A review by tbauman
Annals of the Former World, by John McPhee


I had mixed feelings about this book. I'm really glad I read it, but it was a slow read that took some effort. I really enjoyed the science and the storytelling, but the book often spent too much time using words it hadn't defined and too little time telling stories about processes. My favorite parts were the vignettes connecting geology to history - the gold miners in the Sierra Nevadas, the cowboys in Wyoming, even the vacationers in the Delaware Water Gap. (I was disappointed that this vignette was missing from the final "book," Crossing the Craton.) Each book also introduced a new geological phenomenon, which were the parts I suspect I'll remember best. Other parts were tougher to finish. I often struggled to follow the long passages describing how specific geographical places came to be - describing rocks being shoved up, eroding, being covered, flipping, and deformed by other rocks. I get that this is how geology works, but it doesn't always translate to the written page. Also, as I said in my review for "Assembling California," I'd love to see more pictures and maps.

However, for all my complaints, I am now a geology fan and have a much deeper appreciation for the earth around me. I'd guess that's what John McPhee would have wanted me to get out of it.