Books by John McPhee
“What I like about this book is the way he presents the complexity of the community, and their feelings towards the laird, who only lives on the island in the summer. This is the 1960s. It’s a time of great change—the end of an era. And there’s complexity in his personal narrative too; he goes to this place, where a lot of his ancestors hailed from. And at points he says, well, I don’t have any more connection to it than you would, whoever you are. I think that’s really interesting.” Read more...
The best books on Sense of Place
“In my opinion Coming into the Country, about Alaska, is his best book. It describes the natural history and scenery in incredible detail, but he’s also writing about a very unusual part of America, and how it was becoming what it is now. He was there at an interesting moment in the seventies, when they were trying to find a new capital for the state. There were a lot of decisions to be made about resource management, and he illuminates those issues as well as describing how communities and individuals function in this incredibly rugged place. It’s a wonderful book.” Read more...
Peter Hessler, Journalist
“Oranges is a model for a certain type of journalism. Big food companies do not want you to know how your food is produced and who produces it. They want you to just think about it as something that arrives in your supermarket already wrapped up. This book is a model for me. Every day on his way to work McPhee passed through the train station in New York City and there was this place where you could go and they had a bin full of oranges and a machine and they would squeeze you a glass of orange juice while you waited. McPhee started to think about that and decided that he would basically follow that glass of freshly squeezed juice back to where the orange was produced. He wanted to find out all about it, the history of that type of farming. It is a short book and it is not a political book in that he is not beating any drums, he is just telling you how it is done. And you come away never being able to look at an orange in the same way again. You will look at it and know about the people who grow it who have financial problems. And it will no longer be a pretty waxed orange sitting in front of you.” Read more...
The best books on Food Production
Barry Estabrook, Environmentalist
Interviews where books by John McPhee were recommended
The best books on Food Production, recommended by Barry Estabrook
Do you know what’s in the food you eat, and how it gets from field to plate? The author of an acclaimed exposé of American agribusiness tells us where to look if we want to become better-informed consumers
The Best Narrative Nonfiction, recommended by Peter Hessler
Writer and journalist Peter Hessler selects five books, from Haight Ashbury to a fifth grade classroom, which show how nonfiction can bring true stories to life through literary techniques. He chooses the best of narrative nonfiction.
The best books on Sense of Place, recommended by Patrick Galbraith
Novelists, non-fiction writers and poets all attempt to create immersive and atmospheric settings in their books—what is called a ‘sense of place’ in literary terms. Here, the British journalist Patrick Galbraith selects five books that explore and evoke a sense of place—including works by Joan Didion, Mark Kurlansky and John McPhee.