From Coast to Coast, National Geographic’s ‘America the Beautiful’ Celebrates Everything That Makes the US Home [REVIEW]

Sunset over California beach
The afternoon sun sets across the golden shores of California’s Pacific Coast. (Photo courtesy Canva)

Over the years, I have lived on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the US, as well as in numerous states somewhere in the middle. And when I wasn’t exploring the communities I lived in, I could typically be found traveling, learning about other parts of this gorgeous country, marveling at its beauty, and absorbing its history and culture. But I have also loved meeting its people and hearing their stories.

I reflect on these things often, particularly now that so many of us are rooted at home as we try to navigate the coronavirus pandemic. This has been a year which has made it all too easy to focus on the barrage of negative news that pops up on our phones and pours out of our televisions and radios. Bad news has admittedly been difficult to escape, which makes it exceedingly difficult to focus on positive things and all too easy to forget all the myriad things we have to be grateful for every day.

National Geographic's AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
National Geographic

That’s why National Geographic’s newest coffee table book, America the Beautiful, couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Through both stunning photographs and fascinating stories, this gorgeous volume takes us from sea to shining sea, reminding us that we truly live in one of the most diverse, breathtaking nations on the globe.

In the foreword to this volume, Jill Lepore introduces us to Katharine Lee Bates, an English professor with an amazing wanderlust. She had traveled the world, seeing so many of its wonders, and yet it was her trip across the US in 1893 that inspired her to write a poem that many of us know by heart, even if we weren’t sure who wrote it. Yes, the result was the poem “America, the Beautiful,” which ultimately became an anthem that captures the courage of the nation’s pioneers and the magnificent vistas of its landscape.

From there the book is divided into four chapters which cover every part of the country by region: the West and Pacific, the East and Mid-Atlantic, the South and Caribbean, and the Midwest and Central Plains. I loved perusing this book, taking my time to study the photography, remembering the places I’ve been, and those I still yearn to visit. I was transported to places like White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, where the sand dunes sprawl for as far as the eye can see; and to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming where the peaks climb toward heaven over the verdant hills below. I was also reminded of my childhood in Southern California, and could commiserate with actress Maya Rudolph’s frequent bouts with mistaken identity.

I grew up in sunny Southern California where the avocados grow in backyards and no one seems to own a winter coat… People always think I’m a New Yorker, which is funny to me because I’m so much a Californian. I know where to get a good burrito. I’ve been singing all my life in a car. And I understand the space and quiet. And the light… oh the golden light.

Maya Rudolph

In the second chapter about the East and Mid-Atlantic States, we aren’t just taken to New York City and shown the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty (although these are included). But we are also reminded of all the small communities that are profoundly beautiful, such as the coal mining country of West Virginia where people like Coach Nick Saban were taught “the importance of hard work and attention to detail.” We find ourselves on Cape Cod watching gray seals play and in Martha’s Vineyard with journalist Geraldine Brooks who treasures the “direct democracy—the give-and-take of discussion with [her] fellow citizens” as they make plans for the community in the coming year.

We venture south in chapter three where manatees swim gently through Florida’s waters and thoroughbred horses prance across the meadows of Kentucky’s fabled bluegrass country while Boy Scouts explore the endless labyrinth called Mammoth Caverns beneath it. We remember the king of the blues, B.B. King, making sweet music on his legendary guitar Lucille in Mississippi, where journalist Robin Roberts says neighbors stop and wave to each other, and newcomers inevitably receive a Bundt cake as a welcome. “That’s just what you do,” she says. And under Texas’ vast sky, actress Eva Longoria reminds us that the expansive state has always been diverse, “built by generations of Spanish explorers, indigenous tribes, Tejanos, and Irish. Sometimes,” she says, “we forget these brave, ambitious people are what made us strong.”

Finally, we explore the Midwest and Central Plains where we watch children laugh and play beneath a fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park, scale presidential faces on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, pass beneath the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, smile at Amish women at the Geauga County fairgrounds in Ohio, and marvel at the Monarch butterflies that flutter across the Iowa plains to dine on thistle plants before they continue on their journey. In Michigan, actor James Earl Jones says many think of his home state as a place filled with lakes, football games and harsh winters, but he has always seen it through a different lens.

We know Michigan is really about the people with big open hearts, like the kind teacher who taught me to stand up and speak. Michigan is a place where a young boy can find his true voice.

James Earl Jones

Throughout America the Beautiful, we find ourselves looking at unforgettable natural wonders, small town carnivals, must-see landmarks, and adorable wildlife. All of that is here in spades, laid out in National Geographic’s iconic photography. But look beneath the surface, and this volume contains an even more epic view. It shows us the resilience of a nation, the heart of its communities, the generosity of its citizens, and the tender seeds of faith and hope that reside within them all. This is a book every home in the country needs right now. It is a reminder that as a nation, we have always found our strength in our diversity and our valor in our unity. At a time when we are plagued by fear and uncertainty, National Geographic has done some of its best work with this book. Examine it yourself and see if you aren’t reminded that with perseverance, determination, and unflagging fidelity, life will continue. We will heal. And ultimately, we will flourish once more.

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One of the world’s leading nonfiction publishers, National Geographic has published more than 1,700 titles, featuring such categories as history, travel, nature, photography, space, science, health, biography, and memoir.

A portion of its proceeds is used to fund exploration, conservation, and education through ongoing contributions to the work of the National Geographic Society.

To find out more about Nat Geo, visit, like them on Facebook, or follow them on TwitterInstagram, and Snapchat.

By National Geographic
400 pp. National Geographic. $40.

TLC Book Tours Tour Host

Order America the Beautiful direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell’s, or Walmart.

America the Beautiful is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

2 Responses to From Coast to Coast, National Geographic’s ‘America the Beautiful’ Celebrates Everything That Makes the US Home [REVIEW]

  1. Sara Strand says:

    I loved this book! Thank you for being on this tour. Sara @ TLC Book Tours

  2. Pingback: National Geographic's America the Beautiful, on tour October/November 2020 | TLC Book Tours

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