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The John McPhee Reader (John McPhee Reader #1)

4.43  ·  Rating Details ·  524 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
The John McPhee Reader, first published in 1976, is comprised of selections from the author's first twelve books. In 1965, John McPhee published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are; a decade later, he had published eleven others. His fertility, his precision and grace as a stylist, his wit and uncanny brilliance in choosing subject matter, his crack storytelling skill ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published June 1st 1982 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1976)
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Nov 03, 2011 Noah rated it it was amazing
You know how every New Yorker article you've ever read takes some seemingly mundane item or place and then writes the hell out of it? It starts out interesting but by page 12, you remember you're not actually interested in whatever the topic is.

Well it turns out that every single one of them is just copying John McPhee, who is so much better at the genre than anyone else. It's unreal. These were just excerpts and I now want to read half the books they're from. He has a perfect eye for scenery an
May 05, 2007 Seth rated it it was amazing
I realize that giving five stars to a reader is sort of like saying that some band's greatest hits album is your favorite CD. That said, I think that John McPhee is one of the two best American reporters (along with Studs Terkel) and that this collection does a great job of providing an introduction to his work.
David P
Most readers have a favorite author, and mine is probably John McPhee. A writer of non-fiction, he takes delight in exploring unconventional aspects of our society, presented through colorful individuals and described in crisp and scintillating language.

This book is a sampler, containing excerpts from a dozen books, an admirable introduction for anyone new to McPhee's style. Collections like this are often disjointed and fragmentary, but not here: each section stands on its own, each is a mino
M. Milner
It's probably a cliche to say that John McPhee is a writer's writer, but that's only because he never seems to have the same acclaim among more casual readers. And, as this collection shows, that's a damn shame.

The first John McPhee reader is a well-edited collection showcasing selections from his first dozen books and cover everything from the cultivation and selling of fruit (Oranges), an in-depth profile of two tennis stars (Levels of the Game), the quirky scientists who design and built atom
Oct 02, 2016 Harrison rated it it was amazing
Excellent "greatest hits" collection from the master of creative nonfiction.
Jun 10, 2013 Meredith rated it liked it

Originally published on The Librarian Next Door:

His name may not be as widely known as Woodward and Bernstein, but John McPhee still has plenty of accomplishments. An American writer and journalist, McPhee is considered one of (if not the) originators of creative nonfiction. He’s been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize four times; he’s also won the Pulitzer Prize, in 1999, in the General Nonfiction category. McPhee’s work sometimes defies categorization. He’s a journalist, with an obsessive atten
Dr. George H. Elder
Jun 26, 2012 Dr. George H. Elder rated it it was amazing
This book contains 12 articles, or chapters, that were written by McPhee from 1965 to 1975. The strongest single element in these works is McPhee’s use of detail. In The Pine Barrens McPhee tells the story about New Jersey’s great forest, the Pine Barrens, and its back-woods inhabitants, the “pineys.” The piece is richly appointed with details about the history of the Pine Barrens, the people who live there, and the forest itself. Consider the following description of a piney named Bill Wasovwi ...more
Jan 18, 2015 Ian added it
"McPhee has a passion for details, for they convince readers that he deals in actualities. Added to his journalist's reverence for facts is a novelist's propensity for symbols. His task is to burnish objects until they become reflectors of character and theme" (Howarth, pg. xvii).

"His working methods vary according to a project, but some steps are fairly constant. He first transcribes the notebooks, typing entries in order, occasionally adding other details or current thoughts as he goes. He lik
Mar 12, 2016 Carola rated it it was amazing
If you have never enjoyed non-fiction, this book will prove that it's possible to do so. Dense with facts and figures, the narrative is so compelling that you'll forget it's not fiction, you'll take an interest in topics to which you'd previously never given a thought, and you'll wish you could meet the people that McPhee is describing.

This book offers a sampler of McPhee's work, taking excerpts from a dozen books. My favorite involves a rafting trip down the Colorado River to which he invited a
Mark Rigney
Jun 26, 2015 Mark Rigney rated it it was amazing
A terrific place to start, but really this is dipping one's toes. McPhee is a consummate journalist, one of the best I've ever encountered at simply packing each line, paragraph, and piece with valid, juicy information. The man was my gold standard when I wrote Deaf Side Story and remains an idol today.

But it's not just the prose, it's his topics. One could say he is (often) an "environmental" writer, but that's too simple, and misses the mark: what McPhee does so well is to pick the exact focal
Justin Sorbara-Hosker
Great journalism, fantastic for diversity of subject. He can't possibly be getting the kind of credit he deserves; don't hear him mentioned with the giants of the New Yorker as often as you think you would. The only problem with it is that there are so many pieces where you want the story to continue; that's the nature of this kind of anthology. Just makes you want to go get more of his books.

Read this a little after reading John Jeremiah Sullivan's Pulphead - & that guy feels like a hybrid
Richard Thompson
Mar 12, 2016 Richard Thompson rated it really liked it
This volume, originally published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1976, contains essays and articles written between 1965 to 1976. I couldn't find a paperback edition with the cover that is on the one we have, but I'm pretty sure it is the same book.

I couldn't swear that I read all of the pieces in the book aloud to Maggee, but we certainly read many of them (not in this collection, but in others or in stand-alone volumes)... and very much enjoyed them.

The "Date I finished..." refers not to our
Jun 26, 2008 Chad rated it really liked it
some of the most detailed, descriptive journalism I have ever read. McPhee was (is?) a staff writer for the New Yorker and wrote on a multitude of topics, always digging far beneath the surface of his characters and their hobbies, passions, interests. you gotta be in the mood for this type of reading; i try to imagine myself reading an issue of the New Yorker when I pick up this book, so that I can make sure I finish at least one of the book excerpts that are included in this collection. althoug ...more
Jun 03, 2008 P. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Geologists/Western Hist./Story tellers
Another wonderful John McPhee book that elucidates the geology and illuminates some human experience on that terrain. McPhee didn't mention the ecological disaster that is Farson WY, but he did hit many other problems and situations.

One of McPhee's strengths is his ability to lucidly describe and summarize complex scientific theories. He makes you think you, even you, might be able to understand a little geology. A great book in his series which should be read by anyone who will travel the I80
Jul 31, 2008 Loo rated it really liked it
This was Anna's pick for our book exchange. I did not get to read every piece but the ones I did read I liked very much. He has a way of making the mundane seem terribly interesting. My favorites were "The Barrens" and the one about the art museum director, Sorry I can't recall the name of that one at the moment., but it was a fascinating look at a person who is really excellent at his job. I guess that is th genius of McPhee.
Jun 04, 2015 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor, nonfiction
I fucking love John McPhee. I never cussed on Goodreads before, but there it is. His writing is just so good. He's a master of creative nonfiction. The reader is a great introduction to his work in all its depth and breadth. Now I want to read each and every book that was excerpted for the reader, as if I didn't already want to read everything he wrote.
Sep 01, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it
McPhee writes nonfiction like a surgeon performs an operation. Nothing escapes his calm perception, whether an art museum, snake-infested swamps, oranges, or nuclear weapons. If there's any flaw it's that his clinical precision maybe dampers the energy on occasion—but believe me, you won't be wasting your time. "The most versatile journalist in America" indeed.
Jun 12, 2009 Eswrowell rated it really liked it
If you like John McPhee, or you've been told you should, this is a nice sample of his work. Since his books are so deeply about something, you'll get a sense of which topics might interest you by browsing/reading this book. For instance, I'm not so interested in baseball. So, I won't read A Sense of Where You Are.
Apr 29, 2016 Elena rated it really liked it
Great introduction to one of the best literary journalists out there. Also good for people with short attention spans who don't want to read his full-length books, and just want a taste of some good creative non-fiction.
Dec 12, 2011 Wuenschel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been meaning to read McPhee for awhile. Perhaps I should've waited to find a full book by him. It is nice to read a clip of a work by him, and to finish it. It's a bit like reading a magazine. I never would have read about Bill Bradley and the Deerfield headmaster otherwise. Which is good?
Michael Powell
Sep 25, 2015 Michael Powell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recs
Great forewords to each selection as well as a fascinating General foreword that discusses McPhee's "method"
Sep 13, 2009 Jim rated it it was amazing
I read this a good twenty years ago and found it to be very interesting and varied. It started me on reading his books.
Jan 09, 2016 Dan rated it liked it
Good writing but somewhat outdated and perhaps excursive for today's readers. Try instead McPhee's "Annals of the Former World", Pulitzer Prize winner and a very solid five stars.
Jan 11, 2016 Doug rated it liked it
I did not enjoy this as much as McPhee's "coming into the country," which is one of my favorites. However, some of the excerpts were pretty good.
Jul 23, 2016 Emmi rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-2
Good, entertaining nonfiction. Gets a little dry at times but he is very good at making what he is interested in interesting to others.
Aug 06, 2008 Pat rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: writers of any stripe
This is the book I read and re-read to try and figure out how McPhee does it. Might as well read the Bible to figure out how you part the Red Sea or walk on water.
Jul 23, 2014 Anna rated it it was amazing
McPhees books can sometimes be hard to find. This taste of a number of his best, only served to make me more anxious to find them and flesh out each of the stories introduced within!
Sep 10, 2008 Libbydale marked it as to-read
John McPhee has been recommended to me as I enjoy creative nonfiction, so maybe his reader would be a good place to start.
Nicole Hardina
May 13, 2009 Nicole Hardina rated it it was amazing
For me the writer, McPhee is amazing. For me the reader, McPhee is pretty damn close to consistently amazing.
Jim Wilson
Dec 28, 2012 Jim Wilson rated it it was amazing
The best essayist of the past twenty years. This is an excellent sampler of his work that should lead you to bigger and better things.
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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 P ...more
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Other Books in the Series

John McPhee Reader (2 books)
  • The Second John McPhee Reader

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