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How the States Got Their Shapes: 01/09/17

How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein is a history of the political decisions that influenced the shape the individual states in the United States took.

Besides the obvious rivers, lakes, and mountain ranges, there are lots of straight lines in our states. On closer examination, some straight lines have little bites taken out of them. Or they don't align. This book strives to answer those hiccups, along with other ones like, why is California no much larger than its neighbors?

The California one is a rather easy one to answer, and therefore makes for a sadly short chapter. I say, this of course, as a native Californian. The short answer is that California already had it's shape when it became a state. And since California's statehood was people driven, rather than government driven, the process wen so fast that there wasn't time to squabble over shape or size or to propose breaking it up into smaller chunks.

California's story, though, should come at the start of the last third of the book, followed by states like Arizona, New Mexico, with Hawaii and Alaska rounding out the book. But no. Just like the oddly planned Nature's Building Blocks by John Emsley, this one is organized alphabetically.

Our states weren't created alphabetically. There was a westward flow based on lots of other factors.

The book should have been organized geographically or by timeline or something similar. Putting them alphabetically makes for very disjointed reading. There's no story here. There's no natural building of understanding how one state's shape influence's another — like how Maryland lost every single land argument it had with its neighbors.

Please writers of nonfiction, RESIST the urge to organize your subject alphabetically — unless you're writing a dictionary, an encyclopedia, or an index.

Three stars

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