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Beggars of Life

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  227 ratings  ·  23 reviews
A bestseller in 1924, this vivid piece of outlaw history has inexplicably faded from the public consciousness. Jim Tully takes us across the seamy underbelly of pre-WWI America on freight trains, and inside hobo jungles and brothels while narrowly averting railroad bulls (cops) and wardens of order.

Written with unflinching honesty and insight, Beggars of Life follows Tully
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 1st 2003 by AK Press (first published 1924)
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3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  227 ratings  ·  23 reviews

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Kevin Farrell
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am a big fan of the Hobo literature - especially autobiographical works. The publisher is Nabat Books. They specialize in "reprinting forgotten memoirs". I really liked another of their books about riding the rails called You Can't Win by Jack Black.

The writing by Jim Tully about his adventures on the rails is great stuff. Combined with hair raising, first person accounts of mishaps, mayhem and murder, it makes the book a first rate read.
Jeff Suwak
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I actually have an original 1924 version of this book! (yes, just had to say)

This is one of my all time favorite books. I love reading about the old hobo lifestyle and this is one of the best books on the subject.

The book can be enjoyed from multiple perspectives. It's just a good adventure yarn, with tight prose and a gritty atmosphere. It's also fascinating as a historical account of America.

On both levels and others, I love this book.
Oct 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: outlaws
Very entertaining book that was written in the 1920's. Jim Tully's life as a hobo and his adventures as he travels all over the world hopping on trains, hiding from police, and occasionally resorting to violence in order to get away. Dealing with starvation, begging for money, getting drunk, and meeting other very interesting characters. People he meets get into street fights, knife fights, and even die brutal death's trying to get on the trains. Stealing books and cruising the open country on a ...more
Aug 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
"Tramping in the wild and windy places, without money, food, or shelter, was better for me than supinely bowing to any conventional decree of fate. The road gave me one jewel beyond price, the leisure to read and dream. If it made me old and wearily wise at twenty, it gave me for companions the great minds of all the ages, who talked to me with royal words."

"A kind heart is a sad heritage of which all the ills of life do not rob a person."
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Being on the road with the hoboes and tramps. Living the life jumping on and off passing trains.
Kathleen Vincenz
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Beggars of Life to understand what it would be like to go anywhere, anytime, with no thought of money or job or home. To be the complete antithesis of myself, a worrier. And Jim Tully told me in his strong tale of wanderlust--at one point, Jim has both typhoid and malaria, and when he gets well, he wanders again!

The physical strength and determination to to ride the rails was beyond impressive, as was his acceptance of the people he met along the way, the beggar, the thief, the drug addi
David Absalom
Apr 26, 2018 rated it liked it
I don't know what to think about this book. I am satisfied that I read it; however, I do not think it was a great book. I think Tully too influenced by Jack London. It is raw and grittier than London could do, but I have the impression he writing for teenage boys. I guess my best comment is to say that I am not moved to read Emmett Lawyer or Tully's other books.
Robyn Obermeyer
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice read, considering it was written in the 1920s!
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Better known for his biography of Chaplin (Chaplin sued for 1/2m dollars and lost - this book is dedicated partly to him) and his first novel "Emmett Lawler" (which started as a 100,000 word paragraph, no-one had taught him punctuation), this book was the first of Tully's autobiographical sequence of books, his "Underworld Edition" (with "Shanty Irish", "Circus Parade", "Shadows of Men" and "Blood on the Moon" following) and tells of his early life as a youth deciding to see the world, riding th ...more
May 11, 2014 rated it liked it
I've heard about this writer and this particular book for decades. Many people described him as a writer of Hemingway's power and depth who never got his due. I truly enjoyed this book and the true life tales of " hoboes" and the just plain transient and desperate struck closer to home these days when jobs are scarce and the right wants to destroy the safety net while the gap between rich and poor becomes a Grand Canyon. But for me the main interest and satisfaction in the book is from its histo ...more
Nate Jordon
Jan 29, 2008 rated it liked it
For thesis research...

Not much to use here for my thesis. Oh, that's right, I'm done with my thesis... Yes, but I am continuing the research as I'm converting my thesis into a nonfiction book on The American Road Novel. But who cares about this? Back to the book. There's some good anecdotal stories here but not much for plot; the chapters are snapshots of a life on the rods tied up in the end with a bit of socio-cultural commentary. What's most interesting about this book is the fact it's been o
Jan 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
it's a hobo memoir, so it's mostly about hobo stuff (trains, talking to other hobos, stating and re-stating one's defiant commitment to the hobo lifestyle, pursuit of warm nutritious meals). (side note: hobos might outpace rappers in terms of their solitary focus on articulating the virtues of their chosen lifestyle and their own individual excellence at being about said life).

but actually beyond the hobo genrematic conventions, this was a really good and lovely read. exceedingly beautiful and e
Desmond Redmon
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
Somewhere between a B and C for readability... I found the book really hard to get into, but that is more a simple matter of personality differences, than of bad writing though. Tully as a hobo applies his own lens to the world around him, though I think it was more like a welding lens...
Jan 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Really anything about crime or hobo lifestyles by AK Press is fascinating. I have never been let down.
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Feb 03, 2008 added it
Shelves: bio-memoir
rad classic hobo bio. a little travelin, a little honest work and a little crime thrown in for good measure.
Nov 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Riding the rails out of desperation but with a poetic eye for scenes and circumstances. Like On The Road? You'll like this beatnic account of being down and out in the early 1920s.
Mar 10, 2016 added it
not as good as i hoped it would be, but still quite interesting
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Jan 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Funny and fascinating hobo autobiography by occasional writer for Charlie Chaplin.
Magenta Loera
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Jul 18, 2017
Emmanuel P.
rated it it was ok
Jan 13, 2018
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Oct 03, 2013
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Feb 29, 2012
Alexander Ayube
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Mar 15, 2012
Kyng Crab
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Sep 09, 2018
rated it it was ok
Dec 12, 2014
Alex (Booksy Daisy)
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Oct 29, 2009
Matt Knight
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Oct 27, 2011
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Dec 07, 2010
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