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Extended Audio Sample Uncommon Carriers Audiobook, by John McPhee Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (897 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: John McPhee Narrator: John McPhee Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: August 2016 ISBN: 9781440798894
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From Pulitzer Prize-winner John McPhee—author of The Founding Fish—comes the fascinating story of an often overlooked, yet vitally important part of America. This first-hand account of the transportation sector features evocative portraits of the men and women who deliver our consumer and industrial goods. McPhee begins his adventure riding with Don Ainsworth, owner and operator of an 18-wheeler hauling nearly 30 tons of highly toxic chemicals from North Carolina to Washington. He continues his journey on a towboat pushing over 1,000 feet of barge up the narrow channel of the Illinois River. He rounds out his account crawling through Nebraska, Kansas, and the Powder River Basin of Wyoming in massive coal trains. Along the way, he tells the stories of the people he meets and the places he visits. McPhee’s sense of humor, incisive observations, and historical asides make for a highly entertaining journey across America.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “McPhee always uncovers the little differences that give every place its unique tale.”

    Publishers Weekly

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Matt | 2/7/2014

    " John McPhee shadows a chemical tanker truck driver across the country, a barge captain on the Illinois river and a train engineer for a >1 mile long coal train in Wyoming among other things. I like this book. Highlights included ruminations on how much gasoline truck drivers use up idling in truck stops heating or air-conditioning there cabs (answer: a lot), and a tour of the UPS central processing center which is basically a fully automated maze of like 12 or 15 levels of conveyor belts moving packages in a 500 acre building in the middle of the Louisville KY airport. McPhee has a good eye for people too, so this book is a good mix of him talking with people and him musing about the things they do. No shortage of interesting trivia facts here. I liked it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Blaire | 1/15/2014

    " I read very little non-fiction, but I like everything John McPhee writes. There's really noone like him. Whatever the topic he's writing about, I find the structure of his books fascinating. This one is no exception. The other thing I like about him is that he manages to insinuate himself into corners of our society that are very specialized and outside of most people's experience so that he can live what he's writing about. It ends up being a very intimate view of his subject rather than mere reportage. If you've never read one of his books, I heartily recommend him. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Champaign Public Library | 12/28/2013

    " This is another title I read for book club and not one I would pick up on my own. Everyone else seems to know who John McPhee is but I was not familiar with his work. Uncommon Carriers is about the people who transport materials with large vehicles - semis, UPS, barges, etc. with a brief essay on duplicating Walden's trek on a river. While this is not my style and I did struggle to get through some of the essays, it was very well written and highly regarded by his fans. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Levi | 12/23/2013

    " Totally fascinating. I bring it up in conversation frequently. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jim | 11/19/2013

    " An often engaging, though uneven, series of essays mainly focusing on transportation. The essays on trucking, ship training, and barges are the best, I feel. I think this type of journalism would be fascinating. Learned quite a bit. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joyce Sigler | 11/11/2013

    " Oh my Gosh, I learned SO MUCH from this book! I also enjoyed his writing style. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Maggie | 11/4/2013

    " I would have liked a little more color in these essays but that's not McPhee's style. I especially enjoyed the long-haul trucking essay -- which I remember reading in the New Yorker -- and the one about UPS. I may skip the coal and ship essays. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Doug Page | 10/28/2013

    " McPhee can make sand interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alex Herr | 10/21/2013

    " This is, I suspect, one of the most interesting books about freight hauling. The style is light and enjoyable while having realistic conversations with the people who move commodities around out country. I recommend it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bryan Mclellan | 9/28/2013

    " Fascinating information about barges, automated UPS sorted facilities and coal trains. Anyone interested in logistics should read this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rick | 9/16/2013

    " Worth the time for the chapter on truckers and the one on shipping lobsters alone. Interesting read about how the stuff that we use gets to us, and McPhee was brilliant as always. Recommended. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie | 7/18/2013

    " The first chapter about the truck driver was awesome, but I got bored during the second chapter. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Art Koehler | 6/2/2013

    " Great range of transport roles and experiences gives rise to a community of the movers of goods and people and the commitment they display to success of human endeavor. Justifiably raises the appreciation for the talents and experiences of our "transporters." "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Cheryl | 5/25/2013

    " MP3 player from the Gates Library. I expected an account of tales from truckers. This was more like a textbook. I learned a lot about the rules and regs for trucking and boating.... but alas, I could not finish it. VERY dry stuff. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kerry | 11/30/2012

    " John McPhee can make anything interesting. This book details the lives of truckers, ship pilots, UPS delivery, and more. An easy and entertaining read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ross | 4/29/2011

    " The first part of the book, when he's riding with the guy in the 18-wheeler, is definitely the most interesting and entertaining. The rest of the book is pretty dry and I found it hard to get through. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 3/9/2011

    " Very interesting and so well written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David | 2/12/2011

    " If you've ever wondered how goods get transported by ground and sea read this book and enjoy the trip. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Spencer | 1/4/2011

    " worth it for king truck driver don ainsworth alone. feel free to skim any of the boat-related stories, the others are solid. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David | 12/16/2010

    " A little uneven, but the interesting parts are excellent. In the first essay, for example,
    he conveys the details that make up the world of a trucker. Surprising and awesome. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joyce | 11/20/2010

    " Oh my Gosh, I learned SO MUCH from this book! I also enjoyed his writing style. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rick | 11/1/2010

    " Worth the time for the chapter on truckers and the one on shipping lobsters alone. Interesting read about how the stuff that we use gets to us, and McPhee was brilliant as always. Recommended. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rich | 6/24/2010

    " Assorted essays on boats, trucks, planes, and trains. I liked it. ... The section on planes is about the UPS hub, and I learned a little about supply-chain outsourcing! "

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About the Author
Author John McPhee

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. The same year he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are, with FSG, and followed with several others.