The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture Revised Edition

53 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0871568779
ISBN-10: 0871568772
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The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture + The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry + Our Only World: Ten Essays
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The mid-20th-century environmental crisis that led to important protective legislation in the 1970s, is, to poet/farmer Wendell Berry's mind, also a crisis of character, agriculture, and culture. Because Americans are divorced from the land, they mistreat it; because they are divorced from each other, they mistreat those around them. Berry, writing in a prophetic mode, argues that if Americans are to heal the environmental wounds their land has suffered, they will also need to create more meaningful work, sustain happier and healthier lives, and return to what conservatives call "family values." The Unsettling of America is a quarter century old now, but most of its arguments remain current.

From the Inside Flap

Berry's assessment of modern agriculture and its relationship to American culture--our health, economy, personal relationships, morals, and spiritual values--is more timely than ever. This new edition of Berry's work presents a a classic testament to the value of the American family farm.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; Revised edition (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871568772
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871568779
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Chris Lesieutre on November 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read this book years ago. Haunting. Who would have thought that a book about agriculture in America could qualify as literature. What Berry says in this book should wake you up (it woke me up, and that is enough to expect from a non-fiction work). But it is not just the facts that make this book. The writing is extraordinary. It is well researched. The ideas are presented in a very sober and direct manner. And at the same time, it is no dispassionate account. That is what was so striking to me on first reading. It is written as if the author were trying to restrain himself, holding back. And by doing so, it creates a sort of tension -- between the lines -- that you can feel from cover to cover. I don't think that I have ever read another book since that oozed so much of anger without ever stating the anger outright. Because of this book, I've gone on to read most of Berry's work as it has appeared, and I would recommend it all. But start with this one. It breathes fire.
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful By jeff chandler on March 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Just simply blowed away by negative reviews of this book. I grew up on a small farm when you could still make a living there. Our rural community was much closer, neighborly, trusting, and thick with the smells, sounds and sights of country living. I left home at 18 traveling the world in our military and ran from that "work ethic and way of life" on the farm. Lived in some of this worlds largest cities discovering first hand all the reasons why country living was "paradise on earth."

Oh, I've heard all the urban preachers and their reasons why they love the city. I lived it!!!!!

Is there any wonder why higher income people are moving into rural america! Land prices are thru the roof, they come here with their city mind, mouth and motivations. Why? Because they want a view and try to escape all those negative things in the city. Not to mention raise their kids in a small coummunity in hopes of everyone and everything turning out ok. They don't understand farming communities, our culture, our history nor our way of life.

Ah! We are free! But wait, they come here and destroy our pastoral settings and fill the land with strip malls, fast food joints, quick marts and infrastructure that makes it "country no more."

If any farmer holds out in this "developers dream of a jauggernaut" these new "country folk" start raising cain about the country sights, smell and sounds and want the farmer gone.

Wendell is right on in this book. Oh sure there are bits and pieces of his opinion that rub some liberal wrong. But hey I'm sure a few conservatives cried foul too.

Open up your mind and heart. Look at the facts. Can you trust corporate america? Big brother? Individual selfishness and greed?
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Pierre Bull on October 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Berry writes in a very eloquent and poignant manner to enlighten readers about the big American misconception that modern agriculture and technology is the only way to prosper. It's time for education, politics, and the public make intelligent decisions based on real consequences that affect the land, our health, and common bonds, and to look beyond the narrow minded system of profits and production. I recommend this book to any person who cares about the environment, agriculture, and public policy.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Christopher W. Gibbs on April 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
I grew up in Clarksville, TN, on the border with Guthrie, KY. Up the road not too far is Port Royal, KY, where one of the greatest living Americans still resides. He has lived there as long as I have been alive, and I am now over 30, but I had never heard of Wendell Berry until I had passed my thirtieth year. Were it not for the incomparable radio program "Unwelcome Guests", I may never have heard of him. It is a testament to the failure of our economy, education system, and culture, and it is why no thinking American doubts we are nearing a tragic and historic collapse; we are sliding fast down a snow-packed slope like a child on a greased sled. Our only short-term destiny is to smack into a tree.

"The Unsettling of America" is nearly as old as I am, and it is as alive and timely as the day it was written. Probably even more so, since its remedies are the salves for our national malady, and they need an even more urgent prescription and application today than they did 30 years ago. Berry not only succinctly and brilliantly describes how we lost our small farmers, he astutely ties that loss to the loss of culture, belonging, responsibility, community, and character we all feel and mourn in our modern lives, even if we don't understand or fully comprehend that empty feeling. It is, after all, called agri-CULTURE because the land is tied intimately with culture, and to convert agriculture into agribusiness is to divorce people from nature, from a responsibility towards nature, and from an understanding of her cycles and patterns, without which, we are incomplete; it is to convert all of us from nurturers into usurpers and exploiters, as Berry explains throughout.

So, this is not just a book about the loss of the small farmer.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Aguilar on October 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
Wendell Berry says everything I feel and everything I have thought since I was a child growing up in S. Calif. watching the beautiful land be consumed ruthlessly by development. There is something wrong with todays ways, and I can't put it to words, but thankfully Wendell can! I wish I could get this book into everyones home and read by all. Though you do sense the sadness of the loss of all that is of real value, you also sense the hope of what our future will be like, after the oil. We will have to return to this eventually, or we will become extinct. Well done Wendell, I will be looking for your other works.
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