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.