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The Worst Hard Time Audiobook

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl

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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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Performance
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  •  
    Gwen 09-03-12
    Gwen 09-03-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "History Seldom Told"
    Where does The Worst Hard Time rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Recommended to others


    What did you like best about this story?

    An understanding of a time and a piece of American History not well known but impacting us today.


    What about Patrick Lawlor’s performance did you like?

    Great voice and presentation


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Will never forget some of the impacts of the Dustbowl.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy Lincoln, CA, United States 08-27-12
    Nancy Lincoln, CA, United States 08-27-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Dreary dust bowl"
    What did you like best about The Worst Hard Time? What did you like least?

    I learned things from this book that I hadn't known. I always like it when a book teaches me something.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Nonfiction books are often read more for information than enjoyment and this is one of those books, although telling individual stories was interesting.


    What does Patrick Lawlor bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I probably would not have finished this book if I had been reading it.


    Was The Worst Hard Time worth the listening time?

    I listened to this book for a Book group discussion, and have many other books I would have rather been reading of listening to.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Tucson, AZ, United States 08-27-12
    Mary Tucson, AZ, United States 08-27-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Incredible story of destruction and resiliancy."
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Worst Hard Time to be better than the print version?

    I found this to be a great book for an audio version. I can believe that reading a print version would be equally interesting.


    What did you like best about this story?

    My understanding of the Dust Bowl experience was vague and this story illuminated the scale of the devastation through the lens of actual survivors. The story unfolds in the context of communities and people in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas. The book has given me a greater understanding of the Great American Desert before settlers came as well as the damage caused by over plowing, the wheat market specuation and drought. Finally, the impact of the dust on human life and the land was incredible. Another fascinating aspect of the story is the role of public policy in every aspect of the dust bowl, before, during and after.


    What does Patrick Lawlor bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I appreciate the pacing that comes from a great narration.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    How we destroyed the Great American Desert and the people who endured the terrible result.


    Any additional comments?

    I paired this book with a rereading of Grapes of Wrath and it made for an interesting consideration of a time that was not all that long ago in our history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane Mastic, NY, United States 08-20-12
    Jane Mastic, NY, United States 08-20-12 Member Since 2017
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    "Eye opener"
    Where does The Worst Hard Time rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    In the top ten


    What other book might you compare The Worst Hard Time to and why?

    Unbroken - it is a true story about real people and real events.


    What about Patrick Lawlor’s performance did you like?

    The narrator spoke very clearly and used appropriate pauses and inflections.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I did get teary-eyed when the author described the loss of little Georgie and how that affected his parents.


    Any additional comments?

    Because of the nature of the subject matter, it made me want to look at pictures of the pople, places and events of that time and place. I wondered if the hard copy includes those - I might have preferred the hard copy for that reason. However, Timothy Egan did a wonderful job of writing descriptions that helped paint a mental picture.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth B. Brandt 08-17-12
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    "Incredible Book"

    There were times listening to this book that I was jut torn apart! It was a riveting story of survival, perseverance, the failure of government. Incredible story.

    I have listed to Patrick Lawler read fiction and really enjoyed him. And his narration here was solid and sometimes good. But something about it wasn't right -- I thought he possibly over-dramatized. Not sure, but...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth 08-13-12
    Elizabeth 08-13-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Wonderful and important book! Highly Recommend"
    If you could sum up The Worst Hard Time in three words, what would they be?

    Detailed
    Factual
    Personal


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Doc Dawson


    Have you listened to any of Patrick Lawlor’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    The real lives of real Americans, true self-reliance in the face of catastrophic adversity.


    Any additional comments?

    Great history of the dust bowl woven with the tales of those who lived it. Very factual and easy to "see" the dust storms and people when listening to the audiobook. Would recommend to anyone!!! Well written.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JMose 08-06-12
    JMose 08-06-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Worth the read"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, if they are interested in human nature and how we collectively react to certain life tragedies based on personality and previous life experiences...it's an informative read. I think particularly important for the "under 40" generations today living in middle America to help understand that tragedy can reach down and affect many lives over large regions of the country. Plus it illustrates what happens to people and how they adapt when there is no safety net of government intervention in such tragedies. I kept thinking perhaps such an event as shared in the story would cause us as society to reconsider when and how we provide specific public support. When support is used up in the smaller particles of daily life experience, is less available for the larger tragedies that inevitably will occur? This chronological timeframe was the very beginning of significant involvement of government in the lives of people, which arguably has today led to the almost immediate public response of turning to government to solve any societal problem of any origination---even those involving poor personal choices. Decisions much like those in the story involved in plowing the grasslands of the great plains into farmland for economic benefit. There was a way to perhaps get more from the resource; but not in the manner in which the "progress" was implemented. The "middle of the spectrum" approaches that might have yielded much better outcomes were overcome by short-term economic incentive of a few leading citizens. It's also illustrative of how political personalitites affect outcomes for national economic policies and intiate changes in America's natural landscape. Points out clearly why initially conservation and subsequently, environmental groups, formed to stem the tide of over enthusastic economic use of natural resources. This is a book for educating oneself about one part of our great natural resource of America that was the Great Plains and the following of a few families through a decade's disaster of drought as they sought to hang on to what life they had built for themselves on the land. Myself as a farmer, an agricultural historian and policy person, I identified with the feelings of the people as they toughened against the constant threats that Mother Nature threw at them. I also chuckled at the political and various policy people identified as they tried to find the answers for the affected without really understanding the full range of facts. Having served in government policy positions, it mirrored previous observations that precious little has changed in improving our national governance since the country's Constitution was ratified.

    Summary: It's a good read for history and information about a time in our society when things were really upside down. The storyline about the families is interesting, but the character development was constrained by reality of the people having actually lived the part. Yet somehow the authenticity was real as events were recorded well enough for the author to share the story of their lives with us today. I loved the personal diary entries that told the story and personality of certain characters. So, it's not a story that entertains as much as one that educates,...and that I believe, it did quite well. I recommend it as reading for any leadership development activity for today's younger generation as a comparison against present day government involvement in our lives.


    What other book might you compare The Worst Hard Time to and why?

    Any book that shares the storyline about the Great Depression as this story presented a "from the land" view of the economic upheaval of that time. Most Depression era stories are centered on cities and the torn lives from that economic and social perspective. The suffering was arguably deeper for those on the land; in fact, many did finally go to the city to find work.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Patrick Lawlor?

    If I needed the story,. i.e., the information or history offered by the book, then yes. But not my favorite reader,...a bit monotone. When we first started listening to books "on tape", this presentation was the standard and would be rated good. Now however, the embellishments of voice can make a story come to life much more than in the past---particularly then there is narrative to enhance the character. The best readers fall into the character so well that one no longer needs instruction of who is speaking. That brings so much more "life" to the story. I felt at times as I was "laboring through", but it was worth the effort to get the perspective of the era of the story.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Not an emotional read---mostly factual though there is much about human suffering throughout. In that time there was simply a determined effort put forth by most to endure, as not much else was really understood. Having grown up on and living on the farm in the decades following the story, I experienced the remnants of that kind of human view of the world---we did for ourselves as government wasn't the answer---otherwise it would own you and only partially satisfy needs---sometimes providing what wasn't really needed. We depended on ourselves and a few local institutions---mostly the church family---for support. I did however, identify with the constant longing, and incessant hope that the sky's would open up and provide relief to the parched earth. When that rain finally came, one can feel the relief in the human spirit and a return of satisfaction that nature can indeed nuture,... and that life on the land is once again good.


    Any additional comments?

    Not for the thrill seeker to read,...one would be disappointed and wouldn't likely finish the story. But if you are thinking about government involvment in lives and how leadership really works, and how people respond to incentives and crises, it's a good book to consider listening to. I have recommended it in leadership development classes as a case study of the beginning of the deeper involvment of government into our personal lives. A good contrast point to consider.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Frances Berkeley, CA, USA 08-04-12
    Frances Berkeley, CA, USA 08-04-12 Member Since 2003
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    "Amazing history of challenging times"

    I am fascinated by histories of challenging times and of cataclysmic events. Therefore this book is one of my favorite listens. If you like this book, I would also recommend Simon Winchesters’ Krakatoa and David McCullough’s The Johnstown Flood

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Feather San Francisco, CA, United States 08-04-12
    Feather San Francisco, CA, United States 08-04-12 Member Since 2010
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    "A compelling story, but way too long"

    If you're interested in American history, pick this one. It is full of fascinating and shocking facts about the dustbowl years, which are hard for us to imagine. My only criticism is that the story could have been told in half the time (or less). There seemed to be a lot of repetition. The book was also oddly organized. It wasn't chronological which made it hard to follow.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Randi Lansford 07-20-12
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    "Not what I had hoped for"
    What disappointed you about The Worst Hard Time?

    I think it was a rather boring set of stories about unconnected families and the hardship they suffered. I suppose it could have been interesting, had we not been lulled to a point of losing the line of the story.


    What could Timothy Egan have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Made the stories more interesting? Or have a different narrator? I don't know, it just all seemed bland.


    Did Patrick Lawlor do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    He sort of droned on and was easy to lose track of his voice - it really didn't hold our interest.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    It may have, but we couldn't get past the first hour. We gave up and went on to another book.


    Any additional comments?

    We listen while driving, and this just didn't hold our interest.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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