Annals of the Former World

Annals of the Former World

By John McPhee

Farrar Straus Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374105204, 696pp.

Publication Date: June 1998


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 World is the winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction.

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. Also in 1965, he published his first book, "A Sense of Where You Are", with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and in the years since, he has written nearly 30 books, including "Oranges" (1967), "Coming into the Country" (1977), "The Control of Nature" (1989), "The Founding Fish" (2002), "Uncommon Carriers" (2007), and "Silk Parachute" (2011). "Encounters with the Archdruid" (1972) and "The Curve of Binding Energy" (1974) were nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science. McPhee received the Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters in 1977. In 1999, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for "Annals of the Former World". He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Praise For Annals of the Former World

"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