"Tripling as a geology primer, an autobiography, and a panorama of the nation, bejeweled with splendid vignettes and set-pieces, "Annals of the Former World" offers a view of America like no other. . . . Yield to its geopoetry and have your eyes opened to a barely known aspect of the continent."--Roy Porter, "Los Angeles Times Book Review." A ...
"Tripling as a geology primer, an autobiography, and a panorama of the nation, bejeweled with splendid vignettes and set-pieces, "Annals of the Former World" offers a view of America like no other. . . . Yield to its geopoetry and have your eyes opened to a barely known aspect of the continent."--Roy Porter, "Los Angeles Times Book Review." A Pulitzer Prize-winning book. 25 maps.
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This elegant, accessible, infinitely readable book takes us across the United States and into the states of mind of the earth as it creates and recreates itself for four and a half billion years. My first copy disintegrated from hard usage, I bought a new copy, and one to give to a friend, who then bought a copy for a friend. McPhee is the consummate stylist, and this is his greatest book. A book to read and read again.
May 30, 2009
Sometimes I read the Pulitzer-prize winning books and I just don't get it--I don't know why the judges would choose that book over any other decent book of a particular year--but this book is an exception. It's a masterpiece.
This book is incredibly long and examines a pretty intimidating subject--the geography of America--but McPhee has illuminated the subject in such a way that compliments the multi-dimensional history of a land and its people. At times he "zooms out" to give the reader a mind-boggling view of geological epochs, and at other times, he'll give us close, intimate portraits of people who have studied this land and how they view it. He drops in complex geological terminology with lovely descriptions of landscapes and somehow it all makes sense.
It's taken me a year or so to finally finish this monumental book, partly because it's so long, and partly because I'd stop and re-read portions, or mark pages, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to any serious reader. And honestly, I can't overstate this: this book has changed the way I see this land, and this earth, and has made me proud to be a part of it's complicated history.
Publishers Weekly, 1998-05-18 A feast for all John McPhee fans, this major book incorporates some of the author's best work on geology into a comprehensive tour de force. Those familiar with McPhee's writing on the subject of geology will know that his narrative includes not only scientific theory but also portraitures of his geologic guides. While the majority of this material has appeared in the New Yorker and in books such as Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrain and Rising from the Plains, the collection, which includes 20,000 new words, is much more than a recycling of past writing. As McPhee says, "The text has been meshed, melded, revised, in some places cut, and everywhere studied for repetition." McPhee's many fans won't be disappointed with the high-quality descriptive portraits of geologists, their work and theories. Since the writing follows McPhee's previous works and not any set geography or geologic logic, the author has provided what he calls a "Narrative Table of Contents," which not only describes each section in turn but the theories discussed in it. In this near flawless compilation of ambitious and expansive scope, McPhee's personalized style remains consistent and triumphant: "Ebbets Field, where they buried the old Brooklyn Dodgers, was also on the terminal moraine. When a long-ball hitter hit a long ball, it would land on Bedford Avenue and bounce down the morainal front to roll toward Coney Island on the outwash plain. No one in Los Angeles would ever hit a homer like that." 25 maps, not seen by PW. (June)
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