Jan 23, 12
Read from January 16 to 23, 2012
Hubris. This book is about the hubris that we can effectively control elemental forces of nature through massive engineering. McPhee explores efforts to prevent the Mississippi river from changing its course, stopping lava flows in Iceland and prevent erosion and mudslides in LA. Each story has compelling tales of engineering. A thread of human arrogance runs clearly through each.
I enjoyed this more than the rating shows. The essays are a bit dated in terms of the cost descriptions, which lead to more mental calculations than I would otherwise like to update the cost estimates. McPhee's writing style is richly descriptive. However, the description comes at the expense of concise narrative flow. I often felt a bit lost, as if on a wandering hike. Beautiful views, but I lost track of where I was at many points (metaphorically speaking).