Nomadland
From the beet fields of North Dakota to the campgrounds of California to Amazon’s CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older adults. These invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in RVs and modified vans, forming a growing community of nomads.Nomadland tells a revelatory tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy—one which foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, it celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive, but have not given up hope.

Nomadland Details

TitleNomadland
Author
ReleaseSep 4th, 2018
PublisherW. W. Norton Company
ISBN-139780393356311
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Travel, Sociology, Audiobook, Economics

Nomadland Review

  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 A month or so ago I read Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, and now having read this, I have come to the conclusion that I have no idea what is going on I'm my own country. "At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job and worked hard) everything would be fine. That's no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still send up broke, alone, homeless."A whole society of 3.5 A month or so ago I read Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, and now having read this, I have come to the conclusion that I have no idea what is going on I'm my own country. "At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job and worked hard) everything would be fine. That's no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still send up broke, alone, homeless."A whole society of seniors, most between Sixty and eighty, who after the recession and housing collapse in 2008, lost everything. Walked away from houses where more was owed than the house was now worth. Watched their 401ks dwindle to nothing. They converted trucks, vans, buses, whatever could be bought cheaply and took to the road. They work at various places, at campsites and National parks, where they are camp hosts. Carnivals, beet harvest, which is a hard job, but it is Camperforce that is the largest employee. Run by Amazon to staff their huge warehouses in the four months before Christmas. They say they are free, but I know there is no way I could live this life. Mind you, we are not talking about s few people, but literally thousands. I think this country has much to answer for if an eighty year old has to work so hard, after working his whole life. Many of these people had good jobs once upon a time, and I can't help but think this country needs a do over. A book that was very informative, I applaud these people who didn't give up, but found a way that seems to work for them. Still, this book made me angry.
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  • Richard Derus
    January 1, 1970
    Real Rating: 3.5* of fiveI'm not sure how this happened: A talented writer with a well-regarded agent sells a book to an established and deeply experienced editor at a very good publishing house; the net result is a series of magazine articles, good ones mind you, strung into chapters with some basic tarting-up transitions stuffed in the cracks.The subject is the source of my upthrusting the earned three-star rating. I'm amazed and appalled that "the world is such a cruel place for the US middle Real Rating: 3.5* of fiveI'm not sure how this happened: A talented writer with a well-regarded agent sells a book to an established and deeply experienced editor at a very good publishing house; the net result is a series of magazine articles, good ones mind you, strung into chapters with some basic tarting-up transitions stuffed in the cracks.The subject is the source of my upthrusting the earned three-star rating. I'm amazed and appalled that "the world is such a cruel place for the US middle class" needs shouting about. Yet it does. I read Methland not so long ago; its tale of towns being eaten alive by the desperate need to Make It even if it means going against the law of the land like Lori Arnold (sister of Tom Arnold, ex-husband of loudmouth Roseanne the Racist) did seems almost quaint. Making It isn't a viable option for the unemployed older worker. Keeping up a house has been replaced in the older homeowner's worrywarting with plain old keeping the house they scrimped and saved to buy. Pensions are no more; 401(k) plans are flattened; Social Security is under attack from greedyass politicos and banksters. What in the hell does someone who can't make her (most likely medical) bills going to do?That medical-bill thing is an underplayed thread constant throughout the narrative Author Bruder spins. Person after person, story after story, has its starting point with the medical issues that beset all of us and are particularly prevalent among us oldsters. Author Bruder never fails to elucidate the nature of the medical issues. She's letting you know without doing the teller and the told the insulting condescension of saying outright, "this is due to the insane US medical system, and yes these are people with genuine conditions and diseases who need treatment not shirkers." The mostly older workampers (a word coined by the owners of Workamper dot com in 1987 for the growing legions of mobile, seasonal workers) do jobs that stress their already taxed and aging bodies; then they go "home" to a space most of y'all would sneer at. But it's their own. And so they remain houseless but not homeless.The people houseless after the 2008 implosion are, in significant numbers, taking to the road. They've traded real estate for wheel estate. They have no choice. It's a simple truth that women are the major sufferers, since they've historically earned less than men and now, in older years, are in line to receive lower Social Security payouts. And the hiring bias for permanent, professional jobs (that we're told doesn't exist) discriminates against women and then, insult to injury, against older workers. Takin' it to the streets has changed meaning in the forty-plus years since the Doobie Brothers sang it. (That was only partially ironic.)The unbearable whiteness of the mobile homeless is another sad commentary on how the inequality of the US system plays out. People of Color don't follow the nomadic way. Why? When one is at risk of DEATH in a goddamned traffic stop why do you even ask the fucking question?! So the meager assistance and illusory control offered to whites as they take to the road is denied to darker-skinned citizens. I'm seriously irked by the disjointed nature of the book. Many things are excellent. Author Bruder is a quality storyteller. I'm a smidge uncomfortable about the smacks-of-disaster-tourism nature of a three-year research project into a subject that has no real relevance to the life of a Boerum Hill-dwelling Columbia University professor. I'm willing to skip past that for the light her work shines on those of us thrown away by our sacred US system...absent timely and generous help from friends, this story could be my very own...but then I smack into the disorganization problem.I don't doubt that there is an organizing principle at work here. The author's a journalist. The editor's an experienced pro. But I can't follow it in any kind of satisfying, narrative-building way. My failing? Permaybehaps...but from the first chapter I got the idea that a narrative would unfold that included two people as my focus. That didn't happen because one person, Linda, whose story really is the backbone of the tale, disappears and reappears at different times doing different things at various stages of her life, while Silvianne vanishes for the length of a Bible before sprouting back into view near the end, and what I assumed was a close friendship kinda wasn't but there's another closer friend who doesn't appear that much in Linda's narrative. I'm left wondering if the reason might not be that LaVonne (the aforementioned friend) called out Author Bruder's motives early on (which we're not told early on, another chronological lapse).Whatever my quibbles about structure, the information in the piece is grounded in solid reporting. You'll have to look at the endnotes to know this. There are a few footnotes, but these are parenthetical asides. The absence of inline citations is, in my view, not a good decision. Howsomever I can at least see the point of it: Inline citations in a popular social history will scare off the punters, and the slenderness of the proffered analysis of a section of the homelessness epidemic will cause derisory snortings and contemptuous pooh-poohings from Academia.I hope this book achieves a wide readership among those most in need of its blend of qualities: The comfortable and clueless six-figurers who infest our gentrifying coastal cities. It can happen to you, kids, and it becomes a very great deal more likely to the less likely you are to vote in November 2018.
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  • Kelli
    January 1, 1970
    I want to begin by saying that I listened to this audiobook and I definitely do NOT recommend that experience. I am truly surprised I made it through to the end. Trust me, get the actual book. (Also, this book uses lots of special jargon and because I listened, I may be misspelling these special words and may have incorrectly punctuated the quote at the end.)Im having a hard time reviewing this book. At its core its about a little known subculture of poor retirees who are basically forced by I want to begin by saying that I listened to this audiobook and I definitely do NOT recommend that experience. I am truly surprised I made it through to the end. Trust me, get the actual book. (Also, this book uses lots of special jargon and because I listened, I may be misspelling these special words and may have incorrectly punctuated the quote at the end.)I’m having a hard time reviewing this book. At its core it’s about a little known subculture of poor retirees who are basically forced by circumstance to live in vans, used campers, trucks and other old, tiny vehicles not intended for living. They travel from state to state doing hard labor for low wages. This community of “workampers” share tips and ideas through social media and at annual gatherings like the “Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.” The author followed these people around for three years, but the star of the book is Linda May, a woman who seems infinitely happy and positive, despite living in a tiny camper without a bathroom, having no healthcare, and frankly working her ass off for very low wages. Honestly, this woman should be an inspirational speaker. She was always so upbeat. But therein lies my issue with the book. It often felt like the author was selling this lifestyle as something good. It’s not good. When people who have worked hard their entire lives are forced into these living situations, no bonfire party can put a shine in that. These people go without healthcare and work like dogs. I found it tremendously depressing. This book could benefit greatly from more input from sociologists, economists, and psychologists. While it brought to light this phenomena of van-dwelling itinerant workers, it lacked balance, lost its power and eventually felt redundant. Story after story of people, many from California, rising above their circumstances to celebrate their new “wheel estate” and “vanily,” yet they are living in vehicles and essentially alone. The biggest shock for me was the horrendous working conditions at Amazon, where older workers are recruited through their Camper Force initiative. Amazon provides free over-the-counter pain medication for these workers, who are expected to keep a dizzying pace filling orders, often walking more than 15 miles in a work day. Repetitive motion injuries abound, as do many other physical problems that accompany racewalking on concrete. Here is a quote from the always upbeat Linda May:Right now I am working in a big warehouse for a major online supplier. The stuff is crap all made somewhere else in the world where they don’t have child labor laws, where the workers labor 14 to 16 hour days without meals or bathroom breaks. There is 1,000,000 ft.² in this warehouse packed with stuff that won’t last a month. It is all going to a landfill. This company has hundreds of warehouses. Our economy is built on the backs of slaves we keep in other countries like China, India, Mexico...any third world country with a cheap labor force where we don’t have to see them but where we can enjoy the fruits of their labor. This American corporation is probably the biggest slaveowner in the world. She then goes on to comment on how consumers are in turn enslaved by said corporation as they buy more and more things then don’t need and work more and more to pay for those things. Hmmm.Food for thought and perhaps another conversation. 3 stars but again, if you do decide to read this, skip the audio.
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  • Jenna
    January 1, 1970
    At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job, and worked hard) everything would be fine, he told readers. Thats no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still end up broke, alone, and homeless. What do a former Washington State University academic adviser, former taxi driver, former advertising art director, former office manager, and former broadcast journalist have in common? They all, “At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job, and worked hard) everything would be fine,” he told readers. “That’s no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still end up broke, alone, and homeless.” What do a former Washington State University academic adviser, former taxi driver, former advertising art director, former office manager, and former broadcast journalist have in common? They all, after having chased the American Dream for years, found themselves houseless, living out of RVs and vans, travelling around the US looking for work. After years of chasing it, they found that the American Dream was nothing but a big ol' con.Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century was an eye-opener for me. I had no idea about the growing number of people, many of them past retirement age, living out of vehicles. As costs of living continue to rise and wages and social security payments stagnate, many are being forced out of their homes, unable to pay rent and utilities and still have enough money for food and other necessities. It is becoming harder and harder to find jobs with a livable income and thus people are forced into circumstances they would previously not have been able to imagine. In Nomadland, author Jessica Bruder takes us into the lives of several modern-day nomads. For three years she travelled around the country, getting to know them and often living like them, out of a van she purchased for this reason. She writes with compassion and insight of these hard-working and proud individuals who find increasingly creative ways in which to survive. Some of the people she writes about lost their homes and/or savings in the economic and housing crisis. Others lost their homes due to illness. Still others found themselves unable to remain in their homes after losing a decent-paying job and being unable to find another, partly due to agism in the workplace and partly due to employers not wanting to pay a living wage. I usually prefer non-fiction without a ton of "human interest" stories, ones that are more hard fact than personal stories. However, for this book, the myriad personal stories worked. The way in which it is written gives a wide look into the lives, and former lives, of several of America's new houseless (these individuals prefer to be called houseless rather than homeless, because the latter implies they don't have a place to live. They do have a place to live -- out of their vehicles-- even if it's not a residence most of us would want.)These brave individuals try to remain positive and hopeful, no matter what circumstance they find themselves in. They are nothing if not innovative. It was amazing to me, seeing the ways in which they think of to survive, no matter what hardships they face. This book made me angry(ier) and it made me anxious. It was impossible to read without feeling anxiety for these people whose stories make up the pages, wondering how they will survive, or if they will survive. It was impossible to not feel some anxiety for my own future as well, as Ms, Bruder shows how easy it is to find oneself in this situation and knowing that the cost of living is always rising and yet incomes are not. The other eye-opening (for me) aspect of this book is how companies are preying on the predicaments people find themselves in, in order to take advantage of their situation. Amazon especially has found a way to make money off of the increasing number of transient people. They send recruiters to the RV camps to round up hard-working people for temporary holiday jobs. They provide free parking and yet pay minimally. These are people in their 60s, 70s, even 80s, forced to work 12 hour days. Physically demanding work in return for pennies. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has a net worth of 155.6 billion USD (as of 2019) and he cannot afford to pay workers a living wage?? Despicable. Just as bad as the Walton family. I am even further incensed, learning that these companies get federal tax credits (ranging from 25 to 40 percent of wages) for hiring people on SSI or food stamps. What. The. FUCK??? So, they pay their workers shit, meaning they have to stay on government assistance, and then the companies are rewarded for it?? This is some fucked-up shit, if you'll excuse the language. OK, moving along, before I really start ranting. In spite of the anger and anxiety this book aroused in me, I'm very glad to have read it and learned about these extraordinary and resilient people. It is well-researched, and shows the tenacity of people, the ability to find a way to survive in spite of bad circumstances. Indeed, to not just survive, but to do so whilst finding the positive in their situations. The majority of the people Ms. Bruder writes about have chosen to view their lives as one of freedom from materialism and consumerism rather than as one of hardship. It is hard not to feel a sense of freedom in this lifestyle, and yet it is not one I desire. I come away from this book with a profound respect for the Nomad class... and a searing anger at a system that forces people, even the elderly, into these situations. Highly recommend.
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  • Kelly (and the Book Boar)
    January 1, 1970
    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job, and worked hard) everything would be fine. Thats no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still end up broke, alone, and homeless. Nomadland is the three year study of a subset of retirees living the above quote. Either due to losing (or never acquiring) a pension, the housing bust, Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ “At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job, and worked hard) everything would be fine. That’s no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still end up broke, alone, and homeless.” Nomadland is the three year study of a subset of retirees living the above quote. Either due to losing (or never acquiring) a pension, the housing bust, market crash, divorce, or a handful of other unpredictable situations, these folks have chosen a lifestyle similar to “a modern-day version of The Grapes of Wrath.” Their homes???? Their work? Whatever the change in season and change of location brings. From the much advertised . . . . For the Christmas rush to various harvests in the Fall . . . To maintaining campgrounds and manning rides at amusement parks throughout North America in the summer . . . . (Ouch, shoulda ducked there, fella.)These are people with an incomparable work ethic who have chosen to do whatever it takes in order to get by. They have swapped $100,000 per year budgets for $75 per week and comfortable homes with sprawling lawns in suburbia for motor homes, modified delivery vehicles and pull-behind campers. Their stories are simply fascinating. Highly recommended to those who have never experienced more than a First World Problem as well as anyone who is looking for non-fiction with the page turnability factor like what was found in Evicted.
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  • Darlene
    January 1, 1970
    "Some call them homeless. The new nomads refer to themselves as 'houseless'. Many took to the road after their savings were obliterated by the Great Recession. To keep their gas tanks and bellies full, they work long hours at hard, physical jobs. In a time of flat wages and rising housing costs, they have unshackled themselves from rent and mortgages as a way to get by. They are surviving America."I finished reading this book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century weeks ago "Some call them homeless. The new nomads refer to themselves as 'houseless'. Many took to the road after their savings were obliterated by the Great Recession. To keep their gas tanks and bellies full, they work long hours at hard, physical jobs. In a time of flat wages and rising housing costs, they have unshackled themselves from rent and mortgages as a way to get by. They are surviving America."I finished reading this book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century weeks ago and since then it has weighed heavily on my mind. I confess that I have been avoiding writing this review but each time I walk past my desk, the cover of the book catches my eye.... This book began as an article written by social justice journalist, Jessica Bruder. Because Ms. Bruder studies cultural trends, she became aware of a disturbing trend, one which seemed to appear after the Great Recession... the development of a kind of geriatric underclass or caste system. Recalling to mind the 'hobos' of the Great Depression of the 1930s, Ms. Bruder describes a group of modern-day nomadic people she had had the opportunity to become acquainted with, following them across America as they pursued one grueling job after another.Although the cast of characters is substantial, each of the wanderers in this book has a unique story ... stories which served to remind me of just how frayed the social safety net has become the United States. Jessica Bruder DOES present a kind of protagonist in this book whom she appears to have developed a relationship with and her name is Linda May. Linda is a 64-year-old woman who has found herself living on the edge many times throughout her life.. sometimes living without running water or electricity and sometimes couch-surfing with her daughter and family. Even though she had worked many jobs throughout her life, as a general contractor, insurance executive, cocktail waitress and even owning her own business for a time, she had never managed to secure a job which provided her with that ever-elusive, coveted benefit... a pension. When Linda realized that her social security check would only total $499/month and her rent was $600/month, she knew she would have to make a drastic adjustment to her lifestyle if she wanted to survive. That was when she discovered a website that would change her life and set her on a course to join the ever-growing group of people who refer to themselves as 'workampers'. The website had been created by a man named Bob Wells, a clerk at a Safeway grocery chain in Alaska, who had gone broke and ended up living in his van. His years of experiences inspired him to create a website to provide tips for 'transient survival' and it surely inspired Linda. Linda, who had taken a short-term but well-paying job at a Veterans' Affairs Hospital, managed to save $4,000 which she used to buy an 18' 1994 Eldorado mobile home. It smelled musty, had a broken generator, bald tires and it had recently been wrecked. Nevertheless, this mobile home was to become Linda's home-on-wheels. Loading all of her worldly possessions into the Eldorado (which she nicknamed the 'Squeeze Inn'), Linda began her new life as part of this nomadic community, heading to her first seasonal job at a campground near Yosemite National Park . Her duties at the campground included registration of the visitors, collection of the camping fees and keeping the outdoor toilets clean; and for her labor, she was paid $8.50/hour and of course, a place to park her mobile home. These campground jobs are popular with people living the nomadic life. According to Kampgrounds of America, a major employer of these workampers, they employ about 1,500 people each year. When Linda May's workamper job ended in September, she was on her way to her next seasonal job in Fenley, Arizona where Amazon has a warehouse and employs a workforce made up entirely of RV dwellers. This workforce, known as Amazon CamperForce, is comprised of people mainly in their 60s and 70s, who work during Amazon's peak shopping season (Christmas). The CamperForce are paid $12.25/ hour but the work is tedious and grueling. As part of a digital newsletter Amazon publishes for its CamperForce, they recommend that prospective employees be able to lift 50 lbs. at a time in an environment where the temperature may exceed 90 degrees. And the warehouse is so enormous that one worker who posted his Fitbit log demonstrated that in 12 1/2 weeks of work, he had walked 820 miles. This book shows only too clearly that in the United States, plans for retirement have been undergoing a dramatic shift since the Great Recession. A poll suggests that Americans now fear outliving their assets more than they fear dying; and only 17% of Americans plan on not having to work in their later years. Some, of course, will continue to work to remain connected socially and to stay active; but many will work out of economic necessity. According to an interview Ms. Bruder conducted with Monique Morrissey, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, what is occurring in the U.S. is the "first ever reversal in retirement security in modern U.S. history. Starting with the younger baby boomers, each successive generation is now doing worse than previous generations in terms of their ability to retire without seeing a drop in living standards." This demographic is being referred to as downwardly mobile older Americans and is growing at an alarming rate.Jessica Bruder spent two years traveling with Linda May and her group of nomads ... traveling from campground to Amazon warehouses; from roadside stands selling everything from fireworks for the 4th of July to Christmas trees; and from picking raspberries in Vermont to harvesting the sugar beet crop in Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota. This book is filled with personal stories and lest you find yourself wanting to sit in judgment or place blame on these people... something many Americans seem incapable of NOT doing... keep this in mind... although there are some people in this group who spent their lives working low wage jobs for various reasons, there ARE just as many who are educated. Many had been college professors, business owners and in white collar management positions and had been victims of the 2008 market crash which vaporized all of their savings. Many lost their jobs and could not find new ones which allowed them to meet their mortgage payments rent and others lost their homes to foreclosure. What ALL of these people had in common was that they believed they had been part of a social contract... a contract that promised that if you played by the rules set up by government and society and you worked hard throughout your life, everything would be fine. Instead, they learned that what they had believed was untrue. Although I found (and still find) this book deeply troubling, I am moved by the way in which Jessica Bruder wrote about the people she had come to know. She wrote about them with compassion, sensitivity and respect; and she awarded them with the dignity they deserve. But I admit that I was also struck by the precariousness of their position and I believe the daily instability of their lives was not lost on Ms. Bruder either. Even though this group of 'houseless' people were cheerful, hopeful and had set up their very own society (or subculture), there was always a profound feeling of despair that came through on each and every page of this book. It also wasn't lost on me that their advancing ages presented a host of future challenges- what would happen if they became seriously ill? unable to drive? physically incapable of performing the grueling seasonal work they had been relying on to get by? Each of these people were just one illness, injury or expensive vehicle repair away from personal catastrophe and they had no resources at their disposal. Jessica Bruder closes this book with two important questions and I will close my review with those same questions... 'What parts of this life are you willing to give up, so you can keep on living?" And "When do impossible choices start to tear people- a society-apart?"Here is a link to a 'Huffington Post' article about the impossibility of obtaining affordable housing in the U.S...https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/...
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  • Sheri
    January 1, 1970
    Nomadland offers various talking points to ponder over and deliberate such as vehicle dwelling, the nomadic lifestyle, and economic issues. I got the most out of Part One which talked mainly about the reasons behind vehicle dwelling and thus my review reflects my thoughts primarily on that section. "At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job, and worked hard) everything would be fine. That's no longer true today. You can do everything Nomadland offers various talking points to ponder over and deliberate such as vehicle dwelling, the nomadic lifestyle, and economic issues. I got the most out of Part One which talked mainly about the reasons behind vehicle dwelling and thus my review reflects my thoughts primarily on that section. "At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job, and worked hard) everything would be fine. That's no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still end up broke, alone, and homeless." (p. 74)The people you read about in Nomadland are people who are down on their luck, out of options, and out of time. Everyone has experienced a financial loss of some sort and "had fallen a long, long way from the middle-class comforts they had always taken for granted." (p. 61) After time and money ran out, somewhere, somehow, these people got the idea that living in a vehicle was a viable, or perhaps the only, alternative to more traditional housing. "There have always been itinerants, drifters, hobos, restless souls. But now, in the second millennium, a new kind of wandering tribe is emerging. People who never imagined being nomads are hitting the road. They're giving up traditional houses and apartments to live in what some call "wheel estate" -- vans, secondhand RVs, school buses, pickup campers, travel trailers, and plain old sedans. They are driving away from the impossible choices that face what used to be the middle class." (p. xii) After reading the foreword, I got the impression that this lifestyle has been romanticized. Later on the idea that a nomadic life is an escape of sorts is presented; "one could be reborn into a life of freedom and adventure." (p. 74) While the title and description led me to believe that this book would be about survival and doing what you have to do to stay alive, it seems to be focused more on people who chose this lifestyle rather than people who were forced into it. Don't get me wrong, many were forced into vehicle dwelling but it is not seen as a last resort but rather a new and different place to call home. I don't think I am explaining myself very well here...I feel like the vehicle dwellers chronicled here have given up on the classic American Dream for another cheaper version. Some may say hey, that's okay. We all need to find and do what works for us, there is no one set way. I do agree with that idea yet I can't help but feel that these people aren't really choosing this lifestyle. That for the great majority, if they had not suffered a financial loss, had planned to be and still would be traditional home dwellers. I applaud those who have managed to put a positive spin on a negative situation but the mind-set doesn't quite ring true. It's a hard and stressful life but that is glossed over by blogs and gatherings supporting this nomadic lifestyle. I struggled to get through the rest of the book after Part One as I wasn't as interested in the subject matter as when I first started. This is an interesting read that turned out to be different than I was expecting. It is certainly still thought provoking and would make a great book club read.
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  • Sabine
    January 1, 1970
    Since my plan is to spend most of my time travelling North America in an RV when I retire I have been doing a lot of research on the subject of living in an RV.It was a very shocking eye opener when I first discovered that there are people living in cars, vans and RV's just to make ends meet.The author has spent a long time talking and living with these nomads and even workingthe same seasonal jobs. So we get a very interesting and real glimpse at their current lives and what causes people to Since my plan is to spend most of my time travelling North America in an RV when I retire I have been doing a lot of research on the subject of living in an RV.It was a very shocking eye opener when I first discovered that there are people living in cars, vans and RV's just to make ends meet.The author has spent a long time talking and living with these nomads and even workingthe same seasonal jobs. So we get a very interesting and real glimpse at their current lives and what causes people to "choose" this lifestyle.
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  • Brandice
    January 1, 1970
    I found Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First century to be a nearly even split between fascinating and terrifying. Journalist Jessica Bruder observes and travels along with nomads across the United States. Most of these nomads are older adults, and while some form of freedom and living off the grid may sound appealing, many had limited other options, particularly after the hard times that rocked the nation in 2008. They live in RVs, older converted vans and trucks, and occasionally I found Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First century to be a nearly even split between fascinating and terrifying. Journalist Jessica Bruder observes and travels along with “nomads” across the United States. Most of these nomads are older adults, and while some form of freedom and living off the grid may sound appealing, many had limited other options, particularly after the hard times that rocked the nation in 2008. They live in RVs, older converted vans and trucks, and occasionally motor homes. They drive and camp across the country, frequently setting up shop in close proximity to seasonal, temporary jobs, dubbing themselves “workampers.” A few examples of such jobs include working in Amazon’s massive warehouses as inventory scanners, working for the seasonal harvest of sugar beets in Minnesota and North Dakota, and working as campsite staff for California state parks. While not always mentally stimulating, the work often involves long hours and manual, physical labor. The pay frequently ranges from $9-12 an hour. The nomads (as a whole) often take offense to being called “homeless”, preferring “houseless” instead. This book was anxiety-inducing for me, thinking about the struggle many of them endure, living paycheck to paycheck on (what’s widely considered) meager wages, just to make enough to pay for live-in vehicle repairs, groceries, and in the event of any medical emergencies, bills. I know this struggle is not unique to nomads, though the book was an isolated study of this particular group. I did admire the nomads’ constant creativity in finding ways to get by - enduring the labor of these temporary jobs or using various items to equip their vans for long-term, more permanent use. It was also inspiring to see their regularly optimistic attitudes. I enjoyed the chapters toward the end where Jessica truly attempted to immerse herself in this van-dwelling nomadic culture. I thought her assessments were honest and fair throughout the book. While this lifestyle, whether by choice or circumstance, doesn’t remotely appeal to me, I recognize no dream is universal to everyone, including the traditional picture of The American Dream. Though it made me anxious, Nomandland was an intriguing study of a subculture I had no idea existed.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    [4+] I am feeling so many emotions after finishing this book about older Americans who live a nomadic life. I feel sad that there aren't more options in our country for work and healthcare and housing. I am angry that people in their 60s and 70s need to work 10 hour days in transient jobs like those in Amazon warehouses. And I am filled with admiration at the ingenuity and bravery of these "houseless" men and women who have found a way to live that gives them the freedom they need. Bruder did an [4+] I am feeling so many emotions after finishing this book about older Americans who live a nomadic life. I feel sad that there aren't more options in our country for work and healthcare and housing. I am angry that people in their 60s and 70s need to work 10 hour days in transient jobs like those in Amazon warehouses. And I am filled with admiration at the ingenuity and bravery of these "houseless" men and women who have found a way to live that gives them the freedom they need. Bruder did an excellent job bringing to life several individuals, particularly Linda May, and portraying them with dignity.
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  • Caren
    January 1, 1970
    This was an engrossing but very unsettling read. Similar to the book "Evicted"(Matthew Desmond), the author entered into a community, in this case-- work campers, following them on the road and working some of their jobs. She interviewed many folks, but followed a few in more detail. One woman in particular, Linda May, became her friend and the centerpiece of her story. Most of her subjects were people who would traditionally be considered of retirement age---in their 60s and 70s, even a few in This was an engrossing but very unsettling read. Similar to the book "Evicted"(Matthew Desmond), the author entered into a community, in this case-- work campers, following them on the road and working some of their jobs. She interviewed many folks, but followed a few in more detail. One woman in particular, Linda May, became her friend and the centerpiece of her story. Most of her subjects were people who would traditionally be considered of retirement age---in their 60s and 70s, even a few in their 80s. These people were once solidly in the middle class, but for various reasons (and often due to circumstances that arose during the Great Recession) found the economics of their former lives impossible to sustain. Some lost their jobs and couldn't find new jobs that paid what their old jobs had, or couldn't find any jobs at all. Some had their houses foreclosed, or could no longer pay their rent and afford food. Health-related debt or divorce may have destroyed their finances. Their situations became economically untenable and they made the choice that kept them from ending up on the streets (or living with one of their kids): they live in their vehicles. Some live in vans, some in very old RVs, some even in cars. (One younger fellow actually lived in a Prius. I can't really imagine that.) They travel about for seasonal work. Linda May began working as a camp host in parks in California. The state had contracted out the jobs to a separate company. The hours were long and poorly paid. The host not only registered campers, but had to deal with late-night noise complaints and spend days cleaning camp sites and the toilets. After doing that job for the summer months, she moved on to work in an Amazon warehouse for the months leading up to the holiday season. Apparently, Amazon receives some sort of tax incentive for hiring older workers, so it actually prefers them. The hours are long and the job brutal. Ms. Bruder worked the job herself in order to give us an insider's view. It is probably worse than I imagined. (This aspect of the book reminded me of Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickled and Dimed".) Other seasonal jobs were for an amusement park and the beet harvest in the late fall. Ms. Bruder also worked the beet harvest, which seemed dangerous even for a younger worker. These jobs, as you can tell, all entail hard physical work. It was common for the workers to either be injured (and remember, there are no health insurance benefits for these jobs) or to just ache from the physical rigor the jobs required. (Amazon provided pain killer dispensers in their warehouses.) OK readers, imagine that your parents or grandparents who are in their 60s or 70s have to travel around in beat-up vans to work hard physical jobs just to exist. How does that make you feel about the good old USA? In the case of Linda May, she took social security at 62 (which, because it is not full retirement age, imposes a financial penalty). She received $500-something a month until she turned 65 and began paying for Medicare, after which her monthly payments dropped to $400-something per month. As Ms. Bruder pointed out, women mostly do have lower social security checks because they make less money and because they are the ones who have often taken time away from paid employment to care for others (whether their children or their parents). Lots of the people Ms. Bruder interviewed were single women, on the road alone. This hidden community has tricks for finding places to park for the night. Walmart will mostly turn a blind eye and allow overnight parking. There is an online community to instruct newbies on the finer points of living in your vehicle, including how to install solar panels on the roof, how to use a 5-gallon bucket as a toilet, how to keep warm in freezing weather...Ms. Bruder provides some food for thought: "Many of the workers I met in the Amazon camps were part of a demographic that in recent years has grown with alarming speed: downwardly mobile older Americans....Monique Morrissey, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, spoke with me about the unprecedented nature of this change. 'We're facing the first-ever reversal in retirement security in modern U.S. history,' she explained. 'Starting with the younger baby boomers, each successive generation is now doing worse than previous generations in terms of their ability to retire without seeing a drop in living standards.' That means no rest for the aging. Nearly nine million Americans sixty-five and older were still employed in 2016, up 60 percent from a decade earlier. Economists expect those numbers---along with the percentage of seniors in the labor force---to keep rising. A recent poll suggests that Americans now fear outliving their assets more than they fear dying. Another survey finds that, although most older Americans still view retirement as 'a time of leisure', only 17 percent anticipate not working at all in their later years." (pages 62-63).Further, she says:"Over the last generation, we have witnessed a massive transfer of economic risk from broad structures of insurance, including those sponsored by the corporate sector as well as by government, onto the fragile balance sheets of American families", Yale political scientist Jacob S. Hacker writes in his book 'The Great Risk Shift'. The overarching message: "You are on your own". All of which is to say that Social Security is now the largest single source of income for most Americans sixty-five and older. But it's woefully inadequate. 'Instead of a three-legged stool, we have a pogo stick", quipped Peter Brady of the Investment Company Institute. That means barely enough for necessities. Nearly half of middle-class workers may be forced to live on a food budget of as little as $5 a day when they retire, according to Teresa Ghilarducci, an economist and professor at the New School in New York City. "I call it 'the end of retirement,'" she said in an interview. Many retirees simply can't survive without some sort of paycheck. Meanwhile, she noted, jobs for older Americans are paying less and less and becoming ever more physically taxing.She worries we're returning to the world that Lee Welling Squier described more than a century ago. " (pages 66-67)Ms. Bruder spoke with some younger work campers too. Here is the story one related:"...Ash had watched her own parents fall out of the middle class after her father, an electrical engineer with a six-figure salary, got laid off in 2001. He was too proud to take a lower-paying job, at least before the family's finances were depleted. Then he ended up driving school buses in the morning and working at Walmart at night. 'Anyway, I'm seeing my parents in their mid-sixties with no retirement, you know, everything that they built over their entire life just disappeared. And then with the recession you see that happening to more people.' Ash said. Though she'd always considered herself to be a 'follower', she began to worry that, even if she adhered to all of society's rules for living an upright middle-class life, she'd have no guarantee of stability. " (pages 106-107)This is an eye-opener of a book. Being on the road in your RV may have sounded slightly romantic before I read this book. Now, I just think this is very, very sad.
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  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    I don't read much non-fiction these days, but when I saw this one, I knew I had to read it, since I too am a nomad and have lived full-time in a motorhome with my husband and our dog for two years now. I found this book completely engaging, startling in some ways, and fascinating.This book is both a sociological treasure and a very personal study. The nomadic folks profiled herein by journalist/writer Jessica Bruder are a little different from me and my husband, as we chose this lifestyle after I don't read much non-fiction these days, but when I saw this one, I knew I had to read it, since I too am a nomad and have lived full-time in a motorhome with my husband and our dog for two years now. I found this book completely engaging, startling in some ways, and fascinating.This book is both a sociological treasure and a very personal study. The nomadic folks profiled herein by journalist/writer Jessica Bruder are a little different from me and my husband, as we chose this lifestyle after retiring from well-paying careers as software engineers and as such are fortunate enough to be able to live comfortably on our investments without having to take some of the sometimes back-breaking and spirit-breaking jobs described in this book. We pay for our sites in campgrounds and RV parks and aren't forced to "stealth camp", hoping we don't get a knock from a police officer in the middle of the night.A lot of the folks profiled in Bruder's study lost everything in the economic downturn of 2008 -- or never had much to begin with and got to the point where they couldn't afford to keep their homes or rent an apartment -- so they choose to live in a van, small camper, or even a car instead, outfitting their vehicles with the minimum necessities for living, no luxuries. Many of these nomads outright reject societal conventions and choose to live as "new-age outlaws" so they can live debt-free. Their fiesty spirits and frustration with the failing American Dream are not lost on me, and I respect them. Despite living a conventional American life until I turned 50 and began exploring life in areas outside the US and beginning a full-time RV lifestyle in the US two years ago, I have a bit of a gypsy rebel inside as well or I'd probably never have tried this lifestyle! I'm just a lot luckier than the nomads profiled here.This book gave me a better understanding of some of the folks we see at the various campgrounds we've stayed at over the past two years and what many are going through. It didn't paint a very pretty picture of camphosting (longer hours than what they're paid for and difficult work), Amazon (really tough work and not much humanity), or the sugar beet harvest (probably the toughest backbreaking, dangerous work, especially for older folks). I was impressed that the author actually lived among the nomads for three years and took on some of the jobs to see what it was really like down in the trenches. She made me thankful for my own life but also sad that so many in the "land of the free, home of the brave" have to live like this by necessity, often having to park illegally in cities in lieu of paying for a campsite. Our government leaders may not be aware of this, and this book should be required reading for everyone in government positions.I am dying to know if Linda builds her Earthship and hope there will be a way to get an update down the road someday....
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  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    Nomadland takes a deep look at the growing culture of van-dwellers and other nomads that attempt to live on the road, because they can't afford to live otherwise. I thought it was a particularly poignant read after reading Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City earlier this year, since that book examines the issue of eviction among people attempting to still live in traditional ways. The people in this book have left town, leaving mortgages and rent behind, to try to make it through Nomadland takes a deep look at the growing culture of van-dwellers and other nomads that attempt to live on the road, because they can't afford to live otherwise. I thought it was a particularly poignant read after reading Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City earlier this year, since that book examines the issue of eviction among people attempting to still live in traditional ways. The people in this book have left town, leaving mortgages and rent behind, to try to make it through seasonal work all over the country. The author spent three years and got to know many of the people she writes about very well, and I think because of this is able to provide greater insight than people who treat this lifestyle as quirky or the newest hobby of snowbirds. For many of the people in this book, this is the last chance they have to make ends meet, and it is not an easy way to live. There is no safety net.I received a copy of this book when the publisher had leftovers from ALA and I requested a copy via e-mail. I think I expected it to be more about hipsters than retirees, but was happy with the actual focus of the book.
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  • Onceinabluemoon
    January 1, 1970
    This was such a sad eye opening read, a whole subculture I knew nothing about, subsidized by Amazon. My husband and I listened in the car, I said how many stars, he said three, I bellowed 5, it's a topic I knew zip about and I was hanging on every word. He quickly upped his rating to four 😉
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  • Dan
    January 1, 1970
    THE LONDON FINANCIAL TIMES called Quartzsite one of Americas more bizarre and seriously demented places. But Quartzsite is not a national aberration. Youd be hard-pressed to find a town that is so American.Nomadland started out as a frustrating read for me. The writing wasnt great and the people were drawn superficially. Then about half way through, beginning with the chapter on the RV parks and the way of life in Quartzite Arizona, the book became more interesting. First the bad, the author THE LONDON FINANCIAL TIMES called Quartzsite “one of America’s more bizarre and seriously demented places.” But Quartzsite is not a national aberration. You’d be hard-pressed to find a town that is so American.Nomadland started out as a frustrating read for me. The writing wasn’t great and the people were drawn superficially. Then about half way through, beginning with the chapter on the RV parks and the way of life in Quartzite Arizona, the book became more interesting. First the bad, the author does a poor job of describing much of anything in detail especially people. She tells us about the many people, subjects of the book, she meets who are houseless and essentially nomads moving from one RV park in the desert Southwest to another. She wants the stories to be personal but never once describes what the people look like. Pretty basic stuff. Secondly she does not always stay on topic long enough — the pace moves a little too quickly. Chapter 6 called the Gathering Place takes place in Quartzite AZ, is descriptive and very informative. The next chapter called the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, largely about the author’s seasonal job in an Amazon shipping facility complete with robots, was excellent as well and humorous. By the end of the book, I think the author achieved what she set out to do and it is a convincing book. I guess it should be acknowledged that there was palpable angst for me upon reading this book because of the serious subject matter. For most of us in America, without adequate safety nets, we are one lost job or two away from some real financial hardship and the life style documented in this book does not seem that far-fetched. Thus the story can hit a little close to home. This is not necessarily a negative and one of the hooks to keep the reader invested. I gave Nomad 3.5 stars and rounded down to 3 because the beginning of the book was poorly written. I think with some better editing and more of a show-me style of narrative, this book could have easily been four stars.
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  • Yun
    January 1, 1970
    In Nomadland, Bruder takes an unflinching yet sympathetic look at the growing population of Americans forced into living in mobile homes or vehicles due to their inability to afford traditional mortgages or make rent. These Americans, made up mostly of the elderly, cannot afford to retire and instead drive across the country looking for seasonal work to make ends meet or to supplement meager social security incomes.The seasonal work they find tend to pay poorly and have terrible working In Nomadland, Bruder takes an unflinching yet sympathetic look at the growing population of Americans forced into living in mobile homes or vehicles due to their inability to afford traditional mortgages or make rent. These Americans, made up mostly of the elderly, cannot afford to retire and instead drive across the country looking for seasonal work to make ends meet or to supplement meager social security incomes.The seasonal work they find tend to pay poorly and have terrible working conditions. The book spends a good amount of time detailing their experiences with some of the biggest employers of temp workers, one of which is Amazon. They talk about working 10 or 12 hour shifts (often at night), in sweltering temperatures, lifting, scanning, and loading packages, and squatting and running on concrete through Amazon's vast warehouses, the size equivalent of 19 football fields. They have to take pain medicine before and after their shifts just to get through it. And they often get repetitive stress injuries that last much longer than the time of their seasonal employment, all the while being paid at or near minimum wage.Another interesting area that the book discusses is the difficulty and logistics in parking a mobile home or vehicle. Most camping grounds have a time limit of 2 weeks. After that, you must leave and find a new place to camp that is at least 25 miles away. Police and neighborhoods also don't look kindly upon people sleeping in their cars. As a result, there is a fear among these folks of getting caught or harassed, and in general of not being accepted by their family and friends. Yet, there is a hopefulness that permeates the people in Bruder's book. They remain optimistic against all odds, trying to view their nomadic lifestyle as a late-life chance at adventure and freedom. They subscribe to the notion that you don't need material goods in order to live a full and happy life. They form online communities and often meet regularly in person around the country to share their knowledge of this lifestyle and to bolster each other up, often forming lasting friendships.In order to do the research for her book, Bruder spent three years on the road, and for a time lived out of a van that she purchased, so that she can better understand this lifestyle. As a result, I found the book enlightening and would recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about how some people who are not able to make ends meet in the traditional sense have carved out a nomadic lifestyle for themselves on the fringes of American society.
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  • Diane Yannick
    January 1, 1970
    This book introduced me to a growing subculture of seniors who can not afford to grow old. Many parts of this lifestyle were upsetting as I am once again awakened to my privilege. Not all of the nomads in this book made bad choices so we cant go around feeling like this could never happen to me. Many of them lost respectable jobs or savings due to our countrys economic policies. Others had devastating medical expenses. They all ended up living in RVs, cars, truckstheir wheel estate. They This book introduced me to a growing subculture of seniors who can “not afford to grow old”. Many parts of this lifestyle were upsetting as I am once again awakened to my privilege. Not all of the nomads in this book made bad choices so we can’t go around feeling like this could never happen to me. Many of them lost respectable jobs or savings due to our country’s economic policies. Others had devastating medical expenses. They all ended up living in RVs, cars, trucks—their wheel estate. They attempted to travel and live off the grid in order to survive. Living off the grid is not as easy as I thought. It seemed like they were always getting chased from their landing spots, except when a Walmart was near.Workampers was a new term to me. In order to make money, the campers knew where to get hourly jobs. Without exception, it was backbreaking work. Amazon is their biggest employer and I will never think of this company with the same enthusiasm. I did not think about seniors working 10 hour days on concrete floors, lifting packages, grabbing pain killers from the dispensers on the wall. I did not know that Amazon (and I guess other large companies) get a 25%-40% federal tax credit for hiring the elderly. I was appalled to learn that they would prefer to station ambulances and paramedics outside their hot facility rather than open loading doors for ventilation. Linda May, a 64 year old former cocktail waitress & insurance executive, and her much loved dog, were a heartwarming pair. She along with may others sought to create a community and be there for each other in times of need. When they met at their yearly Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, the camaraderie and deep-seated desire to give to others was touching. Yet, Linda yearned for land to anchor her. One man lived in a refitted Prius. Now that’s pretty darn amazing. Jessica Bruder is a commendable journalist who was able to make her book both informative and interesting. She did not take any shortcuts. She travelled 15,000 miles during the 3 years she spent traveling with and working beside her nomads. She became a temporary part of a private tribe. She even bought her own much used van which she named Halen. Her life in NYC would never feel quite the same. I walk away realizing that retirement can be fragile but that the human spirit is strong.
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  • Andrew
    January 1, 1970
    A surprising look at the people, mainly retirees, who are houseless not homeless. In a throwback to the 1930s they travel across America in mobile homes and converted vehicles, generally off the radar, taking seasonal work. Because they can't afford the lifestyle we should all hope retired workers receive.It's one of those pretty damning indictments of America's social fabric. And let's be careful about too much Canadian smugness until we look at our own seniors.
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  • Helga Cohen
    January 1, 1970
    Nomadland was an eye opening book that gave a peek into a society that is literally all around us and in plain sight. A large number of Americans cant afford to retire or afford to stay in their homes or rent a home. They cant afford the rent or mortgage payments so they have opted to live in RVs, campers, vans or even cars while they work seasonal jobs moving around the country. The author interviewed many people and followed them on the road for 3 years and even worked some of their jobs to Nomadland was an eye opening book that gave a peek into a society that is literally all around us and in plain sight. A large number of Americans can’t afford to retire or afford to stay in their homes or rent a home. They can’t afford the rent or mortgage payments so they have opted to live in RV’s, campers, vans or even cars while they work seasonal jobs moving around the country. The author interviewed many people and followed them on the road for 3 years and even worked some of their jobs to get their stories.I wonder now as I see some of these RV’s and campers if they are nomads. Some have had corporate jobs and were downsized and others lost jobs during the 2008 Recession. Linda May, 64, one woman in particular and formerly an insurance executive, became Bruder’s friend and centerpiece in her story. Linda May began working as a camp host in California parks. The state contracted the work out to a private company and they had workers work long hours, many overtime but were barely paid minimum wages and no overtime pay. The camp host had to deal with late night noise complaints and clean camp sites among registering them. Another seasonal job Linda May worked as well as the author was beet harvesting in late fall, quite labor intensive and dangerous. And then both were employed by Amazon.Many of these nomads work at Amazon as work campers. They make a little more than the minimum wage and have spots to park their campers. Many of these workers are in their 60’s and 70’s and are expected to walk many miles a day (10 or more) on hard concrete in the warehouses. They scan in products that are purchased by consumers that many times are junk that ends up in landfills. How much of this stuff do we really need? I’ll think twice before I will order some things that maybe I don’t really need or can get locally.As Bruder stated, many of the workers she met in the Amazon camps and seasonal jobs were part of a demographic that in recent years has grown with alarming speed: downwardly mobile older Americans. “Starting with the younger baby boomers, each successive generation is now doing worse than the previous generations in terms of their ability to retire without seeing a drop in living standards.” Economists expect the numbers to keep rising.This was definitely an eye opening book about a group of people that are houseless not homeless and mostly retirees. It is really sad to read about them. It was well worth reading about this emerging culture in America.
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    This was a brutal and powerful read about the ways in which older Americans are "making due" while having little money to live off in their older years. Bruder follows a series of folks who are working seasonal, low-paying jobs that thrive from the work of these older workers, with a really in-depth look at CamperForce, Amazon's seasonal employees. I have always known Amazon to be a problem with their workers, of course, but this was something else all together. Imagine your grandmother or This was a brutal and powerful read about the ways in which older Americans are "making due" while having little money to live off in their older years. Bruder follows a series of folks who are working seasonal, low-paying jobs that thrive from the work of these older workers, with a really in-depth look at CamperForce, Amazon's seasonal employees. I have always known Amazon to be a problem with their workers, of course, but this was something else all together. Imagine your grandmother or grandfather walking 15-17 miles a day, getting repetitive injuries, and doing it for 10+ hours a day for a meager $7.25. I can't. I can't. I originally picked this up because I'd met a pair of older folks while on vacation earlier this year who talked about being camp hosts in Wisconsin for the summer, and that they lived in their RV in Arizona in the "off-seasons." And now I know so much about them I never knew I would know. I spent a long time wondering when Bruder would look at race and gender, and she does. The gender issue here is horrifying -- women outlive men, make less money then men, and find themselves in real dire situations post-retirement more than men because of this -- and the exploration of race, while not as in-depth, is explained through the lens of how much safer it is for white Americans TO travel and live in their cars/RVs than it is for people of color. The audiobook production is pretty terrible, with a voice that reminded me of a GPS system, but the book itself kept me listening. Definitely one to pick up if you care about class in America. It won't make you feel good, but there's something to be said about books like that. It kills me to think about how much these older Americans have simply lowered their expectations -- and it makes me think about how my generation, already with no expectations, will ever manage in 30 years. We won't. And we won't even have terrible jobs like this to try to have, either.Pair this one with Janesville: An American Story. I think part of why I didn't find this book SHOCKING is because I read Janesville prior.
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  • Theresa
    January 1, 1970
    Bruder spent nearly 4 years exploring the lives of retirees who have fallen out of the middle class and now travel the country in often substandard RVs, campers, and trucks. Since many can't afford heat or air conditioning, weather often dictates their current location as well as seasonal jobs with national parks, vegetable farms, and Amazon. Despite being in their 60s and 70s, all these jobs entail hard, physical labor at a punishing pace for very low wages. Amazon evens maintains dispensers of Bruder spent nearly 4 years exploring the lives of retirees who have fallen out of the middle class and now travel the country in often substandard RVs, campers, and trucks. Since many can't afford heat or air conditioning, weather often dictates their current location as well as seasonal jobs with national parks, vegetable farms, and Amazon. Despite being in their 60s and 70s, all these jobs entail hard, physical labor at a punishing pace for very low wages. Amazon evens maintains dispensers of Advil and Aleve on the job sites to help them get through the day. The main story focuses on Linda May who took to the road when she lost her home and moved in with her daughter to sleep on a couch. As Linda May travels the west, the reader meets other memorable characters -- Sylvie Ann, Bob Wells, and Ash. The Rubber Tramps Rendezvous is an annual two-week meetup where people reunite with old friends, swap and share frugal tips, and look for the next "workamper" job to keep body and soul together. This book is an honest, hard look at the ever-continuing aftershocks of the 2008 recession.
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  • John Devlin
    January 1, 1970
    I'm impressed by the resourcefulness of many of these campers. I wish they could take that ingenuity and find away to make money so they weren't forced to live in a van.I was moved by many of their plights and felt the apprehension they must all feel as they constantly are just one slip, one engine light, one unanticipated event from disaster.That said, where the author, who writes well, fails to elaborate is on how these folks got to such an awful nexus. Understandably, she can't be a I'm impressed by the resourcefulness of many of these campers. I wish they could take that ingenuity and find away to make money so they weren't forced to live in a van.I was moved by many of their plights and felt the apprehension they must all feel as they constantly are just one slip, one engine light, one unanticipated event from disaster.That said, where the author, who writes well, fails to elaborate is on how these folks got to such an awful nexus. Understandably, she can't be a prosecutor going over the validity of each sad story. People tend to stop talking if you challenge their carefully constructed illusions of the 'story of their lives.'"How many people will get crushed by the system?" Here's is the core of my disagreement. The system - capitalism - had lifted a billion people out of poverty in just the last 25 years, the system is not run by anyone - it simply comprises the millions of individual decisions that liberty loving people make every day they CHOOSE to buy something. These people were not failed by the system. First, since the author never analyzes how these folk got to such a bad place that point is unprovable, but second the idea that Capitalism must provide a decent standard of living for everyone regardless of work, education, or industriousness is patently absurd.Before Capitalism, feudalism allowed people to gain wealth through murder, rape, and pillage - and there was a real 1% who got over on the 99%. Capitalism has created a world where an American on the poverty line lives better than John Rockefeller the richest man lived just 100 years ago.In other words, Capitalism is great, but it ain't no utopia.
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  • Lorna
    January 1, 1970
    Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by author and award-winning journalist Jessica Bruder is an insightful and chilling look at economic struggle of so many Americans subsequent to the financial collapse in 2008 and resulting economic recession. These are people that have found that they were unable to make ends meet on their Social Security benefits. Many were forced into an early retirement because of the economic collapse of so many corporations and businesses, and Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by author and award-winning journalist Jessica Bruder is an insightful and chilling look at economic struggle of so many Americans subsequent to the financial collapse in 2008 and resulting economic recession. These are people that have found that they were unable to make ends meet on their Social Security benefits. Many were forced into an early retirement because of the economic collapse of so many corporations and businesses, and unable to obtain another comparable job and benefits. Others were forced into economic peril by divorce or health issues or foreclosure on their homes. Many were unable to meet the skyrocketing rents.This is the population that has taken to the road, moving about the country for seasonal jobs; many with Amazon, some with parks and recreations facilities hosting at campsites in the national parks. Bruder immersed herself over a period of years with an ever-expanding population that call themselves workampers as they move about the country, living in their recreational vehicles, vans and many in their cars. Bruder lived in her van she named "Halen" as she migrated around the country with this burgeoning population. Bruder focuses on a few of these people and follows their struggles and successes. This book is a testament to the resilience, ingenuity and camaraderie of humanity. However, one can't help but fear that this is a harbinger of what is to come.
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  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    January 1, 1970
    This is a well-researched look at the lives of RV, van, and car dwellers. The focus is mainly on older Americans who have adopted the lifestyle often out of necessity, but sometimes out of a preference for a simpler life. Gaining in popularity after the 2008 financial crisis, many were forced to work temp jobs at places such as Amazon warehouses, sugar beet factories, and camp monitors. The work is difficult, but the community is often a comfort.
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  • Pamela
    January 1, 1970
    After reading Jessica Bruder's Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, I will never be able to drive into Wall-Mart's parking lot or the lot of any open all night grocery store or the like without looking to see if there are a couple of vans parked somewhere on the outer edges. And I certainly will never feel the same way about ordering from Amazon again. I won't be able to look at an RV no matter the size and wonder if it really would be fun to travel the open road and live in After reading Jessica Bruder's Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, I will never be able to drive into Wall-Mart's parking lot or the lot of any open all night grocery store or the like without looking to see if there are a couple of vans parked somewhere on the outer edges. And I certainly will never feel the same way about ordering from Amazon again. I won't be able to look at an RV no matter the size and wonder if it really would be fun to travel the open road and live in one of those mobile campers. This book exposes a whole underclass of American citizens, mainly elderly, white, no longer employable in today's regular economy who have fallen out of the middle class. They have chosen to become "houseless" not homeless and roam across the country doing a series of temporary jobs and living off the grid in a variety of vehicles from luxury RV's that they are stuck still paying for, to old campers from decades ago to refurbished vans, stripped to serve as psuedo homes.These new vagabonds lost their economic way mainly as a result of the Great Recession that began in 2008. When the mortgage industry tanked they may have lost homes, and with the market downturn, jobs as well. Since most were already in their 50's and 60's getting new jobs of equal value or jobs of any value was difficult, if not impossible, especially for the women. Now in their 70's, they take jobs as camp hosts at the National Parks for maybe $8.50 during the summer where the heat is sweltering and they may work 10-12 hour days but only get paid for 8. Then it's on to Amazon warehouses for seasonal work. Good pay but immensely hard work walking sometimes 17 miles a day on concrete floors and squatting up to a thousand times a night placing goods on shelves. Amazon places ibuprofen dispensers in the aisles free of charge! It is hard to say, after finishing this, just where to lay the blame. Everywhere and Nowhere. Some are in this fix because of a lifetime of poor decision making. Some due to bad habits, bad luck, too much pride, too stubborn. Still, a lot of it has to do with the way we are structuring the modern economy. Short term gains, an emphasis on wealth as the only measure of success and declining compassion for others. So long as the people affected remain out of sight and out of mind, we will continue to ignore these obvious problems until they begin to tear all of us and the entire country apart.
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  • JoAnn
    January 1, 1970
    Not at all what I was expecting, but an engrossing read nonetheless. This is the American dream gone awry for a sizable portion of 21st century retirees. The author joined the growing community of van dwellers for three years... learning of their hopes, struggles, and triumphs. Recommended.
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  • Robin
    January 1, 1970
    If I could, I've give this six stars; it's that good. More to come.Thanks to WW Norton for the advance reading copy.
  • Brendan Monroe
    January 1, 1970
    For the record, I've never liked camping. Growing up, my dad would drag my siblings and me out to some campground just off the highway near Phoenix, Arizona. "It's not camping if you can hear the sound of rush hour traffic!" I remember thinking. Having moved to Florida sometime later, I begged my dad to let me go camping with a group I'd just gotten involved with called the "Royal Rangers". For those who don't know, which is probably all of you, the Royal Rangers are the (very) Christian For the record, I've never liked camping. Growing up, my dad would drag my siblings and me out to some campground just off the highway near Phoenix, Arizona. "It's not camping if you can hear the sound of rush hour traffic!" I remember thinking. Having moved to Florida sometime later, I begged my dad to let me go camping with a group I'd just gotten involved with called the "Royal Rangers". For those who don't know, which is probably all of you, the Royal Rangers are the (very) Christian equivalent of the Boy Scouts. Because that was a space that needed filling. My dad was more than happy to send me off, of course, thinking that I'd finally caught the camping bug.I hated it. Everything. Setting up the tent, earning badges by doing things like memorizing Bible verses, the strange kids (and adults) I met there.In a section of "Nomadland", Jessica Bruder speculates on why American "nomad" life seems to be the almost exclusive domain of white people. "Black people don't like camping", she hears. I have no idea whether or not an activity like camping can be broken down along racial lines, but I'm relieved to hear that I'm not alone in finding the idea of "roughing it" to be something other than a positively swell time. The difference is that the people featured in "Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century" aren't roughing it for fun, they're roughing it out of necessity. Most of those she interviews are older retirees, except they have no money to retire but are forced to live inside a van 365 days a year and work odd seasonal jobs to make ends meet. There were times reading "Nomadland" where I thought that Jessica Bruder was putting far too much of an optimistic spin on this way of life. This optimism is largely a reflection of the pride (self-delusion?) of the people she interviews, most of whom are quick to state that they're not "homeless" but "houseless", as if they fear being lumped in with "those people". I don't doubt that many of these nomads genuinely do love being constantly on the move and at times I almost envied their ability to just pick up and go wherever (provided they have enough money saved up for the gasoline). But that's to overlook the crisis that caused these nomads to up and leave in the first place.Bruder points out towards the end of the book that the gap that exists in America between the haves and the have-nots is the greatest among all industrialized countries, comparable with that of Russia. It is incredibly upsetting that in America, in 2018, folks who have worked their entire lives are forced to live in a van because they can't afford proper housing. That's a disgrace and I can't talk much about it without foaming furiously all over myself.Nowhere is this gap more evident than at the seasonal job almost all of these "nomads" seem to have had at one point or another - working at one of Amazon's factory warehouses. The working conditions at these factories end up taking up a good part of the book. I'd read a story in The New York Times some years back about the dreadful conditions in the Amazon factories so I was already well aware of this side of things. In case you don't know, let me just assure you that the working conditions there are terrible and you should pay the extra 4 or 5 bucks to buy your books from an independent bookseller - or your batman dildos from your local batman dildo supplier - and stop supporting this humanity destroying behemoth. You'd think Jeff Bezos could fork over some of his 100 billion or whatever it is so that his factory employees, like all the 60 and 70-year-olds featured here, could earn more than the measly 10 or 11 bucks an hour they get paid to walk on concrete hauling 50-pound plus items for 10+ hours a day, wouldn't you? And no, that's not communism, that's just common sense!I'll certainly never look at an RV or a van parked overnight in a Wal-Mart parking lot the same way again. It's incredibly upsetting that America does this to its own people (not that I don't care about the 8-year-olds working in Chinese sweatshops for a buck a day)."Nomadland" is an effective advocate for a minimalist lifestyle - because you never know when you might have to pack up and hit the road!
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  • Cynda
    January 1, 1970
    This will be sharp.Businesses which have harvested trees and other Earth resources have misled consumers and are now abusing workers. Jessica Bruder tells of a group of migrant workers both challenged and imaginative, workers both limited and liberated, workers on the edge. Journalist Jessica Bruder sometimes to a small extent and sometimes to a large extent gets in the way of the story. The end of the book is the most extreme example of getting in the way. Bruder wrote this last part as an This will be sharp.Businesses which have harvested trees and other Earth resources have misled consumers and are now abusing workers. Jessica Bruder tells of a group of migrant workers both challenged and imaginative, workers both limited and liberated, workers on the edge. Journalist Jessica Bruder sometimes to a small extent and sometimes to a large extent gets in the way of the story. The end of the book is the most extreme example of getting in the way. Bruder wrote this last part as an epilogue that was too detailed and too much Bruder doing journalistic research. What created the problem? Having come to love her subject-friend Linda, having gotten to close to the main part of her research, Bruder became personally involved, making sure Linda would be okay in the more or less isolated location Linda chose ecologically wise homestead.The subject and overall information is worth reading the too-personally-involved writing.
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  • Mickey
    January 1, 1970
    This book is hard to read! Why? Because it is a deep and revealing look at a growing subculture America does not want to acknowledge. What happens to middle class folks after they turn a certain age and lose their jobs, retire on meager social security, or decide they can't crash with their kids and grandkids anymore? Look around you and you'll see: they're living in their cars, RVs, or vans. Read this book, then check the local Walmart parking lot. You'll see what Bruder is talking about. We This book is hard to read! Why? Because it is a deep and revealing look at a growing subculture America does not want to acknowledge. What happens to middle class folks after they turn a certain age and lose their jobs, retire on meager social security, or decide they can't crash with their kids and grandkids anymore? Look around you and you'll see: they're living in their cars, RVs, or vans. Read this book, then check the local Walmart parking lot. You'll see what Bruder is talking about. We all need to take a good hard look at the future of our middle class.
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