Preaching to the choir

Alternative left
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  January 7, 2009

Despite the curious omission of the Phoenix, that bastion of liberal, progressive, alternative news, The Nation's Guide to the Nation (Vintage) mostly lives up to its stated goal of being " a kind of collage of the Left; it's a Sears Roebuck catalog of tools and ideas for people who want (with help from their friends) to change the world (or at least the neighborhood)." Compiled by the magazine's senior editor Richard Lingeman, the book is an admittedly arbitrary collection of everything liberal — a guide, as Nation co-owners Katrina vanden Heuvel and Victor Navasky explain in their introduction, designed to bring left-leaning people together, physically and ideologically (so that they can be even more insufferably self-righteous, of course).

To this end, the book plays several different roles. In part, it is a liberal travel guide — introducing readers to progressive-minded media outlets, stores, and restaurants across the country. It also plays the part of textbook, as it takes readers along a nationwide "Left Heritage Trail" that visits sites and museums honoring those who fought for or embodied liberal causes.

There's no denying that the Guideto the Nation is a self-congratulatory tome that will mostly be read and enjoyed by those who already read and enjoy the magazine from which it spawned. But sometimes — especially as we stand on the brink of national political change — that type of reinforcement is precisely what the troops need.

The Nation's Guide to the Nation | Vintage | 384 pages | $19.95

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