"You will not read a more important book about America this year."—The Economist
"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal
"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for more than forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.'s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.
A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.
Located in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park is a 9.75-acre public park that is perhaps best known for its historic Washington Square Arch, a landmark at the foot of 5th Avenue. Hundreds, if not thousands, pass through the park every day, some sit on benches enjoying the sunshine, play a game of chess, watch their children play in the playground, take their dog to the dog runs, or sit by the fountain or, sometimes, buy or sell drugs. The park has an extremely low crime rate. Sociologist, and local resident, Erich Goode wants to know why. He notes that many visitors do violate park rules and ordinances, even engaging in misdemeanors like cigarette and marijuana smoking, alcohol consumption, public urination, skateboarding and bike riding. And yet, he argues, contrary to the well-known “broken windows” theory, which suggests that small crimes left unchecked lead to major crimes, serious crimes hardly ever take place there. Why with such an immense volume of infractions—and people—are there so little felonious or serious, and virtually no violent, crime?
With rich and detailed observations as well as in-depth interviews, Goode demonstrates how onlookers, bystanders, and witnesses—both denizens and your average casual park visitor—provide an effective system of social control, keeping more serious wrongdoing in check. Goode also profiles the parks visitors, showing us that the park is a major draw to residents and tourists alike. Visitors come from all over; only a quarter of the park’s visitors live in the neighborhood (the Village and SoHo), one out of ten are tourists, and one out of six are from upper Manhattan or the Bronx. Goode looks at the patterns of who visits the park, when they come, and, once in the park, where they go. Regardless of where they live, Goode argues, all of the Park’s visitors help keep the park safe and lively.
The Taming of New York’s Washington Square is an engaging and entertaining look at a surprisingly safe space in the heart of Manhattan.
These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.
Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: Freakonomics.
Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they explore the hidden side of . . . well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.
What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking.
Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.
Bonus material added to the revised and expanded 2006 editionThe original New York Times Magazine article about Steven D. Levitt by Stephen J. Dubner, which led to the creation of this book.Seven “Freakonomics” columns written for the New York Times Magazine, published between August 2005 and April 2006.Selected entries from the Freakonomics blog, posted between April 2005 and May 2006 at http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/.