“Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire”, by Kurt Anderson, is pretty good, but a bit nuts.
Much like America.
He brings together a wide range of inflences in American culture, tracing each back to how it came into the country, all of which contribute to our lately-overgrown national insanity.
And I am no expert on these topics, but I do recall several of the topics he discusses from my college days and he seems to be representing them all accurately.
But it’s more than a history.
Where it really shines is as a commentary on what America is like, and how it got that way.
And most importantly, it emphasizes how America’s worst traits are overdeveloped versions of our best virtues.
The belief in the value of work and personal responsibility leads to a naive worship of the successful, who by virtue of being wealthy lay an unfounded claim to personal virtue.
(An observation which Anderson correctly traces back to Weber’s “Protestant Work Ethic”.)
Anyway, go read it.
It’s a long one, but it’s worth the effort and Anderson’s done a great job of setting out the chapters so you can move in and out of reading pretty comfortably as necessary.