A lot of people enjoy perusing guidebook/compendiums. Since I edit the Isthmus version of this kind of guidebook, the Annual Manual, I take more than a passing interest in reading all kinds of them, from those that focus on touristy sites, to shopping, to outdoor rec, to those with a more historical bent. My most common complaint is when they state the obvious in glowing, billowy prose. There's none of that here, and it's also free from self-congratulatory preening.
The Nation Guide to the Nation -- billed as "The Essential Lifestyle guide for the millions of progressives from coast to coast" -- is excellent, despite that somewhat fluffy tagline. "A guide to all things left" is probably a better moniker. Published by Vintage, TNGTTN is useful, surprising, interesting and sometimes provocative.
The guide is divided into five sections -- Culture, Media, "Organize!", Goods and Services, and "Social: Connecting." (I'd lobby for naming sections in parallel constructions, but that's an editor talking.) But then, this is the kind of book you're likely to browse around rather than read straight through.
It's very listy. Everybody likes lists (see Facebook these days, see listography.com, et. al.). Stuart Klawans, the magazine's longtime film reviewer, names 25 Greatest Political Films; there's a page full of "Anthems of the Left" and a lineup of left-leaning mystery novels.
I liked the sections devoted to leftish bookstores across the country, art collectives doing innovative work, left history sites that might get "left" out (sorry, that just popped out) of your standard Frommer guide, and locavore-slow food restaurants and thriving food co-ops. John Nichols provides a nice little writeup of progressive dining in Madison.
Even so, it's easy to tell that in some topic areas, this is just a taste of what's out there. For instance, the radio stations listings seem thin. Where are WORT and WOJB, just in Wisconsin?
And you might quibble with featuring just one pretzel listing, until you learn that Hempzel's pretzels are made of hemp. Okay, I'm sold: They are the leftist pretzel in the land.