American flags are mingling with holly and tinsel this holiday season, as the burst of patriotism that swept the nation after the September terrorist attacks continues to find expression in displays of red, white and blue. In a country stunned by tragic loss and buoyed by stories of heroism and grace under pressure, books that celebrate the American spirit and the natural beauty of the land are a welcome source of comfort and rejuvenation. And in a reassuring piece of serendipity, three excellent new gift books that capture America, the beautiful, in all its glory have recently arrived on bookstore shelves.

If a picture book could be described as "fast-paced," then USA would definitely earn that description. With more than 900 photographs packed into its 500 pages, USA covers a lot of ground everything from American landscapes to lifestyles to architecture. Spanish photographer Jordi Miralles journeys from sea to shining sea, showcasing sights from the Golden Gate Bridge to Grand Central Station. Brimming with visual tidbits, this paperback offers an appealing overview of the nation and its people.


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