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Publisher's Summary

To geologists, rocks are beautiful, roadcuts are windowpanes, and the earth is alive, a work in progress. The cataclysmic movement that gives birth to mountains and oceans is ongoing and can still be seen at certain places on our planet. One of these is the Basin and Range region centered in Nevada and Utah.

In this first book of a Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, the author crosses the spectacular Basin and Range with geology professor Kenneth Deffeyes in tow. McPhee draws on Deffeyes' expertise to dazzle you with the vast perspective of geologic time and the fascinating history of vanished landscapes. The effect is guaranteed to expand your mind.

McPhee's enthusiasm is infectious, as he provides one of the best introductions to plate tectonics and the New Geology. His elegant style is more pleasing than ever with narrator Nelson Runger's smooth, enthusiastic delivery. Runger mines the book's rich veins of poetic prose and subtle humor, and the result is pure gold.

Listen to more books in the Annals of the Former World collection.
©1980, 1981 John McPhee; (P)1999 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

"A fascinating book." (The New York Times Book Review)
"He triumphs by succinct prose, by his uncanny ability to capture the essence of a complex issue, or an arcane trade secret, in a well-turned phrase." (New York Review of Books)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Story

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  • Overall
  • Julie
  • Niles, IL, USA
  • 10-12-04

Wow.

McPhee is an amazing writer. I love geology, but he makes it positively lush and compelling to listen to. I am so glad Audible added this to their collection. Thanks!!

35 of 38 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A Classic, finally all FIVE parts now available

What made the experience of listening to Basin and Range the most enjoyable?

The wealth of Geological information interwoven with the stories of the Geologists whoexplain, through McPhee, the complex but fascinating Geological history of America from coast to coast. But be aware that "Assembling California" is not listed with the other 4 books of the canon. Be sure to get all five. The Sequence I would suggest would In my opinion logically follow the trek across the country really from coast to coast ie books1 through 5 in order. Some have suggested a different sequence, but all stand alone very well. This series of 5 Audio books should be in every library of those who admire and enjoy superb non-fiction writing or Geology.These are suberbly performed by Nelson Runger.If, like me, much of your listening is done while driving, this audio book series willtransport you to "The Former World" as you travel.Ronald E. Bowers, MDFL

What other book might you compare Basin and Range to and why?

the other 4 books of "Annals of the Former World"

What about Nelson Runger’s performance did you like?

Tone and delivery matched the style of the book(s). Not pedantic.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

yes, and re-listen!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Entertaining journey through time

Weaves literary genius with scientific discovery to create an enthralling tapestry of the earth and our small place in it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Tough going, but good

Would you try another book from John McPhee and/or Nelson Runger?

Yes. John McPhee does his best to make a very dry and complicated subject palatable to the general reader. This is one of Nelson Runger's better books. I know that some folks aren't fans of his, but outside of a few readings, he never really bothered me.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Outside of the Narrator (McPhee) probably the guy who was able to procure the aggregate silver from abandoned mines in Nevada.

What three words best describe Nelson Runger’s performance?

Accessible. Journalistic. Engaged.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

This would probably be better as a PBS Special

Any additional comments?

It is a tough listen, I'm not going to lie. But you do learn something. My experience was enhanced by listening to it while driving to Las Vegas and being in the geological region where the book was based. It was also neat to pass by road cuts in the highway and discover how geologists use them for research. But I can see how past reviewers would want maps while listening to this.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • Golden, CO, USA
  • 05-22-06

Top notch

McPhee does an excellent job of introducing geology. However, despite his excellent prose, pictures and maps would add to the experience.

Worst thing is Nelson Runger's narration--while his avuncular style is well suited to McPhee's prose, the microphone picks up all of his lip-smacking noises. Once I became attuned to this, I couldn't get it out of my mind--he sounded like a dog eating peanut butter. Please, filter this out on your next book.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

An inviting introduction to US tectonics

Whether you're an amateur or professional geologist, or simply curious about the big fuss geologists make about rocks, this book is a joy. McPhee conveys the simplest to the most complex topics in geology with the most succinct and illuminating of metaphors that is a treat for the imagination.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Fun vocabulary to attempt

Not knowing all the scientific/geological speak made it a little difficult to follow but in audio form I could just let the terminology wash over me and put enough of it together.
My interest is sparked to learn more.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Marvelous book.

McPhee tells us the story of the discovery of the speeding of the ocean floor and the Tectonic Plate which result and on which we live.

The narration leaves something to be desired, but well worth buying.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Unfortunate choice of narrator

The narrator's voice is slow and rather painful to listen to. I gave up after only 5 minutes. Strongly recommend listening to the _entire_ preview before purchasing, to make sure you don't find the narration equally painful.

Very disappointing, as I loved the book.

4 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Larry
  • Washington, UT, United States
  • 08-11-10

40 minutes of listening pain

I love to study geology and I love good writing (printed or recorded). I gave up on this effort after 40 painful listening minutes. I, too, was an English major but I still value my "little book".

3 of 9 people found this review helpful