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Summary

James Naughtie, the acclaimed author and BBC broadcaster, now brings his unique and inquisitive eye to the country that has fascinated him and drawn him across the Atlantic for half a century. In looking at America, from Presidents Nixon through to Trump, he’ll tell the story of a country that is grappling with a dream. What has it come to mean in the new century and who do Americans now think they are?

Drawing on his travels and encounters over 40 years in the ‘Land of the Free’, On the Road will be filled with anecdotes, memories, tears and laughter, reflecting Naughtie’s characteristic warmth and enthusiasm in encountering the America of Washington, of Broadway, of the small town and the plains. Naughtie watched the fall of President Richard Nixon in 1974, and subsequently as a journalist followed the story of the country – its politicians, artists, wheeler-dealers and the people who make it what it is, in the New York melting pot or the western deserts. This will be a story filled with encounters, for example with the people he has watched on every presidential campaign from the 1970s to the victory of Donald Trump in 2016.

As the 2020 presidential elections are well underway, Jim sees for himself how the main contenders are campaigning. He sees, also, how POTUS himself is dealing with impeachment proceedings and what the ordinary citizen thinks of it all.

©2020 James Naughtie (P)2020 Simon & Schuster UK

Critic reviews

"Everything you would expect of a James Naughtie book - droll, absorbing and wonderfully perceptive." (Bill Bryson)

"An insightful account of living through momentous times...much to enjoy in Naughtie's astute memoir." (Martin Chilton, Independent)

"A revealing and at times spellbinding tapestry of a nation.... It is thought-provoking, constantly surprising and hugely entertaining. Sublime stuff." (Michael Simkins, Mail on Sunday)

What listeners say about On the Road

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Warm, incisive and compelling journey of America

James Naughtie brings his charismatic style in a personal journey of American politics and their increasingly divisive effect on the American homeland and their political establishment. The effect of Trump and the stark contrast with previous political crisis is interesting. The greatness and political acumen of pre and post Obama and his own research into Lincoln fascinating. Compelling and brilliant narration by James...wish he would do more

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James does not like the Donald

If you are an admirer of Donald Trump this is not a book for you. Mr Naughtie excoriates Trump so completely that at times I wanted to look away. The old lefty does not pull his punches, yet there is more to this book than a Liberal rant, there is poetry in his description of small town America. A train journey to New Orleans, a late night walk in George Town and, best of all, a Thanksgiving in New England immediately after 9/11. Those who loved (as I do) this pen portraits of American campaigns on the Today program will enjoy this book

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A simply wonderful book

I could listen to James Naughtie reading the weather forecast and be entertained. There is more than just a wonderful speaking style to this book though, so much more. It is packed with illuminating facts and sometimes hilarious anecdotes that leave the reader wanting for more. Cannot recommend this book highly enough.

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Interesting but more to be said

I liked this book. In parts I enjoyed it. But there was often the sense that the author was spending a little too much time on thinking how he should say what he had to tell, at the expense of telling more about the events that he attended or the thoughts of those involved. Perhaps this is what happens when a reporter becomes an author. I realise that this is not a history book, but I have a feeling of being disappointed not to have been told more detail on the events that the author witnessed first hand. Perhaps I'm being unfair, but given the state of politics in the US today, I had hoped for a little more insight into the events of the previous fifty years.

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Disappointing

Unfortunately this book tries to do too many things so doesn't do any of them well. It's part personal memoir, part history of US presidents, part comparison between a few different cities and also discusses Trump but in a fairly superficial way. Given the author's experience I expected something more illuminating about US politics, society or economics that led to Trump but it didn't scratch the surface really which was a shame.

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Brilliant

One of my favourite political historical books ever with the narrator describing everything in such a subliminal way

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Truely charming book

I really enjoyed listening to this, I didn't really know who James Naughtie is and picked this up on a bit of a whim but very much enjoyed the meandering path through politics and American culture over the past few decades. Well narrated with plenty of personality and history and a great read in the backdrop to the 2020 election.

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Read this now!

Entertaining and educational. Essential reading before the coming election in 2020. Not for Trump supporters unless they want the truth.

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Venus and Mars

So good to hear the familiar dulcet tones of James Naughtie reading his own memoirs. These cover some four decades+ of reflections on, and recollections of, the USA. The chapter on Venus and Mars - divided America - is the outstanding one for me. Disappointed not to have had more on the Obama years. Superb context for this year’s Presidential election dramas. Not quite Alistair Cooke but close. Michael.

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Brilliant brilliant brilliant!

Expertly woven detail with wry observation. A wonderfully evocative account of a fascination with USA politics over many decades. Perfectly combines the personal with arch of history. A must listen for anyone who lives American politics.