a place that is 80-percent dust and tumbleweed, but as McPhee has uncovered it; his writing is science made literature. I found the other reviews insisting on maps and pictures shallow and disappointing; such visuals would horribly detract from the flow of words, of which McPhee is a virtuoso. McPhee does not set out to write a textbook and teach geology to the novice. He expects you to envision what he is seeing and hearing, whether he is standing inches from a screaming tractor-trailer at a roadcut at Donner Summit, or asea in the names given to the rock we take for granite. Even if you have read the books contained in this quasi-anthology, as I have, it is far more than the sum of its parts, more than simply the books taped cover to cover. Focus on the whole, and come away with new regard for the arrogance of the human race in supposing our effect on this planet, and the wonders of the history of its rock that we may never know.


for anyone with an interest in geology, this book is definitely a must-read. i was first introduced to john mcphee's writing in an intro geology course in college. we were supposed to read just a few chapters of "basin and range". i was so enthralled that i read the entire book and, as soon as i heard of this collection, went out and bought it. i am still working my way through it (as much as i'm enjoying it, it is not a fast read). you don't have to have an extensive earth science background to read this book, although a basic understanding of geology is helpful. i recommend this book to anyone with a curiosity about the world around (and beneath!) us.
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