From Publishers Weekly
Aiming to educate air passengers about the structures and topography they spot out their windows during flights over North America, Dicum, who chronicled the coffee industry in 1999's Coffee Book, also entertains. Instead of organizing the book by well-traveled routes (New York to L.A., for example), he divides America and Canada into regions (the Great Plains, the Mid-Atlantic) and describes the landforms, water formations and human features endemic to each area, with sidebars on how to spot such entities as urban sprawl, interstate highways and federal land. Satellite images taken miles higher than the typical flight's altitude of 35,000 feet illustrate what readers are likely to see from their window seat. In the chapter on Texas, for example, Dicum uses satellite photos to explain how to identify oil wells, the border with Mexico, and Hill Country towns settled by Germans, who arranged their New World communities just as they had in Europe, with the main street parallel to a river. In an easy, cogent style, Dicum answers questions curious flyers may have wondered but never understood, like why some farmland is arranged in squares and some in perfect circles. He manages to wrest fascinating cultural significance from quotidian details (e.g., the bizarre land shapes in the rural South result from the postâ"Civil War government's attempts at land redistribution). Compulsively readable, the guidebook is composed of both handy factual information as well as deeper lessons about North America and its inhabitants. 70 color photos, 25 line drawings.
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About the Author
Gregory Dicum is a San Francisco-based writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine , Harper's , HotWired , New York Magazine , Travel & Leisure , and others.