Assembling California

  • by John McPhee
  • Narrated by Nelson Runger
  • 9 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Thirty years ago, the theory that continents are comprised of drifting plates—plate tectonics—evoked more scorn than serious research. Today, this revolutionary theory continues to dazzle and challenge geologists and laymen alike. Assembling California explores an area uniquely demonstrative of the plate tectonic theory: California, which according to “tectonicists,” is breaking apart at its seams.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Subduction leads to orogeny zones in California

This year I've been reading the separate segments of McPhee's Pulitzer Prize winning 1998 opus Annals of the Former World, but skipped (for now) Rising from the Plains because I was going to be driving with my brother from San Francisco to Mesa, AZ. We were going to hang in Berkeley and hit Yosemite, Sequoia, etc., on our trip South and East and I figured it was a perfect time to read 'Assembling California'.

Like all McPhee writing, 'Assembling California 'is an amazing conglomeration of good writing, great characters, and interesting technical facts. However, unlike the earlier books in this series ( Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrain) it just doesn't set up as nicely. I'm not sure if it had more to do with the messiness of California's geology, the limits of Eldridge Moores as an engaging character, or if McPhee had just grown a bit tired of his own Great I-80 Geology Project. He is engaging, but there just wasn't as much sparkle or heat as with earlier books with Karen Kleinspehn, Kenneth Deffeyes, or Anita Harris. A solid McPhee and a good addition to the series, just not the strongest piece. I hope that 'Rising from the Plains' works out a bit better.
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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

California as a lens to the surface of Earth

McPhee's focus is the formation of California, but the scope of Assembling California is nothing less than the formation of all the continents, islands and oceans as understood by modern geology.

Just as quantum mechanics and relativity transformed Physics, just as the concept of brain plasticity transformed Neuroscience, just so the theory of plate tectonics transformed Geology. John McPhee explains the transformation of the science, and the transformation of the Earth's surface in fine prose. He quotes dialogs with geologists--mainly Eldridge Moores--gives analogies, and uses anecdotes drawn from personal experience to convey the concepts.

Assembling California works fine on the printed page, but has a few too many technical terms to work entirely well as an audio book.

Nevertheless, this is a well-written and well-read book that conveys the outline of modern tectonic geology to the layman.
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- Stephen

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-11-2011
  • Publisher: Recorded Books