For our Independence Day Nightstand, we caught up with Williams, a singer-songwriter (The Christians and the Pagans and The Beauty of the Rain) and author who is well-versed in the highways and byways of America. By phone recently, she shared how her newest book, What I Found in a Thousand Small Towns, came to be. The book is made up of Williams' observations on community building and the little renaissances she has seen happening in towns and cities throughout the United States.
"In the last few years, I've realized I was seeing towns going from very disorganized and sometimes demoralized to very vibrant and self-confident. I saw what they did to get on that track, the civic examination involved,'' she said. Williams, 50, also gave us her definition of patriotism. "It is the love of where you are that brings out that sense of responsibility and service for you.''
Williams' book highlights the Sunshine State with a section devoted to Gainesville.
What's on your nightstand?
Who Is Your City by Richard Florida. Richard Florida books have been with me, helping me understand more about communities during the project. Also, there's Robert Putnam's Better Together. I absolutely love this book. And the one I've been reading most recently is Sherman Alexie's Blasphemy. A favorite line is "In this world we must love the liars or go unloved.'' Sherman is my light reading. But there are other books too, when it comes to (the book project). There's Factory Man by Beth Macy and Suburban Nation and Walkable City by Jeff Speck. I listened on audio to Walkable City while driving with my band members. And they actually liked it. I thought I was the only one digging it so much.
What did they like about it?
The idea that there's an interesting and really important system that underlines our lives, and also how we navigate our lives is very much determined by how our streets are laid out. It was a real urban planning revitalization. It's very enlightening to see how we can better navigate our lives when we have a walkable city.
Contact Piper Castillo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @Florida_PBJC.