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The National Road: Book summary and reviews of The National Road by Tom Zoellner

The National Road

Dispatches From a Changing America

by Tom Zoellner

The National Road by Tom Zoellner X
The National Road by Tom Zoellner
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  • Published Oct 2020
    272 pages
    Genre: Essays

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Book Summary

"How was it possible, I wondered, that all of this American land - in every direction - could be fastened together into a whole?"

From the embattled newsrooms of small town newspapers to the pornography film sets of the Los Angeles basin, from the check-out lanes of Dollar General to the holy sites of Mormonism, from the nation's highest peaks to the razed remains of a cherished home, like a latter-day Woody Guthrie, Tom Zoellner takes to the highways and byways of a vast land in search of the soul of its people.

But what does it mean when a nation accustomed to moving begins to settle down, when political discord threatens unity, and when technology disrupts traditional ways of building communities? Is a shared soil enough to reinvigorate a national spirit? In these divided times, Zoellner's journey across America―and into our often-contradictory histories―serves to remind us that despite our differences we all belong to the same land.

By turns nostalgic and probing, incisive and enraged, Zoellner's reflections reveal a nation divided by faith, politics, and shifting economies, but―more importantly―one united by a shared sense of ownership in the common land.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Zoellner exposes naiveté, foolishness, and malfeasance with equal clarity, but he is evenhanded and sometimes produces a piece of sardonic humor, haunting beauty, or melancholy that pulsates on the page...Highly recommended. Zoellner will acquaint you with byways, and mores, you never knew existed." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Zoellner laces this rambling yet incisive account with perceptive character sketches and astute observations. The result is a poignant reminder that in America, 'constant change is our blotchy and beautiful inheritance.'" - Publishers Weekly

"Tom Zoellner is one of my go-to authors. He has a clear eye, a deep soul and a very sharp pen. This new collection drives like the best car on the Autobahn on a spring day as you speed toward the mountains." – Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels and The Devil's Highway

"Tom Zoellner writes like a dream and thinks like the best kind of realist—the kind whose truth telling is infused with fundamental compassion, implicit empathy, and genuine curiosity. Timeless as this subject matter is, The National Road may be the perfect guidebook for a tour of the American geographical and social landscape right now. It skips the political muck of the moment and takes us deep into the root systems of our knotty, bewildering, often-exasperating yet reliably awe-inspiring country." – Meghan Daum, author of The Problem With Everything: My Journey Through The New Culture Wars

"Who and what is America? Tom Zoellner's wonderful The National Road takes us a long way toward right understanding, a forty-years-and-counting road trip across American space and time that absorbs huge swaths of our collective experience. Casinos and atom bombs, real estate and porn movies, small-town corruption, big-city strivers, Mormon martyrs and so much more get rolled into the pages of this questing and questioning big-hearted book. To get where we're going, we need to know where we've gone, and Tom Zoellner is the best guide for our times that I know of." - Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

This information about The National Road was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Tom Zoellner Author Biography

© Paul Charest

Tom Zoellner is the author of eight nonfiction books, including Island on Fire: The Revolt that Ended Slavery in the British Empire, and works as a professor at Chapman University and Dartmouth College. His writing has appeared in the The Atlantic, Harper's, The American Scholar, The Oxford American, Time, Foreign Policy, Men's Health, Slate, Scientific American, Audubon, Sierra, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Texas Observer, Departures, The American Scholar, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. Tom is a fifth-generation Arizonan and a former staff writer for The Arizona Republic and the San Francisco Chronicle. He is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from The Lannan Foundation, the Corporation of Yaddo, the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and...

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