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Coming into the country by John McPhee

Coming into the country (original 1977; edition 1977)

by John McPhee

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1,1301210,500 (4.13)36
Title:Coming into the country
Authors:John McPhee
Info:New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977.
Collections:Your library
Tags:Natural History, John McPhee

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Coming into the Country by John McPhee (1977)



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This is a fabulous book. Written in the mid-1970s, it recounts his experiences and adventures in Alaska, both at a personal level and as an observer of the struggles of a place that wasn't even 20 years old as the 50th state. It's full of history, colorful characters, discourses on wildlife and geography, and details of everyday life that he makes seem anything but mundane, especially to anyone from the lower 48.

It might be assumed that a book that, among other things, discusses current events from the 1970s would be terribly dated to a reader of today but that simply isn't the case. Yes, we know how the drive to move the capital away from Juneau turned out and we know at least some of the impact of the oil pipeline, but what makes this book so interesting are the mindsets of the people that he illustrates so well. McPhee has a real gift for presenting both sides of a conflict such that the reader can appreciate both, even when McPhee flat out tells you how he feels about it.

This is highly recommended: whether you simply want to learn more about Alaska or want to vicariously experience life hundreds of miles from the next human being where 20 below zero is considered shirt-sleeve weather. ( )
3 vote TadAD | Aug 6, 2017 |
There is a little bit of all things Alaskan in Coming into the Country. To name a few: the trials and tribulations of traveling rivers via kayak, the must-know laws of sport fishing (for example, fishermen are prohibited from catching fish by anything but mouth. Who knew?), Juneau is two time zones away from Anchorage. There's more: McPhee details the nature of Grizzly bears, the techniques of placer mining, the bickering over the new location of the state capital, marriage and survival, and my favorite, the people of Alaska (transplant and not). The people you meet in Coming into the Country are phenomenal. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Apr 25, 2017 |
Referred to in Skyfaring - Mark Vanhoenacker
  Matt_B | Dec 15, 2015 |
Some amazing writing from before 1980. One of the three parts is devoted to an effort to relocate the state capital which I guess came to naught as Juneau is still the capital. McPhee's command of geology and flora and fauna is amazing. There are so many portraits of the people he meets and the tales they tell. Near the end of the third section, for which the book is named, coming into the country describing life in the Yukon, McPhee describes one morning waiting to be picked up by usually punctual air pilots. He is in a geologic bowl many miles wide and it is mid summer so the sun never sets. He has no watch and can get no clue from the position of the sun. I got such a feeling of dislocation both in time and space. A big country going through big changes. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
McPhee is a master at shaping a narrative and giving everyone a balanced approach. He helps you understand more about "The Great Country" another translation of Alaska. He gives detailed descriptions of what it's like to live in the Bush and gives you a condensed history of the 49th state. ( )
  Your_local_coyote | Dec 29, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374522871, Paperback)

Residents of the Lower 48 sometimes imagine Alaska as a snow-covered land of igloos, oil pipelines, and polar bears. But Alaska is far more complex geographically, culturally, ecologically, and politically than most Americans know, and few writers are as capable of capturing this complexity as John McPhee. In Coming into the Country, McPhee describes his travels through much of the state with bush pilots, prospectors, and settlers, as well as politicians and businesspeople who have their eyes set on a very different future for the state.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:51 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Coming into the Country is an unforgettable account of Alaska and Alaskans. It is a rich tapestry of vivid characters, observed landscapes, and descriptive narrative, in three principal segments that deal, respectively, with a total wilderness, with urban Alaska, and with life in the remoteness of the bush. Readers of McPhee's earlier books will not be unprepared for his surprising shifts of scene and ordering of events, brilliantly combined into an organic whole. In the course of this volume we are made acquainted with the lore and techniques of placer mining, the habits and legends of the barren-ground grizzly, the outlook of a young Athapaskan chief, and tales of the fortitude of settlers-ordinary people compelled by extraordinary dreams. Coming into the Country unites a vast region of America with one of America's notable literary craftsmen, singularly qualified to do justice to the scale and grandeur of the design.… (more)

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