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Annals of the Former World

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Annals of the Former World Cover

ISBN13: 9780374518738
ISBN10: 0374518734
Condition: Standard
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Awards

Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction.

Synopses & Reviews

From Powells.com:

In 1978, New Yorker science writer John McPhee set out on a series of road trips with prominent geologists. In each case, they remained close to Interstate 80, which spans the country at about the 40th parallel. McPhee's purpose was to write an extended essay exploring this cross-section of the North American continent, as well as to create a portrait of the scientists who have made it their life's work to uncover its mysteries. However, when he'd finished, there was enough material for several books; he adjusted his plans. Over the next couple of decades, McPhee published a series of elegant, informed books exploring the geology of the country: Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrain, Rising from the Plains, and Assembling California. During this period, he estalished his reputation as one of the greatest writers of popular geology to ever put pen to paper. In 1998, he gathered all of these works together, added a final essay, Crossing the Craton, and published the entire work in a single volume. Immediately hailed a masterwork, Annals of the Fomer World quickly became a bestseller and went on to receive a Pulitzer Prize. What distinguishes McPhee from the vast majority of his fellow science writers is that rare ability to illuminate technical issues with the wonder of a child, the lyricism of a poet, and the depth of a philosopher. His work will undoubtedly be read by readers interested in both the American landscape and the American spirit for years to come. Farley, Powells.com

Publisher Comments:

The Pulitzer Prize-winning view of the continent, across the fortieth parallel and down through 4.6 billion years

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. 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.

John McPhee is the author of more than 25 books, including Annals of the Former World, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction in 1999. He has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1965 and lives in Princeton, New Jersey. McPhee's Encounters with the Archdruid and The Curve of Binding Energy were both nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

For much of twenty years, John McPhee traveled back and forth across the United States in the company of geologists. His aim was to write a complex work describing a cross-section of North America at about the fortieth parallel and, in so doing, to give an account of the "deep history" of the continent4.6 billion yearsas well as of the science of geology and the styles of the geologists he traveled with. The breadth of the work led him to complete it in stages, each of which was acclaimed upon publication (Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrain, Rising from the Plains, Assembling California, and Crossing the Craton); and when it was published in full, as Annals of the Former World, it was recognized as a masterpiece of nonfiction writing: an organic succession of set pieces, flashbacks, biographical sketches, and histories of the human and lithic kind.

Like the terrain it covers, Annals of the Former World tells a many-layered tale, and the reader may take paths through it. Profoundly informed, clearly and succinctly written, it is our finest popular survey of geology, and a summation of John McPhee's work.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

"No other work explains so well . . . the living principles of geology"Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times

"A magnum opus, a hallmark in literary scientific journalism."Blake Edgar, San Francisco Chronicle

"McPhee makes it all work. He somehow makes his nearly 700 pages of geological discourse sound like the archetypal drama of the planet. (As, indeed, it may be.)"Rob Laymon, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"No other work explains so well . . . the living principles of geology . . . McPhee has turned the world on to rocks."Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times

"Sunlit, brilliant . . . this book of wonders . . . ranks with the Journals of Lewis and Clark."John Skow, Time

"[McPhee] triumphs by succinct prose, by his . . . ability to capture the essence of a complex issue . . . in a well-turned phrase."Stephen Jay Gould, The New York Review of Books

"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. It is the outpouring of a master stylist. Yield to its geopoetry and have your eyes opened to a barely known aspect of the continent."Roy Porter, Los Angeles Times

"John McPhee has produced, over nearly a quarter of a century, a deep philology of the continent. Annals of the Former World is surely a classic. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was timeless."A.O. Scott, The Village Voice

"'It's a real schlemazel,' geologist Anita Harris said to McPhee as they examined geologic formations at a road cut along Interstate 80 near the Delaware Water Gap. Not by accident is geology called geology. It's named for Gaea, the daughter of Chaos.' The rocks are often chaotic, but the study of them is not in McPhee's pellucid presentation. His meaty book, adorned with 25 stunning landform maps, is the result of a 20-year project in which he set himself the goal of portraying geology and its practitioners in a way that would 'arrest the

fs20attention of other people while achieving acceptability in the geologic community.' He started with the intention of setting forth 'a sort of cross section of North America at about the fortieth parallel' but wound up casting a much wider net. A measure of the scope of his tale is provided by the structure of Book 2: In Suspect Terrain, which begins with a profile of Harris, examines the Delaware Water Gap as a fragment of the Appalachians, discusses the Appalachians and plate tectonics and presents the theory of continental glaciation. Book 2 and the four others fill out an absorbing picture of the former worldthe North America of past geologic eras back to the beginning of the Mesozoic some 245 million years ago."Scientific American

"McPhee began studying the geology of the U.S. twenty years ago, cruising Interstate 80 in the company of geologists and listening intently to their decodings of the rock strata visible in road cuts. What look merely like colorful outcroppings to the uninitiated are actually records of deep time and the stupendous heavings, splittings, and crushings of the earth's crust. A strictly literary guy, McPhee was first drawn to geology by the poetics of its nomenclature and his love of land, but he found himself captivated as well by the personalities of the scientists he befriended and soon realized that what he had conceived of as a good idea for a single piece of writing was in fact the subject of a lifetime. He filled four books with accounts of his geological journeys across North America, books now legendary for rendering a technical discipline alluring enough for even the most science-phobic of readers and for elevating creative nonfiction to the level of art . . . Here he brings those four books, revised and updated, together with one more, previously unpublished geological work, Crossing the Craton, a study of the low-profile country of the heartland. The five volumes together form a portrait of the continenta magnificent narrative that not only tracks the drama of North American geological history but also chronicles the rapid evolution of the theories and practice of geology itself and tells the intriguing stories of people for whom love of rocks has meant love of life."Donna Seaman, Booklist

"McPhee winds up his artful geohistory of the US by going deep into the heartlandKansas, Nebraskain pursuit of deep time: the Precambrian. Included in this collection are his four previous forays into geologyBasin and Range (1981, which, to encapsulate, delineated plate tectonics), In Suspect Terrain (1983, Appalachian geohistory and some broadsides at plate tectonic theory), Rising from the Plains (1986, Wyoming curiosities and environmental conundrums), and n0 Assembling California (1993, a showcase for active tectonics). Here he adds Crossing the Cratoncraton being the rock basement of the continentdelving into the realms of 'isotopic and chemical signatures, cosmological data, and conjecture,' in the company of geochronologist Randy Van Schmus. McPhee has a way of making deep structures seem freestanding, right there to ogle: 'the walls of the rift are three thousand feet sheer,' they're also 600 feet below the surface. Dexterous as ever, McPhee takes on the creationearly island arcs and vulcanism and microcontinentsand tells it with all the power and simplicity a genesis story deserves."Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"John McPhee has produced, over nearly a quarter of a century, a deep philology of the continent. Annals of the Former World is surely a classic. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was timeless." A.O. Scott, Village Voice

Review:

"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. It is the outpouring of a master stylist. Yield to its geopoetry and have your eyes opened to a barely known aspect of the continent." Roy Porter, Los Angeles Times

Review:

"No other work explains so well – and so vividly – to the layman the living principles of geology....More than anyone else, McPhee has turned the world on to rocks." Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun Times

Review:

"The finest non-technical overview of geology ever written....McPhee excels at crisp imagery and vivid, ace-scientist personalities to five a pulse to a body of data and strata." Milo Miles, The Boston Sunday Globe

Review:

"[McPhee] triumphs by succinct prose, by his uncanny ability to capture the essence of a complex issue, or an arcane trade secret, in a well-turned phrase." Stephen Jay Gould, The New York Review of Books

Synopsis:

The Pulitzer Prize-winning view of the continent, across the fortieth parallel and down through 4.6 billion years

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. 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.

About the Author

John McPhee is the author of twenty-five books (all published by FSG). He won the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction in 1998 for this work. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Dan Nelson, March 9, 2009 (view all comments by Dan Nelson)
A wonderful book to read when you feel the need to simply escape from one mode of thought into another.
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(4 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374518738
Author:
McPhee, John
Publisher:
Farrar Straus Giroux
Location:
New York
Subject:
United states
Subject:
Geology
Subject:
Earth Sciences
Subject:
Earth Sciences - Geology
Subject:
Geology -- United States.
Subject:
Geology-General
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st paperback ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Series Volume:
Bd. 1
Publication Date:
20000631
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
25 Maps, Index
Pages:
712
Dimensions:
9.13 x 6.13 in

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Related Subjects

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Annals of the Former World Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$11.95 In Stock
Product details 712 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374518738 Reviews:
"Review" by , "John McPhee has produced, over nearly a quarter of a century, a deep philology of the continent. Annals of the Former World is surely a classic. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was timeless."
"Review" by , "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. It is the outpouring of a master stylist. Yield to its geopoetry and have your eyes opened to a barely known aspect of the continent."
"Review" by , "No other work explains so well – and so vividly – to the layman the living principles of geology....More than anyone else, McPhee has turned the world on to rocks."
"Review" by , "The finest non-technical overview of geology ever written....McPhee excels at crisp imagery and vivid, ace-scientist personalities to five a pulse to a body of data and strata."
"Review" by , "[McPhee] triumphs by succinct prose, by his uncanny ability to capture the essence of a complex issue, or an arcane trade secret, in a well-turned phrase."
"Synopsis" by ,
The Pulitzer Prize-winning view of the continent, across the fortieth parallel and down through 4.6 billion years

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. 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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