Monday, February 05, 2007

Booknote: For America

Zimmerman, Sacha. For America: Simple Things Each of Us Can Do to Make Our Country Better. New York: Reader's Digest, 2006.

ISBN: 0762108290

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Current events/United States social conditions

This is one of those books I found by serendipity. I had gone to my local public library branch to pick up something I had requested. I often go in to get something specific, and I end up browsing the new books shelf and taking an extra book or two. This was on the new book shelf, and it seemed like a nice short read.

The book provides a list of tips and activity suggestions to strengthen America and make it a better place through active citizenship. From reinforcing family values to volunteering in the community, there is something here for everyone. Some are small simple things.

Some examples:

  • Eating together as a family (#1). "Dinnertime means learning how to eat in peace with brothers and sisters, how to help prepare and clean up, how to ask for seconds and not grab, how to ask politely to leave the table, and even how to eat properly with utensils" (25). I know it worked for me, and in spite of our disparate schedules, the couple of nights a week we are at home, we eat together. It's a simple thing, and it is well worth it. As I sit typing this, I wonder if part of the reason that some colleges have to teach their future graduates how to behave and eat at a meal (as part of career advice) is because a lot of those kids did not get to eat at home as a family.
  • Learn a lifesaving technique (#23).
  • Get a library card (#27).
  • Volunteer on Election Day (#44). "Volunteers are needed every Election Day to do everything from giving rides to voters to monitoring polling stations. What better way to ensure the sanctity of the most basic right of every citizen than to take that day off work and volunteer your time for this amazing American rite?" (130).

The book has 73 ideas. The author explains/comments on the idea and then gives some basic information (a website, some contact information, practical suggestions) on how to carry it out. I don't think everyone can do every single item in the book, but if we picked one or two to do, we might make our country a little better for it.

The book's tone is optimistic, positive, and encouraging. It was a pleasant reading experience, and it is a book to revisit. Additionally, the book includes forewords by Presidents George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton. Their words reinforce the book's message. So, go pick up this book, read about the many ways to be a good citizen, and find something to do.

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