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, A Florida State of Mind: An Unnatural History of Our 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.

The Key to (Almost) Everything: Sociology for All of Us

I gave my first lecture to college students on September 4, 1973, and my last on April 20, 2017, a teaching career that spanned 15,934 days, or if you prefer, 43 years, 7 months and 16 days.  During those years, I taught at least half the courses in the typical undergraduate sociology curriculum and a pretty fair chunk of the graduate curriculum as well.

Each of the book’s chapters is modeled on a course I have taught (usually more than once).  These chapters are not course or lecture notes although I have consulted my course notes for specifics and details.  The chapters, rather, summarize what I think students ought to have learned and what ordinary people would profit from knowing about the discipline of sociology.

Each chapter distills from its corresponding subject matter what I consider to be the most important lessons, the eight or ten or fifteen most important things about the course topic that people in general would profit from knowing.   None of the book is written in the dumbed-down, vapid, anemic prose so characteristic of undergraduate sociology textbooks, but rather in a prose style that I hope appeals to well-educated adults who never got around to studying sociology and are curious about what the discipline has learned and how.  Thus, I fancy this book as “an introduction to sociology for grown-ups.”

Although it is not commonly appreciated, much of the substance of modern-day sociological thinking and analysis has entered into and enriched the national political discourse. Middle class, lower class, working class, race, poverty, ethnicity, homelessness, gender, immigration, discrimination, inequality, values, and much, much more – these are fundamentally sociological concepts about which we have learned a great deal over the course of the last half century.  It is largely the substance of this learning that I attempt to convey in the book.

Current Status: Forthcoming in 2019 from Rowman and Littlefield. To converse with me about the book, get in touch.