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Book Review: Flying High: Flags of the United States

This is a personal publication featuring a review of all fifty state flags, plus a few others. Each high-gloss page features an illustration of the flag, its ranking (from 1 to 50) and a discussion and critique of the flag’s design.

gordon meyer holding book

I learned several things reading this book, and I was entertained in the process. For example, did you know just over half of all state flags consist of the state’s seal on a field of blue? As the author points out, this is boring, and a lost opportunity for uniqueness and good design. I also learned that Idaho is the only state flag that includes the state’s name twice. That’s plain silly, Idaho, WTF?

The author, Billy McCall, correctly praises the Chicago city flag, yet fails to picture it. (Boo!) To make up for it, he does show some truly horrendous city flags, such as Milwaukee and Pocatello. Yes, Idaho. Again. Get a grip, Idahoans.

There’s a guest essay about the state flag of Utah, and the missed opportunity they had to adopt a redesign that features a big, nifty beehive. The essay, though, expresses some puzzlement over the symbolism of the beehive, not knowing that it is a symbol of Mormonism. (See my post How the Mormon Church Pervades Everything in Utah.)

This book began life as a series of zines about McCall’s favorite flags, but for this compilation, he includes all fifty states. He says that much of his information about the flags came from wikipedia, so you might not want to use this book to study for a Jeopardy audition. And occasionally, there isn’t a lot to say about a flag, so there are a few diversions thrown in too. Don’t let any of this dissuade you, it’s a fun book.

For another publication by McCall, which I also enjoyed, see Book Review: The Difference Between.

Get your copy of Flying High at the author’s website or, as I did, at Quimby’s in Chicago.


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