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Book review: The Worst Hard Time

The town of Louisville CO (and the surrounding towns) named Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time as the area’s common book.  Each participating town agreed to host events relating to the book, and it was prominently featured at farmers markets, town fairs, and the like.  The book blended news history and personal anecdotes into a bleak picture of the dust bowl era midwest–farmers who went all in (and more) on their farms, and the towns and businesses that failed with them in the face of the Great Depression and the frequent dust storms.

Dave Ferrell led the reading group I attended.  He’d read the book, along with other books and videos on the topic.  He did a good job of drawing out stories from the people in attendance.  Even though this part of Colorado wasn’t part of the dust bowl, there were lots of parent and grandparent stories about surviving that situation–some reflected the gravity from the stories of the book, some claimed it was not so bad.  Dave and others did a great job drawing parallels between those times and now, things like farm subsidies, government support, FEMA.

It was an older crowd, average age among the 30 attendees was probably 65; I was probably the youngest in the room by 5-10 years.  There was an agronomist, Gary, who lamented that there weren’t more young people in attendance.  Lots of potential reasons for that: timing, promotion methods, lack of kid-friendly events, no social media connection, no prescence in K-12 schools, or other factors.  Or maybe I’m just part of the me generation that hasn’t suffered through this type of tiime (yet).

Overall, it was an enjoyable book–one of those new-age histories penned by a journalist with a knack for telling a story.  And it’s great to see a decent crowd come together in town for the discussion.  I see great value in common books–I’ve led several book groups for various organizations–and I’m hopeful that this one will lead to some learning and sharing and healing and community-building.

Categories: Book reviews
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  1. January 11, 2012 at 7:18 am

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