Rising from the Plains

ISBN: 0374520658
ISBN 13: 9780374520656
By: John McPhee

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About this book

"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 John McPhee's "Rising from the Plains." If you like to read about geology, you will find good reading here. If, on the other hand, you are not much engaged by the spatial complexities of the science, you could miss a richness of human history that has its place among the strata described. Sometimes it is said of geologists that they reflect in their professional styles the sort of country in which they grew up. Nowhere could that be more true than in the life of a geologist born in the center of Wyoming and raised on an isolated ranch. This is the story of that ranch, soon after the turn of the century, and of the geologist who grew up there, at home with the composition of the high country in the way that someone growing up in a coastal harbor would be at home with the vagaries of the sea.

Reader's Thoughts


Geological insights and cowboy aphorisms from the great state of Wyoming. What more could you possibly ask for?


McPhee makes you get excited about Geology. a great story about Wyoming.

Kay Robart

See my review here:http://whatmeread.wordpress.com/tag/r...


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.


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 exploited landscape had on them.

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.

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!

Ross Hollander

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.


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.

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 back to the geology. Oh well.


Enjoyed it and learned. Wish I had take earth science all the way back in High School


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.

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.


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’s concentration for the more geologically intense passages. I’ll keep my eye out for the other books in the series: Basin and Range; and In Suspect Terrain.

Jim Griggs

What an excellent book, one a read several times. I love geology and history and this is a great combination of both! Loved it!!

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