Founding Fish

Founding Fish

by John McPhee
4.5 2

Hardcover(First Edition)

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Founding Fish by John McPhee

A long-awaited new book by the nonfiction master, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Few fish are as beloved-or as obsessed over-as the American shad. Although shad spend most of their lives in salt water, they enter rivers by the hundreds of thousands in the spring and swim upstream heroic distances in order to spawn, then return to the ocean.

John McPhee is a shad fisherman, and his passion for the annual shad run has led him, over the years, to learn much of what there is to know about the fish known as Alosa sapidissima, or "most savory." In The Founding Fish McPhee makes of his obsession a work of literary art. In characteristically bold and spirited prose-inflected, here and there, with wry humor-McPhee places the fish within natural history and American history. He explores the fish's cameo role in the lives of William Penn, Washington, Jefferson, Thoreau, Lincoln, and John Wilkes Booth. He travels with various ichthyologists, including a fish behaviorist and an anatomist of fishes; takes instruction in the making of shad darts from a master of the art; and cooks shad and shad roe a variety of ways (delectably explained at the end of the book). Mostly, though, McPhee goes fishing for shad-standing for hours in the Delaware River in stocking waders and cleated boots, or gently bumping over rapids in a chocolate-colored Kevlar canoe. His adventures in the pursuit of shad occasion the kind of writing, at once expert and ardent, in which he has no equal.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374104443
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 10/28/2002
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 5.62(w) x 8.68(h) x 1.23(d)

About the Author

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), Uncommon Carriers (2007), 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.


Princeton, New Jersey

Date of Birth:

March 8, 1931

Place of Birth:

Princeton, New Jersey


A.B., Princeton University, 1953; graduate study at Cambridge University, 1953-54

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Founding Fish 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As always, McPhee is great. No one is better. But why the Andy Rooney rant near the end about catch and release fishing? Is McPhee getting crotchety as his hair silvers? Yes, one can indeed puncture the pretensions of yuppified fly fishermen, and yes, fishing is, no matter how you cut it, still a blood sport. But the benefits of catch and release fishing are evident in the exact stretch of water McPhee fishes -- the upper Delaware. This is one of THE great wild trout streams in the US, and catch and release, even if only 50% effective, contributes to that. Hmm. Mini-rant of my own. McPhee is great. Wonderful detail. Wonderful style.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love bothJohn Mcphee's writing and shad fishing. Anyone so inclined must read this book. But, Mcphee badly needs an editor. First the highly technical aspects of the book require maps and illustrations. Mcphees excellent descriptive skills cannot satisfy this need.. Second, the book's almost encyclopedic coverage is at times defeating. Too often the book smells of the lamp rather than fish. One example is the tediously long destruction of the myth that a shad run saved the Continental Army at Valley Forge. No matter, buy the book and call for a revised tighter, technically illustrated text.