Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains In The 1930s” as Want to Read:
Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains In The 1930s
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains In The 1930s

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  437 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
In the mid 1930s, North America's Great Plains faced one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in world history. Donald Worster's classic chronicle of the devastating years between 1929 and 1939 tells the story of the Dust Bowl in ecological as well as human terms.
Now, twenty-five years after his book helped to define the new field of environmental history, Worste
Published September 30th 1982 by Oxford University Press, USA
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Dust Bowl, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Dust Bowl

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 934)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Jun 14, 2015 Cindy Dyson Eitelman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Not exactly a page turner...
But I enjoyed every page of it. I was expecting more lurid tales of scoured automobiles and blackened skies, but that part was over with quickly and it concentrated on the four-way collision of politics, economics, bad science and Mother Nature that resulted in the near-destruction of America's low-grass prairie. First time, then again, then again....

Some lessons were learned and some still need to be learned, for instance, in our management of the California deser
Apr 20, 2014 Samuel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Donald Worster explains how the Dust Bowl--occurring at the same time as the economic Great Depression--was not just an environmental coincidence, but a process linked to economic determinants. As Americans--farmers/producers and consumers alike--viewed nature as capital, felt entitled to exploit nature without boundaries, and encouraged a social order that left personal wealth pursuits unchecked, the American capitalistic system devastated the grassland ecology of the Great Plains (Kansas, Okla ...more
Oct 26, 2015 HBalikov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As someone who, a few years back, read Timothy Egan's "The Worst Hard Time," and later saw Ken Burns' Dust Bowl series, my mind has been captured by the terrible struggles engendered when millions of acres of prairie earth no longer could stay attached to the ground below.

As described so well and so dramatically in those renditions: people could not see their hand in front of their face; automobiles were rendered unusable; grown men and women were killed and injured by the electricity generated
Richard K
Donald Worster is a history professor at the University of Kansas who returns to his Kansas roots to write this intellectual examination of the Dust Bowl. While he presents the hardship of those living on the plains, the message tat you can not miss is that capitalism caused the Dirty Thirties. Farmers caught up in the mass production of automobiles, trucks, tractors, combines, etc. turned too much land and created a major problem with wind driven soil erosion. Worster emphasizes that the desire ...more
Jeff Crosby
Feb 19, 2014 Jeff Crosby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bancroft Prize award-winner Donald Worster's "Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s" is a rich, nuanced and robustly academic examination of the worst human-caused ecological disaster of the 20th Century - the so-called Dust Bowl during the "dirty 30s."

Unlike a number of other appraisals of the Dust Bowl I've read since the airing of Ken Burns' PBS film on the subject two years ago, Worster (who was interviewed extensively in that film) has a provocative and somewhat controversial hypothes
Aug 05, 2015 J.S. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-america
In the midst of the Great Depression in the 1930's, the Great Plains states faced the additional hardship of one of the worst environmental disasters commonly known as the Dust Bowl. Traditionally grassland, the area was not well-suited to the kind of extensive farming that preceded those years. And once the natural grass which held the soil together was gone and the regular cycle of drought hit, there was nothing to stop the wind from blowing it across the land or into huge dust storms that rag ...more
Aug 13, 2010 Bidisha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this year of extreme weather, when a mysterious "blocking event" in the gulf stream has been linked not just to greenhouse gases but to the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan and the 800+ wildfires in Russia, anyone genuinely interested in probing the meaning of climate change adaptation, and in grasping the inevitably destructive logic of our economic growth ideal should read this vivid, eloquently-argued environmental history.

Worster argues that there was a link between the Dust Bowl and th
David Bates
Apr 16, 2013 David Bates rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In his 1979 work Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s Donald Worster examined the causes and consequences of too extensive farming on the Great Plains. As drought settled into the plains in the early thirties, soil exposed for farming dried out. Small but frequent dust storms in 1932 and 1933 gave way to the great disturbances kicked off on May 9th of 1934 when hundreds of millions of tons of dirt from the northern plains states swirled up into the jet stream. Dubuque and Madison were coa ...more
Dec 29, 2012 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this acclaimed environmental history, Donald Worster convincingly argues that the Dust Bowl was a product of human action centered around the ideology of capitalism, and not simply an environmental catastrophe produced by drought. His argument is convincing as he uses historical material to show that farmers conceptualized their relationship of the land solely by the amount of capital they could take from it, and only adopted conservation methods as a means to bolster their profits, not becau ...more
Maya Man
a comprehensive account of the progression of agriculture & the accompanying mindset of the people of the dust bowl in the 1930s era. definitely not a thrilling read (had to really force myself to basically read it all in a day hah), but does a solid job demonstrating how the culture of capitalism fostered the desire to consistently expand and profit at the cost of the land's conservation. another account of how humans separate themselves from nature and ultimately end up destroying these re ...more
Jerry Peace
Feb 16, 2014 Jerry Peace rated it really liked it
"But the experiences of overproduction and dust storms were sufficiently traumatic to produce a revised maxim for business farming in the decade: do not interfere with us when we are making money, but rescue us when we are going bankrupt." Sound familiar?
Jun 06, 2008 Kari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I also read Timothy Egan's book, The Worst Hard Time, another fantastic book about the Dust Bowl and the human impact - environmental & economical. Timothy Egan's book reads like a great novel, from a journalists point of view. I thought this book may be more of the same but it wasn't. Worster's approach is more...academic? philosophical? Reading the two books gives rounded knowledge of how the Dust Bowl came to be. Why did they only teach the inconsequential details in school? Who knew this ...more
Angelynn Nguyen
May 22, 2016 Angelynn Nguyen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book because it was so informative about the effects of the Dust Bowl on America. Reading this book helped me learn a lot more about the Dust Bowl and made writing my research paper easier. This book analyzes the ecological and economical factors that caused the Dust Bowl. I liked that Worster talks about the state of the plains today and about the threat of yet another Dust Bowl occurring. He also offers solutions such as allowing deer, antelope, bison, and elk to ...more
Apr 21, 2007 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book won a Bancroft, and for good reason--it offers a complex analysis of the economic, cultural, and ecological factors that contributed to one of the country's worst natural disasters while remaining an enjoyable, readable history. By far the best environmental history book I've read, Worster weaves enough social history into the narrative to illustrate the complicated relationship Americans have had with their land. He takes a critical yet understanding view of the plainsmen and places t ...more
Cath Holden
Not my favorite topic.
Sean Rosenthal
I haven't read it in a few years, but I remember that this book was horrendously economically illiterate. Also, it says that the New Deal was not all that radical or antithetical to freedom because it was less radical than Germany, and the offhanded way the author makes the statement conceals that he is talking about Nazi Germany. I hardly believe that the New Deal was just merely because it was not as unjust as Nazi Germany, and I have never read anywhere else such a poorly conceived defense of ...more
Linda Moran
Am convinced I READ the most boring book in the world.
Brad Austin
This is another incredible book by Donald Worster! Well worth reading for anyone interested in the environment or economics. The Afterword is remarkable.
May 01, 2008 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With the Dust Bowl it's easy to think "drag, bad weather. For years." and then write it off. Who knew it was people, the economy, and about 738 other factors converging at the same exact time to create such a violent shit (dust?) storm. An amazing book. About dust.
Although I'm not convinced capitalism caused the Dust Bowl. I think it is interesting to look at it from this frame. Although it was a natural disaster, the human disaster was amplified by the (capitalistic?) mindset and policy of the time.
Aug 09, 2009 Jessi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid environmental and social history of the Dust Bowl. Worster correlates the caustic economic and environmental effects of 1920's capitalism with the dust bowl. The Dust Bowl was part of a misshapen American dream.
Oct 25, 2012 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
In this award winning work of environmental and agricultural history, Worster argues that American ideologies, "unrestrained" capitalism in particular, caused the Dust Bowl of the "dirty thirties."
Nov 18, 2009 Sawy-o rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The descriptions of how much dust was in the air at this time is downright mind boggling... I learned a lot more about the financial aspect of the depression era so this was an interesting read.
Tattered Cover Book Store
This book was recomended by author Dan Flores as part of the Rocky Mountain Land Library's "A Reading List For the President Elect: A Western Primer for the Next Administration."
Oct 09, 2008 Peter rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read this book for a history course my freshman year in college. Personally, thought the book was dry and involved too many statistics that no importance or value to the subject.
Dec 17, 2010 Chase rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
fascinating look at the depression years but from a different perspective. definately worth taking a look at if you are a history buff.
Oct 18, 2007 James rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Decent, but not the most balanced book. Great info on the dust bowl, but his comparisons to other events is not that well done.
Cassandra Ray
Dec 09, 2013 Cassandra Ray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid and well supported in arguments. Kept my interest even though the subject is dry (pun intended).
Emily Rose
Oct 28, 2013 Emily Rose rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An in-depth look at the events of the 1930s (but an occasionally dry read, pun intended).
Aug 20, 2012 Dana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A reminder of our interrelationship with our environment...and our responsibility!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 31 32 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England
  • The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River
  • Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (Studies in Environment and History)
  • Killing for Coal: America's Deadliest Labor War
  • The Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History
  • Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945
  • The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West
  • Nature's Perfect Food: How Milk Became America's Drink
  • Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939
  • Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco's Chinatown
  • Thuggin In Miami (The Family Is Made : Part 1)
  • Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right
  • The Long Darkness: Surviving the Great American Dust Bowl. Timothy Egan
  • The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism
  • Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration: Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration
  • Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History
  • Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands
  • Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »