Thursday, July 03, 2008

Happy Fourth

In celebration of the birthday of the USA here are two interesting books I have come across.

I just picked up a copy of George Stewart's The Names on the Land which was recently re-issued by the New York Review of Books Classics line. The book is a thematic exploration of why American cities, states, rivers and mountains have the names they do. There are also a few maps including the distribution of "burgs" and "villes." I've only read a small bit but it has been fun so far.

For example, in the Pacific Northwest I learned there was an attempt, in the competition with perfidious Albion for the Oregon Territory to rename all the Cascades after US Presidents. While we did end up with Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington and Mt. Adams, Mt. St Helens and Mt. Olympus avoided becoming Mt Van Buren and Shasta is not Mt. Jackson.

For the smaller set, I highly recommend Go Go America by Dan Yaccarino. The book is framed by a family's cross-country trip and focuses on entertaining details of each state including bizarre laws, inventions and historical events. It features Yaccarino's standard cheery graphics with a splash of retro.

And what better what to celebrate the US on a book blog than with the Library of America? Check out this volume on American environmental writing. And wow, does this noir collection look good.

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