The Pine Barrens

by John McPhee

Paperback, 1968




New York, Farrar, Straus & Giroux [1968]

User reviews

LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
A fascinating, if dated, look at the history and ecology of the natural wonder that is the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey. When this book was originally published in 1967, the Barrens were threatened by encroaching development, urban sprawl and by plans for a massive jetport which was envisioned to ease the congestion of the Philadelphia and New York airports. McPhee held out little hope for the long-term survival of this wilderness, which was home to diverse plant and animal life, some of it unique to that ecosystem (like the pygmy pine forests in which the trees grow no taller than 4 feet), and under which is an acquifer containing 17 trillion gallons of the purest water to be found in the U.S. His book, although reprinted quite recently, does not contain updated information on the creation of the Pinelands National Reserve (1978) or the International Biosphere Reserve (1988), whereby development has been curtailed and strictly controlled. Still, the natural history in The Pine Barrens is absorbing, and the writing is somewhat reminiscent of Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek. 4 stars. Could have had 5 if it had been brought up to date with an afterword or some such… (more)
LibraryThing member TheoClarke
Topographical writing at its very best: McPhee transports his reader to the landscape of the New Jersey Pine Barrens and the culture of the people who lived and worked in this sparsely populated region on the fringes of one of the most populous areas of teh world.
LibraryThing member cblaker
Excellent literary journalism. Fairly short, this content originally appeared in the New Yorker. The book tells the story of an obscure region of New Jersey called the Pine Barrens. In the most densely populated state, this wilderness is relatively empty of people and is almost entirely undeveloped (the book was written in 1967 and i do not know what it is like now). The story moves along at a gradual pace, but is never boring. The wrap-up is excellent. It's amazing that so near the Eastern Seaboard megapolis (New York, Philly, Boston, DC, etc) is this sparsely inhabited region of self-sufficient individualists who live off the land for the most part. I would highly recommend this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member hashiru
I grew up in New Jersey and we often drove through the "Jersey Pines" on the way to the shore for a day at the ocean beaches. However, I never heard the term "Pine Barrens" until I encountered this gem of a book.

Among other topics, McPhee details the industry which utilized "bog iron" to provide military equipment such as cannons and cannonballs during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. He tells us of the origins of the New Jersey Devil, sort of an East coast version of Sasquatch in spirit if not in detail.… (more)
LibraryThing member barringer
This is the portrait of a time and a culture that is now gone. The trees are still here, as are the bogs and ponds, but the life of the region has changed completely since McPhee wrote this book in 1968.
LibraryThing member Stembie3
This is a perfect read for learning more about New Jersey's backwoods areas. John McPhee's writing talents shine through as he introduces the eclectic characters who live in the Pine Barrens.
LibraryThing member amerynth
I've been slowly working my through John McPhee's books ever since reading his wonderful book "Oranges" many, many years ago. I still tell people stuff I learned about citrus fruit since reading that book more than a decade ago, now I can further annoy people with facts about a New Jersey region I'd never heard of before.

In "The Pine Barrens," McPhee travels around the woodsy area of New Jersey, which apparently has a sort of backwoods reputation, and tells the stories of the interesting characters he runs into, as well as the region's history.

The book is very readable and very entertaining -- very glad I picked this one up.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Sandydog1
Short, idyllic and most certainly out-of-date description of the history, peoples, ecology and future of this fascinating, massive, south central New Jersey ecosystem.

McPhee leaves a reader with an urge to review the post-1967 development status of this amazing area.



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