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on March 9, 2016
I was born in 1935 and lived in southern Kansas until 1955. I remember some of the dust storms as if it was yesterday. I recently read my mother's 1935 diary and she frequently mentioned the terrible dust storms. I was very young during the Great Depression, but I still remember Mills, which were ten to equal one penny. I was listening to the radio when Franklin D. Rosevelt announced the attack on Pearl Harbor and December 7th, 1941 as a day that will live in infamy. My grandparents lived on a farm in northern Oklahoma. To visit there was a trip into the past. They had no electricity, no running water, an out house, kerosene lanterns, kerosene stoves, and a real ice box. They are all gone now and I can no longer ask what the conditions were in their early years. This book helped me see into the past of my own relatives.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon October 12, 2017
An amazingly powerful book about the 1930s dust bowl, how we got it, and what was done about it (often, very little). In my opinion it excels over earlier works because it gives causes for the phenomenon that plagued the Central States for years over and above the usual "dry weather and strong winds." I won't deny the book has its more pedantic aspects when it gets into climatology and such, but otherwise it's so good I would recommend it for high-school history courses -- the advanced ones, anyway.
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on October 16, 2015
As someone who's lived on the East Coast my whole life, a continuous forest with ideal farmland, I took for granted the hardship that settlers faced as they moved out West and decided to settle. However, it was also baffling how incompetent the government was in not only supporting the destruction of natural habitats without repercussions, but also the sheer idiocy they fell back in in dealing with the situation.

Timothy Egan's dive into the Great Dust Bowl is superb. His precise, narrative writing does much to draw the reader in and make its real-life characters easier to relate to. He gives personalities to these people who refused to bow down to nature and for that they were punished, in a way. But punished not only by the land, but also by their own government. Egan details the slow spiral of the Great Plains from lush prairie land to desiccated, desolate hardpan without a hint of green. He compliments the personal narratives of these farmers with in-depth historical analysis of the towns and the governments working behind the scenes, while also providing a sort of biological analysis of the ecosystem and how it rapidly fell apart.
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on May 10, 2016
Tim Egan's " The Worst Hard Time " captures the story unknown to most people. The term " Dust Bowl " may conjure up some inkling of the subject of this book but little is understood of what actaully happened on the Great Plains of America in the first 40 years of the twentieth century. The book can be considered an expose' of unbridled, thoughtless government, unscrupulous real estate swindlers, out of control greed and lack of understanding of the environment of the Great Plains. The history is intriguing and the way Egan lays out how, why and what happened almost any reader will find fascinating.From FDR, to the flim flam of " rainmakers ", to the poor inhabitants of the Central and Great plains this is a tragic story and occurrence from which we have still not learned enough. The abuse of the Plains in Kansas, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico still has not been resolved. The spectacle of runaway greed, lack of knowledge and its lasting negative impact on an entire valuable ecosystem for over one hundred years is an element of our national history that will most likely never be righted. A great read for anyone who enjoys contemporary history.
heritage that can't be undone
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on November 10, 2015
This story has inspired discussions of this era with people who lived it, but never put it into a perspective beyond the impact it had on themselves or their families. I find them nodding their heads and adding dimension to their own understanding of the times, as well as mine.

Timothy Egan is an unapologetic liberal who truthfully recounts the disastrous consequences of poorly conceived government programs that resulted in the destruction of an ecosystem that had endured for thousands of years. He also discusses, with admiration, the character, charm, and endurance of people who had only only those tools with which to face a world that was out of control.

I knew that my family's character was defined by the hardships of the Great Depression and their participation as members of the Greatest Generation, but now, I think I understand them a little better. It saddens me to think that there are cannot understand the people described in this story: people who think the American Dream is dead and that they're treated unfairly if the government doesn't guarantee them what they consider to be a living wage. Success will always be defined by working hard, working smart (the most important fact proven in this story), belief in tomorrow. Because of my family, I believe in tomorrow. Because of this story and the way it is told, I understand my family better.
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on December 3, 2013
I have some knowledge of the Dust Bowl; I've read The Grapes of Wrath, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, as well as histories of the Great Depression. However, the reality of what Americans in the Dust Bowl went through was never brought home to me until this book. Imagine living through black dust storms that lasted for hours or even days where you couldn't see your hand before your face; shoveling piles of dust out of your home multiple times a day; burying loved ones who suffocated on dust to the point their lungs were literally full of it? These are some of the horrors that Dust Bowl residents endured for years on end. This book tells the fascinating story of how bankers, railroads and government conspired to lure innocent Americans to worthless land, convincing them it was farmable. The shortsighted greedy plot not only left families penniless, but destroyed the ecology of the land, turning it from grasslands where the bison and Indians had roamed to a Sahara-like wasteland. The author introduces us to many real families and what they went through, while also weaving in information about how the government tried to right its wrongs after the Depression took hold. There are many parallels with our nation today, down to the citizens who felt Roosevelt was a "socialist" for trying to repair the damage. Sadly, although ecological changes were made to restore some of the land through Roosevelt's CCC, less than a decade after WWI began the trees he had had planted were once again being ripped out to make way for more farming. This book proves that our nation learns no lessons from its mistakes--at least not when there's money to be made. Overall, what you will take away from this book is sadness that Americans had to endure such misery, pride that they were able to and awe at the wrath of Nature when she is abused.
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on October 23, 2012
TWHT should have won every book award available the year it came out - and the years since. Simply put, this is a fine book.

People search for a non fiction book that reads like fiction. Why? Because non fiction has a bad connotation to some people and in some cases, rightly so. Some non fiction reads like a bad textbook : taking a subject that should be interesting and turning into boring and dry words on a page.

The Worst Hard Time is fascinating from first page to last. If you are interested in the Depression, farming during those times, the Great Plains, migration in the U.S. Mid 20th century ; the WPA and its ilk, the sociology of cities and towns and what happens when they are changed, traumatically. Interested in conservation methods, FDR, the effects of isolation on human beings, what happens to animals in an ecosystem when that ecosystem is destroyed and the pain of watching your children wither and die - this is your book. It also is about hope, strength, small victories and large ones too. It is also a book that will help you to understand the real seniors in your family- those in their 90's on average. What they lived through and who they became by doing so - just spellbinding stuff.

The Worst Hard Time one of my favorite books for ever and is a present I frequently give to people, who may not at first understand why I would give such a book , but after about 4 minutes of reading; the smart ones do, and are grateful.

It's a masterpiece and stays with you, unlike a dinner of chopped grass and maybe a clubbed rabbit part.
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on July 23, 2012
Cronkite said this was "can't-put-it-down history" and he was right. Timothy Egan has selected a group of hardy Dust Bowl victims and follows their battle with nature at its worst through the Dirty Thirties. You become invested in these people's lives, emotionally attached to their stories.
Egan is a brilliant storyteller. Spinning a chronological narrative, he takes us through tales of heroic individual journies in the heady boom days when prosperity on the High Plains seemed inevitable and the race to stake one's claim the greatest obstacle.
In due course America's desire to reap the harvest of gold led to the rape of the prairie. Millions of acres of rich, bountiful grassland became a desert in which even simple vegetable gardens could not survive. Families who had gambled their future lost everything they had, including their very lives as the horrific droughts and terrible dust storms ruined millions upon millions of acres, some forever.
This is a cautionary tale of unintended consequences put together by a brilliant writer. And while I found a few minor details I'd dispute, they were merely the most inconsequential points in an epic tale of greed and the failure of critical thinking by those who failed to heed nature's wrath.
Most stories about the Great Depression that deal with the Okies cover those who hit the road as in The Grapes of Wrath. This story is about those who stayed to fight against incredible odds to survive in a land and in a society turned hostile to their needs. Timothy Egan brings tears to your eyes as he unfolds the lives, the loves and the struggles of these hardy people who stayed behind when every fiber of their being said they ought to go. And many paid the highest price for their stubbornness and their bravery.
An excellent book.
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on August 18, 2017
Timothy Egan takes a dry, dusty subject and makes it come to life.

Real people living in hell managed to survive one of America's worst nightmares and still loved the land that betrayed them. These were survivors...brave, bold and maybe just a little bit crazy, few abandoning the plains where hearts never lost sight of hope.

Truly a must read for all ages.
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on November 26, 2012
As a child I heard stories from my grandparents, and later from my Dad about there experiences in the "Dust Bowl". I was always fascinated by what I heard. The misery was beyond belief. My grandparents lost three children,and ultimately their farm. If they could have only raised fifteen dollars to pay their taxes they could have saved it,but they decided to save themselves instead.They moved to California and became the hated "Okies ", even though they were from Morton Texas .i wish I had asked more questions , but I do remember that they lived in a half dugout ,which my Granny kept spotlessly clean.The loss of the children was too much for her, my Aunt said she never smiled till long after they had moved to California.they did go on to have four more children, built threir own house,while my Grandaddy work as a Carpenter after a stint at picking cotton,around Bakersfield ,California,where they raised their family. The book answered the questions I never got to ask.i appreciate that very much.
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