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Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time
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Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time

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3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  2,932 ratings  ·  519 reviews
Welcome to New Auburn, Wisconsin, where the local vigilante is a farmer's wife armed with a pistol and a Bible, the most senior member of the volunteer fire department is a cross-eyed butcher with one kidney and two ex-wives (both of whom work at the only gas station in town), and the back roads are haunted by the ghosts of children and farmers. Against a backdrop of fires ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published July 31st 2007 by Harper Perennial (first published October 1st 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Justin
WARNING: Possibly ill-advised, slightly intoxicated soap-boxing lies ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

The title of this book is slightly misleading in that it implies Michael Perry will introduce the reader to a rich, quirky swath of characters who inhabit a very small town. While there are a few folks who shine through, such as Beagle the cock-eyed firefighter, [i]Population: 485[/i] is mostly a detailed account of what goes into being a volunteer firefighter. For that, I appreciated it as this
...more
Heather C.
Oh my goodness. I have found my new favorite writer. I wish I had read this book before "Truck", as it prefaces a lot of events in that one, but what do you do.

Michael Perry's ability to put into words the people, situations and feelings he encounters is beautiful. I love the area he's from, and it reminds me of the time I spent in Warroad, Minnesota. My favorite paragraph describes his predicament of being a dyed-in-the-wool hick from a small town, but also having the heart and mind of a writer
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Nicole
I read the sequel to this book first, Truck: A Love Story, when it came across the counter at the library. I loved it and sought out any other books by the author Michael Perry.

And I loved Population: 485 too! Writers that can hold a conversation with you, make you laugh, and bring on a tear or two are rarefied in my mind. He's very relate-able, and I think even if I wasn't from a rural small town I'd still identify with his portrayal of people and the way he weaves the everyday with musings abo
...more
Cheryl
Transcendentally beautiful, heartwrenching, and lol funny - often all on the same page. I suppose I ought to tell you I grew up in a town almost as small as New Auburn, less than an hour from there, and am only a few years older than Mike. But I really don't think that disclaimer is relevant. This another amazing book by one of my very favorite authors and I highly recommend it to everyone. But don't take my word for it - consider:

"We know we're rubes, we just don't want to be taken for rubes."

"
...more
Mark Howell
This book is kind of a hybrid. There are plenty of wonderful literary works written on the "essence of small-town American life", both past and present. There are also plenty of gut-wrenching, heart-pumping Fire and EMS books for the adrenaline-junkie who doesn't care to put in a semester at the local JC for an EMT license or Firefighter-I academy (if you want a couple references check out Rescue 471 or Firefighters: Their Lives in Their Own Words, or perhaps the new one coming out soon by Shawn ...more
Daniel
A memoir, with distracted focus between life in rural America, working on a small town's volunteer fire department, bachelorhood, and death.

The book lacks a focus. Even a memoir has some kind of focus but this tried to do too much. The humor was strained. Things that I thought ought to be laugh-out-loud funny were only slightly amusing. He didn't seem to know how to set up his jokes efficiently and humorously.

Mostly I found this a bit depressing. So many of the experiences that he writes about s
...more
Gloria
What a treasure to find this little gem-- quite by accident, I might add, while paging through a sample issue of local magazine that was sent to me.
Perry's thoughtful nature, observations and stories left me laughing out loud (literally), crying and walking away from the finished book with a different view of being "stuck" in Wisconsin. Simply noticing more and enjoying the vast array of people who are here in this cold climate with me.
David P
This little gem of a book is about New Auburn, in the north-western corner of Wisconsin, land where farms alternate with forests and lakes, where people coexist with deer and the occasional bear. Garrison Keillor's "Lake Wobegon" is a humorous reflection on such a community, and New Auburn is indeed just across the state line from St. Paul, Minnesota. This book, however, is about the real thing. Michael Perry's words are clear, terse, factual and unpretentious, yet he is also a poet, so his boo ...more
Roger
At first glance, the concept of reading the tales of a volunteer firefighter in rural Wisconsin seemed an odd choice of reading material for me. However, I decided to give Population: 485 a shot and I was thrilled with the experience. Michael Perry does an excellent job of presenting a cross-section of small-town life through vivid characters and an attention to detail and perspective that I rarely find in modern authors.

Perry's light-hearted humor, self-deprecation, and appreciation of time, pl
...more
Kathryn
Favorite quotes:

"Summer here comes on like a zaftig hippie chick, jazzed on chlorophyll and flinging fistfuls of butterflies to the sun."

"I tend to run at night. The idea of running in the morning is repulsive, and I retain strong reservations about anyone who launches their day with briskness of any sort, let alone an alacritous jog."

"Commonalitis of spirit and pretension abound. The man in the Hooters cap and the woman with the NPR tote bag are not promoting restaurants and radio. NRA decals a
...more
Cait
I abandoned this book four chapters in.

This kind of read like a poorly curated blog republishment. The chapters are too long, the anecdotes per chapter are too short and too scattered.

Also: Mr. Perry, some of us in the Emergency Medical profession are sympathy heavers. Your smug pride about not being one was what finally made me put the book down.
Linda C
Perry's book is a cross between memoir, essay and short story. His stories revolve around his move back to his hometown, New Auburn, Wisconsin, when he is 30. He has had a plethora of jobs, a degree in nursing, training as an EMT and as a firefighter. Along the way he has found his calling in writing and is determined to make a living at it. At the time of this book he is writing and volunteering as an EMT/firefighter. He uses the calls as a way to describe how he got to re-enter life in town an ...more
Will Byrnes
Population 485 is Perry’s attempt to communicate what it is like to live in a small town in 21st century America. New Auburn, Wisconsin is the place in question. Perry focuses on his experiences as a volunteer fireman. He was native to the town, had been away for many years, but returned to the roots he knew. His methodology is to relate his personal tales of town life, how his volunteering proved to be a mechanism to further anchor his roots in the community, allowing him to interact with a lar ...more
Gea
If you want to read a literary book on firefighting or small town living then this is the book. Population: 485 is a hilarious and moving collection of essays written about New Auburn, Wisconsin; a town of, yes, you guessed it—485 people. Not only is Michael Perry a skilled writer, he is also a volunteer firefighter/emt, and he captures the chaos and insanity of this world beautifully.

Not many firefighters are dedicated to the literary tradition of writing, so it isn’t easy to find such a talen
...more
Shonna Froebel
Having read his book Truck: a Love Story, I was interested in reading more. This book actually was written before Truck and contains chapters about his work both as an EMS and as a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of New Auburn, Wisconsin. Perry puts it all out there, including the sad, happy, embarrassing, and comic. He talks about working with his brothers and mother, how his work as a firefighter linked him back to his community, and shows a variety of personalities in both his coworker ...more
Bethany
My brother read me a page from this book that made him stop, laugh out loud, and feel compelled to share. Ostensibly about finding your way back home in small-town Midwestern America, Michael Perry delves into philosophy, family, and how community involvement absolutely changes your life. Population 485 places Perry's coming home within the context of his experience in joining the local fire department. By turns hilarious, thought-provoking, and momentarily but deeply heart-breaking; Perry is a ...more
Jake
Mike Perry is an interesting cat. Ex-nurse turned part time volunteer firefighter and fulltime writer, living in his tiny hometown in Wisconsin farm country. He's one of those guys who make me embarrassed to be a guy, because hey, Perry's a firefighter, a medic, a hunter, a fisherman, a farmer, a backhoe driver...and he frames all this manly crap he does by admitting he's the girliest of his family, which in turn embarrasses HIM.

Anyway, framing each essay around his work as a firefighter is an i
...more
Johnny
Perry's a decent writer with a tendency to Big-Fish tales of his own heroics and ineptitudites--these moments are run of the mill and entertaining, and anyone with an interest in Heartland Americana or first responder stories will enjoy . He shines in his tender discussion of death. Much of the book is about his ability to fulfill typical masculine roles (being a good volunteer firefighter), or his [mostly humorous] failure in the effort (messing up while firefighting). But when he confronts dea ...more
Sarah
I waffled between three and four stars. On one hand, I did quite enjoy this book. It is often funny and moving and sweet and nuanced and cute and kitschy and well-written. It's a thought-provoking reflection on small-town Midwestern life and EMS/firefighter experiences.

But it was also overwritten and underedited. There was a lot of rather trite ruminating on the nature of fire and man's relation to it, and there was a lot of navel-gazing nonsense in it. And some parts felt a bit self-conscious
...more
Tellan
Read this book!

Michael Perry––a volunteer firefighter, writer, nurse, and in general a good ole' breeze-shooter--writes with a backwoods infused eloquence that will leave you laughing, crying, and laughing some more. Equipped with an impressive vocabulary and a matter-of-fact attitude, Perry takes on the challenge of describing some of the EMS world's most comical and harsh moments. EMS work is a dynamic environment that changes with each and every call. Accidents, suicide, heart-attacks, knee
...more
Ceecuppe
With the exception of Little House on the Prairie, there's not too many books set in Wisconsin, so I snatch them up when I see one. This is a memoir of sorts, written by a volunteer firefighter in tiny New Auburn, a little spit of a town about an hour from my home.

Since my only reason for choosing this book was location, I was pleased and surprised at how much I enjoyed reading about the various quirks and quirky people Michael Perry encountered during his various calls. It's less a story, more
...more
Champaign Public Library
I'm always on the lookout for authentic Midwestern writers, particularly those who accurately portray small town life, and I'm thrilled to have found Michael Perry. Native of the tiny burg of New Auburn, Wisconsin, Perry was a farm boy who left home for the writing life and a variety of other occupations. When he returned to his hometown, he correctly determined that joining the volunteer fire department would be a good way to reintegrate. Population: 485 is filled with stories of the residents ...more
Robert Strandquist
Perry weaves these disconnected yarns of a volunteer firefighter's humble heroics using threads of warm heart and affectionate humor. He spices the tales with with horror, sorrow and visceral gore. With these ingredients so prominent, I suspect that it went through a revision cycle and a proofreader's watchful eye to render a mostly successful sequence of chapters that bring our narrator of these memoirs to a nostalgic and inspiring conclusion where marriage is imminent. Having recently heard an ...more
Julia
Apr 22, 2014 Julia rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Small town romantics
Recommended to Julia by: Angie Walters
This surprisingly poetic memoir by volunteer firefighter Michael Perry was quite an enjoyable read. I didn't expect to get a whole lot out of a collection of short stories by a small town EMT, but I should have known better. Being from a small town myself, I know that they contain an enormous amount of talent and character. Perry is a classic small town romantic, gifted with artistic ability as a writer, who left town after high school to find a place where he would better "fit in." Like most of ...more
Roger Hyttinen
This author was recommended to me as a humorist and as such, was looking forward to reading his work. I quickly discovered however, that Population 485 was not the book to read if one is in the mood for a light, fun amusing read. That being said, this book was not at all what I expected. While the author certainly can turn a phrase, it was a little grim for my tastes. It consists of a series of events that the author experienced while working as an EMT (hence the "grim" aspect of the book), with ...more
Iris
The Basic Summary: Michael Perry is the only author in the tiny town of New Auburn, Wisconsin. He makes his living this way and gives back to his community via volunteer firefighting/EMT work. In this book, he reflects on life in such a small town, family, love, and being an firefighter/EMT.

My Review: Okay, so I've been considering how to review this book for a while. On the one hand, there were some very hilarous parts, such as the tales of the rollerskating Amish who live near New Auburn. Ther
...more
Chris Norbury
A candidate for the best book I've read in 2014. I'm new to Michael Perry's writing and a bit annoyed I hadn't discovered him sooner. This book, a collection of essays and reflections about life in a small northern Wisconsin town as seen through the eyes of writer/volunteer fireman Perry, has charm, wit, laugh out loud humor, touching moments, insights on life and death and love and friendship.

At times (the right times), Perry's prose is simple, direct, clear, and understands the tragedy and los
...more
Laura
I'm glad I found this book at just the right time, just as I moved back to Wisconsin. It makes me feel like I'm home.
Tim Erskine
A really credible view of life in emergency services. It turns out that firefighters and paramedics in rural, suburban and urban areas are cut from the same cloth, share the same gallows humor and view life through the same skewed prism of people who have to deal regularly with suffering and death.

Perry's views are at times poignant, generally amusing, and frequently hilarious. I'd recommend this for anyone, just so that they can get a small understanding of the people who show up at 3am to brin
...more
Barbara Irene Carter
Aug 20, 2012 Barbara Irene Carter rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Betsy Sundquist
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time by Michael Perry is a collection of essays about life in the small town of New Auburn, in Northwestern Wisconsin. Perry is a 24/7 on call EMT/Firemen and in his spare time he is a writer and the essays in this book cover a whole host of his thoughts about his family, his co-workers and the quirkiness of the people he deals with as he performs his duties. What is so extraodrinary about this book is how skillfully Perry makes the people c ...more
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population 485 1 12 Dec 19, 2013 10:16AM  
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Michael Perry is a New York Times bestselling author, humorist and radio show host from New Auburn, Wisconsin.

Perry’s bestselling memoirs include Population 485, Truck: A Love Story, Coop, and Visiting Tom. Raised on a small Midwestern dairy farm, Perry put himself through nursing school while working on a ranch in Wyoming, then wound up writing by happy accident. He lives with his wife and two da
...more
More about Michael Perry...
Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting Truck: A Love Story Visiting Tom:  A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace Off Main Street: Barnstormers, Prophets & Gatemouth's Gator: Essays The Scavengers

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“Summer here comes on like a zaftig hippie chick, jazzed on chlorophyll and flinging fistfuls of butterflies to the sun.” 11 likes
“[Fire] is lightfooted and shamanic, dancing between the visible and invisible, undoing matter one collapsed molecule at a time, wreaking utter destruction with a touch softer than breath. Its poor cousins, wind and water, are one-dimensional rubes by comparison. Wind is all push, push, push. Water is suffocating, but passively so. And even when water gets it together to be a torrent or a tsunami, it is but wet wind. Fire is at once elemental and otherworldly. Fire dances on the grave of all it destroys. Fire is serious voodoo.” 4 likes
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