Annals of the Former World, by John McPhee

snapjack's review against another edition

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I like this book very much to pick up and read a few pages in as a meditative exercise in winding down for bed, but it's not at all a "must-finish", as there's no plot--it's more of a ramble through time on a geologic scale. 

cahelion's review

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You know, I never thought I'd love a 700 page book about geology. Luckily, we can all be wrong sometimes. Wonderful book, beautifully written.

zachkuhn's review against another edition

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McPhee is a national treasure, but the science in this is beyond my pay grade.

darwin8u's review against another edition

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If by some fiat, I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence; this is the one I would choose: the summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone.”
― John McPhee, Annals of the Former World


What I absolutely love about McPhee's nonfiction is his ability to write about place, people and ideas with both beautiful prose and amazing intimacy. My favorite parts are where McPhee weaves place and people, or people and ideas together and establishes the grand metaphor for his book. McPhee picks up pieces of conversation with geologists and their satelites that might get missed by most other writers, but manages to find, keep and eventually place these nuggets into his book (written over 20 years) in a way that works to support his big themes.

Seriously, this book is one of my favorite nonfiction works of all time. You can see the mark McPhee left on his students' writing if you've ever read [a:Robert Wright|57798|Robert Wright|], [a:Richard Preston|9996|Richard Preston|] or New Yorker editor [a:David Remnick|29303|David Remnick|]. Some consider McPhee to be the godfather of New New Journalism, but he is much more than that. IMHO, he is the godfather of modern nonfiction writing, period.

jamiereadthis's review against another edition

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I’m glad I’m not beyond the age where books I read can change the way I see the world. If that is an age you can reach, I don’t want to. I can’t even drive down the highway now without seeing something as simple as roadcuts in a whole different light.

I’ve said this before, but in another life, I must have been a geologist. Or like McPhee, at least making a study of that place where language and the earth overlap. Nothing fascinates me more.

This was beyond fantastic. I’ll keep reading it for years.

laandymay's review against another edition

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Enjoyed it to a point, way too much for my level of interest

timn's review against another edition

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Couldn't get into it. The writing is good but mostly over my head.

icfasntw's review against another edition

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Annals of the Former World is the most beautiful book about geology I've ever read.

In the first volume, McPhee hijacks the jargon of geology to help explain the impact of studying the discipline -- the new sense of "long" as a time period, for instance.

The third volume focuses on a geologist who works in Wyoming, and it shows the struggle that geologists have -- between wanting to better the human environment and wanting to understand and maintain the beauty of the natural environment.