America: An Exceptional Nation by Donald L. Gilleland is a look at several topics the author believes shows that America is an exceptional nation compared to other nations around the globe. Gilleland discusses everything from immigration and generosity to food distribution and the military in this ten chapter non-fiction book. Each of these topics set out to show how America is exceptional in these areas as well as discuss each area in detail.
Having taken many sociology, psychology, and social work classes, I believe this might make an interesting book for discussion and reminds me of similar opposing viewpoint books we read in these classes. It certainly is an invitation to open up dialogue. The author’s intent to explain American Exceptionalism is clear and passionate. The book is also edited very well with only a few mistakes that I saw and used resources that are largely bipartisan and reputable. The topics are interesting and I saw the evidence for certain viewpoints I had, and still do, disagree with which allowed me to understand the issues better. The author discusses each topic in depth as well which helped to the reader to understand different aspects of the topic and how it related to the idea of America being exceptional.
That said, from the first page the book felt like a vendetta against the current President when this book was written, President Obama. I immediately felt the book did more to attack certain statements the President made which the author disagreed with. This was confirmed to me in the Epilogue of the book where the author admits the book was written because of statements President Obama made. While I never voted for Obama and have mixed feelings about him as a President, being insulted about an issue and using a book to attack the statements made by someone tends to not work out well and it was a turn off to me in the book.
Additionally, the book did not really make me believe America was exceptional. I had thought that the book would discuss things like how our nation came together after 9/11, which is probably one of the most Patriotic moments of my life. I imagined the book would play to our strengths as a nation and why it made our nation great. Don’t get me wrong, there are parts and scraps of this book that do that but I felt like the author spent more time focusing on problems about different topics he chose to use to illustrate our exceptionalism. Talking about how far into debt our nation has come, how insecure our boarders are, and how our military will eventually be in a bad position because we are not repairing their equipment doesn’t exactly sound like the best foot forward. I know we aren’t perfect but if the author was trying to highlight exceptionalism of our country I would have thought he would show the best and shining examples that outweigh these issues but I didn’t feel like it did. If anything I felt rather bad about the many problems are nation is facing at the moment.
Lastly, the author repeats information several times and the most evident is, by the author’s own admission, chapter 10 where there appears to be a copy and paste job for most of the chapter. It insults the reader’s intelligence to not bother to make an effort to even switch up the sentences and say it in a different way.
I am giving this book a neutral review. I think it was a good book even though it missed the mark of what it was supposed to be about. The writing is well down and researched. Also, I believe it holds value as a recommended reading for several natural science classes such as sociology. I can’t give it a higher mark simply because I felt like it missed the mark on demonstrating how America was an exceptional nation, much in contrast to the pure passion the author had to show it was an exceptional nation. I simply felt it spent more time highlighting our shortcomings and making personal attacks on President Obama when American Exceptionalism was mentioned that distracted from why America is indeed exceptional.