About Time I Read It: Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time

When one of your highly intelligent and well-read friend tells you to read a particular book, you should probably read it. When another one of those type of friends tells you to read the same book, again you should probably read it. When your highly intelligent and well-read brother-in law tells you to read the same book, again you should probably read it. And when you discover that same book won the National Book Award, you should definitely read it.

Some of you might remember well over a year ago when I bought a copy of Timothy Egan’s 2005 award-winning The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great America Dust Bowl at a church book sale. After letting it sit unread in a big stack of trade paperbacks beneath my cheap home entertainment system for far too long I finally grabbed it one evening and started reading it. Holy cow I’m glad I did. This is an excellent book.

But talk is cheap. So what makes The Worst Hard Time an excellent book ? First of all, it’s well written. Second of all, it’s well researched. But what sets it apart from other “great American disaster” books is the author’s ability to expertly weave together a coherent and enjoyable narrative comprising both the overarching aspects of the disaster with the individual life histories of those impacted by the Dust Bowl tragedy. Thanks to Egan the suffering masses are treated as living, breathing human beings and not faceless statistics. The result is a book that’s both powerful and enjoyable to read. When I put together my “best of” list in about a week, there’s a good chance The Worst Hard Time will be on it.

18 thoughts on “About Time I Read It: Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time

  1. Sounds really great – it’s funny how we so often tend to ignore the best recommendations the longest isn’t it? Personally I’m always worried it just won’t live up and I’ll be disappointed / will let down my well read friend!


  2. Well it’s about time. I have it on DVD but it looks as if you can watch the Farm Security Administration movie (described in the book) “The Plow that Broke the Plains” on YouTube. It’s worth watching.


  3. Cool ! Thanks for reminding me to do that. I was going to do a YouTube search for that movie and promptly forgot about it. I actually got to see it in my 20th century American history class eons ago.
    Yep, about time I read this !!!


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  6. I’d heard of Egan’s The Big Burn and had that one on my to-read list, but clearly I need to add this one too. I like what you say about it getting the big picture but also making the story about individual humans too. Just the sort of thing I like in nonfiction books about big topics such as this.


  7. “The Big Burn” rocked. I reviewed that one on my blog a while back. I found Egan’s writing style very easy to read. I keep seeing this book on many people’s Best of lists so I will have to hunt this one down too. Thanks.


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