Annals of the Former World

Annals of the Former World The Pulitzer Prize winning view of the continent across the fortieth parallel and down through billion yearsTwenty years ago when John McPhee began his journeys back and forth across the United

  • Title: Annals of the Former World
  • Author: John McPhee
  • ISBN: 9780374518738
  • Page: 483
  • Format: Paperback
  • The Pulitzer Prize winning view of the continent, across the fortieth parallel and down through 4.6 billion yearsTwenty 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 theThe Pulitzer Prize winning view of the continent, across the fortieth parallel and down through 4.6 billion yearsTwenty 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 the book never changed, but its breadth caused him to complete it in stages, under the overall title Annals of the Former World.Like the terrain it covers, Annals of the Former World tells a multilayered tale, and the reader may choose one of many paths through it As clearly and succinctly written as it is profoundly informed, this is our finest popular survey of geology and a masterpiece of modern nonfiction.Annals of the Former World is the winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction.

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    About " John McPhee "

  • John McPhee

    John McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with the New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1965 The same year he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are, with FSG, and soon followed with The Headmaster 1966 , Oranges 1967 , The Pine Barrens 1968 , A Roomful of Hovings and Other Profiles collection, 1968 , Levels of the Game 1968 , The Crofter and the Laird 1970 , Encounters with the Archdruid 1971 , The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed 1973 , The Curve of Binding Energy 1974 , Pieces of the Frame collection, 1975 , and The Survival of the Bark Canoe 1975 Both Encounters with the Archdruid and The Curve of Binding Energy were nominated for National Book Awards Selections from these books make up The John McPhee Reader 1976.Since 1977, the year in which McPhee received the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the bestselling Coming into the Country appeared in print, Farrar, Straus and Giroux has published Giving Good Weight collection, 1979 , Basin and Range 1981 , In Suspect Terrain 1983 , La Place de la Concorde Suisse 1984 , Table of Contents collection, 1985 , Rising from the Plains 1986 , Heirs of General Practice in a paperback edition, 1986 , The Control of Nature 1989 , Looking for a Ship 1990 , Assembling California 1993 , The Ransom of Russian Art 1994 , The Second John McPhee Reader 1996 , Irons in the Fire collection, 1997 , Annals of the Former World 1998 Annals of the Former World, McPhee s tetralogy on geology, was published in a single volume in 1998 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 The Founding Fish was published in 2002cmillan author johnmc

  • 860 Comments

  • Absolutely, bar none, the finest work of American natural science that I've ever read. McPhee has the eye of a scientist and the soul of a poet, and it makes for truly astonishing writing. I don't like to pile on the superlatives, but this is probably one of my ten favorite books of all time.


  • If by some fiat, I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence; this is the one I would choose: the summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone.” ― John McPhee, Annals of the Former WorldWhat I absolutely love about McPhee's nonfiction is his ability to write about place, people and ideas with both beautiful prose and amazing intimacy. My favorite parts are where McPhee weaves place and people, or people and ideas together and establishes the grand metaphor for his book. McPhee picks up [...]


  • I’m glad I’m not beyond the age where books I read can change the way I see the world. If that is an age you can reach, I don’t want to. I can’t even drive down the highway now without seeing something as simple as roadcuts in a whole different light. I’ve said this before, but in another life, I must have been a geologist. Or like McPhee, at least making a study of that place where language and the earth overlap. Nothing fascinates me more.This was beyond fantastic. I’ll keep readin [...]


  • This was my first foray into John McPhee's work. And a weighty foray it was : This hefty tome consists of four previously-published McPhee books assembled into one spine, augmented with a fifth chapter.McPhee's often staccato prose takes the reader on a tour of the geology of the lower 48, as seen largely in the roadcuts of Interstate 80, separated into five major segments : the Appalachians, the Midwest, Wyoming, Nevada, and California. Although I found myself lacking an understanding of variou [...]


  • As a geology major, a former gold miner, and finally as a hydrogeologist, the earth and its water have always fascinated me. Reading John McPhee is always a delight because he takes what remains mostly a poorly done body of work in mostly scientific terms and turns an explanation of how the earth came to be into a readable and engaging topic. Something just about anyone can enjoy provided they have the curiosity and interest in wondering how so much stunning geography came to be where it is and [...]


  • It may seem odd, but this book takes my breath away and makes me feel alive. It is about geology, and how McPhee spent years with geologists trying to make sense of the science and present it in an interesting and engaging way. I think they call it “big picture” geology and it is one of my favorite topics in life. I love most the paragraphs where he takes us from New Jersey to California say in Triassic time (250 million years ago) and describes the terrain; then turns us around 200 million [...]


  • I've only read parts of this book, since there are many different books included in this version of his geologic exploration of a cross-section of the US. I have a few things to say. #1. Read Rising from the Plains as you're driving in the Tetons. #2. Read any other section as you're driving in the area described. Your road trip will become something entirely different if you can see what you're reading about. #3. Read these books when you're planning a trip to any of the areas discussed. #4. Ju [...]


  • A most excellent remedy for insomnia, and (speaking as a sufferer) I do not mean that pejoratively. The perfect book for reading a little bit at bedtime every night, easy to pick up and put down, but still worth the reading. It lasted me about 6 weeks; not sure what I'll use now. (Well, I suppose there's still E. O. Wilson's The Ants, but I'm not sure my arms are strong enough to hold it up)Layer by layer, McPhee sediments one's grasp of deep time, and of the geologists who study it. A little to [...]


  • This book has a rhythm unlike anything else I've read, just like geology has a timescale that takes some time to wrap your head around. It's like an opera. Geology and opera both have a reputation of being long and boring, but they are also majestic and complex. This book is long, but it's not boring! For a while, when I first started this book, my three-year-old wanted me to read every other page to her--the words were like poetry. You can't read it quickly. Reading out loud helped me settle do [...]


  • Probably one of the best books I have ever read. Be prepared for some geologic rigamarole and a sense of patience and the timeline of ages will unfold. Its a compilation of all of McPhee's writings about American continental Geology. I know, sounds dull, but he uses the lives and characters of the Geologists whose work he is describing along with the massive narrative arc of plate tectonics and the history of the science itself. The story of America's westward expansion along with the Romantic e [...]


  • For pure enjoyment, I would really give this book 3 stars, but it merits 4 stars for the amount of research and information that is in it and for the wonderful writing style and occasional subtle humor. It is not a casual read, but for anyone interesting in geology is it worth the effort and somehow explains the principles of plate tectonics (and other things) without being overly technical. It also touches on the history of a few areas of the U.S which at times got tedious, and the many "storie [...]


  • Once upon a time I was a geology student. In gloomy Victorian halls and on sunny limestone outcrops we tried to get siltstones and schists and garnets to sing to us, to reveal their secrets.Sadly, as in all the sciences, many geologists aren't very good storytellers. That's why we have John McPhee. Through his prose, mountains tell their stories. While the stories collected in Annals of the Former World, don't compare to his masterful The Control of Nature, their still pretty wonderful. Geology [...]


  • A little out of date, but the only book to tackle the topic at an easy and interesting read. I used the audio version for several of the sections, but had the paper copy handy to look at the graphics, of which there could have been more. I'd like to see someone's update, and also to find the same slightly-more-than-layman read on other areas, such as the Brevard Zone in the southeast US. Someone should also come up with an annotated version as a travel guide, with lat/long of the points of inter [...]


  • To fully appreciate this book I think some firsthand knowledge of the American landscape is necessary. I possess only the slightest seen-with-my-own-eyes-familiarity on the subject and although I have read a lot about it that's not the same thing. I therefore found the book hard to follow at some times. Still for Americans who know their country well this should be one of the best and more accessable books on North American geology I reckon. A little outdated perhaps.



  • If I knew more about geology I might give this a 5, but I don't so I didn't. For the average joe to pick this up and read through it would be a battle - especially if the subject doesn't interest him. But as Dennis Hopper said to Chris Walken in True Romance "this shit fascinates me." Different subject matter - same principle. I've always liked rocks and the thought of what went on before we got here - why things are the way they are - and what is going to continue long after we are gone has a c [...]


  • Remember driving along a highway and passing through a road cut where the layers of stone in the hillside rise and descend as you pass. John McPhee began to wonder about these roadcuts and over several years compiled a geologic history of the United States through interviews and feild trips with geology professors from New York to San Francisco. His epic adventure immerses readers in deep deep time, a complex poetry of terminology, and a fascinating array of personal stories. He continually reco [...]


  • The expression "it's written in stone" couldn't be more true than the story told in this magnificent tale of one writer's journey across a continent in the company of some of the world's leading geologists.Mr. McPhee isn't afraid of using the correct scientific terminology, isn't worried that the verbiage might be over the heads of many readers. The result is a satisfying read that doesn't insult the intelligence of the reader because, above all else, his writing style is both informative AND en [...]


  • A tour de force. Ostensibly a popular study of the geology of the United States along I-80, it's really the author's goal to teach all of us why geologists fall in love with geology. I'd always thought geology was "just rocks" until I read this. But McPhee takes you into the lives of his geologist guides, teaches you about the big breakthroughs in the science, and takes you through some geological events, some slow (like orogeny, one of my new favorite words) and some fast (the Loma Prieta earth [...]


  • This is a collection of geology books. Each book focuses on a geologic province of North America, so there are five books describing the five geologic provinces of North America. McPhee pals around with the respective expert of each province and interprets the "big picture" of geology to us all. This book- these five books - tell a history of Earth which puts our own human existence in a different perspective. John McPhee is the king of scientific analogies. Very well done.


  • I love this book, originally published as four separate books and a short paper. You need to have some patience with the tumble of obscure terms that McPheee consciously plays off of, but if you have any taste for the depth of science, and its connection to the human world, you're sure to enjoy McPhee's insights into human nature and the progress and process of science. There is a narrative table of contents sort of guide to be found, which will steer you to particular passages. (It is a big boo [...]


  • Now having read, finally, all four of McPhee's previous books on the geology of the fortieth parallel—roughy along the length of Interstate 80 from New York City to San Francisco—I can claim to have read this series-ending compendium volume which includes these four works in total. There is also a new, short chapter, "Crossing the Craton," some 45 pages, which I read at the Barnes & Noble "library." This later material, rather superficially and uninterestingly, links his coverage of the [...]


  • This is an amazing book about geology, geologists, plate tectonics, America, and time. It is comprised of four books previously published: Basin and Range (which I reviewed before and still stand by the review), In Suspect Terrain, Rising from the Plains, and Assembling California. A final essay about the "basement" of North America is attached as a coda to finish the book. While reading the book, the sense of geologic time overwhelmed me and I couldn't help thinking how arbitrary and pathetic h [...]


  • This was a great book about geology. It is the perfect blend of science and narrative. McPhee is a wonderful writer who tackles an enormous subject, basically the geologic history of America. He follows I-80 across the country with different geologists and looks at road cuts to get a view of the geology of the area. Each section of the country gets its own treatment, and this long book is actually five works combined, each of which can be read separately. Throughout the work McPhee gives the rea [...]


  • McPhee Travels Interstate 80 from the east to the west coast accompanied by a succession of experts in the geology of the regions along the way. He writes in a chatty and engaging style for a book about geology. It reads like a travelogue of an intelligent fellow and good writer curious to find out what he can about the landmass of the United States without too much technicality.The author leavens the science with just the right amount of associated information: backgrounds and anecdotes about t [...]


  • This is a book of books. The book is an anthology of four previous books and a fifth published for the first time with this book. It covers geology, history, politics and more. It's a travel book and a fascinating look at geologists and their evolving views of the world as plate tectonics rewrote their science.The broad sweep of the book is the geology of the American continent: how it came to be, how it changed through the ages. The anchor for this look is Interstate 80, running from New York C [...]


  • This book was a gift from a good friend who gave it to me when I switched from biology to geology as a major in college. In "Annals of the Former World" McPhee takes us on a journey through time and space by examining the geology of North America (mostly) along I-80. It's been 11 years since I graduated, and longer since I read the book, but I remember the material I learned in my classes that last year of college really coming to life as I read the McPhee's evocative language. McPhee's essays a [...]


  • Wonderful narrative elucidating the geological history of the United States, told in 5 parts by writer Jon McPhee, who made a career of traveling I-80 with several geologists. What I like most is the way he shows concrete, relevant examples that prove the effects are still happening. For example, p. 235, where he describes how the Pennsylvania Turnpike can be broken up within 20 years. Another early part talks about boulders being swept into a small town in Nevada. This book is really a collecti [...]


  • An instant classic of nonfiction, this book is simply a masterpiece. A book that shows us the earth we live on in fascinating detail and history. From the Precambrian to the San Francisco earthquakes of the twentieth century, John McPhee illuminates the vast amount of history under out feet. If you've ever had an interest in rocks or continental history, or wanted to explore how mountains came to be, this is a book you must own. Not only does it explain some complicated theories of geology, McPh [...]


  • What a mind-blowingly comprehensive compilation of writing on a geologic cross section of America through characterizations of off-beat geniuses and possessed rock-hounds. Totally awesome. I was reading part of this while on a bus with students heading East on I-80 through Wyoming and was totally enraptured with the very interpretation through the book of the bleak landscape surrounding me. Who knew I was looking at billions of years in time with a mere 50 minute drive from point to point? That [...]


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