The Pine Barrens by John McPhee

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Most people think of New Jersey as a suburban-industrial corridor that runs between New York and Philadelphia. Yet in the low center of the state is a near wilderness, larger than most national parks, which has been known since the seventeenth century as the Pine Barrens.

The term refers to the predominant trees in the vast forests that cover the area and to the quality of the soils below, which are too sandy and acid to be good for farming. On all sides, however, developments of one kind or another have gradually moved in, so that now the central and integral forest is reduced to about a thousand square miles. Although New Jersey has the heaviest population density of any state, huge segments of the Pine Barrens remain uninhabited. The few people who dwell in the region, the “Pineys,” are little known and often misunderstood. Here McPhee uses his uncanny skills as a journalist to explore the history of the region and describe the people—and their distinctive folklore—who call it home.


About John McPhee

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John McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was 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. Also in 1965, he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are, with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and in the years since, he has written nearly 30 books, including Oranges (1967), Coming into the Country (1977), The Control of Nature (1989), The Founding Fish (2002), and Silk Parachute (2011). Encounters with the Archdruid (1972) and The Curve of Binding Energy (1974) were nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science. McPhee received the Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters in 1977.  In 1999, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Annals of the Former World.  He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
Published April 1, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 170 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Sports & Outdoors, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, History, Travel, Education & Reference, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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This is one of John McPhee's extended profiles (The Headmaster, Oranges, etc.) guessably of New Yorker derivation.

Oct 12 2011 | Read Full Review of The Pine Barrens

The New York Times

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When plunging into literature about New Jersey, some excellent authors to take in are John McPhee, Philip Roth, Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams and Junot Díaz.

Jun 21 2012 | Read Full Review of The Pine Barrens

David G. Schwartz

It’s been forty years since he wrote The Pine Barrens, so this is probably not a completely accurate guide to today’s pinelands, but it’s nonetheless a landmark book.

Feb 12 2009 | Read Full Review of The Pine Barrens

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