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“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.
"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 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
“The National Road comes at an unsettling time in America’s history, reminding us of all that is magnificent and heartbreaking about the land that binds us. Tom Zoellner’s brilliant essays are insightful meditations on the roads he’s travelled, a gift to readers who will see America anew. In his hands, small towns, big cities, landmarks, and personal landscapes tell the stories that we need to know and remember, stories that only a talent like Zoellner can unveil.” —Dana Johnson, author of In the Not Quite Dark
“From East Los Angeles to King Philip's War, Tom Zoellner's Grand Tour of our fractured, uneasy United States reads simultaneously like an elegy for what was and an ode for what's ahead, Beautiful, smart, and ultimately comforting.” —Gustavo Arellano, author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America
"The close-up realities of America have always been contradictory, and compelling. Heartless, but also generous. Ridiculous, but also noble. Strongly similar across the nation, but also sharply different region-by-region. In The National Road, Tom Zoellner does a wonderful job of perceiving, describing, and making sense of the contradictions of this stage of national life. This book combines reportage, history, introspection, and exposé. I learned a lot about the country through this journey, and enjoyed making the trip with an observant and open-hearted guide." —James Fallows, author of Our Towns
“America is a vast and daunting prospect, and Zoellner thirsts for more. Longing for a kind of national cultural citizenship, the author knows that absorbing even the barest fraction of a country’s everyday majesty, and tribulation, is the work of a lifetime. He seems up to the task . . . 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. He is both a first-rate reporter with years of newspaper and magazine work behind him and a skilled stylist who makes you want to come back for more. Highly recommended. Zoellner will acquaint you with byways, and mores, you never knew existed.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"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