A Florida State of Mind: An Unnatural History of Our Weirdest State

People come to Florida to retire, to relax, and to start their lives anew. If Florida is in your plans, Florida: An Unnatural History of America’s Weirdest State is a book you need to read.

The 2000 Presidential election turned on the Florida outcome, an outcome determined by how firmly ballot dimples remained attached to their cardboard backing. A year later, nineteen terrorists based mainly in Florida flew two planes into the World Trade Center and a third into the Pentagon and changed the world forever. These episodes illustrate the energy poles between which Florida vibrates and crackles: absurdity at one pole, tragedy at the other, with an arc in between that runs through the weird, the preposterous, the inane, the wonderful and at times the just plain spooky. That is the state I have come to know and love and have written about in this book.

Driving around Florida today, you can witness the technological marvel that is the American space program, spend a delightful day in a St Petersburg museum housing the world’s second largest collection of Salvador Dali paintings, or take in a thirty minute show featuring live mermaids at Weeki Watchee Springs. You can tour archaeological sites documenting the history of the state’s aboriginal inhabitants and fake archaeological sites that purport to be Ponce de Leon’s original Fountain of Youth. You can bask in the sun pretty much anywhere along the state’s 1,200 miles of shoreline, buy fresh native citrus at every interstate rest stop, or watch alligators lunge out of the water to snag fresh chickens from a wire at Kissimmee’s Gatorland. Florida is “an unnatural history of America’s weirdest state.”

The book is a collection of factoids, oddments and stories about my adopted state. It discusses the invention of modern Florida by Henry Morrison Flagler, the founding of stock car racing at Daytona Beach, and the early zany years of the space program. Ever wonder how the citrus industry got its start? How Florida became Theme Park Nation? How destructive hurricanes shaped the state’s development? If yes, Florida is a book you want to read.

People come to Florida to retire, to relax, and to start their lives anew. Two thirds of the state’s population were born elsewhere. If Florida is in your plans, Florida is a book you need to read.  Florida — where your orange juice comes from, where the space program is located, and where more people are bitten by alligators, snakes and sharks than any other. Learn about the history, culture, and attractions of the state in this witty, readable, wide-ranging account.

Read an excerpt at my blog.

Florida: An Unnatural History of America’s Weirdest State is forthcoming in the Fall of 2018 from Thomas Dunne Books, a division of St. Martin’s Press.

Lost Souls: Manners and Morals in Contemporary American Society. The Seven Deadly Sins in a Secular World

De Claris Mulieribus (the Original Sin and the Seven Deadly Sins)

What is the state of contemporary American morality? From their original conception in Christian scripture to their assimilation into Western culture, the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ – lust, greed, envy, pride and all the rest – have guided human morality, steering human behavior and psychology away from evil and toward a full embrace of what is good. But their hold on modern life is increasingly tenuous. Indeed, deadly sin has become far more common and more commonly practiced than its virtuous counterparts – humility, charity, kindness, industriousness. Without greed there is no economy; without anger, no politics; and without pride and envy, little motivation and no accomplishment.

Lost Souls examines the complexities and ambiguities in modern society in the context of the seven deadly sins and their corresponding virtues. Are we all lost souls, condemned by our immoral deeds, or are the trappings of older sin deteriorating? Is it time, finally, to reconsider the classifications of evil and good?

Each chapter (one for each sin) considers how the social sciences have operationalized these sins, how they have been studied, and what lessons have been learned over time. The book reviews recent trends and contemplates the societal costs and benefits of the behaviors in question. Lost Souls emerges as a meditation on contemporary sin, concluding that the line between guilt and innocence, right and wrong, is often very thin.

Lost Souls is a remarkable reflection on the shifting moral landscape of contemporary America; wherein, the seven deadly sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy and pride have seemingly been transformed into virtuous ideals. It is a must read for those of us grappling with the moral foundations of the Trump era.” — Darren E. Sherkat, Southern Illinois University

“…a clear view and analysis of contemporary culture and morality with insights in every chapter. His writing is so engaging – and often funny – that you don’t realize how much you are learning about sociological theory and social history until after you have finished a chapter…clear, scholarly and very readable. I loved it.” – Murray Webster, University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

“This erudite and fascinating book summarizes a broad swatch of sociological research as it shows convincingly that what some might regard as sinful may also be socially necessary.” — Arne L. Kalleberg, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

 Lost Souls: Manners and Morals in Contemporary American Society. The Seven Deadly Sins in a Secular World is forthcoming in 2018 from Routledge Publishers, a division of Taylor and Francis.

The Global Enterprise: Social Scientists and Their Work around the World

There are approximately 200 nations on the face of the earth and right now, social science is being practiced in every one of them. How much of the global enterprise is known to US social scientists?  Through an analysis of and commentary on 26 separate research studies, each focused on a different topic, discipline, methodology and national context, the book provides a fascinating depiction of the scope of the global social science enterprise in the world today.  From remittances of Filipino workers back to their families to efforts at historical preservation in the People’s Republic of China, from the post-transition development of agriculture in Hungary to the sexual abuse of children in New Zealand, from earthquake research in Japan to network jihadi terrorism, The Global Enterprise is both fascinating and informative to anyone interested in what the social science disciplines have to contribute to contemporary social trends and developments.

How have Muslims accommodated to life in Western societies?  What were the demographic consequences of the First World War?  What are the economic, social and environmental costs and benefits of hosting a cruise ship terminal?  Has the situation of Honduran street children improved in the past two decades?  Has NAFTA been the economic disaster it is made out to be in contemporary political discourse?  What is the state of public health in Africa?  If these are the kinds of questions you find intriguing, or the sorts of things you would like your students to be informed about, then you owe The Global Enterprise a serious look.

“…truly impressive. Each chapter is full of useful, interesting information and nuggets…very informative; topics very timely…” – Dr. Liz Grauerholz, University of Central Florida

The Global Enterprise: Social Scientists and Their Work around the World is forthcoming in 2018 from Routledge Publishers, a division of Taylor and Francis.