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Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  5,384 Ratings  ·  854 Reviews
The dramatic story of the methamphetamine epidemic as it sweeps the American heartland a timely, moving, very human account of one community s attempt to battle its way to a brighter future.

Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more true than in the small towns of the American heartland. Methland tells
Published December 23rd 2009 by Audible, Inc. (first published June 9th 2009)
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Jul 24, 2009 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about Oelwein, IA - my hometown. It's also about the meth epidemic in small towns throughout the U.S. Meth is most prevalent in rural areas, where poor people cook up small batches in their kitchens. Reding focuses much of the book on the period between 2005-2007 when meth coverage was at it's height in the media. Reding also relates the history of methamphetamine use -- it was given to soldiers during WWII to keep them going for days without sleep or food and prescribed to housewiv ...more
Nancy Oakes
Jan 23, 2016 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm catching up on stuff today, and I realized I never posted about this book.

There is, of course, much more than I'll say here at my online reading journal; otherwise:

Just to be clear here, this book is neither an exposé nor a voyeuristic look into the lives of all of the meth addicts in this town, nor is there anything along the lines of say "Breaking Bad" here, so readers who are into that sort of thing should probably move along. This book is serious business and deserves to be read as s
May 11, 2012 Melki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not Radar O'Reilly's Ottumwa, Iowa.

This Ottumwa and neighboring Olwein, are now centers of meth production, creating pockets of vice and lawlessness in America's bucolic heartland. There have been thousands of methamphetzmine labs seized in Iowa. Drugs are normally thought of as a "big city" problem, but according to the author, ...many of the towns of the rural United States are quite disconnected from the rest of the nation. Poverty rates are higher, fewer people have achieved secondar
Jul 06, 2009 Schuyler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is more of a 3 1/2 star rating (I put my support behind Meghan and her undying, relentless campaign for a more accurate 1/2 star, or even 1/4 rating system. Listen up Goodreads! Or you're nerdy community will revolt!).

Apparently, after reading some reviews by some native Iowans (is that what they call themselves?) there are a few factual inaccuracies throughout the book, such as Iowa City is not the largest city in Iowa, or that The University of Northern Iowa is in Cedar Falls, not Cedar R
I was expecting this to be an overview of the meth epidemic in America's small towns. Instead, the author is specifically trying not to tell that story, but to go beyond and around it to expose the conditions in small-town America that make its denizens susceptible to the twin evils of meth and despair. Using the example of the town of Oelwein, IA, the author explores issues like education, employment, immigration, law enforcement, the DEA, the dearth of treatment programs, etc.

For such a short
This book lingered far too long on Reding himself, and far too often it was him meditating on the fact he did research and traveled to Oelwein, as well as how his family is from the midwest. But then there are the just plain wrong "facts" in the book: University of Northern Iowa is not in Cedar Rapids (it's in Cedar Falls); Iowa City is NOT the largest city in Iowa (more like 5th!); and Iowa City is also not southwest of Oelwein (almost due south, if not a bit southeast). Those are just the quic ...more
May 27, 2009 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
The premise: an in-depth look at America's multifaceted relationship with meth, viewed mostly through the lens of one town (Oelwein, IA) and its addicts, public servants, and bystanders. Nick Redding balances the specifics of this one small town against the broader forces engaged in the epidemic: the global economy, American agriculture, immigration issues, DEA efforts, the pharmaceutical industry, cultural values, and government (in)action.

Methland has a slow, self-important prologue that isn'
Dec 09, 2009 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm tempted to describe how the initial rush of the first chapter couldn't be replicated but that I still couldn't put the book down, and when finished I wound up cooking it and smoking it. I know that's juvenile, but one of my favorite editors once said "go with the gag" when in doubt, so fuck it.

This book has very good long term reporting about the international networks that have made meth American as apple pie, using a town in Iowa's struggles with the drug as a focal point. At times I felt
Dec 02, 2009 Tara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

Nick Reding puts all of the pieces together in an excellent investigative book that exposes the complex and seemingly unstoppable forces behind the epidemic, while also revealing its human cost through individual stories that will make you hurt. If you grew up in a small town, you know these people.

The heartland's struggle with meth addiction is largely rooted in a cataclysmic shift from small farm and ranch operations to corporate-run cent
May 15, 2009 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I went into this book hoping to gain an understanding of drug addiction, and in a way it gave me that. There is no stronger message of the adverse affects of drugs on the mind and body than Roland Jarvis literally melting in the fire caused by his meth lab. But Reding also does two things with this story of an addictive drug in a small town which is 1.) attempting to really get at the root of the problem, the cause of this whole mess and 2.) looking at the big picture and the overall consequence ...more
Nov 21, 2012 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nick Reding begins "Methland" high in the sky over "flyover country", the huge, flat expanse of land between the two coasts. He subsequently zooms in, down into the communties and the lives of those affected by the social, political and economic trends that led formerly self sufficient communites and individuals to become hobbled and susceptible to a scourge both internal and external. He zooms out again to examine these larger trends on a global scale and back in once more to see how they affec ...more
Nick Reding has a nice literary style, which I appreciate in a non-fiction book as it makes for less dry reading. That's one of the redeeming qualities of this book, which was interesting but frankly didn't really bring that much insight to the table. Okay, meth is bad, we all know that. And drug addiction is horrible, drug cartels are evil and dangerous, and poverty tends to breed despair and thus drug use. These are all well-known facts and true of every addictive drug and every drug "epidemic ...more
Oct 04, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been practicing criminal law for the past 18 years .. 8 years as an assistant district attorney and 10 years as a criminal defense attorney. So, I've had lots of hands on experience with meth cases. I've heard the law enforcement side and had many one on one conversations with users, dealers and cooks, but I still learned a lot of new information in this book. This was a very interesting read regarding the big picture of how meth came into being, how it transformed from a legal drug to an i ...more
Jul 08, 2009 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastically and unexpectedly comprehensive exploration of meth, from small-town individuals to the global politics and channels that allow for and feed the industry. Every time that I had a question about something mentioned in passing, it was satisfactorily answered within a few pages. Exceedingly well-paced. Reding refreshingly never shies from presenting both sides of an issue or story, saving this book from coming across as a simplistically didactic cautionary morality play. He respects nu ...more
Mikey B.
Jul 17, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This examines a small town in Iowa called Oelwein and how it has changed, much for the worse, over the last thirty years.

The author uses Oelwein as a microcosm of small-town U.S.A. – and he does provide examples of other towns. So to some extent he replaces our idyll of white picket fences with houses blowing up when the local methamphetamine producers’ home-made lab goes awry. We are provided with a very good historical overview of Oelwein where the large meat-packing plant laid off substantial
Jul 22, 2013 Sera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sera by: Amazon
Shelves: non-fiction, kindle
According to Nick Reding: "The argument I make in the book is very simple: The harder it is for people to make money honestly, the easier it will be for an increasingly large portion to chose to make it dishonestly."

Reding does an excellent job of tying the prolific nature of meth in rural America into who we are as a nation and describing the path that we took to get there. Reding primarily focuses on one town, Olewin, Iowa when telling his story, because it provided a good example of how over
Jul 28, 2009 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-psychology
It takes many, many villains to create a disaster on the scale of the world-wide epidemic caused by meth. The author takes on the familiar villains – including but not limited to Mexican drug couriers, plus “Big Pharma” and its political protectors, both high and low – who are damned not by overheated rhetoric but by the simple listing of the facts. I was happy to see the author take on another type of villain, which thoughtful writers and journalists in the US today seem to shy away from, perha ...more
Sep 01, 2015 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nick Reding's "Methland" works not just as a compassionate view of the human beings caught in the meth epidemic in America's heartland but as a sober review of the economic forces and policy choices that made agricultural communities the perfect victim for this kind of drug. For the human side, Reding spends time with both community leaders--the doctor, the prosecutor, and a visionary mayor--and those who have profited from it. Although profit is not really their ultimate fate, as the dealers an ...more
Nov 10, 2011 Elisabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I keep reading books about meth, and I keep finding myself engrossed in the stories. Methland starts where Beautiful Boy and Tweak leave off. Those books are excruciating personal family stories, one written by the father (David Sheff), one by the son (Nic Sheff), about the son's addiction and the repercussions on the lives of the family members as well as the addict. Set in California, they chronicle Nic's descent from healthy, successful college-bound high school student to the life of an addi ...more
Aug 08, 2009 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This noteworthy book was certainly an eye-opener for me. My vision of midwest small-town America was steeped in the stories of my mother's annual visits in the 1930's from Chicago to her cousins who lived in northwest Iowa--on a farm. Yes, Iowa's small farm towns possessed all that is right and great with America--hard work, simple but worthwhile lives, and a golden goodness. When I traveled to Iowa for family reunion picnics in the '60's, 70's and into the 80's little I saw would tarnish this i ...more
Alexa Poeter
Apr 23, 2010 Alexa Poeter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Graphic and disturbing account of how Methamphetamine rose in middle America in the 80's & 90's.

Reding gets to the heart of the heartland's small town demise and addiction to Meth. He supplies ample evidence of how economic, food and drug policies along with manufacturing and immigration trends (not isolated from these same policies) helped make the meth lab as common as McDonalds are across middle America. We get to know the characters (the law enforcement officials, the addicts, the deale
Jen Hirt
May 01, 2011 Jen Hirt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many people are familiar with the meth scourge, but there are two new things (at least to me) offered in this book that make me recommend it. First, Reding includes explanations of how lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry weakened legislation, and how the cold medicine industry makes a phenomenal profit off of meth. Second, he also shows how the decline of local industry (and America's insatiable appetite, literally, for cheap meat) led to a rise in meth in the midwest. Those are just two s ...more
A native midwesterner, Reding spent a few years imbedded in the small town of Oelwein, Iowa, reporting on its meth epidemic and teasing out larger conclusions about small town, largely midwest meth.

There are quite a few fascinating tidbits - similar to the Wire, Reding writes the "good guys" as being flawed people, with alcohol problems and intimacy issues, and some of those who are methed out as being good people who took a wrong path. Occasionally this results in repetition - the same story is
Jan 30, 2011 Lulu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The content of this book, enormously important to understanding the misfortunes of middle America and the root causes of a horrifying drug epidemic, merit five stars. Reding's journalistic instincts and nuanced coverage of the issues surrounding meth abuse make for a shocking and richly informative book. He's clearly a talented writer, but runs into some difficulties executing a book-length work. I would compare it to a movie with too many montages or monologues. There are times when Reding indu ...more
Jun 22, 2009 Sheehan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meth is killing small cities...
Meth is a larger problem than small cities have resources to address the crisis.

The book does a nice job of explaining how meth insinuates itself into the work flows of small rural communities, and how the exodus of living-wage jobs are paving the way for an indolent under-utilized population of users.

Like most drugs tales, interdiction is of limited utility at best, as much larger Mexican cartels have moved in to corporatize what were formally mom-and-pop local m
Jun 11, 2009 Eris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this work contains much important information, it suffers from too much tangential rambling. A small amount of that is alright in any nonfiction exploratory social piece, but the writer does go a bit overboard with it at times.

The parallels Reding draws between the job loss/wage slash situation and the upswing in meth use/manufacturing are great and very valid - the links he makes between illegal immigration and the same are somewhat valid but a bit stretched in proportion.

Overall, is a go
Sep 15, 2009 lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was obviously written by a dude. And this dude is secretly really into an idealistic fantasy of small towns, but he knows the whole meth epidemic thing goes against that, so he tells the reader he doesn't believe in it. But i've enjoyed the book. Amongst all the bro-ing it up with the locals, he tells a really interesting story of the social, economic, psychological, etc, aspects of meth in small town america. It sort of makes me never want to go to a small town. Everyone knows everyon ...more
Oct 13, 2009 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Economic collapse has played an important role in the growth of meth production and use in rural America.
This book is definately worth the read. I learned about the origins of meth; what makes it so popular; and that it may be impossible to stop the production and use of meth. Pharmaceutical lobbyists, Mexican drug cartels, and large companies like Cargill are indirect business associates; the driving force among them being their profit margins. Money is the devil in disguise.
Philip Girvan
Feb 25, 2017 Philip Girvan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Methland is a well written chronicle of methamphetamine and its impact on one small midwestern town: Oelwein, Iowa, population 6,126

Author Nick Reding does an admirable job highlighting meth as an industrial rather than a recreational drug. With the decline of factory-town America, the perception of meth changes from an input toward increased industrial production to a scourge.

He speaks with addicts, DAs, cops, DEA agents, informants, congressmen, and dealers to tell the story of how the meth t
Jul 13, 2009 Lori rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
One early morning about two years ago someone in the neighborhood was out walking their dog when they noticed something lying in the empty lot at the end of our quiet street near the railroad tracks. It was a dead body.

Long out of patience with the snobbery of my more suburban neighbors to the west, I constantly defend my old inner ring suburb as an affordable and pleasant place to live and raise a family. I have never felt a moment of unease on my block. All of the neighbors are friendly. We al
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Nick Reding was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, and received his B.A. in Creative Writing and English Literature from Northwestern University in 1994. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from N.Y.U., where he was a University Fellow from 1995 til 1997. He lived in New York City for thirteen years, where he worked as a magazine editor, a graduate school professor, and a freelance writer. His first boo ...more
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“To look at them, leaning against the counter in the tiny kitchen, is to understand the connection between farming, itself an act of blind faith, and religion. If you can believe in a year’s worth or corn or beans, it seems, you can believe in anything.” 3 likes
“We invariably come back to testing as a means of understanding drug use, even though assuming these tests lead to truth puts one on shaky ground. You simply can't prove something to be true or false if the means of confirmation are easily questioned. Consider how the National Survey on Drug Use and Health concludes every four years how many meth addicts there are in the United States. First, surveyors ask employers to give their employees a questionnaire on drug use. The survey asks employees whether they have done amphetamines (not specifically methamphetamines) in their lifetime, in the last year, and/or in the last six months. First, it seems unlikely that drug addicts will take this completely optional test; will answer truthfully if they do take it; and will even be at work in the first place--as opposed to home cooking meth. Further, since methamphetamine is just one of a broad class of stimulants in the amphetamine family, an answer of yes to the question about using one amphetamine can't be taken as an answer of yes to using another. And yet, for the study's purposes, anyone who says they've done any kind of amphetamine in the last six months is considered "addicted to amphetamines," and--in a way that is impossible to understand--a certain percentage of these responders is deemed addicted to crank.” 1 likes
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