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Wendell Berry
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The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture

4.35 of 5 stars 4.35  ·  rating details  ·  2,035 ratings  ·  177 reviews
Book by Berry, Wendell
Hardcover, 228 pages
Published June 12th 1982 by Random House, Inc. (first published 1977)
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Oct 16, 2007 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has felt emptiness in shopping malls
maybe you'll find this at a garage sale in a beat up box for twenty-five cents. you'll pull it from the box. rub two dimes and five pennies together. you'll read it and research rain barrels. you'll sell that book to some used bookstore. you might. and a thin bookstore employee will set it on a shelf where some manicured hand might find it and bring it back to her loft. maybe she'll turn the pages and sigh at her consumption. maybe. or maybe she wont. maybe she'll walk more. and ride her bicycle ...more
Heather Sinclair Shaw
Every once in a while, a book comes along at the right place and at the right time, and that book has the power to change your life. This was that book for me. It moved me out of the city and into the country, and inspired me to grow food for people. It changed the way I view my relationship to the earth, and my responsibility to it. Don't read this book if you want to live comfortably with your current worldview.
This book is the classic that all Wendell Berry readers should read first. It goes through his ecological ethic and his belief that morality and ecology are inseparable; that our disconnection from the earth and our disconnection from each other are part of the same problem. This quote from his essay Think Little is a perfect introduction to his philosophies. See []

Most of us, for example, not only do not know how to produce the bes
I initially read this book very slowly because I wanted to be sure I was understanding and absorbing its messages. Then I was distracted by my husband's hospitalization and serious complications following surgery and needed lighter reading material for several weeks. Now I've finally finished and am more convinced than ever that Wendell Berry really is a prophet. He makes me feel very grateful to be living in Sonoma County, CA, where many local farmers subscribe to the same approach to small-sca ...more
Jennifer Arlene
Having spent five years at a land grant institution, I can safely say that everything Mr. Berry accuses agricultural education programs of is true, even today. All of my ag professors, save one, laughed at the idea of "organic" and "sustainable" and would only allow the non-regulated trend of "all-natural" a measure of respect, because... frankly... they make a ton of money off of false advertising.

I moved to the city after graduating, and took work on a small organic farm half an hour outside o
Have you ever read an obscure book that no one you know has heard of, and felt that it was so good that it should be required reading for every human being? That's how I felt about this book.

Wendell Berry is a hero for many, including Barbara Kingsolver, who references many of Berry's ideas in her novel "Animal Vegetable Miracle". I've been meaning to get into his stuff for quite some time, and when I read this book it resonated with so many things I have believed or thought of, but never articu
Erika RS
This book is part rant and part musing on culture and society. The rants, while sometimes entertaining, are often tied to then-current events (although not without relevance to modern debates on food and farming).

The musings are much more relevant. While Barry does not reject technology and growth outright, he does caution strongly against letting them run without restraint. Underlying his thoughts are a concern for wholeness and sustainability. We are, he thinks, backing ourselves into a corner
A great, although uneven, criticism of the reigning agricultural and cultural mentality in the U.S. It's impressive that Berry wrote this more than 30 years ago since the argument seems just as timely today. The first two and last two chapters were the strongest. In between, he gets into an abstract discussion on the relationship between our connection to the land, ourselves, and other human beings. The vagueness of some of his terminology and expressions in these chapters resulted in my losing ...more
The best single book I know on the land ethic of farming. Informs what my wife and I try to do on our small farm, though we are much more mechanized than Mr Berry's ideal. Goes well with Aldo Leopold's earlier writing on the land ethic A Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from Round River and with Verlynn Klinkenborg's The Rural Life though the latter is more an appreciation of farm life,while Berry mounts a denunciation of what has been happening to it -- faster and faster. I ...more
An eloquent statement of an alternative view of culture, health, family and, of course, agriculture -- one that should at least be considered for adoption by every American.
Wanted to like it, but found it boring-- didn't finish. Also found some of the language in it a bit offensive when it is clearly not intended to be so.
It's Wendell Berry's book that you're "supposed" to read, and now I know why. Thoughtful prose, enlightening message -- I would not expect anything else from Berry. If you're looking for a primer on why people are becoming ever-more interested in farmers and farming, Berry explains. And he never does it in that pretentious Berkeley "my food is better than yours" way which has become a sad norm among food movement writers.

I especially enjoyed his theme of margins and marginal people as possible s
i can't stop thinking about this book. i feel like joining a agro-communist 1970's cult.
The amazing part of Wendell Berry's The Unsettling of America for me is that it clearly and calmly outlines the major problems facing the United States in the late 1970's and so fully explores the sources of these changes from the fragmentation of the family, the explosion of corporate greed, and the loss of purpose among the workforce and yet goes beyond a simply eulogizing to offer real and difficult solutions.

Berry's central theme for me was that hard work has been made a soiled concept (excu
Berry is thought-provoking, and rhetorically strong. He presents his case for a humane agriculture focused on the local and the small-scale, existing in symbiosis with the environment. However, at times Berry's arguments are out-of-time and hopelessly romantic. As a descendant of a subsistence farm family, I see nothing terribly ennobling about working oneself into fatigue daily, outdoors and in all weather, then through a combination of seasonal malnutrition and scarce resources coming to an ea ...more
Berry makes some fantastic, insightful sociological observations about modern American culture and agriculture. Namely, its failings of community, conservation, consumption, specialization, and entertainment. I can't lay all the fault for the pattern of cultural or agricultural disintegration in our society as easily as he does on the doorstep of "agribusiness." I blame it on sin and than man is fallen, not just because we aren't all farmers any more. And, yes, this fingers into agribusiness and ...more
I was eager to read this book for a couple of reasons: 1) Nick's really into W.Berry, and 2) I happened upon an Amazon review of a more recent book of his, and the reviewer wrote that she and her husband had passages from "The Unsettling of America" read at their wedding. Cool!

I found myself agreeing with WB a ton, so much so that I revived my practice of jotting down favorite passages into a little notebook. I especially loved the section in which WB discusses "The Odyssey" as fundamentally ab
Jessica Zu
I appreciate Berry's keen observation on the link between culture and agriculture, the body, mind and the earth. I find myself agree with him on many issues. However, his obliviousness on the unbearable oppression on women in any agricultural society (or better patriarchical society) makes me angry. It is true that industrialization destroyed the meaning of household and human's meaningful connection to earth and further oppresses women. But such sexual oppressions are not brand new, it is merel ...more
This book was a gift to me from my friend Geoff some years ago, and my first full length Wendell Berry read -- though I had read essays. It was a very difficult book to read, mainly because it was about farming and agriculture, a subject I know little about.
He blames the "unsettling of America" on the mechanization and subsequent loss of the small family farm. "Agribusiness" and corporet farms arose to take the place of these farms, leading to the death of rural areas and the rape of the land. H
This is a great book in which Berry argues that our inability to face both agricultural and cultural challenges responsibly causes Americans to be totally disconnected from our food, each other, and the Earth. This of course results in a new set of agricultural and cultural challenges; even so, we appear to be treating the symptoms (poorly, at that) instead of the cause. (The book somewhat surprisingly doesn't focus much on the details of the environmental impact and imbalance of irresponsible a ...more
W. Littlejohn
Absolutely fabulous collection of essays, even if you know nothing about agriculture. Goes to the roots (pardon the pun) of our current cultural and social malaise in fresh, creative, and insightful ways. My only complaint is how thin on theology it is, and how little he discusses the possible spiritual origins of some of the problems he explores.

Also, I do wonder how convincing this book would be to those who don't already share many of Berry's presuppositions, as I did (though I didn't realiz
(clipped from note to friend) this goes back so far for me - living on the farm and then in the little farm house in SE Ohio. the years of critical thinking were just beginning. i loved WB's ideas so much AND i was also beginning to read feminism - i had just read the Women's Room. I got michael to read it too. Michael: see - it is all about individual integrity (WB). Jude: but how can any offspring of an innately unequal union achieve integrity?(WR) It was wild. I remember going to see WB in Ob ...more
Have I mentioned that Wendell Berry is my new hero? Well, he is. As I read I am frequently and utterly shocked by the fact that the guy wrote this over 30 years ago. You couldn't write something more insightful given knowledge of all that has transpired since. Oh wait, I am only on p.27, I need to stop raving.

I finished this book almost a month ago now. I was tempted to start over and read it again immediately, but I decided against it. I don't believe I have ever felt the need to go for a walk
Matt Simmons
About agriculture, ostensibly, but more profoundly about the ways in which modern society understands itself. In a move that is very conservative and conservatively Christian, Berry reminds us of our essential limited-ness as human beings. This is the real subject of the book: human beings are flawed and limited things, and the best we can do is to recognize how limited and flawed we are and work towards wholeness; that is, we must work to understand ourselves not as autonomous, but part of some ...more
I have just finished my third reading of this powerful essay. I am a recent discoverer of Wendell Berry. It amazes me how much of what he writes resonates deeply with my experience.

When I discover an author I enjoy, I often try to catch up on his past work. With Mr. Berry this is no easy task since he is a hard working writer with a 50 year head start on me. After devouring 6 of his books, I realized that he is deserving of study in addition to pleasure reading. So I have began to study what he
"If we do not live where we work, and when we work, we are wasting our lives, and our work too." - page 79

"The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.
It is alive itself. It is a grave too, of course. Or a healthy soil is. It is full of dead
"The Unsettling of American is Wendell Berry's probing and personal inquiry into the way in which we use the land that sustains us, and an expression of profound awareness that farming cannot be considered separately from the larger culture. His provocative suggestions for change are by turns passionate and eloquent, here is a book that gathers urgency for today's troubled society."
~~back cover

When I was doing my upper division course work at UC Santa Cruz, there was no graduate program offered
Social Critic extraordinaire. This book helped me understand how the role of agriculture permeates through almost every aspect of our lives. I had no ideas all the implications that might entail.

Like the battles of an individual soul, culture (the societal soul) also wages war against itself. The most recent and prominent contenders in this fight for the collective soul are between business and agriculture. One has its center of all relationships built on money and economics while the other has
So if you've read anything that Barbara Kingsolver or Michael Pollan have written about food recently (which is quite a bit), you'll find that reading Wendell Berry is like going straight to the source, but about the larger picture of food production, agriculture, communities, society, and life in general. Berry wrote "Unsettling" in 1977, and it is absolutely terrifying and surreal how prescient he was then, and how important what he said still is for us today. Berry is a holistic thinker--inte ...more
When I read Another Turn of the Crank in college, I remember finding it irritating. Who was this moralizing purist, this thinly veiled Christian claiming to know good from evil, and decrying reductionist thought? These days I've mellowed out a bit, and come to realize that authors who get under my skin like that are often the most interesting. Berry is no empty provocateur. If he pisses you off, there's something to be learned in considering why.

First of all, there's plenty I agree with in this
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Wendell Berry is a conservationist, farmer, essayist, novelist, professor of English and poet. He was born August 5, 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky where he now lives on a farm. The New York Times has called Berry the "prophet of rural America."
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“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.” 60 likes
“If we do not live where we work and when we work we are wasting our lives and our work too.” 15 likes
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