Bound for Glory
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Bound for Glory

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4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  2,663 ratings  ·  167 reviews
First published in 1943, this autobiography is also a superb portrait of America's Depression years, by the folk singer, activist, and man who saw it all.

One of Guthrie's first published writings, it is an important artifact of musical and political history, and a precedent for Guthrie's long lost novel, House of Earth, to be published in 2013 and edited by Johnny Depp an...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 15th 1983 by Plume (first published 1943)
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Paul
This partial autobiography was written in 1943 and is an account of Guthrie's life and his reflections on America in the 1930s. The slang is colourful and takes a little getting used to. Parts of this book are brilliant, but there are a lot of gaps.
The first part of the book is about Guthrie's childhood (apart from the first chapter set in the early 40s. It gives a good deal of family background and dynamics, with a mix of loss and tragedy. His mother's bouts of odd and self destructive behavio...more
Rebecca
How can people really write like THIS when I can barely scratch out a little review here? Damn. There's not much music in here until the end, but his story itself reads as this jaw-dropping rambling epic earthy American folk ballad.

The back of my crumbling 1970 mass market edition quotes the following review. I will just nod vigorously:
"Even readers who never heard Woody or his songs will understand the current esteem in which he is held after reading just a few pages... always shockingly immed...more
Stacie
For years, I’ve been a Bob Dylan fan and fascinated by Dylan’s biggest inspiration, Woody Guthrie. Dylan biographers, and Dylan himself, often reference Guthrie’s autobiography Bound for Glory. With great pleasure I realized my local library had a copy.

I didn’t know what I was embarking on. The jacket of the book has a quote from the Springfield Republican that reads, “Reading Bound for Glory is an emotional experience far more stirring for some readers at least, than even the penetrating Grapes...more
Erin
I had no idea what to expect with this book. I wasn't really looking forward to reading it. Boy was I wrong. I loved it. It is not the usual boring biography, he is simply telling stories, in his own unique way. His stories made me think, what would I have done in the same situation. Could I have rode in the box car, waited to pick the apricots, saw my sister burned to death and kept going. Could I take a beating on the dead main street and still manage to keep going? Could I have suffered so mu...more
Pete daPixie
A folk song is what's wrong and how to fix it or it could be
who's hungry and where their mouth is or
who's out of work and where the job is or
who's broke and where the money is or
who's carrying a gun and where the peace is. - WG

Anytime is a good time to read 'Bound for Glory'. First published back in 1943, Woody's biography remains one of the essential works in the poptastic genre. In 2012, Woody Guthrie's Centennial Year, B.F.G. is still a classic of twentieth century American folk music.
If...more
Suzanne Moore
Bob Dylan's music turned me on to Woody Guthrie. When I heard about Dylan's love of Bound For Glory, I had to read the book for myself. In fact I read anything that may have inspired Dylan, since he is my inspiration. I remember singing “This Land is Your Land” in grade school, not knowing anything then about Woody.

His story begins as a young boy and his years at home with his mother. Then he takes the reader on his adventures riding the rails and singing his songs. It is tragic how his sister...more
Jonathan
Woody Guthrie's 1943 autobiography is a must read for any fan of his music (but I strongly recommend avoiding the movie of the same name). Guthrie recounts childhood adventures which, along the lines of Mark Twain's novels and Dee Brown's memoir, are far too troublesome to be accepted today. Guthrie also goes into detail on a series of childhood tragedies, most involving fire, and shows clearly how they affected other members of his family.

Guthrie spends over half of the book focused on his yout...more
Stacey
I have an old paperback version of this book. It has some of Woody's drawings in it. The words in the book seem to be ghostwritten at some points, I don't know for sure if they are or are not, but the drawings really make Woody seem tangible while you read his autobiography. It is, of course, not Woody's complete story, but it is a good story that he told. (There is no mention of him leaving his wife and children behind to go on all those adventures). Mostly, his story focuses on the earlier par...more
Brad
Jan 18, 2009 Brad added it
There was clear and strong movement in the plot. Woody is of course a good wordsmith and his descriptions are crisp and interesting. The historical aspect of the yarn and also the language used added interest. The use of language and some of the hobo slang picked up may have been one of my favorite aspects. He is writing in the style of Steinbeck, Sarayon, Twain and others and makes similar social commentaries by revealing to an equal degree that the characters could be blammed and fate can play...more
Wickovski Steve
This is probably one of the most inspiring books by a musician I've ever read.
Woody lived a hard travelling life during the great depression, writing songs that reflected the life he was living and the plight of his people.

They were the poor migrating farm workers from all the Dust Bowl states that moved west following the terrible ecological disaster that hit the region during the 1930's. Steinbeck would have loved to have invented Woody Guthrie, only Woody got there first.

Woody was real Amer...more
Bondama
I first read this book when I was in my last year of high school, many years ago. Woody Guthrie was my hero then, and he still is. This book is a great road book, but that is perhaps 1/100th of why the man is my hero. Woody spoke for the people, the real people, - disenfranchised, broken up, busted down - the man/woman who has no idea where his next meal is coming from, let alone where in the hell he's going to sleep that night.
Benito
Woody rides the rails and takes us along for the journey. It’s growing up with a smirk and a knowing smile and seeing your country for all it is – the good, the bad, the ugly – and finding a way to put it all in song, in a way that feels special and pure to you. It makes you want to pick up an old nylon string and hit the road yourself. Sure, there’s probably a little poetic license in some of Woody remembrances, but that’s art – like Kafka said; it should be larger than reality, while still ref...more
Tim Weakley
I came across the name of this book in the Dylan book I had been reading earlier in the year. When I went to a local book store to buy it the clerk in the music section was surprised firstly that it was still in publication having been written in the forties, and secondly that given that…that they did not have it in stock! She ordered two copies. When I got my hands on it I was taken right away by the picture of Guthrie on the cover. It kind of reminds me of an old painting of a martyr from som...more
Cheri
I've quite enjoyed this book. I now own a copy, which will allow me to GASP! write in it when I reread it and to enjoy the last part a bit more (I had it on a library loan that was not nearly long enough to read it and not feel rushed). I think everyone should read it, and I feel that way about very few books. I think much of what's written about in the book is still/again relevant to the average Joe/Jane.

Here are a few sections I liked especially, that are also short enough to type out quickly...more
Andrea
One of the best books I've read in ages, don't know since when. Words the way no one could write them now, words to be spoken in box cars on a long cold and hungry trip to anywhere. Words that rip you up and make you laugh, that open up a whole world of childhood and poverty and madness, boom towns and dying towns and dead towns, immense kindness and violence and desperation. And yeah I noticed that he was married twice and mentioned neither of those wives or 5 kids neither in this book, but I g...more
Ian Wood
I first heard of Woody Guthrie through the Bob Dylan tracks ‘Song for Woody’ and ‘Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie but he drifted out of my consciousness until Brue Springsteen recorded his ‘Tom Jaod’ album but again this didn’t particularly hold my attention until Billy Bragg recorded the ‘Mermaid Avenue’ albums when I suddenly found I had two LP’s of fantastic songs by a singer-songwriter of whom I’d never heard. To right this obvious wrong a bought a Woody Guthrie compilation and fell in love w...more
Emily
Woody Guthrie published two autobiographies that are wildly different. This is the better of the two. It's a very valuable piece of American folklore and reveals a lot about Guthrie's own philosophy. It's a folksy Grapes of Wrath . I think it is a very dear, wonderful, and important book.

This is what Guthrie says about hearing "Worried Man Blues" in a Dust Bowl camp, "It was so clear and honest sounding, no Hollywood put-on, no fake wiggling...And, instead of getting you all riled up mentally,...more
Nate Jordon
For thesis research...

Here ol' Guthrie hits the rails and highways - a vagabond and his guitar. But you don't get to those adventures until midway through the book - half the damn book is about his childhood adventures and once someone's told you two stories about barnyard shenanigans involving slingshots and spiders, well, you've heard them all. He never mentions how he decides to pick up the guitar, nor how he learned to play it; it just magically appears in his hands and the songs pour forth....more
Ellie
Oh please: I grew up on Woody (from my parents) and then Arlo (my time). This book was in the house I grew up in (actually, apartment but you know what I mean). I used it to build home for my dolls before I was old enough to read it; I read it before I was old enough to understand it (8? 9? years old-in those days, we couldn't afford that many books and I read whatever I could). I always loved it-my father had a story about when he met Woody, in the kitchen of some activist or another and I gues...more
Genesis Hansen
I don't often read memoirs or biographies, but I was inspired to pick this up because of Guthrie's centennial birthday celebration. As a life history it's very incomplete, but as a series of vignettes that give you insight into Guthrie's formative years it's very effective. He certainly had the ability to paint a picture with his words! I was also impressed with how he maintained his compassion and a general sweetness of character in spite of (or perhaps because of?) a great deal of tragedy and...more
Andrew
Granted, Woody is a hero of mine, so I'm not nearly an impartial reader, but this book blew me away. His voice, his ennobling vision, his playfulness, his desire to do right and to see right done made me feel less sad and adrift. It's also just supreme quality literature, impressive in its structure, voice, scene-building, language (both idiom and the lyric), and he's an absolute master of dialogue. It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.
Todd Wendover
There's a reason Bound for Glory left more of an impression on Bob Dylan than even On The Road. It gives what may be the best portrait of America ever in literature.

After pouring over the thousand songs that Guthrie wrote in his lifetime, Billy Bragg stated that he believes Guthrie is America's greatest poet, right up there with Whitman.

Read this book and find out the true nature of America, or reestablish it.
nobody
One of the few memoirs I've read and was pleasantly surprised. Found the book a delightful insight to the man. The fact that his writing was edited as little as possible made a nice change, I felt as if I was sat in an old bar with a good whiskey, listening to a reluctant legend. This book is probably a very good document to American social history too, without looking through the proverbial rose tinteds.
Tim Mocarski
I read this years ago, and recently reread it. I liked Woody back in those formative college years, and the experience of life and the world has not diminished my admiration for him.

Yes, the language is at times folksy, but that is the way he spoke and it's the language of his songs. More importantly it's the language of the people riding the rails, escaping the dust bowls, always looking for a job. It's the language of the America Woody saw and loved.

One particular passage really struck me for...more
Kate
I recommend every American and music lover to read this book. Woody Guthrie had a fantastic way of telling his life story, using the language with which he grew up hearing and speaking himself. Think uneducated southern dialect. I became so invested and interested in his stories that it bothered me to put the book down.
Brandon
Guthrie's autobiography. I've wanted to read it for years just never got to it. Finally I did and I wasn't dissapointed. First non-fiction I'd read in a while so I had to prepare my mind for that. Great to ride on the trains, steal cars, and hitchick along with Guthrie.
Virginia Baker
A gritty American tale of life in the early 20th century. Woody narrates life out on the Oklahoma plain, from a simple, easy childhood that ended too quickly when the Dust Bowl came around and his parents left town and he was out trying to fend for himself at the age of 14. A true tale of strength and an inspiration for everyone to create art and work hard, this book is filled with insights into the true spirit of humans; the need to look out for each other and come together in times of struggle...more
Sharon
"I know you people I see here on the Skid. The hats pulled down over the faces I can't see. You know my name and you call me guitar busker, a joint hopper, tip canary, kittybox man.

Movie people, hoss wranglers, dead enders, stew bums; stealers, dealers, sidewalk spielers; con men, sly flies,flat foots, reefer riders, dopers, smokers, boiler stokers; sailors, whalers, bar flies, brass railers; spittoon tuners, fruit-tree pruners; cobbers, spiders, three-way riders; honest people people, fakes, va...more
Amélie
J’ai connu Woody Guthrie à cause de l’album Mermaid Avenue, où Billy Bragg & Wilco chantent des chansons de Guthrie, des chansons inédites que lui n’a jamais eu l’occasion d’enregistrer. & il y a dans ces chansons, comme dans toutes celles de Guthrie, quelque chose de triste & de dur, mais aussi de fondamentalement optimiste — du folk qui raconte des histoires lourdes sans pourtant arrêter de croire qu’il y a dans le monde du bien bon monde.

Alors quand j’ai appris que Woody Guthrie a...more
Dan
Woody chronicles his life in this autobiography by telling anecdotes. These stories tell of incidents in his life that had a large impact on him. Indirectly the reader learns that Woody was a sensitive and thoughtful guy who turned that into sensitive, thoughtful and uplifting lyrics. I like Woody's songs because they reflect the voice of somebody with simple humble wisdom. This book captures that voice well which makes sense because he wrote it. Which also makes the more cynical part of me wond...more
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bible 2 21 Mar 21, 2012 09:13PM  
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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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