Wednesday, March 2, 2011


John McPhee was the March 2011 author. Our main reading selection is his 1971 work Encounters with the Archdruid but members should feel free to read alternate McPhee works if they wish.

McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University. His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with the New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1965. McPhee has taught at Princeton as Ferris Professor since 1975. Both Encounters with the Archdruid and another of his works, The Curve of Binding Energy, were nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science. In 1977, McPhee received the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His book Annals of the Former World was published in 1998 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1999.


Calling David Brower an important environmental activist is like calling Hamlet an important member of the Danish royal court. Brower invented modern American environmental activism. John Nielson, National Public Radio

Reading like a novel, Encounters... acquaints us with the personalities of four men. The protagonist is Friends of the Earth founder and "militant conservationist" David Brower. Brower's three antagonists on the environmental battlefield include an developer, a geologist/miner, and a federal bureaucrat. McPhee takes us on virtual journeys to three wildernesses - a coastal island, a Western mountain range, and the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. We witness the clash of these men's differing philosophies and relationships to nature, but also the humor and friendliness of their interactions as worthy opponents.

Resources to learn more about McPhee, his life and work, and the Archdruid, David Brower.

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