The Founding Fish

John McPhee

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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John McPhee's twenty-sixth book is a braid of personal history, natural history, and American history, in descending order of volume. Each spring, American shad-Alosa sapidissima-leave the ocean in hundreds of thousands and run heroic distances upriver to spawn.

McPhee--a shad fisherman himself--recounts the shad's cameo role in the lives of George Washington and Henry David Thoreau. He fishes with and visits the laboratories of famous ichthyologists; he takes instruction in the making of shad darts from a master of the art; and he cooks shad in a variety of ways, delectably explained at the end of the book. Mostly, though, he goes fishing for shad in various North American rivers, and he "fishes the same way he writes books, avidly and intensely. He wants to know everything about the fish he's after--its history, its habits, its place in the cosmos" (Bill Pride, The Denver Post). His adventures in pursuit of shad occasion the kind of writing--expert and ardent--at which he has no equal.

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Book Excerpts

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  ONETHEY’RE IN THE RIVERI hadn’t been a shad fisherman all my days, only seven years, on the May evening when this story begins—in a johnboat, flat and square, anchored in heavy current by the bridge in Lambertville, on the wall of the eddy below the fourth pier. I say Lambertville (New Jersey) because that’s where we launch, but the Delaware River is more than a thousand feet wide there, and, counting westward, the fourth of the five stone bridge piers is close to New Hope, Pennsylvania. Yet it rises from the channel where the river is deepest.

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Praise for The Founding Fish

"The Founding Fish is . . . far more than a fishing book. It is a mini-encyclopedia, a highly informative and entertaining amalgam of natural and personal history, a work in a class by itself." --Robert H. Boyle, The New York Times Book Review

"A blue-chip tour of the American shad." --Kirkus Reviews

"Under McPhee's close eye, everything about this fish is fascinating." --William Moody, The Christian Science Monitor

"A fishing classic"--The Economist

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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), 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.

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Available Formats and Book Details

The Founding Fish
John McPhee

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
September 2003
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9780374706340
ISBN10: 0374706344
368 pages
$9.99

Hardcover

Hardcover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
October 2002
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780374104443
ISBN10: 0374104441
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 368 pages
$25.00

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks
September 2003
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780374528836
ISBN10: 0374528837
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 368 pages
$17.00
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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