Basin and Range

Basin and Range The first of John McPhee s works in his series on geology and geologists Basin and Range is a book of journeys through ancient terrains always in juxtaposition with travels in the modern world a his

The first of John McPhee s works in his series on geology and geologists, Basin and Range is a book of journeys through ancient terrains, always in juxtaposition with travels in the modern world a history of vanished landscapes, enhanced by the histories of people who bring them to light The title refers to the physiographic province of the United States that reaches fromThe first of John McPhee s works in his series on geology and geologists, Basin and Range is a book of journeys through ancient terrains, always in juxtaposition with travels in the modern world a history of vanished landscapes, enhanced by the histories of people who bring them to light The title refers to the physiographic province of the United States that reaches from eastern Utah to eastern California, a silent world of austere beauty, of hundreds of discrete high mountain ranges that are green with junipers and often white with snow The terrain becomes the setting for a lyrical evocation of the science of geology, with important digressions into the plate tectonics revolution and the history of the geologic time scale.

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Basin and Range

About Author

  1. 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 The same year he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are, with FSG, and soon followed with The Headmaster 1966 , Oranges 1967 , The Pine Barrens 1968 , A Roomful of Hovings and Other Profiles collection, 1968 , Levels of the Game 1968 , The Crofter and the Laird 1970 , Encounters with the Archdruid 1971 , The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed 1973 , The Curve of Binding Energy 1974 , Pieces of the Frame collection, 1975 , and The Survival of the Bark Canoe 1975 Both Encounters with the Archdruid and The Curve of Binding Energy were nominated for National Book Awards Selections from these books make up The John McPhee Reader 1976.Since 1977, the year in which McPhee received the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the bestselling Coming into the Country appeared in print, Farrar, Straus and Giroux has published Giving Good Weight collection, 1979 , Basin and Range 1981 , In Suspect Terrain 1983 , La Place de la Concorde Suisse 1984 , Table of Contents collection, 1985 , Rising from the Plains 1986 , Heirs of General Practice in a paperback edition, 1986 , The Control of Nature 1989 , Looking for a Ship 1990 , Assembling California 1993 , The Ransom of Russian Art 1994 , The Second John McPhee Reader 1996 , Irons in the Fire collection, 1997 , Annals of the Former World 1998 Annals of the Former World, McPhee s tetralogy on geology, was published in a single volume in 1998 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 The Founding Fish was published in 2002cmillan author johnmc


Basin and Range Comment

  1. What I absolutely love about McPhee s nonfiction is his ability to write about place Bason and Range , people Deffeyes and ideas plate tectonics with both beautiful prose and amazing intimacy My favorite parts are where McPhee weaves place and people, or people and ideas, together and establishes the grand metaphor for his book Example At any given moment, no two geologists are going to have their heads exactly the same level of acceptance of all hypotheses and theories that are floating around, [...]

  2. Rocks A book on rocks A book on rocks that rocks There was a time when I would ve assumed that a head full of rocks was a prerequisite for reading a book on rocks There was a time when I wasn t aware of John McPhee McPhee rocks.Why This book rocks because it s really about time, or as McPhee calls it, deep time the mind blowing discovery that the planet is a pebble or two older than, say 40,000 years, which, once upon a time, was the received wisdom about Mother Earth s age Turns out we missed h [...]

  3. This would be two and half stars, if that were an option I very much wanted to love this book It s been recommended to me multiple times by multiple people, even long before I started working with geologists, long before I held oolites in my hand, or saw an angular unconformity, or got to know Walter Alvarez.Although I m not an earth scientist, I m familiar with most of the ideas in the book, and recognized many of the words I m interested in geology So I was presumably in the target audience a [...]

  4. This book had such potential to be a 5 star, but alasI have a great interest in geology paleontology and was excited to read a book that would lay out geology and geological subjects in such a way as to make it interesting to us lay folk McPhee attempts to do this by following a geologist along I 80 in the Basin and Range Nevada and western Utah and intermingling this region s interesting geologic history with the story of the geologist This approach was both good and bad, making the book inter [...]

  5. I was the man walking all over San Francisco with a pillow under his arm It was the wrong kind of pillow and I had to exchange it I got a few looks aboard the train I suffered a few comments at the office too But the lunch hour march down Townsend Street was the worst part a wind in the February style, shin splints from a hard pace, slanting rain in the eyes, and mud puddles for sidewalks through an industrial sector of the city Then there were the art students, twenty or thirty of them, squinti [...]

  6. This was surprisingly good It s not something I would have read if I hadn t needed to for school, but it was very interesting, and I may consider reading the rest of the series The book covered mountain building, volcanism, mining, plate tectonics, and continental drift, and also gave brief historical accounts of famous geologists, while describing the author s field trip with a geology professor At times it seemed to skip around too much, though it always came back to the main point of continen [...]

  7. I had heard about John s popular titles while in college, Encounters, In Control of Nature, etc and heard all the good things about his writing, but had never read him I picked up Basin and Range as something to read while my dad entered his cancer induced coma and I would keep him company while he was dying The book was the perfect combination of escape and realism for me at the time It gave me relief during my grief and and gave me something to look forward to after the imminent death of my f [...]

  8. Interesting revisiting the work that or less introduced me to the geo poetry pioneering geologist Harry Hess s term of plate tectonics and brought a lyrical sense of deep geological time to life Some details of our understanding of the earth s dynamics have changed, almost all of them in ways that confirm the basic vision McPhee builds the book around his encounters with geologists and the basins and ranges fanning out from Interstate 80, primarily in the West, and nothing about either the cult [...]

  9. I feel a little bad giving this book less than five stars It s supposed to be an all time classic for the geologically minded But while McPhee weaves some lovely geopoetry on his journey, intrusions in his prose can be denser than the rocks he s trying to describe He s at his best when rhapsodizing about ideas and history, which the great expanses of the west certainly bring to mind.

  10. I never would have read this on my own it was a class assignment But it was surprisingly fascinating for a book on rock formations I regret getting rid of it I think I was trying to raise some quick cash to buy ramen noodles or something.

  11. Even though it was written over 30 years ago, it might be the most eloquent description of plate tectonics, historical geology, and the geology of the Great Basin ever written

  12. While mostly a book about rocks, this is the most engaging John McPhee outing I ve read yet He covers the geopoetics of the earth, the joys of roadtripping on I 80, and the dusty pace of life in Nevada s Basin and Range a region McPhee reveres almost as much as his native New Jersey Amid long discourses on paleomagnetism, angular unconformities, and block faulting perhaps a challenge for the impatient McPhee reader , he also delivers surprisingly absorbing tales of treasure hunting, Mormons migr [...]

  13. This book is filled with signature McPhee writing Concise, wise, measured Great stuff But I really struggled to get through this book He has a way of using common language to describe quite technical and ungraspable concepts, so the end result is you just feel like you re going insane I could grab 20 great paragraphs from this book, but I never want to look at the entirety ever again.

  14. There was much to love about this book, but alsoa few things that for me were mildly off putting.First, some things that resonated for me McPhee s passion for Nature decoding some of its mysteries is, hopefully, contagious Floating on the Great Salt Lake waterso saline that only his shoulders, buttocksand heels seemed to be wet As if he were ahuge Water Strider, supported only by surface tension Bishop Ussher and his calculation forthe age of the Earth being off by a factor of than 700,000 give [...]

  15. Whenever I am handed a book that someone tells me I should read, it feels like a homework assignment I am not in school I shouldn t have homework.Moreover, there is a sort of immediacy to the required reading that tends to add stress to the equation, seeing as though the picture is colored by the act of lending This book was one of those situations in which a book was handed to me To add to the reticence with which I undertook this task, the book s subject matter was field geology What s got two [...]

  16. John McPhee must be one of the best science and nature writers alive, or dead In Basin and Range, he follows scientists to rock formations in the U.S and takes us through geologic history starting with their eyes and theories Geology is a subject about which I am especially, embarrassingly ignorant, and this placed me on the road to rocky rectitude, giving me dim hope that I might understand a fraction of what I see on an average hike someday McPhee covers plate tectonics, the composition of dif [...]

  17. It s a pleasure to read this book concerning the Great Basin while living in the Great Basin, it sent my mind soaring over the surrounding area many times in search of remembered examples In fact, this book could have benefited from pictures and graphs and such because I might not have understood it as well if my mind wasn t familiar with the terrain, but then images would interrupt the brisk prose that often sends the reader careening back into unthinkable stretches of time Reading this book ma [...]

  18. Great science told in an artful voice An extremely observant writer, this book is as unstructured as it is purposeful with its lack of structure, it simply carries you on journey after journey and helps you learn on the way.Now I want to be a geologist These are the types of books that could influence your whole life if read at an early age, and this book is especially accessible despite its verbiage, it even makes fun of its own absurd vocabulary.Highly recommended The best type of science writ [...]

  19. Though thirty years old, plate tectonics and continental drift were newly proven mere years before the 1980 publication of this delightful excursion into geology McPhee who is well known but I hadn t heard of is a very good writer and tour guide to our geologic history, the landscape, and plate tectonics A writer s delight in the subject obviously prompted him to perform at his best Recommended.

  20. Flabbergasting, the science of geology told artfully I am gobsmacked by the geologic megapicture There is a most surprising confession two thirds of the way through this book, an encounter I won t spoil but the most convincing account I ve personally heard regarding things inexplicable McPhee shares the moment with his pal, a professor at Princeton, and a hundred locals Which is unlikely, the Earth, the stars, or consciousness itself

  21. I read Basin and Range while driving through the basins and ranges of the Western U.S a few years ago This is a great piece of lay science, although the prose is at times over the top Still, what I gleaned from this book has stuck with me, and informs my passion for that well kept secret the ups and downs east of the Sierras and west of the Rockies.

  22. Interesting to look back and read a book written when plate tectonics had first gained mainstream acceptance I liked the concept of learning about the USA s geology by taking a road trip across I 80, and I had no idda the basin and range topography in Utah and Nevada was so unique.

  23. 3 3 4 stars would be accurate The book is descriptively dense think Dickens, not Nature I had to consume it in small chunks McPhee exhibits the lyrical writing of a humanities background turned toward the sciences, a precursor to Bill Bryson.

  24. I m an English composition instructor, not a geologist or anything remotely close to it, but I enjoy learning about earth processes, theories about how things got the way they are, and speculations about where they are headed, etc I enjoyed McPhee s literary way of explaining some very heady rock stuff he and other geologists find in road cuts and other interesting locales He is best when describing the side stories of interest, conversations, landscape history, etc but he lost me with the heav [...]

  25. This book is a wonderful example of why John McPhee is so well known and respected as a writer of geography and geology He is well versed, and usually finds a way to embed himself with an interesting person and we nearly all are interesting who is an expert or a practitioner of some vocation or skill and who leads McPhee and us on a journey into the subject In this case, the tour leader is Dr Kenneth Deffeyes, the Princeton prof of geology, and the trip takes place along the general east west ro [...]

  26. I have read eight books by John McPhee, no two on a remotely similar topic, and thoroughly enjoyed all of them This one is probably the one where I understood the least, as plate tectonics isn t exactly a simple process to explain to lay people, but I enjoyed it anyway I think in parts, he was just listing off cool names of things types of rocks, eras of prehistory , just because they sound cool, not because he expected anyone to understand Some bits almost read like poetry.His books always are [...]

  27. Geology is the package phrase for the effects of the revolution that occurred in earth sciences in the sixties, when people began to discuss continents in terms of their velocities and when the interactions of some 16 parts of the globe became known as plate tectonics Wanting to learn about it McPhee got in touch with Kenneth Deffeyes, a senior professor who teaches introductory geology at Princeton Univ Deffeyes said roadcuts were windows into the world as it was in other times They made plans [...]

  28. The poles of the earth have wandered The equator has apparently moved The continents, perched on their plates, are thought to have been carried so far and to be going in so many directions that it seems an act of almost pure hubris to assert that some landmark of our world is fixed a temporary description, at any rate, as if for a boat on the sea Thus begins Basin and Range, setting the tone for the rest of the book eloquent, beautifully written, and humbling in its scale The challenge of BR is [...]

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