The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible by Simon Winchester
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is one of those books that you can start and stop easily, which is what I did. Winchester divides things into sections: wood, earth, water, fire and metal. Those essential elements are then explored in some detail, for example, how the rivers and their exploration led to the completion of our Manifest Destiny, or how ore finds spread the population. Where the conceit falls down, however, is when Winchester inserts himself into the proceedings for seemingly no reason. Example? He's visited every town named Paradise in the US, which could have led to an interesting discussion about how they'd changed since his 1984 visit and how "progress" has made things better or worse. Instead we only get part of a visit to a couple he'd met in 1984.