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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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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 |
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 collection of five separate works. "Rising from the Plains," was my favorite. it's the geology of the Rockies, and the story of David Love, who followed in his mother and father's footsteps to understand the subject matter as much as a pioneer and steward as he was a scientist. ( )
3 vote jpsnow | Feb 21, 2011 |
Seriously love this book, but I don't know if I'll EVER finish it.
  bwdiederich | Jan 30, 2010 |
  josephquinton | Aug 24, 2009 |
The first two parts of this very long book on the geology of North America are a little slow, like McPhee hasn't quite figured out how he wants to write about geology yet. The rest of the book, however, is so astoundingly good that it more than makes up for any problems earlier in the story. ( )
  wanack | Jun 28, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (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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