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House of Earth

3.16  ·  Rating Details ·  1,011 Ratings  ·  229 Reviews
Finished in 1947 and lost to readers until now, House of Earth is Woody Guthrie's only fully realized novel—a powerful portrait of Dust Bowl America, filled with the homespun lyricism and authenticity that have made his songs a part of our national consciousness. It is the story of an ordinary couple's dreams of a better life and their search for love and meaning in a corr ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Harper (first published 2013)
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Debbie Zapata
Nov 20, 2015 Debbie Zapata rated it it was ok
Shelves: douglas
I was so excited to read another Woody Guthrie title. In January I thoroughly enjoyed his Bound for Glory , so when Mom gave me this one I couldn't wait to get home and read. She had read it first, but her reserved comment about it didn't bother me at all, because we have not always seen eye to eye about the books we share. She had said, in a cautious tone of voice: "Well, see what you think. And I gotta tell you, there is a lot of wild sex in this book. But see what you think."

This type of comm
I've spent the last couple of days lost in the 1930s Dust Bowl, specifically on the Texas plains. It's a hard, nasty place to be, but it was enlivened by the passionate Tike and Ella May Hamlin--wheat farmers and plain and simple, but they've got big dreams. They live in a rotting share-croppers shack, but five cents bought them a government pamphlet giving directions to create adobe bricks which would be safe from the horrible winds of the plains, protect them from the heat and the cold, and wo ...more
Thanks, Douglas Brinkley and Johnny Depp, for a well-written and interesting introduction. Now if only the book itself were as well-written and interesting! I TRIED to read it. I spent about a year in Pampa, Texas, when my husband was on a job assignment, so I thought I might enjoy the feel of the setting. After all, I did enjoy some elements of the windblown high plains during my time there. Instead, as I read House of Earth, I wanted to say, "Tike, why don't you and 'Lady' (ugh!), aka Ella May ...more
Jun 24, 2013 Eric rated it really liked it
Woody Guthrie describes in exquisite detail the bleak existence of a young couple trying to get by in abject poverty in one of the harshest environments this country has had to offer - the Texas panhandle in the 1930's. He hits on his usual themes of the stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots and the resilience and determination of the latter. His writing style, however, surprised me a bit. It's a stream-of-consciousness flow in the local vernacular that would probably be called "bea ...more
Jan 12, 2013 Anthony rated it it was ok
House of Earth is a previously unpublished novel by the prolific musician and artist, Woody Guthrie, most famous for the American ballad, "This Land is Your Land." Guthrie apparently wrote over three thousand songs but this is his only novel and unfortunately I must say that the freshman novelist's unpublished work should have stayed the way Guthrie left it, unpublished. The short 200 page work took me over a week and a half to finish, which is far too long for a reader like me who has so many o ...more
Michael May
Nov 29, 2012 Michael May rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Was a-farmin' on the shares, and always I was poor;
My crops I lay into the banker's store.
My wife took down and died upon the cabin floor,
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore.

From the song "I Ain't Got No Home" by Woody Guthrie

Besides hundreds of folk songs like "I Ain't Got No Home," Woody Guthrie wrote two memoirs, Bound for Glory and Seeds of Man: An Experience Lived and Dreamed.

When it came out in 1943, Bound for Glory was praised as "the throaty song of a dust bowl troubador." Bo
Jack Waters
May 23, 2013 Jack Waters rated it really liked it
This formerly lost novel, which resurfaced in 2012 among his archival paperwork, is an interesting complement to Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath." Guthrie's novel diverges from the exodus of GoW, and finds its story in a couple suffering hardships but staying on their land. The goal of the main character Tike is to forge a house out of the earth -- the wooden homes ravaged by storm and weather were not to his liking, and he studies adobe bricks, and the obsession haunts Tike throughout the novel.

Mar 03, 2013 Lou rated it it was amazing
“On the fourteenth day of April,
Of nineteen thirty-five,
There struck the worst of dust storms
That ever filled the sky.
You could see that dust storm coming
It looked so awful black,
And through our little city,
It left a dreadful track.”

In this story Guthrie had his day to write, away from his ballads and in the same vein that Steinbeck undertook to wag his finger at the powers that be, at capitalism during the Great Depression. He was in the turmoil and great storms he felt the peoples plight, is
Mar 09, 2013 Naomi rated it did not like it
read my full review:

My opinion: I will never forget an outraged Dennis Green, coach of the AZ Cardinals, after a butt whoopin' by the Chicago Bears in 1996 screaming on the podium "They were who we thought they were!" Well, in regards to House of Earth, it is what I thought it would be. Think progressiveness and those mean, mean corporations. Predictable, boring, foreseeable in plot! Had it not have been Woody Guthrie who wrote the book it never would have hit my TBR shelf,
Feb 16, 2013 Ben rated it really liked it
There were some fine moments in this book, times when the prose was rich and gripping, when the characters' hopes and dreams could be easily sympathized with, when Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" and even "The Pearl" were sometimes drawn to mind. But there were also times when the prose seemed painfully forced, when the dialogue seemed redundant (the use of interjections by Tike and nicknames used playfully by Ella May). It is a good work of fiction at its core, the central theme being the couples ...more
Mar 01, 2013 C.e. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
"I wish you'd think up some kind of a way to get us a piece of nice good farmin' land, with an adobe house on it, an' a big adobe fence all around it."

Imagine the same words, not just published in this decade but written in it, by a living author. Take the same setting, characters, plot, book cover and the dustbowl colloquialisms. Remove the names Woody Guthrie and Johnny Depp: it is unlikely that you would have read even this far. But Guthrie wrote presciently, breathtakingly of a topic that wo
Matthew Murphy
Feb 27, 2013 Matthew Murphy rated it liked it
Woody Guthrie gave us some of the best songs about this great country. He was an outspoken advocate for the poor and lowly who were struggling to survive. His words and songs gave us greats like Seeger, Dylan, Springsteen and others. That is why I wanted to read House of Earth.

Guthrie has a way with words, which I know is an understatement. For the first couple of pages it felt like I was reading a long lost Steinbeck novel (And Steinbeck is one of my all time favorite writers), but then it tur
Dec 17, 2012 N. rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 01, 2013 Patty rated it it was ok
I must admit to not knowing much about Woody Guthrie beyond the folk songs he sang and of course, "This Land is Your Land." I suspect though that the synopsis of this book would have intrigued me no matter the author. Sadly, I think the only reason this book was published is BECAUSE it was written by Woody Guthrie.

It is ostensibly a story about a man wanting a better life for his family. He thinks that building an adobe house is the answer because it will stand up the the ravages of the weather.
I really loved this book and so I will leave you with a quote and few thoughts. This book is not for prudes though; there are some fairly graphic sex scenes which I am sure were way ahead of their time for 1947.

This book really celebrates life despite all of its obstacles. It celebrates love and hard work and hope when you have nothing but a dream and that dream carries you through day after day after day. The language in this book is wonderful and poetic and musical just like you would expect
Mar 08, 2013 Kyrie rated it it was ok
I don't know whether to attribute my perseverance with this book to my admiration of Woody Guthrie or of Johnny Depp

I don't think I've ever read an introduction that had four chapters.

The male lead was not very likeable. If he'd been my spouse, I'd have backhanded him across the farmyard.

There were times when I wanted to throttle the author and insist he take out about ten nouns from his sentences. Alright, I got it already. Stop! It's a book, not a song!

Why they wanted a house of earth was i
Jessica Buike
Jan 06, 2013 Jessica Buike rated it did not like it
I received an advance review copy of this book, so perhaps some of what I will bring up has been corrected. Regardless, I did not enjoy this book.

The first thing that turned me off was the too-long introduction at the beginning, that took up about 1/5 of the book itself! It probably should have just been added as a discussion at the end for readers who actually cared to know any of the back story of the author.

Then, the story just didn't work for me - usually I love stories about the plains st
Mar 29, 2013 Sharon rated it it was ok
Shelves: my-book-club
Sooooo, Woody Guthrie wrote this novel in the late 40's. He sent it off to documentary filmmaker Irving Lerner to make a movie out of it. Lerner stashed the manuscript away, bless his heart, doing Woody Guthrie a favor bigger than he would ever know. This book was not or is not ready for the world. Years later, Johnny Depp and Douglas Brinkley publish it, with a big huge introduction written by the movie star. Woody lovers like me see the venerable names of Woody Guthrie and Johnny Depp together ...more
Mar 12, 2013 georgia rated it really liked it
234 pages written in 1947

This is a story of a couple who live in Oklahoma during the dust storms. Their struggles with life, yet have some fun. I found my self struggling with them, particularly when it was time for the birth of the kid.

the house of earth is the adobe home where no termites live, dust can get in and the wind does not blow through the cracks. this couple dreams about building one on their own land.

Woody Guthrie wrote a lot of folk songs, one of which is , this Land Is Your Land
Selin Secen
Yarım bıraktım, pes ettim. Müzisyen kitap yazmasın demeyeceğim şimdi ama bari bunu yazmasın. Yaşar Kemal, Çukurova köylüsünü yazınca okurum ama Amerikan köylüsünün sayfalar boyunca aşklarını ve kağıttan hallice bir evi yıkılmaktan korumaya çalışmalarını okuyamadım.
Dec 25, 2014 Brandon rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2015
This is the only known novel by Americas great troubadour and confirms his place as a true renaissance man. A prolific songwriter and painter he also published two works of non-fiction this new book can now be added to his catalogue to cement his place as one of Americas truly great artists. His creative style has always been the same; folksy, plain speaking and to the point with his sights firmly set on the greedy, immoral and inhuman practices of those in power who make living so hard for thos ...more
Kathleen Hagen
House of Earth, by Woody Guthrie, Introduction narrated by Douglas Brinkley, and book itself by Will Patton, Produced by Harper Audio, Downloaded from

If you didn’t know that Woody Guthrie wrote more than wonderful songs, you’re not alone. This book is the only completed novel that he wrote. It was finished in 1947. He shopped it around because it was his wish it become a movie.But that never happened and for years this book was buried in the vault of a publisher. Finally, this book
May 02, 2016 Jess rated it it was amazing
It's called "a sort of hillbilly Finnegans Wake" -- which is true -- but I'm going to also call it "a sort of dust-bowl Henry Miller." (Nevermind that this book was written long before Tropic of Cancer. Maybe the explicit sex scenes are the reason Guthrie didn't try to get it published in the 1930s?)

Tike and Ella May live in the barren Texas panhandle with dreams of building a house out of earthen bricks, and getting out of the falling-down crate they're renting from a banker in town. Of course
Jul 05, 2013 Gustavus rated it liked it
Yeah, it's full of homespun lyricism, but I can't really recommend it to anyone who's not seriously interested in Guthrie. Apologies to Johnny epp. Structyrally t's very, very weird in some very interesting ways--so little of the scaffolding of a realist novel is there, and there are only three characters, and the entire novel takes place over a period of hours, basically. The book is mostly about a couple's intimacy, and it depicts that intimacy so closely that it's almost obscene--long cringy ...more
Mar 04, 2013 Bill rated it it was amazing
When I heard that Woody's single complete novel was finally being published, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it, and I couldn't have been more pleased with it. Much like Woody himself and his well-known musical offerings, this spare and beautiful tale and the characters it celebrates are simple and down-to-earth at the same time they are revolutionary and subversive. It's the story of Tike and Ella May Hamlin, a hard-working yet fun-loving pair of sharecroppers living in a shack in the Dust B ...more
Natasha Phillips
Mar 19, 2013 Natasha Phillips rated it really liked it
Really loved the descriptions in this book and the story itself. It's a very soulful book. Only criticism would be that there tended to be an overuse of the 'list' technique (long, rambling nouns used to create an image of a place or feeling), which some American authors seem fond of doing, but quite frankly made me feel exhausted and less willing to bring the scene to life.

It's also not a complete book in some sense as the ending is not really a culmination of the story, but an ongoing dilemma
May 11, 2013 Steve rated it really liked it
Woody's short novel about life in the Dust Bowl living in a shack as so many others did thanks to big banks and big agriculture. Unlike others who left for California, this is about a family who stayed and the hardships they endured and their dream of owning an adobe house the that will stand up to the weather instead of a rented falling down shack. The book explains the economical reasons those in control don't want this to happen so the small dream is beyond their reach. The start of huge ranc ...more
Apr 17, 2013 Catherine marked it as abandoned
The book opens with tenant farmer Tike Hamlin and his wife Ellie May discussing a pamphlet that explains how to build adobe houses. The conversation veers toward other topics, but always circles back to the instability of their frame house in the dust-bowl winds of Texas. Then begins the longest sex scene I’ve ever read, with Tike and Ellie May continuing to discuss the substandard house whilst in the act, a brief pause to discuss the tumbledown shack more thoroughly, then more sex. Maybe they e ...more
Mar 12, 2013 Jim rated it liked it
I've always been a big fan of Woody as a songwriter/troubadour, so when I saw this in the library, I scooped it up. The introduction by Douglas Brinkley and Johnny Depp pointed out several things about him that I either had not known or had forgotten.
This story resonates with the plight of many people today who feel powerless against corporate greed. Tike and Ella May are dustbowlers who decide to stay on the land rather than migrate west. Predictably, they cannot win.
This is very unusual as a
May 15, 2013 VerJean rated it it was ok
Had this book in hand, but hadn't started it until returning from a roadtrip through some of the country where it is set. And the land, the elements and how they affect its inhabitants is much of the premise. The travel & the book were well timed to intertwine my understandings.
Interesting backstory to this book, discovered only recently.
Interesting introduction making me aware of more of the background, info on Woody, his writing, the area this was written about.
However, I think his music
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Goodreads Librari...: Covers for new Woody Guthrie novel House of Earth 2 25 Feb 02, 2013 02:49PM  
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Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie was an American songwriter and folk musician. Guthrie's musical legacy consists of hundreds of songs, ballads and improvised works covering topics from political themes to traditional songs to children's songs. Guthrie performed continually throughout his life with his guitar frequently displaying the slogan "This Machine Kills Fascists". Guthrie is perhaps best know ...more
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“We’re to blame because we let them steal,” she told him.
“Let them? We caused ‘em to steal?”
“Yes. We caused them to steal. Penny at a time. Nickel at a time. Dime. A quarter. A dollar. We were easy going. We were good-natured. We didn’t want money just for the sake of having money. We didn’t want other folks’ money If it meant they had to do without. We smiled across their counters a penny at a time. We smiled in through their cages a nickel at a time. We handed a quarter out our front door. We handing them money along the street. We signed our names to their old papers. We didn’t want money, so we didn’t steal money, and we spoiled them, we petted them, and we humored them. We let them steal from us. We knew that they were hooking us. We knew it. We knew when they jacked up their prices. We knew when they cut down on the price of our work. We knew that. We knew they were stealing. We taught them how to steal. We let them. We let them think they they could cheat us because we are just plain old common everyday people. They got the habit.”
“They really got the habit,” Tike said.
“Like dope. Like whiskey. Like tobacco. Like snuff. Like morphine or opium or old smoke of some kind. They got the regular habit of taking us for damned old silly fools.”
House of Earth Woody Guthrie”
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