First up was Breakfast at the Exit Cafe: Travels Through America by Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds.
From the publisher Greystone Books:
"Part travelogue, part exploration—a road trip into the reality behind the cultural myth that is America.
Breakfast at the Exit Cafe begins as a personal story—told in alternating voices by two travellers and writers—of a journey by car from British Columbia around the rim of the United States. It soon becomes a journey of exploration. For Grady, whose forebears were slaves who came to Canada in the 1880s, this is a journey through fear, racism, and violence into his own family roots. For Simonds, who grew up a lonely Canadian in the American School of Campinas, Brazil, it is a journey into the heart of the ex-pat promised land, the nation of the American Dream.
As Grady and Simonds travel back through American history, they encounter the splendours of the Mojave Desert, the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River, and the bayous of Louisiana and the Outer Banks, and they experience the impact of geography on culture and of culture on the landscape. Although they are observing America from the outside, they also strangely feel at home. The Americans they meet illuminate a country dissolving in the grip of the Bush administration’s final years and inspire them to reassess their—and our—assumptions about that powerful and complex country."
And continuing with a different take on culture is
My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster
(subtitled One Reality Televison Addict's Attempt to Discover if Not Being a Dumb Ass is the New Black, or a Culture-Up Manifesto)
From the publisher Penguin Books:
"It's a JENaissance! The New York Times bestselling author of Pretty in Plaid gets her culture on.
Readers have followed Jen Lancaster through job loss, sucky city living, weight loss attempts, and 1980s nostalgia. Now Jen chronicles her efforts to achieve cultural enlightenment, with some hilarious missteps and genuine moments of inspiration along the way. And she does so by any means necessary: reading canonical literature, viewing classic films, attending the opera, researching artisan cheeses, and even enrolling in etiquette classes to improve her social graces.
In Jen's corner is a crack team of experts, including Page Six socialites, gourmet chefs, an opera aficionado, and a master sommelier. She may discover that well-regarded, high-priced stinky cheese tastes exactly as bad as it smells, and that her love for Kraft American Singles is forever. But one thing's for certain: Eliza Doolittle's got nothing on Jen Lancaster-and failure is an option."
(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)