Sande O. (Rochester, NY)
The Best Vacation I've Had Without Leaving Home
If you're looking for a snapshot of every state in the union, plus the District of Columbia and don't have the money or time this year for a visit: State by State is a great book to read. The editors have solicited essays, and in one case a cartoon essay, by some very talented authors who give a very personal panorama of their state. Though it is loosely based on the Depression era WPA guides, here each view is as different in style and perspective as the the state itself. I found myself attracted to states where I have lived: New York, Wyoming, Ohio and DC. Then places I have spent a lot of time and finally drive-by locations and virgin territory. I enjoyed them all. Accompanying each essay is a one-page almanac listing of the population, state flower, age distribution, etc. and the end of the book are Bureau of Census tables ranking states according to all sorts of arcane groupings. In the end though, the appeal of this book is the affect the states have on the authors and their lives. It is a fun, thought-provoking book that you can pick up whenever the wanderlust hits you and you are stuck at home.
Karen B. (Pittsburgh, PA)
50 Ways to Leave Your State of Boredom
Interesting, informative and entertaining essays which showcase the diversity and uniqueness of America. There is humor (Illinois), beauty (Hawaii), revelation (Kentucky), the paranormal (Louisiana), seediness (Florida), poverty (Arizona), connection (Alaska), dampness (Washington), cruelty (California), history (Idaho), farming (Minnesota). You are shown how one can ache for a place (Mississippi), fear the loss of a place (Connecticut), or lose yourself in a place (Washington). The best way to enjoy this book is to savor it by reading a few essays at a time. Treat yourself to this book. You may not enjoy all of the essays equally, but, as a collection, they will enrich your understanding of this great country and broaden your horizons.
How did I manage to remain ignorant of Constantine Rafinesque?
Phoenix M. (Eclectic, AL)
A Great Road Trip - State by State
This is not a boring public relations hype about each state. The reader gets to meet interesting characters in every location. We are introduced to the wicked and the wise.
Each author's style is so refreshing. They express pride in their state, but are honest regarding some embarrassing parts of their history.
The reader will want to visit the landscapes described in this book. Who knows what wonders we will find. Carrie Browstein ends her view of Washington State by saying, "...There will always be wilderness to discover, and wilderness we'll never know."
Start planning your adventure now and don't forget to pack State by State.
Jeff M. (Morris Plains, NJ)
State-By-State Worth The Trip
One of the benefits of an anthology like State-By-State is that it allows you to choose what you want to read in any particular order. The state portraits are varied -- some personal, some historical and all generally informative and interesting. I tended to read first those states that I have a particular interest in and, as the authors stated, there were three writers vying to write about my home state of New Jersey.
Supplementing the articles are statistical information about the subject state and comparative data ranking all states on a particular topic (who knew that Wyoming has the highest gasoline consumption per person).
State-by-State is a good way to spend some time reading about a few of the states, then be able to pick it up again to continue the journey. If I had one quibble with the book it is that I would have liked to have seen a little more background on each of the authors rather than just the sentence or two that is included.
Overall, State-by-State is worth the time and investment.
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.
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.