Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture” as Want to Read:
The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  3,689 ratings  ·  296 reviews
Since its publication by Sierra Club Books in 1977, The Unsettling of America has been recognized as a classic of American letters. In it, Wendell Berry argues that good farming is a cultural development and spiritual discipline. Today’s agribusiness, however, takes farming out of its cultural context and away from families. As a result, we as a nation are more estranged f ...more
Paperback, 246 pages
Published November 1st 2004 by Counterpoint (first published 1977)
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 The Unsettling of America, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Unsettling of America

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,689 ratings  ·  296 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
David
Oct 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
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 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.
Arleen Jenson
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
...more
Greg
May 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
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 [http://www.msu.edu/~kikbradl/little.html]

------------------------
Most of us, for example, not only do not know how to produce the bes
...more
Ginny
Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Paula
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Agribusiness has been destroying our soil fertility, killing beneficial insects (like bees), decimating our waterways (through eutrophication that kills fish and all aqueous life), and striping the nutritional content from our food (you can grow crops on industrial chemicals, but you can't make them nutritious) for roughly eighty years. As a consequence Americans are unhealthier than any other population in the world (along with European nations with the same practices), and life on the planet i ...more
Paul Cloutier
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A funny thing happened with this book, I read it last year before the election and felt it was beautifully written but sort of idealistic and naive. Then after the election, I reread it, and my mind was much more prepared for it. It is truly a masterpiece of American literature and letters. I think if you want to understand how things have gotten to how they are, politically, culturally and economically, or even if you want to understand one of the possible causes of ennui in America today, then ...more
Rachel
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Over the past 5-6 years, Berry's writings have changed me, shaping my worldview more than perhaps any other single author's ever have. This book continues in that vein, both frustrating and inspiring me. I give it 4.5 stars. It is a flawed book. Full of polemic, often lacking in nuance and charity. But it speaks so much truth to power. And it speaks so much to me personally, to my family and personal history -- growing up on a modern, industrial, somewhat-large-but-relatively-small family farm t ...more
Stacy
Aug 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
blakeR
Feb 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anth-sosh
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
Cameron M
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wendell Berry is a prophetic genius and a fantastic writer. This is his second book that I have read, following his "Bringing it to the Table."
I was expecting this book to be more focused on strictly agricultural and agrarian principles, but in reality, everything that he wrote about worked together and is cycle- he got that. It all ties in together and runs off of one another.
I absolutely recommend this book to anyone beginning to question the status quo of "agribusiness" and our food economy
...more
Jeremy
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: agriculture
This book was very inspiring and insightful in helping me see the reality of how historic methods of farming are equally, if not more, productive as modern methods dependent on expensive equipment and fossil fuels. Similar (and certainly not unconnected) to the explosion of processed food, we seem to have bought into the myth of whatever is newer and shinier and more modern being superior. It left me excited about attempting things I had previously thought romantic fantasies (such as using a dra ...more
Jared Hackworth
Jun 22, 2020 rated it did not like it
Ugh.
I proudly did not finish this book. I will recommend Berry to no one and will in fact be throwing my copy away.
Why you ask? (all the trigger warnings)

Berry, on pg.102-104, claims that suicides only occur in industrialized settings, as cities cause "despair" and "a wound that cannot be healed." The cause of this is not mental health, genetics, family situation, etc. Rather, to Berry, suicides are caused by not living in an agricultural space. This mindset, with no statistical or research ba
...more
Aaron
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommend. Essentially a polemic. Stirring. Insightful into the effects of the industrial revolution, not on small-landowners and agriculture, but upon the broader American culture and mindset.

Berry's main convincing argument for me centers on questions like these, "How can people be moral when they are not expected to be moral in matters of production and consumption? How can they be moral when they are encouraged in everything else to take the role of exploiter? How can you care for an
...more
Kinzie Gaunce
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Unforgettable...
Ryan
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerfully and cogently argued. Mr. Berry argued with such passion, in fact, that the reader is tempted to accuse him of hyperbole. Unfortunately, I can say from my own experience, but virtually all of his predictions have been fully born out in the agricultural world just in the last 30 years of my experience. If predictive power is one of the marks of the validity of a mental model, then his model undoubtedly possesses that mark.
Max Potthoff
"If we do not live where we work, and when we work, we are wasting our lives, and our work too." Wide-ranging and thoughtful, "The Unsettling of America" is Berry at his best. With broad strokes, Berry creates a vision of a 20th-century America held hostage by "agriprofessionals" and the atomization of our lived experience. Our work and our labor has become separate from ourselves, Berry argues, and placed in the hands of an ever-increasing number of "specialists". Inherently, this is a critique ...more
Kenny
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was the first book I ever read by him. The ch "The Body and the Earth" is worth the price of the book.
Kevin Van Slyke
A challenging critique of the last half century of agricultural policy and the coinciding societal shift away from rural, communal living to urban individualism.
Shelby Deeter
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Berry's fiction and non-fiction have such a fluidity in their values that reading both grants you a fuller picture of what it means to live thoughtfully in Creation. The Unsettling of America has some of my favorite Wendell Berry essays in it and was a wonderful and convicting read. I closed the book feeling I know more about myself as a human and created being. I understand more the value of hard, worthy work and the gravity and weight given to us in being caretakers of this beautiful earth God ...more
R.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best book by Wendell Berry I’ve yet read, and his most famous as well. It is a beautiful criticism of industrial agriculture, and I mean that quite instrumentally: it is a pleasure to read. What I like most about agrarian thought is its fierce partiality to specificity and place. It is a rejection of rootless ‘human capital’ forever trying to swap its way up. I also like how someone reading this might not know if Wendell is extremely conservative or extremely progressive. The ideas don’t map ...more
Chelsea
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What to say about this book. It is equally convicting and motivating without using guilt as a driving force (which is hard to do, considering how culpable we all are in this). It took me so long to get through because each page made me want to pause and reflect and look up agricultural real estate. I also appreciated the breadth of topics covered. 5 star, definitely want to read again in 5-10 years.
Faisal Ghadially
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although based on agriculture, the book reflects on humanity and the American way of life. It shines a light on how we got to where we are based on scuttle indoctrination of the definition of success, and how to go about getting there (hint: one never gets there).

It is sad to see how each generation views the future as a conquest to be colonized for the present—essentially stealing it from the next generation.

We have moved away from the cyclical nature of the community, family, and social respon
...more
Paris Achenbach
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
a little theoretical and abstract at times, and i wish there was a more recent edition, but still incredibly and ridiculously relevant to our agricultural issues. wendell berry is certainly a prophet of sorts and his writing contains nuggets of wisdom and concepts that don't really exist in modern commentaries about our food system
Kathryn Pritchett
Loved this book! A suggested reading assignment for a conservation conference I was attending, the book at first seemed like an odd choice since it was first published in the late '70s. But Berry's concerns both came true and continue. So much felt like what I saw happen over the last decades to the farming community I was raised in. Eloquent and important--highly recommend.
Jana Light
Review and rating forthcoming, after Genni shines a light for me on all the interesting and complicated bits...
Josie
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this book because I agreed with it and because it has cute little examples about welsh farmers singing to their cattle, or like the different species of peruvian potatoes. it was very nice.
Erika RS
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, physical
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
...more
Jessica
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The first time I started to read The Unsettling of America, I thought I was going down a path that folks like Michael Pollan have subsequently followed: an idealized ode to the small farmer, a notion of pure sustenance farming and the lost expertise of American agriculture, and the end of a proximity to nature in an increasingly capitalist society. In fact, much of what Berry is addressing is a broader kind of conservatism: a scalar argument that champions small versus large, but also one that a ...more
Lawrence FitzGerald
Oct 14, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 1970-s, nonfiction
I thought that I might like Wendell Berry. The romance of rural America. I live on 50 acres in rural East Texas. I hunt (mostly wild hogs - tasty) and fish. I grow things: tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes. Not for sale, just to enjoy. I worked in cities; I made enough money to move to the country. I'm Wendell Berry's best audience. I thought.

He may be a very nice man. If I met him in person I might instantly like him. But in this book he comes across as a blowhard and a hypocrite. A blowhard?
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There
  • The One-Straw Revolution
  • The Unsettlers: In Search of the Good Life in Today's America
  • Desert Solitaire
  • Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers' Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm
  • Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World
  • Letter to a Young Farmer: How to Live Richly Without Wealth on the New Garden Farm
  • Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
  • The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living
  • Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
  • Turtle Island
  • Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
  • History of Bourbon
  • The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape
  • Letters to a Young Farmer: On Food, Farming, and Our Future
  • Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
  • The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor's Heart
  • God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of 'Academic Freedom'
See similar books…
2,468 followers
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."

Related Articles

In a year that seems to present new challenges for us at every turn, Julia Alvarez’s latest novel, Afterlife, has arrived at the perfect time.
47 likes · 14 comments
“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.” 125 likes
“It is possible, I think, to say that... a Christian agriculture [is] formed upon the understanding that it is sinful for people to misuse or destroy what they did not make. The Creation is a unique, irreplaceable gift, therefore to be used with humility, respect, and skill.” 22 likes
More quotes…