Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson's "Homeland" is the best book of 2004, and one of the most important nonfiction works ever published about the United States.
Maharidge travels through the United States observing the ways in which the attacks of 9/11/2001 have changed America and Americans. Many of these changes are obvious, but others are more subtle. With the seasoned eye of a trained reporter, Maharidge picks up on these changes and analyzes them with an amazing degree of insight. His conversations with ordinary Americans around the country reveal the different ways -- many of them downright scary -- in which the USA has changed over the last few years.
Much of the book deals with neo-McCarthyism and the distressing willingness of many Americans to give up their constitutionally-protected freedoms after 9/11. Maharidge chronicles many recent attacks on the Bill of Rights by local governments, the federal government, and "concerned citizens" alike. He also details the ways in which the 9/11 attacks fueled the latent racism that many Americans feel toward Muslims, resulting in tragedies like the white mob that attacked a Chicago-area mosque on the evening after the attacks.
Maharidge makes no secret of his left-wing perspective, but that doesn't mean this book is a political tract. On the contrary, he bends over backwards to be fair and non-judgmental toward the people he interviews, even when he's talking with white supremacists and other unsavory characters. Maharidge has his own opinion, but thankfully, he also has a genuine desire to understand events from the perspective of those who differ from him politically.
Michael Williamson's photographs are also superb, as usual. Whether it's a telling shot of weary workers riding home in a subway car, or a shot of racist white motel owners trumpeting that their establishment is "owned by Americans," Williamson's photos poignantly capture the America that exists today.
This book takes you to places where the places mainstream media refuses to go, and covers issues that most so-called "reporters" would never touch with a 10-foot pole. With the 2004 election coming up, now is the most important time for Americans to understand and act upon the issues Maharidge discusses in this book. Do yourself a favor: If you read only one book this year, make it this one. Few more important works have ever been published.