Over the past eight years, John McPhee has spent considerable time in the company of people who work in freight transportation. Uncommon Carriers is his sketchbook of them and of his ...more
McPhee has a a geologist's curiosity and patience ( ...more
As it turns out, there are some books I shouldn’t bring along when visiting famil ...more
Most scientifically fascinating was the cargo ship piece where McPhee attends training school for the captains and skippers of these massive vessels. On a lake in Switzerland, they train using life-size-yet-scaled models. One trainee is practicing a docking maneuver and parks a ...more
Moving writing, quite literally. An example for any academic writer trying to explain w ...more
As an adult I've only read Founding Fish, which was great, and now Uncommon Carriers.
I find McPhee's style a bit abrasive at times, but he engages with his subjects in such interesting and thoughtful ways, it is hard to resist the next chapter. In this book I particularly liked The S ...more
Uncommon Carriers covers various types of ...more
In this collection, he explores our stuff and how it gets to us. Not just Walmartish items, but coal to power our air conditioning, live lobsters for our fancy meal, grain for our bread, and chemicals for the many items we never think twice about. To this end, he rides in big rigs, coal trains, ...more
There are two places in the world, home and everywere else,,and everywhere else is the same., 11 Jun 2006
There are two places in the world -- home and everywhere else, and everywhere else is the same.'
"The most beautiful truck on earth-Don Ainsworth's present sapphire-drawn convexing elongate stainless steel mirror- get s smidgen over six miles to the gallon. As its sole owner, he not only counts it calories with respect to it gross weight but with regard to the differing fuel structures of th ...more
If there was a way to divide this review, I'd give the overall content three stars but the depth of reporting and in-depth background knowledge on each subject four. Some essays just left me confused (in the one in w ...more
The parts on ...more
An important lesson learned from John McPhee's exquisite little book: I have transportation biases; literary ones, anyway. I could read about trucking till kingdom come; coal train traffic control is also fascinating; slide into a discussion of how packages travel through a UPS sortation center and you'll keep me up till midnight. Ships and boats on the other hand, I'd apparently much rather be on than read about. ...more
I found the parts about trucking to be very enlightening (I will ...more
Jacket overview: "Over the past eight years, John McPhee has spent considerable time in the company of people who work in freight transportation. Uncommon Carriers is his sketchbook of them and of his journeys with them. He rides from Atlanta to Tacoma alongside Don Ainsworth, owner and operator of a sixty-five-foot, eighteen-wheel chemical tanker carrying hazmats. M ...more
The first piece, a account of the life of a long-distance hazmat trucker, was so strong that I had to keep pausing and thinking, "wow, those goodrea ...more
some sections tho glow with their own light. the essay centered on the UPS package distribution hub (called "out in the sort") should have wide appeal due if nothing else to the exte ...more
I read this as part of my quest to understand how everything is connected to everything else, and how it is economically feasible to create very inexpensive products by shipping materials all over the world. It's a set of essays mostly about shipping modalities, but each essay goes at the subject from a different angle (or several angles).
The book doesn't really answer the "how can things be so cheap?" quest ...more
He loves to dig into the jargon of these industries, and often walks t ...more
Princeton University professor and essay writer John McPhee has a knack for spinning dull-sounding subjects into narrative gold. Innocuously titled tomes like the Pulitzer Prize?winning Annals of the Former World yield magnificent tales, baroque with exceptional details that make the curious giddy. The seven essays included in his 27th book (many first published in the New Yorker) offer a rich portrait of the sundry methods and people that get things from there to here, from canoe (Thoreau's tr...more
Great nonfiction illuminates the unseen, unnoticed world surrounding us. Uncommon Carriers begins and ends with a trip in an 18-wheeler, and in between travels by rail, tug and plane. In this collection of shortish essays, John McPhee takes us inside th ...more