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Annals of the Former Worldby John Mcphee
Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction.
Synopses & Reviews
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
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.
"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
"[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
"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
"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
Book News Annotation:
Collects several pieces which originally appeared in The New Yorker along with a new chapter, completing McPhee's 20-year geological exploration of a cross-section of North America. Traveling piecemeal along the 40th parallel, he explores the knowledge and personalities of his various companions--including geologist Kenneth Deffeyes of Princeton University, the sedimentologist Karen Kleinspehn, Anita Harris and David Love of the US Geological Survey, and the tectonicist Eldridge Moores of the University of California, Davis. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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.
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