Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Population: 485 : Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time” as Want to Read:
Population: 485 : Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  3,965 Ratings  ·  666 Reviews
Here 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. Michael Perry loves this place. He grew up here, and now -- af ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published October 1st 2003 by Perennial / Harper-collins (first published October 1st 2002)
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 Population, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Population

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Sep 12, 2008 Justin rated it it was ok
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
Heather C.
May 28, 2008 Heather C. rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 13, 2008 Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
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
Will Byrnes
Sep 22, 2008 Will Byrnes rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jul 24, 2013 Gea rated it really liked it
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
Mark Howell
Dec 25, 2009 Mark Howell rated it really liked it
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
Jul 15, 2008 Trin rated it it was amazing
Perry recounts how he moved back to his very small Wisconsin hometown and reintegrated himself into the community by becoming a volunteer firefighter and first responder. This is an amazing book. The stories Perry tells contain dozens of moments that are both hilarious and heart-wrenching—often within sentences of each other. The details about firefighting and working as an EMT are fascinating, as are the portraits Perry draws of various figures in the community—and of the community itself. He a ...more
Dec 01, 2007 Daniel rated it it was ok
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
Jul 29, 2014 Brenda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe I've missed this author until now. It's personal history, family dynamics, small-town character, philosophy and humor. Perry writes poetically about his life after returning to his home town. The chapter on "Structure Fire" included several of the passages that struck me in this book: " is anything but brutish. It is light-footed and shamanic, dancing between the visible and invisible, undoing matter one collapsed molecule at a time, wreaking utter destruction with a touch ...more
Mar 13, 2009 Gloria rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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.
Aug 25, 2014 Jeanie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I took this book on my holidays but couldn't get very far into it. It is o.k.,but far from compelling.It sounded so interesting and I really wanted to like it but just couldn't stay with it. I left it on the boat for someone else to maybe enjoy.
David P
Nov 28, 2012 David P rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
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
Jan 02, 2010 Roger rated it really liked it
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
Shonna Froebel
Nov 27, 2012 Shonna Froebel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Jun 06, 2009 Kathryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2008
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
Oct 14, 2016 LeAnne rated it did not like it
Boorish. Too much historical information that doesn't really add to the stories. Little used words thrown in as if he is doing a word for the day calendar. Writer's descriptions of small town life and people seemed more like put downs that finding the humor. Read as long as I could. Life is just too short to finish reading.
Apr 19, 2009 Cait rated it it was ok
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.
Jun 09, 2017 Howard rated it it was amazing
This book will have you belly laughing with tears in your eyes. It give you a chance to look through the eyes of a small town volunteer firefighter/first responder and see the the joys and heartbreaks as if you were standing there. This book is an emotional roller coaster that you will want to read again and again.

I would recommend this book to anybody.
Dec 03, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Iris Campbell
Oct 19, 2014 Iris Campbell rated it liked it
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
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
Jul 24, 2009 Jake rated it liked it
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
Jul 05, 2012 Johnny rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, murica
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
Nov 19, 2009 Bethany rated it really liked it
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
Dave Gaston
A very strong series of home spun short stories. Perry’s comfortable prose is deceptive in it’s simplicity. His readers can’t help but foster a rich empathy for his off-beat characters (and neighbors). Perry’s life as a volunteer fireman offer a vivid and humane perspective from the other side of a 9-1-1 emergency call. A cornerstone of the man’s personal philosophy is his strong believe in “place” and “community.” Know your town and know your people; find away to meaningfully connect with both. ...more
Oct 13, 2010 CluckingBell rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club, 3-stars
A bit overwritten and I didn't enjoy the fragmented writing style---kind of felt like he had so little to say on each subject or remembered so little about each event that he had to use many together to make a chapter, jumping from one to the next and all interspersed with history or other factual tidbits, and rarely did the conjoined subjects feel particularly cohesive. The book starts and ends with tearjerkers, and everything in between is a blur. But it was well-intentioned, with a respectabl ...more
Christopher Dunn
I really love this book! Lots of humor and I felt genuine sadness I did not expect early in the book. A new favorite author of mine. I am reading his books out of order.. and I just saw 2 new ones at B&N!! - I hope I never catch up to Michaels production capability. But yeah- Sad, funny and touching- Sort of the same feeling I get when I'm in central Wisconsin.. Thank you michael!! :)
Jan 07, 2011 Laura rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 10, 2015 Lisa rated it really liked it
Heart warming.
May 23, 2016 Gary rated it it was amazing
After 30 years in emergency services, as a paramedic and firefighter, this is the book I've always wanted to write. I can cross this task off my list now - Perry has done it for me. ;)
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
population 485 1 15 Dec 19, 2013 10:16AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: population:485 1 4 Mar 12, 2012 09:45AM  
  • The Land Remembers: The Story of a Farm and Its People
  • Scoop: Notes from a Small Ice Cream Shop
  • Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America
  • Thuggin In Miami (The Family Is Made : Part 1)
  • Never Turn Your Back on an Angus Cow: My Life as a Country Vet
  • Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood
  • Tales from a Dog Catcher
  • In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time
  • The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes
  • Kidnapped by the Taliban: A Story of Terror, Hope, and Rescue by SEAL Team Six
  • Study in Perfect
  • Heart in the Right Place
  • We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a Cowpuncher
  • The Snitch, Houdini and Me: Humorous Tales of Death-defying Childhood Misadventure
  • Sweet Dreams Are Made of This: A Life In Music
  • The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas
  • The Heart of Things: A Midwestern Almanac
  • Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life
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 about Michael Perry...

Share This Book

“Summer here comes on like a zaftig hippie chick, jazzed on chlorophyll and flinging fistfuls of butterflies to the sun.” 16 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.” 6 likes
More quotes…