McPhee wins Pulitzer for Annals

John McPhee and his wife Yolanda
(photo by Laura Eichhorn '02 for the
Daily Princetonian)

When John McPhee, Ferris Professor of Journalism, started Annals of the Former World, he thought he would write it in a year. Twenty years and many books later, he finished the geological tour along Interstate 80 that received the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. The Pulitzer Prizes, which honor achievement in literature, the arts and journalism, are awarded annually by Columbia University.
     McPhee admitted he might not have started his project had he known how long it would take. Yet once he started the research, inspired by an assignment for the New Yorker on the Alaskan gold rush, he kept going. "The architecture of this book was in place for 20 years," he explained. Although some of the material was previously published as separate books (Basin and Range, The Suspect Terrain, Rising From the Plains and Assembling California), McPhee updated it all for Annals, which was published in 1998. "The science doesn't stand still," he pointed out.
     A member of the Class of 1953, McPhee has taught at Princeton as Ferris Professor since 1975. He is the author of two dozen nonfiction books on topics ranging from Princeton basketball star Bill Bradley '65 (A Sense of Where You Are, 1965) to The Survival of the Bark Canoe (1975) and The Ransom of Russian Art (1994).


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