Pierce's Reviews > How the States Got Their Shapes

How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein
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Aug 03, 12

bookshelves: nonfiction

This useless brick is, unfortunately, one of several self-inflicted literary infections I got by whipping out my Amazon.com iPhone App two hours deep into a happy hour. GOOD friends don't let friends do that. I need better friends, it would seem.

This book is about as compelling and forgettable as those "Brain Quest" trivia cards, and poorly written. I gritted my teeth through the first several chapters that Professor Stein begins with "How come...?" Why not "why?" Or better still, why not acknowledge that your readers bought your damn book because they are already asking that question, and then get rolling on your answer?

Don't expect any good story-telling from this one, either. The drama professor performs little in the way of character development, dropping open-ended passive-voice bombs where details should sprout, such as: "...a new northern border was established." By whom? Congress? Uncle Melvin? Sure, if Stein went into as much detail for each state as Russel Shorto did for Manhattan(Island at the Center of the World (2005)), this book would be enormous. But it would also be more fun and worth your time. It is, instead, a long list of marginally interesting, casually assembled facts that would best serve the kind of people needing a rapidly detachable read in the dentist's waiting room.

I guess Stein gets the last laugh, so I don't feel too bad for him. This book, or something like it, ended up feeding one of those mindless holiday History Channel trivia marathons alongside "The Presidents." Someone surely made money, mostly from people like me. Well played, sir. Well played.

But not well written.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Gabriel (last edited Aug 07, 2012 06:30AM) (new)

Gabriel Hah! Nice one Pierce.


message 2: by Thom (new) - rated it 1 star

Thom Watson I gritted my teeth at those awful "how comes", but when I got to Michigan, and he described Indiana's original proposed access to the Great Lakes as an "infinitely small point," I uttered one last cry of exasperation, and relegated the book to the ignominy of my tiny did-not-finish shelf


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