___. *. They're trends that you may have missed — you who sit there, complacent, you who missed the train to work this morning but caught one fifteen minutes later, you who brought a smoked turkey sandwich with mayonnaise but no mustard for lunch. While you were cutting the crusts off the piece of scorched white bread you call toast every morning, America was undergoing a *. We were becoming a nation of ___.

And now that it's happened, there's not much you can do about it, other than read one of these new books about it and click your tongue disapprovingly. But what books they are!

___ Nation is, to put it simply, about how we've become a ___ Nation. When you walk down the street, all the people you see are ___, long for ___, own ___, are addicted to ___, admire ___, or have recently interacted with ___. Even if you can't see it, they are, do, or have. They stir ___ into their evening tea, and wake up with ___ stuck to their eyes. Figuratively, of course.

But ___ is not necessarily a good thing. You might be surprised to hear that, but that's just because our society is not in the habit of examining ___ closely. This must change. Just as a fly dropped into a latte from some chain that's a little more obscure than Starbucks cannot see the murky coffee in which it swims, so are we oblivious to the pernicious influence of ___. We know ___ is all around us, but we never think about the ways it shapes our world. "Oh, I'll just have some ___," we think. "I'll just be a ___."

___, of course, is more than just the innocuous thing it seems. We've only just begun to realize how it affects us. When we're exposed to ___ on a regular basis, we begin to become desensitized to it. But as we speak, it's reshaping our country, rewriting our roads in a pattern of ___-friendliness, rearranging our consciousnesses to be more accommodating to ___, reconfiguring our hard drives to create a partition for ___.

The * of America describes a related phenomenon, which is even more insidious because it involves the very psyches of the American public. Ending as it does in a suffix like -ing, -ization, or -ification, we can see that * connotes an ongoing process that will change — is changing — the way America looks and feels. But * probably isn't a good thing either.

Because, under this *, we are becoming soft-minded and hard-hearted. We are becoming short-tempered and long-winded. We are becoming hypoactive and hyperallergenic.

Since the * has started to take place, America has become a place where you can turn on any channel on television and see *-related programming. A walk through the self-help or astronomy section of any bookstore will provide ample evidence for *. Just look at our celebrities — Britney Spears, Jeff Bezos, Michael Beschloss — and try to argue that some form of * isn't going on.

Is there anything we can do about ___ and *? Well, in the case of *, we can urge our favorite foundations to engage in a funding spree, after which many journals of cultural criticism that put forth anti-* ideas will find themselves armed to take on *. And we can also push for stronger government regulation that will make it harder for the producers, financial backers, and consumers of ___ to operate, and that will also ideally spur the kind of self-reflection that our society needs if we're ever going to realize what a threat ___ is.

But ___ and * are here to stay, at least for the short term. That's one certainty. We can either wait for the pendulum to swing back, away from *, toward less ___, or we can find ways to work around and with the complex new environment * and ___ have created for us. And that's really what we can take away from these books.