National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2006
The dust storms that terrorized America's High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since, and the stories of the people that held on have never been fully told. Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, going from sod huts to new framed houses to huddling in basements with the windows sealed by damp sheets in a futile effort to keep the dust out.
He follows their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Drawing on the voices of those who stayed and survived, those who, now in their eighties and nineties, will soon carry their memories to the grave, Egan tells a story of endurance and heroism against the backdrop of the Great Depression.
Egan captures the very voice of the time, its grit, pathos, and abiding heroism, as only great history can. Combining the human drama of Isaac's Storm with the sweep of The American People in the Great Depression, The Worst Hard Time is a lasting and important work of American history.
Bonus: In partnership with Audible and Playtone, the television and film producer behind the award-winning series Band of Brothers, John Adams, and The Pacific, this audiobook includes an original introduction, written and read by acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns. For more from Audible and Playtone, click here.
©2005 Timothy Egan (P)2006 Tantor Media
"With characters who seem to have sprung from a novel by Sinclair Lewis or Steinbeck, and Egan's powerful writing, this account will long remain in readers' minds." (Publishers Weekly)
There were a few spots where this book bogged down a bit (ie the diary), but overall I found it very interesting and educational. I feel like I have learned a great deal about the dust bowl time. I had no idea how much people in that part of the U.S. suffered.
A well told story of the Dust Bowl times which makes clear that humans, eager to exploit the land for the wheat crop, are the reason for the devastation of the Great Plains. Well-written, well read.
The story follows real people through terrible circumstances in 1930's America. Diaries and newspapers shape the story. Before I finished the book, I could imagine being there --but knew that really being there would be much more than I could imagine. Still, this is the best and most interesting rendition of the time that I've read, and I think it helped me to better understand why things have unfolded in our country as they have. Books like these make history so much more appealing than textbooks. If you liked "Isaac's Storm" or "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson, you will like this book by Timothy Egan too.
What a great book. The author did a fantastic job storytelling with real life descriptions of what families went through during those horrendous times, as well as describing historic events. This book is a fantastic read and tells a great story of one of the chapters in American History.
Only second audio book that I truly couldn't get into. This is not necessarily the author's fault. The reader was unbelievably hard to listen to.
I don't know why this book of all should constantly make me nod off, but I was neither impressed by the narration nor the interweaving of plots and history. I didn't think it measured up to the billing "epic tale of hope and endurance" etc. More for historians and history buffs in my opinion.
The Worst Hard times is a story of unbridled ambition such as that of the gold miners of 1849 but much more of a Promethean twist. People seeking their future form the East followed the promise of a better life as a sod buster on the plains. They came in droves, plowed up the ground removing critical native vegetation, and killed off rabbits and other critters they felt threatened them or their crops. The crops failed due to lack of water and lacking infrastructure they were promised leading to mass exoduses. The barren ground gave teeth to the common strong winds leading blinding and choking dust storms that were one of the largest man made tragedies of all time. The will to survive and dogged commitment to stick it out builds a tragic tell as people died from dust phenomena and then when some vegetation did start to grow, locust invasions due to the lack of predators that the sod busters killed off kept the vicious cycle going. A very eye opening cautionary read on how unbridled ambition can lead to tragedy for all.
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