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Rising from the Plains Paperback – November 1, 1987

45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Although it stands well on its own, this book can be viewed as a continuation of McPhee's Basin and Range ( LJ 4/1/81) and In Suspect Terrain ( LJ 4/1/83). As in those earlier works, the central theme of this book is the geology of an area near Interstate 80, this time the Rocky Mountains and adjacent terrain in Wyoming. McPhee skillfully weaves together the personal history of Rocky Mountain geologist David Love and his family with the geological history of the region, chronicling both the story of pioneering homesteaders and that of ancient seas, volcanoes, and episodes of mountain building. He also details the search for resources and the environmental effect of their discovery, as well as the inner workings of geology. Recommended, especially for public libraries. Joseph Hannibal, Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Mr. McPhee has created a style--blending detailed reporting with a novelistic sense of narrative--and a standard that have influenced a whole generation of journalists. (Timothy Bay, The Baltimore Sun)

McPhee rides shotgun across Wyoming in a four-wheel-drive Bronco while the geologist David Love steers, lectures, and reminisces....This instructive account of the geologic West and the frontier West is a delight. (Evan S. Connell, The New York Times Book Review)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (November 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374520658
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374520656
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University. His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1965. The same year he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are, with FSG, and soon followed with The Headmaster (1966), Oranges (1967), The Pine Barrens (1968), A Roomful of Hovings and Other Profiles (collection, 1969), The Crofter and the Laird (1969), Levels of the Game (1970), Encounters with the Archdruid (1972), The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed (1973), The Curve of Binding Energy (1974), Pieces of the Frame (collection, 1975), and The Survival of the Bark Canoe (1975). Both Encounters with the Archdruid and The Curve of Binding Energy were nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on July 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
I'm not a slow reader, but I rarely read a book in the same 24 hours. This one was an exception. I was immediately drawn in (and by a subject that is not of more than general interest to me), and I more or less did not put the book down until I'd read to the last page.
As a teacher, I'm first of all impressed by how McPhee makes an academic and scientific subject (geology) not just interesting but gripping. For the most part, he personalizes it, introducing an eminent field geologist, David Love, who takes him and us on a tour around Love's home-state, Wyoming, describing over 2 billion years of the geological past as revealed in the cuts along Interstate 80 and in a side trip to Jackson Hole, outside Yellowstone Park. Love is very much a product of his upbringing on an isolated ranch in central Wyoming, his mother educated at Wellesley, his father an immigrant from Scotland who quotes William Cowper and Sir Walter Scott.
Love is independent, old school, hands-on, tireless, scrupulous, an innovative thinker who has made a significant impact over a lifetime in his field, choosing to work for the US Geological Survey after a short period of unhappy employment for an oil company. McPhee captures his very individual point of view, his dedication to science, and his Western perspective in character sketches and fragments of conversation between them. He has a dry sense of humor, colorful turns of phrase, and a toughness that goes along with long periods of field work and sleeping rough under the stars. He's also a grand-nephew of John Muir.
The book actually begins with his mother's wintery journey by horse-drawn coach from Rawlins to central Wyoming, where she has accepted a teaching job at a one-room school.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By on November 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
John McPhee is my favorite writer, and this is his greatest work. It is really helpful to have read the first two books in the series, but not absolutely essential. We all have met interesting people, but it's extremely unlikely you've met anybody as interesting as David Love, the geologist at the center of this work, or his parents, John Love and Ethel Waxham. His parents mastered the literal frontier, and David went on to master the scientific puzzle known as Jackson Hole, in Grand Teton National Park. This is the most geologically complex spot in North America, and over a period of 50 years, Love put it all together. You will not find a more fascinating, humane and stirring account of the sciences than this book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Philip Carl on November 9, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John McPhee joins geologist David Love for a tour of the Wyoming countryside. Well at least, McPhee uses their drive along Interstate 80 as a jumping off point to spin a tale or two. Painting on a broad canvas, he pieces together a detailed picture of Wyoming from its rich geological history, to the hearty characters that settled there. And the focal point for all this is David Love. And why not? Love's history with the area is indeed the stuff that can fill a book.
The descriptions of Love's parents (especially his dad) and how they cut their teeth in the ranching business on the unforgiving landscape proved the most entertaining for me. The time spent looking for lost sheep, and moving herds put David Love on a path to his ultimate passion.... The geology of Wyoming. For Love, the Wyoming landscape appeared more interesting and mysterious than anything else. To his credit, Love is the only person to build a complete geological survey of an entire state. Not to mention probably one of the most complex.
McPhee wraps up the book by looking at the challenges that face a place rich in resources such as coal, shale, and uranium. As a geologist, Love reflects on the interesting role his life work plays in this regard. For me, the story reveals two competing forces. One being how a land like Wyoming can influence and shape a man's entire life, and conversely how that same man's life work can change our view and understanding of a complex landscape such as Wyoming.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By tertius3 on July 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
In stirring prose McPhee turns the imperceptible pace of geological change exposed in High Plains road cuts into sublime and awesome cataclysms. He incorporates the struggle to survive and prosper of a pioneering ranch family, from whom came an outstanding geologist, John Love. He deciphers the complex story lying behind modern Wyoming, including the soaring Teton Range, evocative Wind River, and Yellowstone. Far more than a guide (with it's helpful time charts and map), McPhee's sensitive writing makes you feel the prodigious forces of the landscape lurking underfoot--almost as unsettling as experiencing an earthquake yourself.
A fun complement to this book is the Wyoming oil geologist mystery Tensleep by Sarah Andrews, or Margaret Coel's Arapaho mystery series.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John Ingle on January 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
Well this is another of McPhee's books on geology and as usual it is very well done. But don't let that fool you, even though this book is written about high-country geology it is not too heavily laden with technical jargon nor is it a tedious read. With sly humor and and a witty style the author brings a down to earth (forgive the pun) approach and brings to life the richness of human history and geology in the old west till the present day.
If you are a student of geology then this is a must read along with McPhee's other books on geology...Basin and Range and In Suspect Terrain...but even if you are not interested in the geological processes of the west the book still brings to life the people and country of Wyoming and the old west. Overall this is a great book and while some people may find it tedious if you have a love for the outdoors and the frontiers then this book will definately impart some knowledge unto you and is worth reading.
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