Tag Archives: american history

“American Nations” — A very interesting book, but a bit snarky

American nations 1 I read an interesting book a few weeks ago, “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America” by Colin Woodard.

Woodard takes a very interesting, historical look at North America, mostly the USA, and the various cultures that comprise us. It goes a long way to explaining the cultural and political differences among our national regions, such as the significant differences between the Deep South and New England.

Woodard’s approach is historical and not overly technical. It’s a fascinating story.

My only issue with Woodard is towards the end of the book, as his narrative starts to approach the present. A New Englander himself, he makes no secret of his contempt for the South, where I spent most of my adult life. He allows himself the satisfaction of making some snarky comments that undercut his credibility. For example, he suggests the South needs research universities that don’t look to the King James Bible as a primary science text. I trust he meant that comment a little tongue-in-cheek and not literally. However, it does make you wonder how much his personal prejudice influenced other descriptions in the book. That having been said, I still found the book very interesting.

In case you are curious, here is a map of Woodard’s, 11 nations of North America.

American Nations 2

Two interesting reads — owls and Indians

I finished two fairly interesting books recently.

The first, I actually listened to as an audiobook. I spend a little over an hour a day commuting to and from work. Local radio is so bad, so usually have an audiobook going. The local library here near my work has a pretty good collection and rents them for 40 cents per day. It’s money well spent.

The audiobook was “Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl” by Stacey O’ Brien.

The title pretty much tells you the story. This is a first-person account of the author’s experience raising and caring for an injured barn owl from infancy to his eventual death at 19 years of age.

I think maybe I was expecting an avian version of “Dewey” the library cat, a fairly light, amusing story of an unusual pet.

Stacey and Wesley

However, O’Brien’s experience raising a wild owl was much more intense. O’Brien and Wesley developed an intimate bond, far beyond what you would expect in a typical human-pet relationship.  O’Brien didn’t just adopt a pet. She entered into a very close relationship in which Wesley viewed her as his life-long mate.

Their story is extremely interesting. Although some of the details of their interaction might make you squirm a little.  I’m glad I read/listened to it and would recommend it highly.

More information on Stacey and Wesley can be found here.

The second book is also non-fiction  – “The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance In Early America” by Scott Weidensaul. The book focuses on the various interactions between Native Americans and the early British settlers from the founding of Jamestown to the French and Indian War. This is not a subject that has received a lot of attention in popular historical literature. I was only partially familiar with much of the material.

The book is well-written and interesting. It was especially fascinating to read the accounts of the colonists and Native Americans in areas where I have lived.

Weidensaul provides a particularly good insight into the lives and thought processes of the Native Americans and the way they attempted to deal with the Europeans. It is vastly different from the popular image of blood-thirsty savages raiding, killing and scalping  that seemed so prevalent on TV and in the movies when I was a child..

My only criticism, if I have one, would be that Weidensaul focuses almost exclusively on the developments in the early English colonies. He glosses over the Spanish. However, the Spanish had been active in Florida and the rest of the Southeast US for a century before John Smith showed up at Jamestown.

That shortcoming aside, I found it to be a very interesting account of a usually-neglected part of American History. It is definitely worth the time and effort.