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State by State

A Panoramic Portrait of America

by Matt Weiland, Sean Wilsey

State by State by Matt Weiland, Sean Wilsey X
State by State by Matt Weiland, Sean Wilsey
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2008, 608 pages
    Oct 2009, 608 pages

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Mary Ann (11/04/09)

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.
Dorothy (11/04/09)

What you don't know about America
Inspired by a WPA project that produced books about each state and dedicated to the proposition that although the country is being increasingly homogenized the states still retain unique characteristics, this book consists of 50 essays by 50 exceptional writers – one per state. Unlike the WPA books, these are not travelogues but widely varied responses to each state based on the experience of the writer. Each state essay is preceded by a page of the state statistics that you had to learn in the 5th grade with a section of more esoteric statistics at the back. They also include a photo for each state chosen by the writer – Maine is the most surprising.

The writers grew up in their state and never left, grew up in their state and couldn’t wait to leave, came to the state as adults or – in a few cases – seem to be just idly passing through. The formats of the essays are eclectic including a graphic essay and an interview with “the state.” Some are very poignant and some are quite humorous. John Hodgman (you know him best as PC in the Apple ads) uses his sly wit to send up the Bay Staters who remain convinced that Massachusetts – or at least Boston – is truly the hub of the universe. Dave Eggers writes a very American style love letter to Illinois (we’re #1) stressing it’s most important residents – Lincoln and Oprah. Some of the essays cover the entire state. Others concentrate on a specific area. They may deal with state politics, state history, resident temperaments, the author’s specific experience or the beauty of the environment. Most of the environmental ones often also mourn the loss of much of that beauty.

This is a collection well worth reading – put it on your night stand and dip into a state or two a night. You will learn a lot about the country and at the very least, it will improve your Jeopardy scores.
Jeff (11/04/09)

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.
Karen (11/04/09)

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?
Maria (11/04/09)

Unique Voices
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.
Gary (11/04/09)

the good old usa
I went into this book with a little trepidation. I don't usually read a lot of non-fiction. 50 by 50, great, a bunch of writers telling me why their state is the greatest right! well after reading the intro alone I could tell that was not to be - some of the writers didn't even live in the state they were writing about. I found the book to be absolutely fascinating. Little known historical events,trips down to the end of the road. The mountains,valleys,cities,and small towns that make this country what it is. Read this book, read it by your favorite author, your favorite state, or just from page one to the last. I loved it!
Power Reviewer
Peggy (11/04/09)

From Sea to Shining Sea
When I asked to review this book I wasn't sure what I would be getting. I was very pleased to find that it is a wonderful arrangement of statistics and short writings about every state in the union.

This is not a book you just zip through. You will want to keep it on your bookshelf for days when you want to do some reading and feel like learning about other states. Americans generally do not know much about most of our states. This book will educate you in a fun way. The writings are varied and I assure you that you will be surprised what you learn about some states.

Use the statistics to help your children learn as well and make a game of it. Take it on a trip and read a couple of states at a time.

I am very pleased that I asked for this book and I'm sure that anyone who buys it will find the same.
Power Reviewer
Melissa (11/04/09)

Story by Story
Like most anthologies there were essays I liked and essays I didn't. Many seemed to have a negative tone regarding the state they were selected to write about. Yet there were gems throughout the book that have instilled a desire in me to travel cross country to see some of these wonderful locations!

I enjoyed the different writing styles and formats (i.e. interview, graphic novel) that were interspersed throughout the book.
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