National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2013
A riveting examination of a nation in crisis, from one of the finest political journalists of our generation. American democracy is beset by a sense of crisis. Seismic shifts during a single generation have created a country of winners and losers, allowing unprecedented freedom while rending the social contract, driving the political system to the verge of breakdown, and setting citizens adrift to find new paths forward. In The Unwinding, George Packer, author of The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, tells the story of the United States over the past three decades in an utterly original way, with his characteristically sharp eye for detail and gift for weaving together complex narratives.
The Unwinding journeys through the lives of several Americans, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers, who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington insider oscillating between political idealism and the lure of organized money; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire who questions the Internet’s significance and arrives at a radical vision of the future.
Packer interweaves these intimate stories with biographical sketches of the era’s leading public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and collages made from newspaper headlines, advertising slogans, and song lyrics that capture the flow of events and their undercurrents. The Unwinding portrays a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, its elites no longer elite, its institutions no longer working, its ordinary people left to improvise their own schemes for success and salvation. Packer’s novelistic and kaleidoscopic history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date. Includes bonus content read by the author.
©2013 George Packer (P)2013 Macmillan Audio
I would enthusiastically recommend this book to friends (and enemies, too). Although I lived through all the decades described in the book, I only experienced my little corner of history. This book opened my eyes to the big picture. Not only that, in doing so, it helped me understand on a much more organic basis the connections between historical events and their effects on people outside (and inside) my community. In short, it educated me, in a most engrossing way, about how to think critically and the absolute importance of integrity in our social and political dealings. Unfortunately, that integrity is sorely lacking in contemporary life.
The structure. The book embodies the concept of unwinding threads from a tapestry.
I wouldn't think of the people described in the book as "characters" as they actually live/lived. They all are fascinating. However, because of similarities in background, temperament, and geography, I was drawn most strongly to Dean Price.
The book has a cumulative effect. As it unwinds its stories, you are drawn in every more deeply. By the end of the book, that effect packs a wallop.
One of the best books I have ever read.
There were parts of this book I really liked, but it did get slow in some areas. There is also this wierd thing done between chapters where headlines are used. This make look interesting in print form, but for me it did not transfer to this format well.
This book unfolds the last four decades in the United States using stories of people who lived it. They include the rich, the poor, the obscure, the famous, and the stories weave through the America experience in a way that explains where we've been and what has happened. Well-read.
Doesn't seem to get to a point. The long descriptions of the characters were presented without context or insight.
I am not sure there is another book that better captures the feeling of what the changes in America have meant to the Americans who lived through them.
You have to read this book if you care about what is happening to our country.
A compelling fine grained account of the implosion of the American Dream is sabotaged by an inept upbeat and resolutely anodyne performance. What next? Mr. Rogers reads Celine?
sloppy sloppy journalism. i had high hopes for this book and enjoyed the stories about his 'average americans', but have to question his research skills after his horatio alger, slobbering lap dog, wikipedia puffery on celebs and and notable americans (like oprah and jay-z). at the end of the day his 'unwinding' narrative is all pretty standard stuff about flawed americans who make mistakes and pick themselves back up even when 'the man' keeps knocking them back down. hardly any grand linked narrative about how modern society has failed us. if you are intersted in that i suggest watching david simon's 'the wire' as a much more coherent and more grounded in reality starting point.
this book has been rated so high. I found it to be a rehash of recent economic history that we are all familiar with.
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