Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland

One need only Google "Star Wars or Florida" to appreciate Dave Barry's thesis: across the United States, people laugh at Florida more than any other state, and the time has come to tell everyone why Florida is, in fact, awesome.

First, Barry (Live Right and Find Happiness [Although Beer Is Much Faster]) provides "A Scientific Explanation for Why There Are So Many Stupid People in Florida..." with a hilarious lab rat metaphor that, honestly, makes complete sense. He continues with an abridged history of Florida, including the fun fact that "for years the highest point in Florida was LeBron James." However, the meat of his argument on behalf of his home state lies in a raucous road trip through unusual attractions often lost behind the glittering Worlds of Sea and Disney. Barry journeys to the Everglades, home of the Skunk Ape Research Center and maybe-but-probably-not of the skunk ape, takes in a mermaid revue at the Weeki Wachee natural spring, hangs out at a seniors' community that promises "a thriving swingers scene," and makes the obligatory pilgrimage to Gatorland.

Barry has a set of teeth behind his affable humor; he aims for laughs but isn't joking. A warrior for Florida, he celebrates the charm in its idiosyncrasies and lingering kitsch, a reminder that true worth often lies in the quirks and oddities outsiders find initially off-putting. Move over, Lonely Planet: Barry's readers may want to plan a no-corporate-parks trip to the Sunshine State. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

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