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Annals of the Former World Paperback – June 15, 2000
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“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, 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 . . . ” ―Milo Miles, The Boston Sunday Globe
“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
“Sunlit, brilliant. . . this book of wonders . . . ranks with the Journals of Lewis and Clark.” ―John Skow, Time Magazine
“This major book incorporates some of the author's best work on geology into a comprehensive tour de force. Those familiar with McPhee's writing on the subject of geology will know that his narrative includes not only scientific theory but also portraitures of his geologic guides . . . McPhee's many fans won't be disappointed with the high-quality descriptive portraits of geologists, their work and theories. Since the writing follows McPhee's previous works and not any set geography or geologic logic, the author has provided what he calls a 'Narrative Table of Contents,' which not only describes each section in turn but the theories discussed in it. In this near flawless compilation of ambitious and expansive scope, McPhee's personalized style remains consistent and triumphant.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“No one else can take topics as diverse and seemingly dry and make of them such diverting, entertaining, and educational literature . . . This is the book on geology.” ―Library Journal (starred review)
About the Author
- Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (June 15, 2000)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 720 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0374518734
- ISBN-13 : 978-0374518738
- Item Weight : 1.94 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.19 x 1.85 x 9.17 inches
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I am a complete newbie to geology. But even if, like me, you don't know schist about the subject, you will enjoy this wonderful book. Other reviewers here have pointed out some outdated information or subjective emphases. Okay, but he's writing a narrative, not a textbook.
Before charging off on this book -- which, BTW, is great value for money -- be sure you're familiar with Kindle's look-up feature. I used it literally dozens of times to get definitions of unfamiliar terms. What you get out of this book depends on the effort you put into it.
*As far as I can tell the text was also published as 4 or 5 different books, one for each chapter.
The incident is described in less than a page, only a short aside in the progressive, westward description of the continent, numbering hundreds of pages on an otherwise unrelated subject (or is it?). But by this point, McPhee has already established his credibility with conscientious articulations about his subjects, as well as restrained and informed expressions of the Earth, so that this aside cannot be dismissed so easily. For me, it caused a tumbler to fall in my brain, which seems to have had cascading effects, to the point that I have re-assessed possibilities for such phenomena on Earth.
Which ironically brings me full circle to McPhee's subject. If I accept McPhee's account (and I think I just might) it is impossible to not think of the time it must take to travel to Earth from distant origins. Even with incomprehensible technology, the time in travelling must have been immense. And the conclusion emerging from both McPhee's written descriptions, and the cracks in the rocks themselves, is the breath-taking sense of deep time. (Could it be that if visits have occurred, they were only by artificial life forms that can physically endure thousands or even millions of years? Would they have been created by organic life forms? Did they rule over them? But I digress.)
The point is that reading McPhee's book and the study of geology give me the sense of how recently we have come along. How even the oldest of the rocks we see, the Precambrian gneiss or schist, could well have come a billion years after other rock planets had been left by those who sought to gather and collect rocks on other planets. If you visit the Grand Canyon you get to see rocks that go back almost half of the 4.5 billion years that span the age of our world. These are the real documents of our Earth's history. And maybe even reflections of eras that coincide with glorious ages of exploration by others in our universe. Maybe that brief blip about a possible alien encounter, in the middle of a lengthy and conscientiously-described account of the geological history of our land, is not so out of place.