Betty S. (Jasper, GA)
State by State
The book is arranged alphabetically by state, so I began with Alabama (civil rights movement). Deciding to stay in the South, I went next to Georgia (Chinese immigrant buys first home). Then to Florida (boy enjoys endless sun and surf).
Deciding to leave the Hot Zone, I headed for Alaska (fishing for king salmon) and Oregon (365 days of showers, interrupted occasionally by sunshine). Then to the Midwest and Illinois, which claims to be first in everything (but what about North Carolina, which is First in Flight?) On to stalwart Vermont, some of whose citizens want to be the first to secede from the Union. I hope they don't prevail; 50 is such a nice round number.
The articles are both fact-filled and entertaining. I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't enjoy reading them.
Vy A. (Phoenix,
State by State A Panoramic Portrait of America
“A road trip in book form” is how the editors of State by State describe their book. They believe that in spite of America becoming more homogeneous each year, it still retains an essential deep-grained variety. The search for each state’s differences in landscape, topography, political outlook, social ideals and cultural preference resulted in a unique composite of America that can be enjoyed at many levels.
It will appeal to those who like facts, as each state’s selection is preceded by twenty-two statistics from motto to geographic center to median age. It will appeal even more to readers who want to experience a state through the eyes of a variety of writers. Some writers were chosen who were native to the state, others who had never been there and presented a fresh eye approach, but each writer was told to tell a story, a personal experience, that captured the essence of the state. It can be read cover to cover in alphabetical order or one can first hop-scotch to the states lived in to see if this writer’s experience is similar to theirs. It’s a fascinating read which includes ten pages of images, (photos, paintings) also selected by each writer for their state, which they felt captured the “visual” essence. I recommend it as a great resource for both historical and literary value.
Mary Ann B. (Louisville, KY)
America, The Unique
State by State is filled with essays from contemporary writers who take a look at a particular state and how it measures up with modern culture. Do not get this confused with a travelogue, because it isn't. It's more about the differences, and the similarities, between the vast geographical area. We are becoming more alike thanks to modern conveniences (internet, TV), but there are still some things we all do because we're from a certain area, and that makes all the difference.
Darra W. (Walnut Creek, CA)
E Pluribus Unum...and How!
If you’ve ever wondered about the 21st-century relevance of our national motto—Out of Many, One—wonder no more. This fascinating collection of 50 essays, one per state, each penned by a different writer, is a tour de force of letters and lore, affirming both the rugged individuality and the common threads that personify the American Experience. Each narrative opens with a mini-almanac of state facts; the compendium is enhanced with appendices of relevant tables and a signature of photos, the latter provided by the individual authors.
The essays are eclectic in content and style. The iconic Merritt Parkway surfaces as central metaphor in the mini-memoir penned by Connecticut native son, Rick Moody. John Hodgman’s riff on the uniqueness of Massachusetts is delivered with the dry wit of the observational humorist. Jonathan Franzen attempts a tongue-in-cheek interview with New York State. Daphne Beal waxes nostalgic about the life “ballast” cemented by her Wisconsin childhood. Joe Sacco (Oregon) and Alison Bechdel (Vermont) employ the comic strip to tell their stories. Some entries are love songs to “the old home state,” others chronicle the immigrant experience, still others recall a temporary, but memorable sojourn to the state in question.
Despite the diversity of subject matter and tone, there are certain recurring threads. The decimation and continued isolation of the native peoples; the emergence (or exacerbation) of intrastate political and geographical polarities; concern for the environment: these oft-repeating themes demonstrate that, regardless of our individual experiences, we do—on occasion—think as one.
State by State is the kind of book you can swallow in a gulp, or savor state by state as the mood moves you. It would make a great book club read; if your group is feeling particularly ambitious, pair it up with Travels with Charley, Steinbeck’s 1962 classic.
Sherrill B. (Columbia City, In.)
state by state
what I liked about the book was each author knew about the state he or she was talking about. It was very informative and at the same time reminded me of an illustrated version of John Steinbeck's travels with Charlie and a book by Charles Kuralt about different regions but neither author was from the states about which they talked. I really liked the cartoons of Oregon and Vermont.The photos, in the book also. When friends and I have talked recently about a state I get my book State by State and we read about it. Also I have promised several people they can borrow my book when I am finished and read it. they are very interested in that. I highly recommend this book.
Maria P. (Washington, DC)
So many unique voices make for a fascinating view of these United States of America. And the beautiful descriptions of the land and the people inhabiting the towns and byways lend souls to these states. The sorrow that we may not be caring for the land is very evident in some of the essays, that we might need to tread a little lighter, that the stories of the past might be seen in the present and that the present is a gift and that this book is indeed a gift to us.
Eileen F. (Ephrata, WA)
State by State
State by State, a book with an essay for each state, is a literary work first, and secondly a historical work. Fifty eclectic writers have presented their assigned states with different focuses, i.e. personal, historical, comical, complimentary, and insulting.
If you enjoy the travel writings of Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck, or Bill Bryson, this is your book. If you enjoy periodicals, such as The New Yorker or the Oxford American, this is your book.
It is a book to place next to your chair, so you can read a chapter every so often. I plan to re-read my copy in that fashion.