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Nomadland

by Jessica Bruder

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1375317,297 (4.1)78
Politics. Sociology. Nonfiction. From the beet fields of North Dakota to the wilderness campgrounds of California to an Amazon warehouse in Texas, people who once might have kicked back to enjoy their sunset years are hard at work. Underwater on mortgages or finding that Social Security comes up short, they're hitting the road in astonishing numbers, forming a new community of nomads: RV and van-dwelling migrant laborers, or "workampers." Building on her groundbreaking Harper's cover story, "The End of Retirement," which brought attention to these formerly settled members of the middle class, Jessica Bruder follows one such RVer, Linda, between physically taxing seasonal jobs and reunions of her new van-dweller family, or "vanily." Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of both the economy's dark underbelly and the extraordinary resilience, creativity, and hope of these hardworking, quintessential Americans?many of them single women?who have traded rootedness for the dream of a better life.… (more)
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» See also 78 mentions

English (50)  Spanish (1)  All languages (51)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Overall: Both interesting and boring. Far too repetitive.

I'll skip the obvious comments and give others:

I've met park stewards that stay at parks as well as people just looking for a spot. I'm actually the volunteer Canal Steward for Carderock and many people talk to me as if I lived there (sometimes asking me if they can). I could imagine doing it for a living in an alternate life.

Surprised the author didn't give some basic stats on the # of people living below the poverty line in the US. Number of people without health insurance. It's staggering.

Washington Post just had an article on sugar beet country in the Business section just 2 weeks ago. The author mentioned that it was considered the least desirable place to live. So he moved there, permanently, and with his family! He liked it! A fragment from that article:

"In the summer of 2015, I wrote about a data set from the U.S. Department of Agriculture called the Natural Amenities Index that ranked every county in the nation by physical attributes, such as climate, landscape and access to water resources.

At the bottom of the list was Red Lake County, a rural farming community in northwest Minnesota. The landscape was implausibly flat. Summers were hot, and winters were brutally cold. Despite its name, it was home to no lakes. I referred to it, half-jokingly, as “America’s Worst Place to Live.”
Subsequent outrage from Minnesotans persuaded me to actually visit the place to see for myself what it was like. To my surprise, I found I liked it quite a bit — so much so that I moved my family there the following spring.

Our move was predicated on a number of factors. There was the sense of adventure inherent in turning our lives upside-down at the whim of a single data point. There were compelling economic factors, including unaffordable housing, the skyrocketing cost of living in the Baltimore-D.C. region and the sense that our family was slowly being torn apart by the relentless forces of long commutes."

  donwon | Jan 22, 2024 |
I couldn't watch the film until I read the book. Now that I've read the book I'm not sure I can watch the film.
Fascinating read about life on the road. ( )
  Suem330 | Dec 28, 2023 |
Essentially, this is the nomad's edition of [b:Nickel and Dimed|1869|Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting by in America|Barbara Ehrenreich|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1442378091s/1869.jpg|1840613] - complete with disdain for pre-employment drug testing, due to the author's recreational use of marijuana.

I've always dreamed of becoming a road-dweller and working the seasonal job circuit, and that's why I read the book. I was hoping to hear more descriptions of the various jobs that these travelers hold, but Bruder only focused on the "big" three that I've already read plenty about: campground hosting, Amazon CamperForce, and sugar beet harvesting.

In the first half of the book, Bruder is more optimistic and, even while discussing why some people are "forced" into the full-time road-dwelling life, makes sure to mention that many of these people love their lives, their freedom, their community, etc. But the second half of the book is written with a more bleak outlook - it was actually rather depressing and discouraging, and I don't know that it's an accurate picture of the road-dwelling community at large. (Bruder focuses primarily on vandwellers with low incomes, especially those that perform low-wage seasonal jobs, but there are many other full-timers who are doing very well financially.)

I did really enjoy the book overall, partly because I've already done so much of my own research in the last several years that I felt like I knew some of the people mentioned in the book before I read it. As with most books striving to stereotype sub-cultures, it should be read with a pinch of salt.

"[According to the Gini coefficient formula, the most accepted method for calculating income inequality,] today the United States has the most unequal society of all developed nations. America's level of inequality is comparable to that of Russia, China, Argentina, and the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo." (p 248)

Note: There are references to evolutionary theory as fact. ( )
  RachelRachelRachel | Nov 21, 2023 |
I picked this up after having already watched the movie. It's a fascinating topic and this book is totally eye-opening and also a little heartbreaking. It's a shame that some folks feel like this is their only option for 'retirement' although I understand making it on your own and being 'free' does feel a bit better than actually being homeless with no resources.
A really good read for folks trying to understand different facets of American society in a time where it feels impossible to get ahead for some. ( )
  mrsgrits | Oct 19, 2023 |
Review forthcoming. Spoiler: This was one of my favorite books this year! ( )
  beckyrenner | Aug 3, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Seventeen years into the 21st century, the news for the middle class is bleak. As one expert puts it in the book, the “three-legged stool” of retirement security — Social Security, private pensions and personal savings — has given way to “a pogo stick,” with Social Security as the single “wobbly” leg...When Bruder does stand aside, “Nomadland” soars. Her subjects are self-sufficient, proud people. Many in their 60s and beyond, they should be entering Shakespeare’s sixth age of man, “into the lean and slippered pantaloon/ With spectacles on nose and pouch/ On side.” Instead they are sans homes, sans money, sans security, sans everything, except their dignity and self-reliance.
added by Lemeritus | editWashington Post, Timothy R. Smith (pay site) (Oct 13, 2017)
 
If you’re in a city but you live in a van, or a trailer, or a tent, you are considered homeless. But if you’re in the desert or the forest, you’re camping. Rationalizations such as these are what make “Nomadland” such a compelling look at a weirdly camouflaged swath of society that’s more entwined around us than we realize....Change often began with a job layoff. Then they downsized, still fell behind and finally realized that their earlier lives cannot be reclaimed. Losers? Sure, some have made bad decisions. But most simply have lost, for reasons over which they had no control.... “What further contortions — or even mutations — of the social order will appear in years to come?” she asks. “How many people will get crushed by the system? How many will find a way to escape it?” This is important, eye-opening journalism, presented for us to contemplate: What if?
 
“Nomadland,” by Jessica Bruder, an important if frustrating new work influenced by such classics of immersion journalism as Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed,” looks at one strategy older workers have devised for “surviving America.” ... “Nomadland” is part of a fleet of recent books about the gig economy. More than most, it’s able to comfortably contain various contradictions: “The nomads I’d been interviewing for months were neither powerless victims nor carefree adventurers,” Bruder writes.... Bruder is a poised and graceful writer. But her book is plagued by odd evasions. Take race, the major one.... there is no acknowledgment of the more than three million migrant workers in this country, who perhaps pick the same fruit and work the same backbreaking jobs as Bruder’s white would-be retirees.... These omissions don’t doom the book; but they do mark it.
added by Lemeritus | editNew York Times, Parul Sehgal (pay site) (Sep 19, 2017)
 
This powerhouse of a book grew out of Bruder’s article, “The End of Retirement,” published in Harper’s in 2014. She examines the phenomenon of a new tribe of down-and-outers—“workampers,” or “houseless” people—who travel the country in vans as they follow short-term jobs, such as harvesting sugar beets, cleaning campsites and toilets in wilderness parks, and stocking and plucking merchandise from bins at an Amazon warehouse, averaging 15 miles a shift walking the facility’s concrete floors. Bruder spent three years shadowing and interviewing members of this “new kind of wandering tribe.” In the best immersive-journalism tradition, Bruder records her misadventures driving and living in a van and working in a beet field and at Amazon....Visceral and haunting reporting.
added by Lemeritus | editBooklist, Connie Fletcher (Jul 1, 2017)
 
Journalist Bruder (Burning Book) expands on an article originally published in Harper’s where she examined the phenomenon of aging Americans adjusting to an economic climate in which they can’t afford to retire. Many among them have discarded “stick and brick” traditional homes for “wheel estate” in the form of converted vans and RVs and have formed a nomadic culture of “workampers,” evoking the desperate resourcefulness of those who lived through the Great Depression.... Tracing individuals throughout their journeys from coast to coast, Bruder conveys the phenomenon’s human element, making this sociological study intimate, personal, and entertaining, even as the author critiques the economic factors behind the trend.
added by Lemeritus | editPublisher's Weekly (May 29, 2017)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bruder, Jessicaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Peronny, NathalieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, KarenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Belongs to Publisher Series

J'ai lu (13095)

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Epigraph
"There's a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in." -Leonard Cohen

"The capitalists don't want anyone living off their economic grid." -Anonymous commenter, Azdailysun.com
Dedication
For Dale
First words
On the Foothill Freeway, about an hour inland from Los Angeles, a mountain range looms ahead of northbound traffic, bringing suburbia to a sudden stop.
Quotations
Some call them “homeless.” The new nomads reject that label. Equipped with both shelter and transportation, they’ve adopted a different word. They refer to themselves, quite simply, as “houseless.”
Being human means yearning for more than subsistence. As much as food or shelter, we require hope.
Driving on, they’re secure in this knowledge: The last free place in America is a parking spot.
...there are only a dozen counties and one metro area in America where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent. You’d have to make at least $16.35 an hour—more than twice the federal minimum wage—to rent such an apartment without spending more than the recommended 30 percent of income on housing.
Full-time travelers are a demographer’s nightmare. Statistically they blend in with the rest of the population, since the law requires them to maintain fixed—in other words, fake—addresses. No matter how widely they wander, nomads must be officially “domiciled” somewhere. Your state of residence is where you get vehicles registered and inspected, renew drivers’ licenses, pay taxes, vote, serve on juries, sign up for health insurance (except for those on Medicare), and fulfill a litany of other responsibilities.
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Politics. Sociology. Nonfiction. From the beet fields of North Dakota to the wilderness campgrounds of California to an Amazon warehouse in Texas, people who once might have kicked back to enjoy their sunset years are hard at work. Underwater on mortgages or finding that Social Security comes up short, they're hitting the road in astonishing numbers, forming a new community of nomads: RV and van-dwelling migrant laborers, or "workampers." Building on her groundbreaking Harper's cover story, "The End of Retirement," which brought attention to these formerly settled members of the middle class, Jessica Bruder follows one such RVer, Linda, between physically taxing seasonal jobs and reunions of her new van-dweller family, or "vanily." Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of both the economy's dark underbelly and the extraordinary resilience, creativity, and hope of these hardworking, quintessential Americans?many of them single women?who have traded rootedness for the dream of a better life.

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Contents:

Foreword -- The squeeze inn -- The end -- Surviving America -- Escape plan -- Amazon town -- The gathering place -- The rubber tramp rendezvous -- Halen -- Some unbeetable experiences -- The H word -- Homecoming -- Coda: the octopus in the coconut -- Acknowledgments -- Notes.
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