To date, The Control of Nature remains my favorite McPhee book, and the one I’m most likely to recommend to a new reader, but this is a very strong contender. It is, as the title implies, something of a sampler platter of his work; subsections of a variety of pieces, and as a result, covering a far broader topic area than any of his other books. The books are usually more focused, tied around a single theme; in this one, that single theme is John McPhee.
It’s a broader swathe of his work than I’ve read before; if you skim through what I’ve read of his in the past, it definitely has that naturalist perspective locked in, but I haven’t spent time with his “focus on a single person” type things, or his sports coverage. It’s an interesting change of pace; I don’t really expect I’m going to dive into those as much as I have the outdoors, but I won’t go out of my way to avoid it, either.1
One part really captured me, and immediately added a book to my wish list: the excerpt from The Curve of Binding Energy. Somehow I hadn’t yet found out that he did an entire piece on the progenitor of Project Orion. My favorite nonfiction author, writing about one of my favorite topics? Sign me up.
Overall, I continue to love everything McPhee wrote. I’ve got another of his books in my queue, but I’m deliberately holding off on it, trying to space them out. If I haven’t yet convinced you to read some of his work, give this one a try; it is, like I said, a great introduction to his writing.2
- And I figure I will eventually read his entire oeuvre, it does seem to be what I’m working my way towards at this point. ↩
- This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores. ↩