To get into the Independence Day 2011 spirit, we picked 11 books with “America” or “American” in the title to kick off the holiday weekend. Happy Fourth of July!
Inventing American History by William Hogeland
American public history—in magazines and books, television documentaries, and museums—tends to celebrate its subject at all costs, even to the point of denial and distortion. This does us a great disservice, argues William Hogeland. Looking at details glossed over in three examples of public history—the Alexander Hamilton revival, tributes to Pete Seeger and William F. Buckley, and the Constitution Center in Philadelphia—Hogeland considers what we lose when history is written to conform to political aims.
Why America Is Not a New Rome by Vaclav Smil
America's post–Cold War strategic dominance and its pre-recession affluence inspired pundits to make celebratory comparisons to ancient Rome at its most powerful. Now, with America no longer perceived as invulnerable, engaged in protracted fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suffering the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, comparisons are to the bloated, decadent, ineffectual later Empire. In Why America Is Not a New Rome, Vaclav Smil looks at these comparisons in detail. He finds profound differences.
After America’s Midlife Crisis by Michael Gecan
Gecan reveals an urban landscape in which careerism, nepotism, and greed are the principal movers in policy, while the institutions that preserve and advance communities—schools, churches, affordable housing, recreational opportunities—have fallen prey to the indifference of pols and developers and the shortsightedness of technocrats and shows how local experiments can create vibrant institutions that truly serve their constituents.
America's Food : What You Don't Know About What You Eat by Harvey Blatt
We don't think much about how food gets to our tables, or what had to happen to fill our supermarket's produce section with perfectly round red tomatoes and its meat counter with slabs of beautifully marbled steak. We don't realize that the meat in one fast-food hamburger may come from many different cattle raised in several different countries. In fact, most of us have a fairly abstract understanding of what happens on a farm. In America's Food, Harvey Blatt gives us the specifics.
The too-smart, caustic, and radiant narrator of Passionate Mistakes is, at twenty-seven, an ex-Goth, ex-drummer, ex-straight girl, ex-lesbian separatist vegan graduate of vocational high school in the working class town of Chelsea, Massachusetts. Written with lyrical precision and charm, the novel describes a journey with no final destination, a fast-paced and picaresque road trip that yields a redemptive vision of an America that has nothing left to offer its youth.
America Starts Here: Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler edited by Ian Berry and Bill Arning
During their decade-long collaboration (1985-1995), Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler produced some of the most influential conceptual art projects of the time. Among their witty and stimulating installations and outdoor projects was Camouflaged History, a house painted in a U.S. Army-designed camouflage pattern using 72 commercial paint colors included in the municipally-approved "authentic colors" of historic Charleston, South Carolina. Ericson and Ziegler took the whole country as their working space; but rather than impose a conspicuous work of art upon a site or situation, they devised projects that altered sites subtly, creating a patchwork of poetic narratives and histories to be excavated.
Inequality in America: What Role for Human Capital Policies? by James J. Heckman and Alan B. Krueger
The surge of inequality in income and wealth in the United States over the past twenty-five years has reversed the steady progress toward greater equality that had been underway throughout most of the twentieth century. This economic development has defied historical patterns and surprised many economists, producing vigorous debate. Inequality in America: What Role for Human Capital Policies? examines the ways in which human capital policies can address this important problem.
After 1776, the former American colonies began to reimagine themselves as a unified, self-created community. Technologies had an important role in the resulting national narratives, and a few technologies assumed particular prominence. Among these were the axe, the mill, the canal, the railroad, and the irrigation dam. In this book David Nye explores the stories that clustered around these technologies. In doing so, he rediscovers an American story of origins, with America conceived as a second creation built in harmony with God's first creation.
Henry Hobson Richardson and the Small Public Library in America: A Study in Typology by Kenneth A. Breisch
One natural outcome of the educational reform movement of the 1840s was the growth of the American public library. Some 450 public libraries were built in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The most important and influential architect of the era who built libraries was Henry Hobson Richardson, perhaps best known for his design of Boston's Trinity Church.
What Does the World Want from America?: International Perspectives on US Foreign Policy edited by Alexander T. J. Lennon
In What Does the World Want from America?, writers from twelve countries or regions (Brazil, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, Russia, Singapore, and South Africa) answer the question, "In an ideal world, what role would you want the United States to perform with your country and region?" Four analysts from the United States then respond.
The Bauhaus and America: First Contacts, 1919-1936 by Margret Kentgens-Craig
Although the Bauhaus existed for a mere fourteen years and boasted fewer than 1,300 students, its influence is felt throughout the world in numerous buildings, artworks, objects, concepts, and curricula. After the Bauhaus's closing in 1933, many of its protagonists moved to the United States, where their acceptance had to be cultivated. Margret Kentgens-Craig shows that the fame of the Bauhaus in America was the result not only of the inherent qualities of its concepts and products, but also of a unique congruence of cultural supply and demand, of a consistent flow of information, and of fine-tuned marketing.