Take the Cannoli [Stories from the New World] - Sarah Vowell
(recommended by Dr. Holt)
A collection of essays and musings, many of them previously released on Salon or This American Life, by a woman of my generation who as been described as a "curmudgeon" by none other than Bitch magazine. Vowell is a loud, proud atheist and liberal (in defiance of her gun-worshipping Oklahoma-born Southern Baptist parentage), but this book is more about America than about politics. She takes us inside tiny bits of Americana that most of us forget about on a daily basis: chronicling her journey along the Trail of Tears with the same insight and honesty she brings to a Goth makeover day in San Francisco. The book is also an autobiography: we begin with the unpopular, precocious and rebellious high-school Sarah, learn how The Godfather got her through college, and watch her struggle to become an adult by investigating where she's from, who she is, and how she might re-invent herself. She brings a wry sense of humor to each situation and is keenly observant of the humanity in everyone, most of all herself. I have to say she had me from "Hello" by opening the book with a quote from Johnny Cash, which I will reproduce here:
I love songs about horses, railroads, land, judgment day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak and love. And Mother. And God.