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How the post office created America : a history
2016
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  New York Times Review

BEING A BEAST: Adventures Across the Species Divide, by Charles Foster. (Picador, $16.) "I want to know what it is like to be a wild thing," Foster, a British naturalist, writes in this dispatch from the animal world. To that end, he stripped naked, ate earthworms, was hunted by bloodhounds and attempted to catch fish with his teeth - all to experience the natural world as do naked Welsh badgers, London foxes and Exmoor otters. WE COULD BE BEAUTIFUL, by Swan Huntley. (Anchor, $16.) With an apartment in the West Village and a hefty trust fund, Catherine has nearly everything - except a husband. When she meets William, they appear to be an ideal match, until a secret threatens to derail the engagement. Huntley's debut novel is equal parts psychological thriller and sendup of New York's social elite. WHISTLESTOP: My Favorite Stories From Presidential Campaign History, by John Dickerson. (Twelve, $16.99.) The author, the political director of CBS News and the host of "Face the Nation," reflects on decades of election cycles: their memorable collapses and comebacks, surprise upsets and victories. As he puts it, "News is what surprises us, which is why the political press always has news: Voters are always undoing our certainties." MISS JANE, by Brad Watson. (Norton, $15.95.) Drawing on the real-life experiences of his great-aunt, Watson tells the story of Miss Jane Chisolm, a woman in rural Mississippi with an isolating and rare birth defect. The condition was an obstacle to sexual or romantic relationships, but Jane sought wholeness through other means. "The complexity and drama of Watson's gorgeous work here is life's as well," our reviewer, Amy Grace Loyd, said. "Sometimes heroism lies in combating our helplessness, sometimes in accepting it." HOW THE POST OFFICE CREATED AMERICA: A History, by Winifred Gallagher. (Penguin, $18.) The post office - established even before the Declaration of Independence was signed - was long a symbol of the United States' commitment to democratic values, ensuring that citizens across all the colonies were informed. Now, with the office in jeopardy, Gallagher urges a reconsideration of its future. GOODNIGHT, BEAUTIFUL WOMEN: Stories, by Anna Noyes. (Grove, $16.) The women in Noyes's collection are tested - by sexual abuse, terminal illness, poverty and young widowhood. In the opening story, a woman struggles to understand her husband's apparent suicide by drowning. "The stories may sound grim," our reviewer, Elizabeth Poliner, said, "but they consistently sparkle with expressive detail."

  Publishers Weekly Review

The post office may not have actually "created" America, but journalist Gallagher (New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change) makes a strong case for its historical importance in this brisk history. Forging early links among the colonies and then uniting the nation and its frontier as settlers moved west, the post office has by necessity survived by modernizing and developing in parallel with the nation. The institution single-mindedly pursued more efficient systems of delivery for generations, though it struggled with the demands of independent contractors-whether stagecoach operators or airlines-and opportunistic competitors that were able to adapt faster than the federal bureaucracy. The 1970 transformation of the Post Office Department into the U.S. Postal Service, a business run by the government, was meant to ameliorate these problems. But, as Gallagher explains, this shift in emphasis from innovation to the bottom line may have doomed the post office as it entered the digital age. Despite its waning relevance, Gallagher still sees the post office as a pride-inducing institution. Socially progressive since its inception, the post office represents one of the purest distillations of America and takes on one of modern democracy's most necessary (and tedious) tasks: the convenient distribution of information and ideas to every American with a mailbox. Agent: Kristine Dahl, ICM. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
The Post Office, Winifred Gallagher argues, has been not just a witness to, but a foundational influence on, much of the history of the USA, particularly for women and African-Americans who participated in the nation's formation via the Post Office in pivotal ways. How the Post Office Created America tells this story, tracing the role of a unique institution and its leaders. Taking in all the major events in American history, from the Declaration of Independence to the Civil War to the advent of the Internet, Gallagher tells a vitally important story.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Why the Post Office Mattersp. 1
1Inventing the Government    B. Free Franklinp. 7
2Building the Postal Commonsp. 29
3Moving the Mailp. 47
4The Politicized Postp. 63
5Crisis and Opportunityp. 79
6The Personal Postp. 91
7Growing the Communications Culturep. 105
8Linking East and Westp. 113
9The Mail Must Go Throughp. 129
10War Clouds, Silver Liningsp. 141
11Full Steam Aheadp. 159
12The Golden Agep. 181
13Redefining "Postal"p. 201
14Starving the Postp. 217
15Mid-Modern Meltdownp. 239
16The U.S. Postal Servicep. 255
Afterword: Whither the Post?p. 275
Acknowledgmentsp. 289
Notesp. 291
A Suggested Readingsp. 313
Indexp. 317
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