John McPhee has always been one of my favorite writers. I remember when I was young and would go over to my grandmother’s house. I would sit on the couch and flip through her copies of The New Yorker for the cartoons. But I quickly figured out that whenever I found an essay by McPhee, that I should read it. It really didn’t matter what he was writing about, it was going to be interesting.
A lot of those essays have been collected into books. I would recommend all of them. You might not realize that you want to know about Arthur Ashe, the Swiss army, train engineers, shad, Deerfield Academy, birch bark canoes, or nuclear terrorism; but you do. He’ll make it interesting.
But even after reading dozens and dozens of essays by him, it has been hard to get much of a sense of who he really is. But apparently, his latest book is much more personal than most of his writing. In addition, the LA Times has an interesting interview with him this week.
You might also be interested to know that one of his daughters (Laura) is a photographer. I caught an exhibit of her work at the MFA a while back. They were really good.