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Annals of the Former World

by John McPhee

Choice Well-known writer McPhee's book has impressive depth in its understanding, explaining, and illustrating of the geological evolution of a cross section of North America, centered along the 40th parallel. Five chapters (termed "books") are included, four of which were published previously in the 1980s and early '90s. These original contributions deal with the geology and geologists involved with various parts of the US: the "Basin and Range" area of the western US (book 1); "In Suspect Terrain" (book 2); "Rising from the Plains" (book 3); and book 4 "Assembling California." The final book, "Crossing the Craton," deals largely with the early geological history of what we now call North America. Thus, sections of book 5 include portions on such topics as the "Oldest Rocks," the "Archean Craton," and "The Andean Margin of Kansas." An intriguing and deeply fascinating tale that McPhee tells effectively, this book can be read with benefit by interested lay persons through professional geologists. List of maps; extensive, 30-page subject and geographic index. All levels. J. T. Andrews; University of Colorado at Boulder

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly A feast for all John McPhee fans, 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. While the majority of this material has appeared in the New Yorker and in books such as Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrain and Rising from the Plains, the collection, which includes 20,000 new words, is much more than a recycling of past writing. As McPhee says, "The text has been meshed, melded, revised, in some places cut, and everywhere studied for repetition." 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: "Ebbets Field, where they buried the old Brooklyn Dodgers, was also on the terminal moraine. When a long-ball hitter hit a long ball, it would land on Bedford Avenue and bounce down the morainal front to roll toward Coney Island on the outwash plain. No one in Los Angeles would ever hit a homer like that." 25 maps, not seen by PW. (June)

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Library Journal McPhee is the most celebrated contemporary writer on North American geology, and Annals is his magnum opus, combining edited and revised sections from previous works with two new essays. (LJ 5/1/98)

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.