Rising from the Plains
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Rising from the Plains

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  787 ratings  ·  52 reviews
"This is about high-country geology and a Rocky Mountain regional geologist. I raise that semaphore here at the start so no one will feel misled by an opening passage in which a slim young woman who is not in any sense a geologist steps down from a train in Rawlins, Wyoming, in order to go north by stagecoach into country that was still very much the Old West." So begins J...more
Paperback, 213 pages
Published November 1st 1987 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published November 17th 1986)
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I am nearly finished with the individual portions of Annals of the Former World (Basin and Range ☑, In Suspect Terrain ☑, Assembling California ☑). All I have left is to read the section 'Crossing the Craton' (a forty-page addition to his 40th parallel/I-80 project that filled in the blank in the map and allowed the publishers of 'Annals of the Former World' some additional McPhee text not found in the four main books/sections previously published to incentivize McPhee's fans to fork out the add...more
This is the third time I've read Rising from the Plains and it seems as fresh today as when I first read it for a geology class back in the mid-90's. John McPhee, who wrote for the The New York Times for many years, is an engaging writer and in this book weaves the geology of the high plains with the story of famed Rocky Mountain geologist David Love and his family, who settled in central Wyoming in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Having lived in Wyoming myself, I am familiar with the...more
One of 5 volumes of geology with a personal twist that McPhee has written. I have not read McPhee in so long - glad to get back to him.
This is the story of the geology of Wyoming - and a fascinating story it is! McPhee gives it that personal note by telling us the story of the Love family and traveling w/ geologist David Love. His mother was a Wellesley grad who came to WY to teach in a one room schoolhouse, and was wooed by cowboy John Love. The journals of his mother, Ethel Waxman Love, have...more
This book was phenomenal.
It is a must read for anyone interested in Rocky Mountain geology, or in getting a glimpse into the American west.

This book has been republished in McPhee's larger Annals of a Former World. It is a biography of the famous Wyoming geologist, J. David Love. But it also gives a beautiful overview of the geology of Wyoming through Love's eyes.

Some of the geology is a bit outdated, but it does not distract from the greater good.
I read this as we travelled up from Scottsdale through Flagstaff, by the Grand Canyon (we did stop to gawk), through Monument Valley and the Valley of the Gods, over the pass at Butte as it snowed (roads to Yellowstone were closed because of snow), and I finished it today as we drove around the edges of the Black Hills (Theodore Roosevelt National Park). A perfect read for a rather glorious car trip.
Given that my love for geology started in Wyoming, this book is one I will lug around with me for life. Wonderful history of David Love and his family, his geological career working in various industries, and his conflicting feelings on some of the work he is asked to do.
i read about this book in a comic, the main character checked it out and read it all night. it took me almost two months to finish, which is a little sad for a 217 page book, but i'd get stuck on some of the parts that were describing what happened in wyoming throughout geological time. it's not that it wasn't interesting, i liked it a lot, but it was like reading another language that you kind of know the meanings of the words but not enough to have complete sentences make sense. sometimes i wo...more
Interesting mix of Wyoming history and geology through the eyes of David Love, who spent decades studying and living in Western Wyoming. The history major in me loved the excerpts from his mother's diary on coming to the state to be a school teacher and her life as a ranchers wife on the years that followed.
The first sixty pages were difficult to read because I wasn’t grasping the structure of the book. The chapters alternate between McPhee and David Love talking geology on Route 80, the rise and fall of Love Ranch. Once the book gets going, it’s extremely interesting. Many passages are difficult to access, having no knowledge of geology apart from what I learned in grade school. The chapters about John Love, ranch life, and David Love’s growth as a geologist add a human element that refreshes one’...more
This book held my interest for a few pages and then I'd lose interest. It was back and forth. What I loved about this book is reading about my home state, Wyoming, and hearing about the places I know and love and how they were formed, like the Tetons.
Where I lost interest is when passages would get technical about the geology of the area, and go on for long stretches.
McPhee, as always, does, a great job of weaving in human back stories, which I liked reading, too. It was interesting to hear the...more
Summer Ross
There is one word I would most aptly use to describe McPhee's book as and that is "Journey." There is a journey, or sense of forward motion through Wyoming, in and out of the past, and characters.

While I am not a fan of geology books, McPhee makes the different rocks and mountains seem like flowers with soft petals sprouting all over pages brought on by time and a striving against weather to exist. He almost makes it as if the rock formations are more than objects, like they themselves are chara...more
Chris Rock
This was my first book my John McPhee. It's also the first book that I've listened to that was specifically about geology. It helped me to rediscover my love for this particular branch of science. Now I look a little more closely that the rocks and mountains around me, trying to deduce their history.

The book isn't purely about geology though as there is a fair bit of history of the area, Wyoming mostly in this case. Although the history parts were interesting, I found myself wishing he'd get bac...more
This was an excellent example of nature writing, combining geology with history and biography, painting a portrait of a Wyoming geologist every bit as thoroughly as it explored the Wyoming geology. Knowing something about geology would help you understand this book, but it's not mandatory. Although this is labeled as book about Geology, the sediments and limestones and granites of Wypming are really only a background for the story of David Love and his family and the effects a changing and explo...more
Picked this book up at a used bookstore in Whitefish, MT on a ski trip. So glad I did. Although I didn't understand a lot of the terminology or concepts related to the geology referred to in the book, I thoroughly enjoyed its intertwining of science and history. Altogether this was incredibly interesting read and I cannot wait to drive through Wyoming once again and take a look at the landscape through a new lens thanks to the perspective gained from this read.
I read this for a book group and found it boring. There was so much information about the geology of Wyoming and very little in the way of plot. Having read a non-fiction book told in a narrative form recently that was excellent this book seemed really lacking. I didn't feel the message of the book was clear either. I've read another book by McPhee and seem to remember it being more compelling than this.
This past year I traveled back and forth to Laramie many times. I had not been out there since the 1980s and it seemed to be more or less the same community in the same valley. This book helped me see the big picture of Wyoming and the over-thrush belt. Familiar places (Uintas, Wind Rivers, Tetons) that I never had enough insight or training to understand structurally. Very fun read, at least for a groundwater geek.
Gary Brecht
Human history, rather than the history of the Earth’s geology, has always been more important to me. However, in this one instance we get both. McPhee tells us the story of the early white settlers in Wyoming. One of the descendants of these pioneers becomes a famous Geologist, and it is his reading of the history of this geographically rich region of our planet that holds the reader’s attention throughout.
I love John McPhee's writing, especially when he is describing people and places. Toward the end of this book, the in-depth description of the chaotic geologic layers of Wyoming basins and ranges left me leafing through pages rather than reading them. So truth is I am not a geologist but love to scuttle around the edges of geologic formations. I did recommend that my Wyoming son read this book.
Geological insights and cowboy aphorisms from the great state of Wyoming. What more could you possibly ask for?
Jul 09, 2012 LDuchess rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Matt

Picked it up again on July 2nd, with TV and internet out. WISH I could write this well....or become a geologist? McPhee does rocks so well! See pp 139-141, and this:

“…unsubstantiated glittering generalities are a waste of time.” —Geologist David Love (153)

PAPERBACK (FS&G, 1986) but with this cover, NOT the "Suspect Terrain" version shown as PB.

The geology of Wyoming is presented through a road trip with a distinguished geologist, David Love. The best parts of the book are the history of the area told through the journals of Love's mother, a Wellesley graduate who made the adventurous trip west in 1905 to teach and ended up living her life on a remote Wyoming ranch.
I'll never think about Wyoming in the same way. I mean that in a good way. An obscure geologist - obscure only us non-geologists - was never portrayed as such a fascinating character. It left me wishing there had been more written about David Love and his father. He died in 2002, apparently, long after this was written.
Michael Leff
I don't usually read much non-fiction, but after reading an essay on writing by John McPhee in the New Yorker, I wanted more. This book is about the geology and history of the part of Wyoming where I grew up. He takes a fairly dry and scientific topic and made it engaging and even compelling. Recommended.
Ross Hollander
Jul 28, 2013 Ross Hollander rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
An extraordinary book. McPhee writes about the geological formation of Wyoming and about the Love family, who settled there. The weaving together of these two stories is charming, informative, and fascinating. McPhee is a Pulitzer Prize winning author whose style is eminently readable.
usual McPhee, dynamite rendition of geology of Mid-West with the vehicle of geologist, who relates tale of his family especially parents so details of culture, history, jargon. CD. listened to 6 hours worth. Turd towers - wild horses prefer to shit together, unlike domestic.
Susan Herceg-russo
I am having the most difficult time reading this book. I'm not an unintelligent person, but the subject matter is not grabbing me.

What attitude is one supposed to take to connect with these men? I'm not finding it. Someone please help.
I am a huge fan of John McPhee! He is such an amazing scientific writer. He is my next favorite to John Janovy. Any book by either author I'm crazy about. You'll like this one if you love history and science and the Great Plains.
Feb 07, 2010 Carol added it
Wonderful! I wish I could see this as Avatar 3-D! Beautiful, subtle writing about geology and the formation of the Earth. The real geologist David Love's story is also fascinating.
Jason Koivu
Mildly interesting homespun tales of life in Wyoming over the last century. Mostly about Love's geological research in the area. Not terrible, but also not very well written.
Tom Baker
As always, McPhee writes with clarity and professionalism. I believe I have read everything that he has written that I could lay my hands on. Rising From The Plains is amazing!
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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
More about John McPhee...
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