OVERRIDE

Basin and Range

John McPhee

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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, a spectacular topography that is never evoked by people who dismiss it as "desert."

On and off Interstate 80, the author traversed the Basin and Range with Kenneth S. Deffeyes, a professor of geology who has done extensive field work in Nevada. The terrain becomes the setting and the sample 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.

Basin and Range is the first book in a series on geology and geologists, presenting a cross section of North America along the fortieth parallel, and gathering under the overall title Annals of the Former World. The second and third books in the series are In Suspect Terrain and Rising from the Plains.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Basin and Range
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 very 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 at 73 degrees 57 minutes and 53 seconds west longitude and 40 degrees 51 minutes and 14 seconds north latitude--a temporary description, at any rate, as if for a boat on the sea. Nevertheless, these coordinates will, for what is generally described as the foreseeable future, bring you with absolute
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REVIEWS

Praise for Basin and Range

“In Basin and Range, McPhee is not so much a visiting amateur as a rhapsodist of “deep time” . . . The result is a fascinating book.” – Paul Zweig, The New York Times Book Review
“One result of the trip west is an introduction to plate tectonics--probably the most readable summary extant. Geologists will find it sound, others will find it understandable and illuminating.” -- Geotimes

“He triumphs by succinct prose, by his uncanny ability to capture the essence of a complex issue, or an arcane trade secret, in a well-turned phrase.” -- Stephen J. Gould, New York Review of Books

“An exciting account of geology and the geologist, providing both an excellent history and an up-to-date snapshot of our science in the 1980s.” -- Howard R. Gould President, the Geological Society of America

“McPhee has taken on something that all of us--especially the American Geological Institute and its news magazine Geotimes--should take on: the explanation to non-geologists of what geology is all about.” -- Wendell Cochran, Geotimes

“The best popular portrayal of geology that I have seen in my thirty-two years of experience as a professional geologist.” -- H. A. Kuehnert, Director, Worldwide Exploration, Phillips Petroleum Company

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • John McPhee

  • 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.
  • John McPhee Peter Cook
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Basin and Range

John McPhee

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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