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Geology Books by John McPhee

Books on Geology of the American Continent
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Basin and Range
by John McPhee
One of the most valuable tools for the advancement of geological science has in fact been the humble road cut. United States Interstate 80 crosses the entire North American continent, in the process exposing hundreds of millions of years of geological history. In Basin and Range, McPhee, accompanied at times by Princeton geologist Kenneth S. Dreyfuss, demonstrates how the contorted and tilted rocks seen in these road cuts reveal how islands of the earth's crust have floated across the earth's surface, crashing and folding to form basin and range. This is a masterful and sometimes even poetic volume of popular writing about plate tectonics, communicating the profound satisfaction of using scientific research as a tool for understanding the world around us. This is the first of four books on North American geology by McPhee, collectively entitled Annals of the Former World. The other volumes are In Suspect Terrain, Rising from the Plains, and Assembling California. - Amazon.com

Annals of the Former World
by John McPhee
In 1978 New Yorker magazine staff writer John McPhee set out making notes for an ambitious project: a geological history of North America, centered, for the sake of convenience, on the 40th parallel, a history that encompasses billions of years. In 1981 he published the first of the four books that would come from his research: Basin and Range, a study of the mountainous lands between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevadas. Two years later came In Suspect Terrain, a grand overview of the Appalachian mountain system. In 1986 McPhee released Rising from the Plains, a history of the Rocky Mountains set largely in Wyoming. And in 1993 came Assembling California, a survey of the area geologists find to be a laboratory of volcanic and tectonic processes, a place where geology can be watched in the making. Annals of the Former World gathers these four volumes, which McPhee always conceived of as a whole, to make that epic of the Earth's formation; to it he adds a fifth book, Crossing the Craton, which introduces the continent's ancient core, underlying what is now Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska.

McPhee's great virtue as a journalist covering the sciences--and any other of the countless subjects he has taken on, for that matter--is his ability to distill and explain complex matters: here, for example, the processes of mineral deposition or of plate tectonics. He does so by allowing geologists to speak for themselves and an entertaining lot they are, those sometimes odd men and women who puzzle out the landscape for clues to its most ancient past. Annals of the Former World is a magisterial work of popular science for which geologists--and devotees of good writing--will be grateful. --Gregory McNamee - Amazon.com
Hardcover: 696 pages
Farrar Straus & Giroux; ISBN: 0374105200;

Assembling California
by John McPhee
As an explainer, John McPhee is a national treasure. The longtime "New Yorker" staff writer has taken us inside the world of art museums, environmental groups, fruit markets, airship factories, basketball courts, and atomic-bomb labs the world over. Here he covers the complex geological history of California, the source of much news today. As Californians daily await the inevitable great earthquake that will send their cities tumbling down like so many matchsticks, McPhee piles fact on luminous fact, wrestling raw data into a beautifully written narrative that gainsays a sedimentologist's warning: "You can't cope with this in an organized way," he told McPhee, "because the rocks aren't organized." As always, McPhee enlarges our understanding of the strange, making it familiar--and endlessly interesting. Amazon.com
Paperback: Noonday Press; ISBN: 0374523932; (February )
Listed under California Geology

Rising from the Plains
by John McPhee
Part three of McPhee's Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the geology encountered along the fortieth parallel as it traverses the United States.
Paperback: Noonday Press
ISBN: 0374520658; Reissue edition (May 1991)

In Suspect Terrain
by John McPhee
The Delaware Water Gap, where the Delaware River cuts through the Appalachian Mountains, is a bucolic and peaceful landscape perhaps best known as the setting of Edward Hicks's famous painting, The Peaceable Kingdom. However, the calm landscape conceals the tortuous geological history of this region and the equally complex debates concerning the geological past of the eastern United States.

In Basin and Range, McPhee traveled across the United States with a strong proponent of plate tectonics. In this volume, he travels over some of the same terrain with Anita G. Harris, a geologist who questions the ability of plate tectonics to completely explain the geology of this part of the world. As always, McPhee conveys the brilliant enthusiasms of those he profiles and the engaging complexity of the disciplines within which they work.

This is the second of four books on North American geology by McPhee, collectively entitled Annals of the Former World. The other volumes are Basin and Range, Rising from the Plains, and Assembling California. Amazon.com
Hardcover: Farrar Straus & Giroux; ISBN: 0374176507; (February 1983)

The Control of Nature
by John McPhee
 
 
 
 


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