Democracy in America is the classic analysis of America's unique political character, quoted heavily by politicians and perennially popping up on history professors' reading lists. The book's enduring appeal lies in the eloquent, prophetic voice of Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), a French aristocrat who visited the United States in 1831. A thoughtful young man in a still-young country, he succeeded in penning this penetrating study of America's people, culture, history, geography, politics, legal system, and economy. Tocqueville asserts, "I confess that in America I saw more than America; I sought the image of democracy itself, with its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and its passions, in order to learn what we have to fear or hope from its progress."
In addition to a brilliant, perceptive outline of "the philosophical method of the Americans," Volume II of Democracy in America includes the oddly modern-sounding "Why the Americans Are So Restless in the Midst of Their Prosperity," the surprising and provocative "How Americans Understand the Equality of the Sexes," and the more archaic "The Study of Greek and Latin is Peculiarly Useful in Democratic Communities." This edition--which many consider the best--contains the Henry Reeve text, revised by Francis Bowen, and further edited with introduction, editorial notes, and bibliographies by Phillips Bradley. [via]