Saturday, August 09, 2008

How the States Got Their Shapes

by Mark Stein

Here's an intriguing book of trivia--a tome of a very specific historical niche. Have you ever looked at a state map and wondered why the border runs like it does? No? Er, well, trust me, there are weirdoes like me who love maps and sit and gaze upon all the little quirks and details. And there are some, like me, who have wondered why the heck Michigan has an upper peninsula or why Utah has that notch. Such secrets are revealed in this book, as the logic (or politics) behind each twist and turn of the borders of the United States are recounted. On one hand it was interesting. I didn't realize all the finagling that went into our borders. I was shocked to find out that folks attempted to solve some border disputes with guns--after we had become a country. However, for all the moments of interest, there were moments of tedium as well. Each state has its own chapter and as such you get some repetition. After all, once you explain the borders of say, Idaho, you've suddenly got a preview of the stories of the surrounding states. Needless to say, reading the story of Wyoming, was less than fascinating. Still, it's an excellent book to fill ten minutes in a waiting room or something.

LibraryThing link


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