Review: How the States Got Their Shapes

Mark Stein (2008)

As long as I can recall, I’ve been interested in, well, like the title of the book says, how the states got their shapes. Why do some state borders follow rivers—and then suddenly don’t? Why are some states boring squares and others curvy squiggles? Why do some states have corners cut off and others have notches cut into their border? Why are Texas and California so darn big and Delaware and Rhode Island so small? And what’s up with those panhandles? Heck, I didn’t even realize that originally, Rhode Island, yeah, it was actually an island!

All this and more author Mark Stein illustrates in a concise state-by-state rundown of their north/south/east/west borders and how they got that way. Plenty of maps and a limited amount of information illuminate how history, politics, geography, and sometimes personalities impacted the jigsaw puzzle makeup of the United States. Enjoyably read in a couple of sittings (like I did) or dip into it a few states at a time to spread out the fun.

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