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Download How the States Got Their Shapes Audiobook (Unabridged)

Extended Audio Sample How the States Got Their Shapes (Unabridged), by Mark Stein
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mark Stein Narrator: Brian Holsopple Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2011 ISBN:
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Why does Oklahoma have that panhandle? Did someone make a mistake?

We are so familiar with the map of the United States that our state borders seem as much a part of nature as mountains and rivers. Even the oddities - the entire state of Maryland(!) - have become so engrained that our map might as well be a giant jigsaw puzzle designed by Divine Providence. But that's where the real mystery begins. Every edge of the familiar wooden jigsaw pieces of our childhood represents a revealing moment of history and of, well, humans drawing lines in the sand.

How the States Got Their Shapes is the first book to tackle why our state lines are where they are. Here are the stories behind the stories, right down to the tiny northward jog at the eastern end of Tennessee and the teeny-tiny (and little known) parts of Delaware that are not attached to Delaware but to New Jersey.

How the States Got Their Shapes examines:

  • Why West Virginia has a finger creeping up the side of Pennsylvania
  • Why Michigan has an upper peninsula that isn't attached to Michigan
  • Why some Hawaiian islands are not Hawaii
  • Why Texas and California are so outsized, especially when so many Midwestern states are nearly identical in size

Packed with fun oddities and trivia, this entertaining guide also reveals the major fault lines of American history, from ideological intrigues and religious intolerance to major territorial acquisitions. Adding the fresh lens of local geographic disputes, military skirmishes, and land grabs, Mark Stein shows how the seemingly haphazard puzzle pieces of our nation fit together perfectly.

Download and start listening now!

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Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Josh | 2/20/2014

    " Very interesting information. The one drawback was that the information could get a bit repetitive. You read about most state borders twice, because the book is organized alphabetically. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeff Rosendahl | 2/13/2014

    " Recommended for anyone interested in US history. After a brief intro regarding major US land purchases, the author describes how each state got its present borders. Skip the states you don't want to know about and read the ones you are interested in. Gives a lot of insight into nation-building and "manifest destiny." "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Caleb | 2/10/2014

    " I had real high hopes for this book and it got so boring that I didn't finish it. First, his summaries at the end of each state get very trite. Second, the problem with doing a border discussion state by state is that it gets incredibly repetitive, as one state's northern border is another's southern border. Good to own to resolve bar disputes, but don't bother reading the whole thing. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Annalie Plaetz | 2/2/2014

    " It took me a long time to get through this book as it was a dry read. I also felt that it was very repetitive and jumped back and forth alot. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Maeve | 1/27/2014

    " Would have been a 5 but a little repetitive since states share borders. You could read it straight through or open it to your favorite state which is a plus. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Meg | 1/17/2014

    " Fascinating! Not terribly well-written and quite repetitive, but filled with useless trivia. You should at least skim it to see why Idaho is shaped the way it is - spite is a powerful thing... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Scott | 1/8/2014

    " Only 4 stars because it is a bit dull at times, but you can't really bash the author too much on that front since it's fairly dull material. I mean, it is only state borders. And while you do find the occassional dispute or bloody battle, much of the time is is just natural boundaries or attempts by Congress to make them somewhat equal in size. I'm really glad I read this book though, because I've always been curious about this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ayelet | 12/25/2013

    " Really funny and also informative. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Margaret | 12/14/2013

    " Extremely informative to learn about America's geography. It's an easy book to read as you can just pick a state and read about it. Be sure to read the introduction first before reading a state's information as there are references to the intro. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kris | 12/5/2013

    " Cool book that is about history and not geography, there is a lot more drama to state lines than you would think. By necessity there is repetition in the book as many historical events effected the the lines of several states. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carly | 11/19/2013

    " I loved this book. It was very entertaining. It teaches you that it is very hard to create borders because there will always be someone not happy about the borders you make. After reading this book the Jigsaw puzzle that is the United States with its silly shapes makes a whole lot more sense. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lacey | 11/13/2013

    " It's a hard book to just sit down and read because the information is separated into information about each state but it is a great book to just pick up and read a little or a lot at a time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Diane Kennicker | 2/28/2013

    " I always wondered how the states got their shape. Obviously rivers can be a natural border but some shapes just didn't make sense. Now it does. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Becky Mann | 2/6/2013

    " I liked the geography lessons, but I didn't like the organization. It was very disjointed going in alphabetical order rather than regional. Otherwise, it was quite interesting. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Anne | 10/4/2012

    " I wish the author had taken the time to delve deeper into the cultural history instead of producing a litany of latitude and longitude. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ana | 8/16/2012

    " I liked the trivia in this book, but it wasn't of the best writing. I mean, it was good writing, just bot very interesting. I often had to force myself to read the book. But if history and geography ate you're thing, I'm sure you'll love it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chuck Weiss | 8/8/2012

    " Just loved this book! Amazing the geographic, political and natural elements involved in how each of our fifty states have the borders they have. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Robert | 8/6/2012

    " A very interesting aspect of U.S. history. At times a little monotonous because all borders have two sides, and the book is arranged by states, so he repeats events. The author didn't mention that jog in the Texas/Oklahoma/New Mexico border at the end of the Oklahoma panhandle. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bruce MacNeil | 3/5/2012

    " A very good book for anyone who loves geography and history. This is a book that you can read a chapter or two at a time as each state has its own chapter. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kris | 10/20/2011

    " Cool book that is about history and not geography, there is a lot more drama to state lines than you would think. By necessity there is repetition in the book as many historical events effected the the lines of several states. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lacey | 9/28/2011

    " It's a hard book to just sit down and read because the information is separated into information about each state but it is a great book to just pick up and read a little or a lot at a time. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Margaret | 9/14/2011

    " Extremely informative to learn about America's geography. It's an easy book to read as you can just pick a state and read about it. Be sure to read the introduction first before reading a state's information as there are references to the intro. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Holly | 8/18/2011

    " no bad. it's an easy read although not a page-turner. it was a great way to learn about a lot of US history in a very brief way. it got a little tedious by the end. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ed | 8/8/2011

    " This was the perfect book for a geography nerd like me. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ryan | 8/6/2011

    " Interesting, but the writing was monotonous and boring at times. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrea | 8/1/2011

    " Sounds boring, but not. This book provides a historical account of the development of the US from the context of border boundaries. It details the impact of power and politics in state chartering. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brad | 7/29/2011

    " i found this book to be incredibly informative, but thought that the placement of the states alphabetically really did the book a disservice. i believe if it would have been done chronologically there would have been less need to flip back and forth between states. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 *Kyhm* | 7/16/2011

    " Very interesting, but I like the TV show better. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steve | 7/8/2011

    " This was a good book. It got a little redundant when discussing adjacent states' borders, but I guess it's hard to write it any other way. I'd recommend this to those who are looking for a unique insight into how our states got their shapes. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andy | 6/27/2011

    " So much history! Shame almost none of it is being taught in school these days. "

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About the Author

Mark Stein is the author of How the States Got Their Shapes, a New York Times bestseller that became the basis of the History Channel series of the same name, in which Stein frequently appears. He is also the author of How the States Got Their Shapes Too: The People behind the Borderlines. Stein lives in Washington, DC, where he has taught at the Catholic University of America and American University.