Award-winning journalist and Maine author Colin Woodard will be celebrating the release of his fourth book, “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America,” with a talk and signing at the Owl & Turtle Bookshop on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 4:30 p.m.

Named a Publishers Weekly “Top Ten Politics” Pick for Fall 2011, if you want to better understand U.S. politics, history, and culture, “American Nations” is to be required reading. In “American Nations,” Woodard leads readers through the history of the fractured continent, and the rivalries and alliances between its component nations. He explains why “American values” vary sharply from one region to another—how an idea like “freedom” as understood by an East Texan or Idahoan can be the polar opposite of what it means to a New Englander or San Franciscan. Woodard reveals how intra-national differences have played a pivotal role at every point in the continent’s history, right up into the 2012 election cycle. “American Nations” is a revolutionary and revelatory take on America’s myriad identities, and how the conflicts between them have shaped our past and mold our future.

There isn’t and never has been one America, Woodard argues, but rather several Americas. The original North American colonies were settled by people from distinct regions of the British Islands, and from France, the Netherlands, and Spain, each with unique religious, political, and ethnographic characteristics. Some championed individualism, others utopian social reform. Some believed themselves guided by divine purpose, others freedom of conscience and inquiry. Some embraced an Anglo-Saxon Protestant identity, others ethnic and religious pluralism. Some valued equality and democratic participation, others deference to a traditional aristocratic order. All of them continue to uphold their respective ideals today, with results that can be seen on the composition of the U.S. Congress or the county-by-county election maps of most any competitive presidential election of the past two centuries.

Woodard tackles such questions as: why are there such enormous regional differences in opinion over such fundamental issues as the appropriate balance between individual liberty and the public good, over the relationship between church and state or whether the United States is a “Christian” nation or a secular one, if a national culture exists and, if so, whether immigrants should be encouraged to assimilate into it; if business and industry should be closely regulated or freed from constraints; over which party is defending American values and which one is undermining them.

By revealing this continent of rivals, “American Nations” will revolutionize the way Americans think about their past, their country, and themselves and is sure spark controversy and debate for the upcoming political season.

Woodard is a writer, historian, and award-winning journalist who has reported from more than 50 foreign countries and six continents. He is a correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor and The Chronicle of Higher Education and a contributing editor at Down East magazine. His work has appeared in The Economist, Smithsonian, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Miami Herald, The Toronto Star, The Daily Beast, Newsweek.com, Military History Quarterly, Congressional Quarterly, and dozens of other publications. He is the author of The Lobster Coast, The Republic of Pirates, and Ocean’s End. Call or email the Owl & Turtle at 236-4769 or owlandturtle.com to reserve copies of the book.