September 23, 2008

A road trip in book form

  • About the author EB

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I’ve never been on a true, honest to goodness road trip. And since I don’t have a driver’s license, I don’t know if I ever will (please play the world’s tiniest violin for me now). But maybe that’s why I’m so into State by State, just released last week by our good friends at Ecco. In the preface, Matt Weiland (who edited the book with Sean Wilsey) states that their goal was to produce “a road trip in book form,” and I think they’ve succeeded, at least based on what I imagine a road trip to be like—learning not everything about a place but something small and true and unique, something like the secret liberal past of Alabama, which I read about in the first chapter.

Holding the book in my hands it reminds me of nothing more than the old World Book encyclopedias I used to have in my bedroom as a kid, the ones that had been passed down from my grandma’s house, the ones that were really great for historical stuff but couldn’t tell me anything that had happened after 1966, when they had been published. Even after we got a newer encyclopedia, I always returned to the World Book. There was something about it that seemed more authentic, more descriptive, more trustworthy than any other book. So far, State by State gives me the same feeling. It’s about “the half-dead towns too alive to be ghosts, the rusting historical markers buried in the weeds, the anonymous bits of land with their own hidden histories and surprising beauties and grace.”

If I haven’t convinced you of the awesomeness of State by State, be sure to check out the Facebook page, where you can read excerpts from the essays, the trailer for the Out of the Book film about the book (which is currently screening across America), or my very favorite State by State-related link, the interview with Matt and Sean on Omnivoracious, Amazon’s book blog. Seems State by State has inspired a whole series of blog posts over there, one for each of the 50 states, listing the books that most evoke the feel of that state. I’m so excited to check those out (after I finish all the essays in State by State, of course.)

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