American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

I originally decided to listen to this book because I wasn’t paying attention and thought it was a book about Native American history.

It wasn’t. *sad trombone noise*

But American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America might be the most important history book I’ve ever read in regard to understanding my own country.

Do you ever wonder how the United States ended up the way it did with no one dominant way of thinking throughout what is supposed to be one country? There are huge differences of opinion, from region to region, about individual liberty vs. the public good, the second amendment, the separation of church and state, etc… why is this?

Author Colin Woodard argues that there isn’t, and never has been, one United States and that the United States has always been, with a few very important exceptional time periods, a series of smaller, regional nations that have managed to get along just well enough to call themselves one country. There’s always the complaint that the United States, in particular, is superrrr polarized and it didn’t used to be like this.

Woodard argues it’s always been like this.

Woodard brilliantly explains the different “nations” in North America, taking us back through the colonial period, with different parts of the new continent settled by different people with very distinct political and religious traits. Because of this, different regions with unique challenges handled their business differently. As it became more important for them to stand together against common threats to their well being (the British control of the colonies, for example) they managed to pull it together long enough to win the Revolutionary War and then go back to being distinct regions again.

I won’t say that I didn’t know anything in this book. In fact, I probably knew most of it. But the information is laid out in such a concise, clear way that you smack yourself in the face and say “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that!?” when thinking about why the South and the Northeast seem to be at constant political odds, and why the rest of the country seems to be constantly aligning with either side to shift the balance of power.

I don’t read/listen to a lot of books where I think I’m doing something patriotic. I mean, you can argue the philosophical merits of reading as patriotism all day, but for most of us (those of us not living in an authoritarian state, anyway), reading is just reading and you aren’t doing anything ridiculously heroic. I’d argue reading this book is actually patriotic. I believe it could be so vital to the understanding of the United States they should use it in high schools.

And I give zero fucks about bettering high schools.

(Of all my bleeding heart, blue state causes, I’m really not big on education…which I know is terrible and kind of a betrayal of my home regional nation. I don’t stay informed enough about the education system to formulate an opinion and prefer to die on other hills – the environment and animal rights hills, for example. It’s not that I don’t think education is important, it’s just not something I’m going to get personally involved in. I will, however, vote for a political candidate who supports bettering the educational landscape. I have trusted friends who pay attention and give their opinions to me on this.)

But yes. I think we’d be a better country and understand each other a lot more if we all read this books. So American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America? Read it. Listen to it. For a better #MURICA.

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