Tag Archives: cultures

“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

A humorous explanation for the mess we’re in

I just finished a great little book. Michael Lewis’s (The Blind Side, The Big Short) is “Boomerang.”

I think like many people, I only partially understand the reasons the economy has gone down the toilet over the past three years. While I get the general idea behind the housing boom, loose credit and CDO’s, I still have trouble getting my mind around them. Lewis did a great job in “The Big Short” of telling the stories of some investors who anticipated the big bust of 2007-08 and profited greatly from their insight.

In “Boomerang,” he takes a look at several countries and examines how they reacted to having massive amounts of free credit in the early 2000s. He looks at:

  • Iceland, where everyone wanted to become an investment banker, whether they knew anything about investment banking or not.
  • Greece, where the government created a massive entitlement state on borrowed money and with a population that doesn’t want to pay their taxes.
  • Ireland, where the Irish took the free money and created their own housing bubble.
  • And Germany, where the bankers pretty-much financed most of the other countries.

He finishes up in California – another economy with a population that wants massive government services without having to pay taxes to pay for them.

The best part of the book is Lewis’s writing style. While “The Big Short” and “The Blind Side” were both serious, straight-to-the-point narrations, “Boomerang” is tongue-in-cheek to the point of being almost whimsical. He pokes some serious fun at the cultural tendencies of the people in all those countries. In every chapter, I found myself chuckling over his observations and analysis. I’m not sure anyone in the subject-countries would appreciate his sense of humor, but I sure did.

“Boomerang” is fairly short, and you don’t need an MBA to understand it. If you are curious about what is happening right now in places like Greece and Italy, Lewis has some answers…and a few laughs too.