Coming Into the Country

By John McPhee,

Book cover of Coming Into the Country

Book description

Coming into the Country is an unforgettable account of Alaska and Alaskans. It is a rich tapestry of vivid characters, observed landscapes, and descriptive narrative, in three principal segments that deal, respectively, with a total wilderness, with urban Alaska, and with life in the remoteness of the bush.

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Why read it?

4 authors picked Coming Into the Country as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Before I went to Alaska for the first time, I did some background reading and thankfully discovered this book and the writing of John McPhee. He and Alaska were made for each other. He’s the kind of writer who is interested in everything, and everyone, and conveys his curiosity and his discoveries with enthusiasm. Alaska is unique, as is McPhee’s style of writing, jumping from topic to topic as the mood – and his journey – takes him, and hauling the reader along with him. He’s the kind of traveling companion who’s forever saying: let’s see what’s down there, I…

Regarding the Alaska portion of my life, I arrived after the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 and after Prudhoe Bay oil started flowing through the pipeline on June 20, 1977. Because Coming into the Country was published in 1976, the book gives us a timely account of the nation’s Last Frontier before the Settlement Act and big oil changed everything from the villages of the bush to urban Alaska. By the time everything changed again with the Exxon Valdez oil spill of March 24, 1989, I was a full-bore Alaskan who had worked my way up the tenure…

I discovered this book long after I moved to Alaska. I was immediately in the grip of a master storyteller as McPhee chronicles his travels across the state. McPhee captures the chaos during the 1970s when every traditional way of life was upended by the construction of the Alaska oil pipeline. McPhee manages to render into words the utter vastness of the landscape and he mentions a friend of mine, Ray Bane, who was on the frontline of efforts to preserve the wilderness that many saw only as a resource to be exploited. Bane risked his life for his passion…

From Kaylene's list on outdoor travel and adventure.

John McPhee’s book about Alaska is a classic example of the finest travel writing. He plunges the reader into all of Alaska from the landscape of wilderness to the far-flung cities and villages, writing with a reporter’s precision and a novelist’s soul. This is the antithesis of a travel guide; there are no hotel or restaurant reservations, no recommendations for the best ocean kayaking. Instead, it is a masterpiece as revelatory about Alaska today as it was when written 45 years ago.

From Elizabeth's list on thoughtful travel.

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