Books to Help You Understand the US

After one of the most divisive and contentious campaigns in the country’s history, today America goes to the polls to elect the next leader of the free world. The rest of us watch and wait with bated breath. After a year of political turmoil around the world, nobody can predict the result of today’s vote. So on the day of the most nail-biting political event of the year, distract yourself with our 4 by 4th list of essential reading (in no particular order) for exploring the real issues facing the most powerful nation on earth, and understanding the enigma that is the United States

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance1. Hillbilly Elegy

Lauded by the press as the most important book to come out of America this year, Hillbilly Elegy explores the decline of white working class Americans and the alienation and social divide tearing the country apart at the seams. Written from an inside perspective, it highlights the rapid disintegration of a culture, the legacy of poverty and trauma, the realities of upward mobility and the loss of the American dream for vast swathes of the country.





2. The Corrections

Jonathan Franzen’s darkly comic, seminal novel The Corrections is the quintessential story of the dysfunctional family. With an ailing husband and grown-up children, Enid Lambert has set her heart on one last Christmas together, bringing each of them face-to-face with the secrets and failures of their catastrophic lives. Old-time America meets the anxieties of the modern era in this brilliant interpretation of the American soul.



Behold the Dreamers3. Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers is the powerful story of Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian migrant recently arrived in New York with his family, taking his first steps in America society. As the Jongas’ lives become more and more closely intertwined with those of his boss – an affluent Wall Street Banker – and his family, this richly told tale lays bare the realities of the American dream and questions the price we are prepared to pay for it.




Middlesex4. Middlesex

A story of rebirth, self-reinvention – all wrapped up with a magnifying glass on the middle class household. It couldn’t get more American than this, could it? If you haven’t read Eugenides since your teenage Sofia Coppola phaseMiddlesex will whisk you back with its magnificent prose but the story at its heart has never been more topical. Before Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner, what does a country founded on the premise that all men are created equal have to say to the gender non-binary?


Happy Election Day, America.

Words by Lottie Fyfe

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