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Better Off Without 'Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession Hardcover – August 14, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“Hilarious, dirty, and incendiary, [Better Off Without 'Em] is a book that will prompt guffaws in some, an urge to shoot it through the spine in others, and everyone to agree that it will only stoke the election-year bonfire.” (Vanity Fair)

"[Thompson] is serious about his argument and has more than enough ammunition." (New York Times)

"[Thompson] is awesomely talented and wickedly funny." (Philadelphia Inquirer)

“For critics who lament the homogenization of the United States, Thompson offers several memorable scenes with distinct regional flavor. . . . Underneath all the macho bombast, there are some serious ideas at play. In a chapter on the condition of education in the South, Thompson writes passionately and persuasively about the disastrous long-term effects that de facto segregation and systematic underfunding of public schools will have on the US economy.” (The Boston Globe)

“[Thompson’s] solution is a kind of no-fault divorce for nation-states: no hard feelings, just two adults who can’t quite make the relationship work, shaking hands and walking away.” (The Oxford American)

"[Chuck Thompson] is funny in the mode of P.J. O'Rourke and Joe Queenan.” (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

“A convincing case that the American South is essentially a separate country that negatively affects the rest of the United States. . . . Everyone jokes about secession, and some politicianslike Texas Gov. Rick Perryhave even threatened it. But what if it actually happened, Mr. Thompson wondered? . . . Better Off Without ‘Em combines scathing humor, caustic opinion, colorful travel writing, jaw-dropping interviews and solid academic research in an entertaining and thought-provoking book that sticks to the ribs like cheese grits and pecan pie.” (Fort Myers Weekly)

“An entertaining and worthwhile read . . . [Thompson] amasses data, and somewhere in between the fire and the brimstone, plans of serious argument are laid down.” (

“A fun, engaging read— let’s call it speculative nonfiction—and would make for a fine night of beer-fueled argument.” (

“As if Kevin Phillips’s American Theocracy were being narrated by Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi . . . Viciously funny and thoroughly tasteless, it’s an easy and cathartic read for anyone fed up with the Confederate influence on the national discourse. But like Taibbi or Bill Maher, Thompson isn’t aiming just to entertain; he wants readers to take his underlying argument seriously.” (The Washington Monthly)

“Portland nonfiction author Chuck Thompson’s Better Off Without ’Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession gets the election season’s regional angst off to a tartly observed start.” (Portland Monthly)

“Thank you for the copy of Better Off Without ‘Em, but I'm afraid it's New York and San Francisco that I think should secede.” (P.J. O’Rourke)

“Fry yourself some grits, unfurl that Confederate flag, and read this gem of a book. Chuck Thompson doesn’t have a politically correct bone in his Yankee body. He skewers the South mercilessly, and hilariously. And backs up his barbs with facts. Lots of facts. Better Off Without ‘Em is sure to set hearts racing, on both sides of the Mason Dixon line.” (Eric Weiner New York Times bestselling author of The Geography of Bliss)

“Often thoughtful, always irreverent . . . a raucous road trip through the South with a funny, informed, sardonic and opinionated Yankee.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Hilariously over-the-top . . . Thompson's mix of vitriol, bewilderment, humor, and research holds the seemingly disparate elements together and makes for an entertaining, if absurdly hyperbolic, read. . . . Thought-provoking.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A surprisingly worthwhile read . . . A confrontational, extreme—and occasionally convincing—argument for cutting the South loose, peppered with hilarious anecdotes.” (

“Reading and hearing about the hue and cry from thousands for secession since the election, with Texas leading the pack, I highly recommend the book Better Off Without 'Em, A Northern Manifesto For Southern Secession by Chuck Thompson. He presents an intriguing and plausible plan, with a touch of humor, that just may be the only way out of the political poison that has spread across this country and endangers the future for all of us. Plus it's a darn good history lesson.” (Boulder Daily Camera)

"A fun yet pointed case for splitting the American South away from the rest of the US, offering fiery charges combined iwth meticulously researched detail into a proposition secretly entertained by many. . . . No matter what side of the line you're on, Better Off Without 'Em makes for a thought-provoking, winning analysis." (California Bookwatch)

About the Author

Chuck Thompson is the supervising editor for Travel. His other books include the comic memoirs Smile When You’re Lying and To Hellholes and Back, and his writing has appeared in Outside, Esquire, and The New Republic, among other publications.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451616651
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451616651
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

This book was an interesting read and I enjoyed reading it.
Rae C. Gutierrez
I can only hope that the younger generation in the South starts to wake up and change things, or we will be "better off without 'em."
Melissa C.
I'm still not giving this book four stars, though, because it's just kind of boring and draggy after the first couple of chapters.
Penny Thoughtful

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

324 of 350 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Seigler on October 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
First things first; I'm a Southerner, born and bred (not inbred, I think). Chuck Thompson's new book "Better Off Without 'Em" should make me angry, and it does. But not for the reasons you might think, what with this review coming from below the Mason-Dixon line. Much like Bill Bryson before him, Thompson uses sarcastic and acid-tongued humor to arrive at some uncomfortable truths. How you respond to those is your call, but I'm writing this review.

There are a lot of things here that Thompson uses to indict the South that strike me as of the "duh!" category (slavery, Jim-Crow-era-and-beyond systemic racism, backwardness, Larry the Cable Guy)in terms of "reasons to hate the South and wish it gone" (as he advocates quite clearly in his subtitle, "A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession"). But he also uncovers some facts that show pretty clearly that we as a region are indeed dragging down the rest of the country.

Labor unions are unwelcome in the South, which boasts a "pro-business" mindset that would make Charles Dickens weep. Wages and benefits in the South are the lowest in the country, and we've managed to poach Detroit's auto industry because we bend over backwards to accomodate outside businesses (to hell with the workforce as a result). Racism is everywhere, but in the South it's the not-so-subtle motivation behind "Christian academies" and the subtle motivation behind the closing of an historic all-black elementary school in Biloxi because it outperforms white schools. The BCS, which is supposedly how the college football rankings are arrived at "scientifically," seems to favor the SEC at the cost of other conferences (many with better overall records, as Thompson shows).
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85 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Florence, SC on October 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a gritty, hard hitting, political commentary on why our political system is in trouble. Thompson will gain no popularity, in southern political circles, for his "tell it like it is" appraisal of the south. As a southerner, I see first hand exactly what Thompson exposes. Those people who study political systems will see the book as a likely start in opening a dialog where the myths of the southern systems are opened to full examination.
If you believe that humans rode dinosaurs, that the BCS is a fair system, and that education is not something that everyone is entitled to, then this book is not for you.
If you're even debating the purchase, then you may already have a more liberal stance on social issues than is prevalent throughout the south.
Thompson backs up his assertions with references, and although his commentary is laced with his own brand of sarcasm, he makes case after case that the south has not yet decided to join mainstream America.
Fascinating reading, well put together. This would not be something that I would take to the local gun club in SC to read while waiting my turn at the range.
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58 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Keller on October 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Unlike most of the one star reviewers, I actually read this book. To be sure, this book is obviously a polemic. In between statistics are a lot of .stories like the one of the Maryland black state senator from ten years ago who stopped in a Florida bar and was told "we serve blacks in the back room." In short, the south is full of racism and uneducated people many for which the "War of northern aggression" happened yesterday. I wouldn't recommend this book if it was just an amusing polemic, but it comes at a time when the Supreme Court is set to invalidate major portions of the most significant civil rights legislation, The Voting Rights Act. The Court is also set in this term to overturn affirmative action in college admission (ironically Clarence Thomas, who benefited more from affirmative action than anyone in America, is set to cast the deciding vote against it). At the same time the South is increasingly causing significant economic damage to the U.S. and it's reputation by being the refuge of Northern industry (eg Boeing), high wage European companies (eg Ikea) and auto manufactures worldwide who want a nonunion U.S. factory.
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84 of 106 people found the following review helpful By OldLine on August 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not surprised to see a mix of 5 star and 1 star reviews, but hopefully the latter spent time to actually read the book beyond the first several pages to recognize the hyperbole. I found the book to be extremely well-written, insightful and humorous. The facts that stick with me include the data on very low property tax rate structure in southern states relative to the rest of the country and the social, economic, and cultural impacts that has had through generations. Do southerners really take more federal assistance than they contribute, while other parts of the country have positive ratios? Interesting read that I would recommend to others who appreciate a dose of humor with their politics. Thompson has nutz to take on the topic under this title. That much is inarguable. The author uses the premise to pull out some thought-provoking insight and facts. I guess everyone understands that he's not really serious -- right?
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100 of 127 people found the following review helpful By Melissa C. on August 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I spent the first 31 years of my life in the northeast, followed by the next 19 in Atlanta, and the last two back in the northeast. Thus, I feel qualified to speak about the topic of this book. As other reviewers say, there is still some good in the south, some good people, good educational institutions, etc. However, the good are overwhelmed by the majority this book describes, stuck in the past, wanting to govern by religion and only their religion and their interpretation of religion at that, clueless as to what constitutes a good education, unwilling to fund public education sufficiently, uncaring about the well being of others as long as they personally are okay - I could go on. As the U.S. becomes more diverse and multicultural, the South fights to remain the country of the white male. I can only hope that the younger generation in the South starts to wake up and change things, or we will be "better off without 'em." If Southerners are offended by this book, then I would ask them to look in the mirror and do something about it. For me, this book was a catharsis. For others who feel as I do, you will find yourself nodding your head in agreement as you read this book just as I did.
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