Last month’s readalike was Ruth Ware’s novel The Woman in Cabin 10. This month, we’re looking at an extraordinarily popular nonfiction book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. Whether you’ve already read it and are looking for other books on similar topics, or if you’re still waiting, you might like one of these books.
White Trash: The 400-Year Untold Story of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg (2016): “A history of the class system in America from the colonial era to the present illuminates the crucial legacy of the underprivileged white demographic, citing the pivotal contributions of lower-class white workers in wartime, social policy, and the rise of the Republican Party” (catalog summary).
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (2016) takes a look at where rich and poor intersect: the relationship between landlords and tenants. The author spent a year in Milwaukee, collecting stories and data, to produce a powerful narrative.
Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy by Robert Frank (2016): Economist Frank determines that luck plays a much bigger part in individual economic success than most individuals will credit. Successful people often downplay luck’s role in their own lives, and this bias leads to anti-government sentiment, though government programs and institutions helped enable the success in the first place. “Essential” (Choice).
Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good by Chuck Collins (2016): “Collins, born to great privilege, takes a thoughtful, well-written, and carefully researched approach to solving the extreme imbalance in wealth distribution, directed toward one- and 99-percenters alike” (Publishers Weekly). He describes the challenges and outlines “significant and specific” solutions.
Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt by Sarah Jaffe (2016): In a book of the moment, “Jaffe brings together fascinating stories and well-reported recent history to explain how and why ordinary people became involved in Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, Black Lives Matter, anti-immigration protests, and labor fights against Walmart and for a $15 per hour minimum wage. She argues that these movements started out in opposition but are now building new coalitions and more horizontal institutions” (Library Journal).
Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild (2016): Hochschild, a sociologist and professor at UC Berkeley, turns her attention to politics and the widening gap between conservative and liberal ideologies by focusing on the Tea Party in Louisiana and the issue of environmental pollution. In searching for “emotional truth,” she concludes that empathy is the answer (Publishers Weekly).
$2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer (2015) “explains what happens to individuals who are still struggling to reach working-poor status after a government safety net is removed” (Library Journal). It is a “searing look at extreme poverty” that “deftly mixes policy research and heartrending narratives from a swath of the 1.5 million American households” surviving on cash incomes of $2 per person per day” (Publishers Weekly).
Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado (2014): A first-person account of poverty in America, expanded from an original online essay, “Why I Make Terrible Decisions, Or, Poverty Thoughts.” Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2002), wrote the foreword.
Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History by Matt Taibbi (2011): in “a blistering examination of the upheaval that has roiled the American economic system over the past several years” (Booklist), Taibbi “eviscerates Wall Street for what he considers frauds perpetrated on the American people over the last ten years” (Publishers Weekly). Accessible to any interested reader, with plenty of detail for wonks – recommended across the board.
Odd Tribes: Toward a Cultural Analysis of White People by John Hartigan Jr. (2005) is an “extensive ethnographic cultural study of whiteness from the 1850s to the present” in which the author “analyzes processes of cultural and class identity” (Choice).
The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier by Colin Woodard (2004): A cultural history of Maine, including the present-day struggles between locals and outsiders.