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The Pine Barrens

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  1,520 ratings  ·  88 reviews
Most people think of New Jersey as a suburban-industrial corridor that runs between New York and Philadelphia. Yet in the low center of the state is a near wilderness, larger than most national parks, which has been known since the seventeenth century as the Pine Barrens.

The term refers to the predominant trees in the vast forests that cover the area and to the quality of
Paperback, 157 pages
Published May 1st 1978 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1967)
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I lived in New Jersey for over a year without anyone mentioning this book. Although I had a long history with Encounters with the Archdruid I was somehow unaware that McPhee had written The Pine Barrens. This book about the Pine Barrens of New Jersey (written in 1967) examines the people and well as the forest. It is a portrait of a community within a diverse pine forest. He explains a history of prejudice against the inhabitants and shows the depth of dignity of a people countering any image of ...more
What a great book. I enjoyed it much more than, say, Desert Solitaire -- not sure if that's because I am from the area or because McPhee's writing is engaging and the stories are unusual and interesting. Probably a little bit of both. I also love the way this "man out in the wilderness" book subverts the ego. This book is really not at all about McPhee or his experience...he dedicates himself to listening, and I think that technique works much better for the genre than Thoreau-esque self-centere ...more
Aug 30, 2014 Velma marked it as tbr-own-yet-to-read  ·  review of another edition
Thanks, Dan - my stop at your new place yielded the best books I've found at a garage sale in quite awhile!
Excellent stories about a piece of American geography about which we have be lied to by the mass media. There is no 'Jersey Devil' and the native inhabitants of the Pine Barrens are not inbred and mentally challenged.

John McPhee once again unravels the history behind these sensational defamations and devotes many chapters to describing the uniqueness, beauty and value of this most exceptional area of the U.S.

After reading the book you will have learned about; cranberry and blueberry harvesting,
Scott Hammer
I want McPhee's essays about the pine barrens to be true today. Growing up there, but not necessarily being a piney, I suppose I represent a type of person McPhee could not have been writing about in the 60s. But for a nostos I don't entirely have access to, this book does it for me in every way. & since a you can still get lost, temporarily, in the pine barrens or (like I did) become accidentally submerged in a cranberry bog, his writing is relevant enough.

The Pine Barrens take up about one-quarter of the most dense state in the nation. It is my playground. Rich in life, history, and folklore, there is nothing barren about this gem of a place.

I've been exploring the Pines more fully for the past dozen years now. McPhee's book has been recommended any number of times. I purchased it several years ago but only picked it up yesterday.

Written in 1967, this tells of a different age. Interestingly though, the Pines hadn't changed much over the
This somewhat dated, but always relevant, tale of the Pine Barrens covers its history- political, cultural, commercial - and most especially, its natural history. McPhee is a most entertaining and informative writer. His account of the Pine Barrens includes references to the American Revolution, unusual birds, devastating forest fires, rare orchids, cranberry bogs, and an immense aquifer - and that is just a smattering of the seemingly disparate topics addressed.
William Fulton
Another John McPhee work well worth the read. I knew where the Pine Barrens geographically existed but I had no idea this "other, removed, world" lay nestled in its' vast wilderness. In addition to the unique, sometimes forbidding, and really spooky physical environment ... there lives a culture frozen in its' tracks simply due to the unforgiving nature of the "Barrens". You don't have to travel abroad to see something so out of the ordinary.
The title character in this book is the Pine Barrens, a forest area in New Jersey. McPhee describes the society in which the "pineys" live as well as the land's ecolological implications and challenges. This book had its positive points, most notably it's interesting depiction of "pineys," who live on the margin of modern society. I found it especially interesting to think that such self-reliant woodsmen live so close to me (I live in New Jersey.) I didn't like the rambling history lessons on th ...more
Mar 11, 2012 J rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: princeton
I live on the fringes of the Pine Barrens and have driven through the area many times without ever giving it much of a thought. McPhee's accounts of life there through the late 1960s (when the book was published) is introductory but engaging and informative. He presents some information so casually (and without attributions) that it can be difficult at times to differentiate folklore from fact.

Was fascinated to read about the proposed planned community and Concorde jetport mooted in the 1960s,
I recently read a review of a new Carolyn Chute book...she's sort of the literary equivalent of an outsider artist - think Basquiat, except a militant, reclusive woman who's big on the second ammendment.

I tried to read one of her books, but as oppose to visual arts, the idea of trudging through the book of an untrained writer can be daunting; and though there are autobiographical aspects, they are mostly fiction.

But I want to read them, and I want to love them: the backwoods towns of New England
In a state bent on replacing all its mystery with badly-named towns, insolvent megaplexes, and middling upscale restaurants, there's still this huge mysterious swath of woods.

Book is non-linear non-fiction, a sequence of organically linked essays that sprawl and cross-pollinate in the manner of forest life. Was written in the 1960s and therefore functions both 1) as a hyper-articulate primer on the value of these woods, and 2) as a time capsule environmental warning about the perils of over-dev
Michael Kallan
Informative history of the Pine Barrens, at times through the eyes of those who lived there. Even as someone who reads mostly non-fiction, I found McPhee's writing to be dry at times; book would have been improved by one or two general maps of the Pine Barrens area itself (and this is coming from someone who grew up in central NJ) just for frame of reference. Interesting to look back on nearly 50 years later since it was written, especially the plan for a jetport and city of 250,000 people to ha ...more
May 28, 2008 furious rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Pineys, Jerseyans, sons of the soil, history buffs
Shelves: mines, journalism, travel
McPhee explores the landscape & the history of the Pines in an easy-going, if sometimes utilitarian, style. the meandering tone matches the way he seems to wend his way through the woods, stopping at any time or place that has a relevant story to tell. i don't know how it took me so long to find this book, but i'm glad i finally did. for one who grew up & lived on the edge of the Pines for many years, this book is absolutely fascinating. the picture it paints of the Pines, though dated 1 ...more
I downed this book in two days. A wonderfully written account of the Barrens and the people who live within their desolate bounds that is neither romantic nor exploitative. I agree with another reviewer that a map would be helpful & I would love an update from McPhee, though I certainly can do this additional research on my own.

I would recommend this book to anyone with a general curiosity about culture and place, as well as those interested in development and conservation (particularly in
This is a little gem of a book. John McPhee is one of the greatest non-fiction writers; why else would I read a book about the United States Merchant Marine (Looking for a Ship)and find it completely fascinating? I have more of a connection with this book: The New Jersey Pine Barrens are right in my back yard. We've been talking about visiting that area since we moved here in 2007 and now that we've read this book we can't wait.

Even if you don't live near New Jersey, you might enjoy this book ab
Chris Thorsrud
Roaming the New Jerseys wilds with McPhee, a top-notch writer. His descriptions of people and place, the stories he shares, make this a classic and a keeper.
As typical for McPhee, was interesting and a good read. I do wonder how much has changed in the almost 50 years since he wrote it in ~1967.
Ray Zimmerman
McPhee explores a wild and untamed natural area, right in the heart of the heavily populated eastern seaboard, The Jersey Barrens.
A look into a way of life few Jerseyans realize ever existed in this state. Definitely a trip to Chatsworth in my future.
People ask me whether this book is realistic. I grew up in the Pine Barrens (also euphemistically called the Pinelands) and attest: It is absolutely realistic. When I read this book, I reconnect with that conflicted relationship with home - the place you come from, not the the place you want to be. The Pine Barrens and their Pineys are timeless, and lost, and not eager to be found. It's a wild, quiet place of tar paper, sugar sand, and the pine-needle scent I always forget I'm missing. I'm alway ...more
Daniel Simmons
A deeply informative, beautifully written book about the vast swaths of wilderness in... New Jersey. (Who knew?)
After I moved to NJ I wanted to dive into something about it's history and a friend at work suggested checking out McPhee's Pine Barrens. I live right on the edge of the Barrens and with its bizarre and mysterious histories the book quickly made it to the top of my pile. And I LOVED it. Despite it being a tad dated by the time I read I learned a great deal about the unique people that time and civilization forgot despite the fact that they live in one of the most popular states in the country. A ...more
This book is an odd non-fiction book about the Pine Barrens in New Jersey. I enjoyed it because I grew up in New Jersey and have been to the Pine Barrens. I can't really see it having a broad appeal though. I read it because it was selected as the One Book New Jersey book for 2004 and some of the other books on their list were books I enjoyed. So although I enjoyed this book, I can't really recommend it unless you have a special interest in teh area. published in 1978 and it shows it.

Diana Jih
made me love the Pineys!
Jul 17, 2014 Robyn marked it as to-read
New Jersey
Mike Prochot
John McPhee does it again (or should I say did it again? - 1967 copyright).

He shines a bright light on a now mostly forgotten or ignored piece of our history-geology-ecology. Who would think that New Jersey hides a mysterious forest filled with ghosts of human achievements turned bankrupt that were long ago reclaimed and imprisoned by nature.

An outstanding book with a mysterious, archeological flavor but the site is in our own United States - and people are still surviving there.

carey lina
Finally freaking finished this book which I borrowed from a co-worker.

Conclusion: worth actually buying, in short, and referencing, because it had a lot of good pull-out facts my head's not good at pullin out.

Also, the Pine Barrens have changed a lot since the late 60s. Would love an undated version. Wonder if McPhee/RE authorities would think the Pinelands have succumbed, in part, to suburban sprawl.

Note to self: see if you can't pull John McPhee's pre-PB book articles from somewhere.
Katelyn Litchko
I'm from south Jersey near the Pine Barrens, and I actually live on the edge of Wharton State Forest. It was really interesting learning about the history of the area. It was also cool reading about things that I've seen and places I have actually been. I liked that the end of the book was about the plans people had to build up the Pine Barrens, and I am happy to say that it is still not built up to that point. It is still a very wooded area. Definitely read this book if you are from New Jersey.
Pretty good book. I have had to spend time in the NJ Pine Barrens recently and knew of the many places discussed in the book. Mr. McPhee does a great job grabbing your attention and holding it until near the end. I would've liked to have met some of the people he mentions in the book. However, I think the ending is rather abrupt and doom and gloom for the pines (in classic tradition of the 1970's evironmental movement). Now the pine barrens are under a different kind of threat, Southern Pine Bee ...more
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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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