December Book Club Meeting: "American Nations" by Colin Woodard

If you want to better understand U.S. politics, history, and culture, AMERICAN NATIONS: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard is required reading. Please join the HFSD Book Club on December 8th for a thought-provoking discussion of this important book and a delicious breakfast at one of San Diego's most popular Greek restaurants, Troys Fine Greek & American Cuisine.

In AMERICAN NATIONS, Woodard leads us through the history of our fractured continent, and the rivalries and alliances between its component nations. He explains why “American values” vary sharply from one region to another—how an idea like “freedom” as understood by an East Texan or Idahoan can be the polar opposite of what it means to a New Englander or San Franciscan. Woodard reveals how intra-national differences have played a pivotal role at every point in the continent’s history, right up into the 2012 election cycle. AMERICAN NATIONS is a revolutionary and revelatory take on America’s myriad identities, and how the conflicts between them have shaped our past and mold our future.

There isn’t and never has been one America, Colin Woodard argues, but rather several Americas. The original North American colonies were settled by people from distinct regions of the British Islands, and from France, the Netherlands, and Spain, each with unique religious, political, and ethnographic characteristics. Some championed individualism, others utopian social reform. Some believed themselves guided by divine purpose, others freedom of conscience and inquiry. Some embraced an Anglo-Saxon Protestant identity, others ethnic and religious pluralism. Some valued equality and democratic participation, others deference to a traditional aristocratic order. All of them continue to uphold their respective ideals today, with results that can be seen on the composition of the U.S. Congress or the county-by-county election maps of most any competitive presidential election of the past two centuries.

Woodard tackles such questions as: why are there such enormous regional differences in opinion over such fundamental issues as the appropriate balance between individual liberty and the public good, over the relationship between church and state or whether the United States is a “Christian” nation or a secular one, if a national culture exists and, if so, whether immigrants should be encouraged to assimilate into it; if business and industry should be closely regulated or freed from constraints; over which party is defending American values and which one is undermining them.

By revealing this continent of rivals, AMERICAN NATIONS will revolutionize the way Americans think about their past, their country, and themselves and is sure spark controversy and debate.

About Colin Woodard

Colin Woodard is an award-winning journalist and author of The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a  Forgotten Frontier, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas, and The Republic of Pirates. His fourth book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, was named one of the Best Books of 2011 by the editors of The New Republic and The Globalist and received the 2012 Maine Literary Award for non-fiction.

A native of Maine, he has reported from more than fifty foreign countries and six continents, and lived for more than four years in Eastern Europe. He is a longtime foreign correspondent of The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Christian Science Monitor, a contributing editor at Down East magazine, and State and National Affairs Writer at The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. His work has appeared in dozens of publications.

Woodard has covered a wide-range of issues, from ethnic conflict in the Balkans and peacekeeping in Guatemala to the destruction of coral reefs and the effects of global warming on Antarctica. Since 1989, Woodard has been based  in Budapest, Hungary, Zagreb, Croatia, Washington, DC, and on the US-Mexico border near Brownsville, Texas.

He lives in Portland, Maine with his wife, Sarah Skillin Woodard, and family.

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  • Janice

    What is the next book we're reading? And is the next meeting Jan. 19th?

    December 19, 2012

  • Wilfredo P.

    Excellent book discussion! Jim did a superb job leading the discussion. "American Nations" is one of the best book on American history and politics I have read recently. I highly recommend it. The book delves into the historical reasons regarding why the attitudes, philosophies and voting behaviors are so different in different parts of the country. A fascinating read! I always learn something from fellow Freethinkers, so I appreciated the input of all who attended. The food at Troy's was pretty good, too. And I appreciated the good service and the fact that it was quiet.

    December 8, 2012

    • James B.

      Yes, this is the second Humanist book discussion I've attended at that restaurant, and both times it proved to be an excellent choice of venue.

      December 9, 2012

  • Holly N.

    I loved this book - thanks for selecting it Jim!

    December 9, 2012

    • James B.

      I'm glad you liked it!

      December 9, 2012

  • James B.

    Everyone had great things to say

    December 8, 2012

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