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From Vermont to Vegas. From bluesman to bullriders. You’ll find prime slices of all things American in National Geographic’s second collector’s edition, Best of America.

Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling essay.

There are times when it’s important to remember what we cherish most. There are times when we want to introduce a new friend, a new love, a newly grown-up child to people and places that shaped our lives before they came along. In those moments many of us reach for photographs—you for a neatly ordered binder of eight-by-ten enlargements, me for a helter-skelter shoe box of dog-eared prints.

Have you visited the Statue of Liberty? For some of us it’s just a stop on a tour. We mostly remember long waits in lines to buy overpriced, slightly warm sodas and undistinguished postcards. But for others the trip means more than that because the lady in New York Harbor is part of their family’s past. Your grandparents, your great-grandparents may have seen her uplifted torch as they sailed toward new lives as Italian Americans, Irish Americans, Polish Americans.

For those of us lucky enough to work for National Geographic magazine, putting together a special issue called The Best of America was a lot like assembling a family album. It’s a record of where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, and who we’ve met along the way. Of course, we travel a lot, and on our “family” trips the pictures are taken by folks who have (shall we say) demonstrated a certain knack for handling a camera.

All photographs record data—scenes, situations, events. But some photographs do much more—they nudge open tantalizing doors into stories, into lives. You know it’s a good picture when you just have to talk about it, whether the conversation begins with questions or answers or memories. You know it’s a great picture when it seems as if you are stepping into the frame—as if you are seeing for yourself, feeling and smelling and hearing the story unfold around you.

If we’ve done our jobs right, this American album will delight your eyes, touch your heart, and give you something to talk about at the Fourth of July picnic. It may remind you of someplace you were happy once. It might inspire you to turn down a dirt road, order the crawfish, meet the neighbors, call your mother, salute the flag, or even sing “America the Beautiful” right out loud.

Get the whole story in the pages of Best of America.

E-mail this page to a friend


Join our discussion boards inspired by the Best of America.

What does Best of America mean to you? 

What is “wilderness” to you?

How do you define “community”?

How would you describe who we are as Americans?

What do you think Americans do best?
Share your thoughts. 


Write your own captions to “Sideshow” images from Best of America, then send them to a friend.

Sights and Sounds

Author Garrison Keillor narrates his story, "In Search of Lake Wobegon," with images from the places that inspired his famous fictional town in this multimedia special.

Listen to author Garrison Keillor read “In Search of Lake Wobegon,” then read it in Best of America.


Read “Under New York” in Best of America and venture to the giant core of the Big Apple in this interactive feature.

More to Explore

In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Related Links
National Park Service
Offers educational resources and links to each national park’s website.

U.S. Census Bureau
Provides access to the results of the 2000 Census by ethnicity, marital status, and poverty level. Also features video clips and historical photographs.

Wilderness Information Network
This is a site dedicated to wilderness education, wilderness research, and wilderness news. It also links to other environmental organizations. 


NGS Resources
Newman, Cathy. “Welcome to Monhegan Island, Maine. Now Please Go Away,” National Geographic (July 2001), 92-109.

Keillor, Garrison. “In Search of Lake Wobegon: It’s in Central Minnesota, According to Its Creator,” National Geographic (December 2000), 86-109.

Smith, Roff. “Deep Soul of the New River,” National Geographic (June 1999), 120-137.

Cobb, Charles E., Jr. “Traveling the Blues Highway,” National Geographic (April 1999), 42-69.

Poole, Robert M. “Winslow Homer,” National Geographic (December 1998), 72-101.

Mitchell, John G. “Wilderness—America’s Land Apart,” National Geographic (November 1998), 2-33.

Hoagland, Edward “Special Place: Vermont Suite of Seasons,” National Geographic (September 1998), 72-91.

Swerdlow, Joel L. “Under New York,” National Geographic (February 1997), 110-131.

Swerdlow, Joel L. “America’s Poet: Walt Whitman,” National Geographic (December 1994), 106-141.

Chadwick, Douglas H. “The American Prairie: Roots of the Sky,” National Geographic (October 1993), 90-119.

Mairson, Alan. “America’s Beekeepers: Hives for Hire,” National Geographic (May 1993), 72-93.

Parfit, Michael. “Hard Ride of Route 93,” National Geographic (December 1992), 42-63.

Lamb, David. “A Season in the Minors,” National Geographic (April 1991), 40-73.

Gore, Rick. “Broadway, Street of Dreams,” National Geographic (September 1990), 54-87.

Morgan, Judith, and Neil Morgan. “Redwoods, Rain, and Lots of Room: California’s Northern Coast,” National Geographic (September 1977), 330-363.

de Roos, Robert. “Arizona: Booming Youngster of the West,” National Geographic (March 1963), 299-343.


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