Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

Want to know what your neighbors are like without becoming a Peeping Tom or garbage- ologist? Washington-based free- lance writer Michael J. Weiss, in Latitudes & Attitudes: An Atlas of American Tastes, Trends, Politics, and Passions (Little, Brown & Co., 224 pp., $29.95 hardcover/ $14.95 paper), has done the snooping for you. This “coffee-table book for baby boomers,” as Weiss calls it, features demographic maps and opinion-poll results; the 211 market profiles, which go by consumer regions rather than states’ borders, take some getting used to. But by dividing the U.S. according to media influences rather than geographic areas, Weiss says he portrays “the real diversity of America.” He contends that “a lot of Americans have no idea how we live in this country”—that’s why he’s compiled surveys of, say, the TV tastes of Dallas-Fort Worth residents or the automotive preferences of folks in Columbus-Tupelo, Miss. When rating the Washington metropolitan area, Weiss found that “in terms of politics, it’s a very liberal area; when it comes to social values, its fairly conservative.” Asked to name a surprising trend in the D.C. market, he says, “I’ve interviewed interior designers who say the most requested piece of bedroom furniture is a good reading lamp.” So much for my vibrating-mattress theory.