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Comment: John McPhee (Score 3, Insightful) 647

by WinkyN (#38443956) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Do You Like To Read?

I love John McPhee's work. A long time contributor to The New Yorker, McPhee's writing is so concise it's hard to see how he could make a single sentence more informative. His writings cover a broad range of subjects, including geology, oranges, tennis, nuclear energy, Soviet dissident art, the merchant marine and fishing.

I strongly recommend reading "Levels of the Game", as it's one of the finest examples of sports writing you will find. McPhee covers the 1968 U.S. Open semifinal between Arthur Ashe and Lynn Graebner, and he uses the tennis match as a biographical frame of each player. It's extraordinary.

If you like reading about nuclear weapons (i.e., you've read both "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" and "Dark Sun" by Richard Rhodes), then "The Curve of Binding Energy" is a must read. McPhee interviews Ted Taylor, who helped develop smaller versions of nuclear weapons for the U.S., and discusses how hard it would be for a terrorist group to create a nuclear weapon. Even this book was written in the early 1990s, it still has a lot of relevance today.

My favorite piece by McPhee is "Coming into the Country", which are three separate stories about Alaska. The first story recounts as Alaskan backcountry canoe trip he took with state and federal park employees, and the second is about the state's efforts in the 1970s to build a city and make it the new state capital. But the best story by far is the last piece about the people of Eagle, Alaska, which is a small trading post along the Yukon River near Canada. The profiles he writes about those who run the city and those who live on the periphery is some of the best storytelling you'll find. It's simply a phenomenal book.

"A child is a person who can't understand why someone would give away a perfectly good kitten." -- Doug Larson

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