Title: The American Panorama
Author: Michael H. Collins
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Have you ever wondered how geography affects United States history and culture or why there are so many religions in America or even what are the main causes of crime in the country? Michael H. Collins has written a huge book titled The American Panorama that not only tries to answer these questions but a plethora of more concepts, ideas and nuances of America.
This voluminous nine hundred and three page paperback was originally designed for overseas students in Beijing taking classes to learn about America’s social, cultural and political issues. Written from an outside perspective of the United States, it is broken down into twelve chapters covering topics ranging from territorial lands, peoples, government, and economy to education, media, character, religion, the arts and world alliances. It includes questions for reflection and discussion, an extensive biography and sources section along with over one hundred page index. The largest chapters are on the economic system/social security and the arts/literature with the smallest chapters on the American character and cultural debates/social problems and solutions.
Collins divides each subject topic methodically, discussing the history of the past and how it is apropos in today’s culture in America. If it is about migration or segregation in the chapter about regions and cities, it lists population charts, place name origins and protecting the environment. The chapter on religion not only gives detailed history of explanations of American denominations such as Mormonism, Pentecostalism and Southern Baptists, but tabulates church membership, mention famous Christians such as Billy Graham, Tim LaHaye and James Dobson and mega-churches along with televangelists. In the chapter on the arts, television shows such as Guiding Light and The Simpsons are explained, art museums along with movie ratings are listed, and writings of Tennessee Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck are discussed. No cultural stone is unturned.
Need to know that there are over fourteen hundred American newspapers but eighty-five percent of those only have fifty thousand readers daily? Or that twenty-six percent of American households are now single, living alone? Or that it costs as much as $150,000 for a six year prison term treatment program? Or that there were over two hundred thousand female military personnel enlisted in May 2009? The facts go on and on, available at every turn of the page.
To cover the myriad of topics from Thomas Jefferson, John F Kennedy or Henry Kissinger to GPS, NASA, robotics, reality TV or current divorce percentages would make this review extremely lengthy. For anyone who wants to know more minutiae about the United States, this is a perfect, well-rounded, well-researched source of reliable, dependable and abundant information about America.