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Annals of the Former World by John McPhee

Annals of the Former World (1998)

by John McPhee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Annals of the Former World (omnibus)

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981168,763 (4.27)48

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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
I only read Basin and Range, for Bookclub.
I'm not sure I would have picked it for myself but I found it very interesting. It didn't always stay on target and the meanderings could get tedious but parts were well-written and very engaging. The biggest complaint I had was that it never started and ended. I felt like I came in during the middle and left there as well. Perhaps if I read the reamning books in the compilation, it will seem different.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
For starters, do not be intimidated by the subject matter: geology. McPhee writes with a folksy tone. Right away he is calling the reader "friend." This is not to say the content of "Crossing the Craton" has been dumbed down. It hasn't. McPhee doesn't spare the reader from words like brachiopods, samarain, neodymium and nautiloids and his timelines are a confusing mess. It takes some getting used to but I have to say this, reading about the oldest rock (35 billion years old) from the Minnesota River Valley is pretty fascinating. "Crossing the Craton" is the last chapter in his behemoth book, Annals of the Former World and probably the shortest. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jun 16, 2014 |
Read the Assembling California section: in 1994 there was 67% chance that there would be a big quake in the Bay Area before 2020... the clock is still ticking.

Too much geology lingo without a glossary, but what a writer he is! Such clean, precise, quietly suggestive description, whether it's geological, topographical, or human interest. To return to at will.

( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
McPhee makes science sing. ( )
  schmicker | Apr 19, 2014 |
The book has too many tedious and opaque renditions of terminology, and the narrative is rambling and disjointed, but I give the book four stars because of McPhee's profound fascination with geology and geologists and their personalities, which he conveys well and affectionately; more illustrations would have been helpful. ( )
  JohnPeterAltgeld | Aug 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John McPheeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Funk, TomGeologic time scalesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kawabata, JulieIndexsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krupat, CynthiaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374518734, Paperback)

In 1978 New Yorker magazine staff writer John McPhee set out making notes for an ambitious project: a geological history of North America, centered, for the sake of convenience, on the 40th parallel, a history that encompasses billions of years. In 1981 he published the first of the four books that would come from his research: Basin and Range, a study of the mountainous lands between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevadas. Two years later came In Suspect Terrain, a grand overview of the Appalachian mountain system. In 1986 McPhee released Rising from the Plains, a history of the Rocky Mountains set largely in Wyoming. And in 1993 came Assembling California, a survey of the area geologists find to be a laboratory of volcanic and tectonic processes, a place where geology can be watched in the making. Annals of the Former World gathers these four volumes, which McPhee always conceived of as a whole, to make that epic of the Earth's formation; to it he adds a fifth book, Crossing the Craton, which introduces the continent's ancient core, underlying what is now Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska.

McPhee's great virtue as a journalist covering the sciences--and any other of the countless subjects he has taken on, for that matter--is his ability to distill and explain complex matters: here, for example, the processes of mineral deposition or of plate tectonics. He does so by allowing geologists to speak for themselves and an entertaining lot they are, those sometimes odd men and women who puzzle out the landscape for clues to its most ancient past. Annals of the Former World is a magisterial work of popular science for which geologists--and devotees of good writing--will be grateful. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:21 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"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." "Like the terrain it covers, Annals of the Former World tells a many-layered tale, and the reader may choose one of many paths through it, guided by twenty-five new maps and the "Narrative Table of Contents" (an essay outlining the history and structure of the project). Read sequentially, the book is an organic succession of set pieces, flashbacks, biographical sketches, and histories of the human and lithic kind; approached systematically, it can be a North American geology primer, an exploration of plate tectonics, or a study of geologic time and the development of the time scale."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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