Annals of the Former World

Annals of the Former World Summary

The Pulitzer Prize-winning view of the continent, across the fortieth parallel and down through 4.6 billion years

Twenty years ago, when John McPhee began his journeys back and forth across the United States, he planned to describe a cross section of North America at about the fortieth parallel and, in the process, come to an understanding not only of the science but of the style of the geologists he traveled with. The structure of the book never changed, but its breadth caused him to complete it in stages, under the overall title Annals of the Former World.

Like the terrain it covers, Annals of the Former World tells a multilayered tale, and the reader may choose one of many paths through it. As clearly and succinctly written as it is profoundly informed, this is our finest popular survey of geology and a masterpiece of modern nonfiction.

Annals of the Former Worldis the winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction.

Book Reviews


Fabulous books5 star


Loon Cove Lodge

Annals of the Former World5 star



Reigniting a Passion for Geology5 star

I first encountered this book when my bestfriend's boyfriend carried it with him on a visit to Boulder, Colorado. I distinctly remembered the cover, and that it had to do with the geology of North America, but could not remember the title or author. Thankfully, this past Christmas I stumbled on the book and purchased it. I loved geology as a child; the Deep History always fascinated me, but a number of science teachers I did not like sadly kept me away from studying geology further. This book reignited that passion. One recommendation: buy this as an ebook, so that you have access to the Internet or Google Earth, so that you can get a better visual impression of what the author discusses. This is not a book for the faint of heart; it may require some outside learning to bolster one's understanding, and although beautifully and lovingly rendering impressions of how the Earth moves, this little bit of outside research only deepens the love and appreciation for this work. I cannot praise it enough.55


Essential Reading5 star

Imagine the history of our Earth cast in the style of an erudite, minutely detailed, vastly sensual, impeccably researched, truth-based, scientifically-focused Fantasy Meets Spy-Novel Meets Essential Textbook (if Einstein did graphic novels without pictures and you couldn't stop reading) and you get an idea of this nimble, massive eminently readable work. A book to read time and again, and dip into for wondrous facts and beautiful writing. I have had five hard-copies of this book, given four away, and now purchase the digital version to have it portable. Buy. Read. Enjoy.55

Other Books by John McPhee

The Control of Nature


The Control of Nature
4.5     30
Coming into the Country


Coming into the Country
4.5     27

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