I don’t know how many people watch cspan2 on the weekends, but if the tv is on and I’m aimlessly clicking I always see what’s on. For those who aren’t familiar, it is Book TV on the weekends and has a series of one hour book talks with various non-fiction authors. The hour takes place in a bookstore and the author talks about his book and then takes questions from the small audience. Many of them are political and if they lean too much either way I usually skip them, but sometimes you’ll find an hour of fun learning, like l did today.
Mark Stein wrote How the States Got Their Shapes and it was published in May. I’ve always looked at the map and accepted the way the states were shaped because I assumed there was a good reason for it and now that I’ve heard from Stein I find that there are a multitude of reasons behind the funny shapes. Some of the larger influences were water, mountains, railroads, and slavery. There was also the time tested power of bribery (Montana, Missouri), some religious mistrust (Utah), and voluntary ceding of land for political purpose (Kansas) involved in the decisions. It really was fascinating.
Stein said that he wrote the book for a family on vacation and not a true scholar and that is the appeal I think. I have a new way of looking at a US map and although I have not read the book I have to recommend at least watching the cspan segment. There is a Watch Now option on this cspan2 link and also a schedule of upcoming book talks.
I really enjoyed the hour (except for 5 minutes one man in the audience wasted with his question) and plan on checking out the book to learn a little more about the lines of Ohio, which he barely touched on at all during this hour. If you’ve read the book let me know what you thought.