Pulitzer Prize Awardees for General Nonfiction

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Annals of the Former World (1998)

Written by John McPhee

The Pulitzer Prize-winning view of the continent, across the fortieth parallel and down through 4.6 billion years.

Twenty years ago, when John McPhee began his journeys back and forth across the United States, he planned to describe a cross-section of North America at about the fortieth parallel and, in the process, come to an understanding not only of the science but of the style of the geologists he traveled with. The structural arrangement of the work never changed, but its breadth caused him to complete it in stages, under the overall title Annals of the Former World.

Like the terrain it covers, Annals of the Former World tells a multilayered tale, and the reader may choose one of many paths through it. As clearly and succinctly written as it is profoundly informed, this is our finest popular survey of geology and a masterpiece of modern nonfiction. This book won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction. (Copyright © Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan. All rights reserved.)

Source:  Macmillan Publishers.

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. Since then, he has written more than eighty pieces for the magazine, nearly all on distinctly different topics.

McPhee has published 32 books, most of them based on his New Yorker writings. Like his articles, his books do not have in common any established themes but, rather, encompass the varied topics that have interested him over the years. Among them his first book, A Sense of Where You Are (1965), The Headmaster (1966), Oranges (1967), Coming into the Country (1977), Rising from the Plains (1986), The Control of Nature (1989), Looking for a Ship (1990), Assembling California (1993), The Ransom of Russian Art (1994), The Founding Fish (2002), Uncommon Carriers (2007), and Silk Parachute (2011). 

McPhee has received many literary honors, including the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1977, and the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for Annals of the Former World (1998). Encounters with the Archdruid (1972) and The Curve of Binding Energy (1974) were nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science. In 1978 McPhee received a Litt.D. from Bates College, in 2009 he received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale University, and in 2012 he received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Amherst College. He has taught writing at Princeton University since 1975, and was awarded Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson Award for service to the nation in 1982.

McPhee lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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