American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America
by Colin Woodard
Viking Penguin (2011), hardcover, 371 pages
This book is a good high-level history and analysis of how and why different non-native cultures got established in North America and then spread to dominate different regions. Woodard makes broad generalizations about the eleven regional cultures he identifies, and clearly all people living in those parts of the country do not share the same characteristics. However, he backs up his premise with a lot of history and provides a valuable reading list at the end. Thus, the book is a good starting point for further research and a good conversation starter with people who want to understand where they come from or where other people come from. Woodard also helps us understand that viewing American politics through a North versus South or urban versus rural lens is way too simplistic, as people’s attitudes, likes, and dislikes result from a region’s unique history—especially its conflicts and shifting alliances with the other regions.
Bottom line: Highly recommended to those who want to understand some of the reasons why we’ve always been such a divided nation and why we still can’t seem to see things from each other’s perspective.