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Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  382 ratings  ·  84 reviews
In the vein of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief and Deborah Feldman's Unorthodox, journalist Emily Brady journeys into a secretive subculture--one that marijuana built.

Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier

Say the words "Humboldt County" to a stranger and you might receive a knowing grin. The name is infamous, and yet the place, and its inhabitants, have been nearl
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published June 18th 2013 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  382 ratings  ·  84 reviews

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Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a solid three-star read, but it gets an extra star for being about a subject that is particularly close to my heart. As a Humboldt native who grew up relatively insulated from the county's ubiquitous illegal marijuana production, I became increasingly interested in the subject as I got older and realized what a huge role pot plays in the local economy. This book is an interesting glimpse into the lives of growers and normal citizens whose lives are tied to the local drug trade. I grew u ...more
Emily Brady's study of marijuana culture focuses on Humboldt County, part of California's Emerald Triangle where a great deal of pot has been grown in the past few decades. Most of the book involves the time period just prior to the first legalization push in Cali; her book illuminates the issue from several points of view, ranging from an old-school grower facing competition from the more high-yielding indoor farms, through a social worker and a police officer to a man who lives on the bleeding ...more
Bill Brewer
Mar 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Northern California has always been a big and mysterious piece of the country to me. Loggers, fishermen, students, shop owners all wrestling something out of this beautiful country. It is surprisingly rugged and remote much more so then Oregon Coast where I have lived in the past. I was down there recently and recalled all of the information that had been subconsciously been entering my mind over the years about marijuana and pulled off the main road to drive through Garberville. It did not take ...more
Jun 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Beginning in the sixties a lot of people joined the ‘Back to the Landers’ in an effort to live closer to the earth and ‘be the change’ that they wished to see in the world. For many in Humboldt County, under the beauty and grandeur of the Redwoods in the wilds of Northern California, this meant growing marijuana for a living.

Through a narrative of investigative journalism, Emily Brady illustrates the people and struggles of this relatively unique area through they eyes of its residents. While sh
David Ward
Mar 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: drugs, non-fiction
Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier by Emily Brady (Grand Central Publishing 2013) (338.17379) is an interesting tale about the state of present-day cannabis farming in Northern California to provide a supply of marijuana for the medical marijuana market. I have no way to judge the accuracy of her information, and it's not really important anyway. When this book was published (in 2013), the need for a steady stream of cannabis to supply the California medical marijuana trade truly mad ...more
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a very readable book about the cannabis industry in Humboldt County, CA, mostly told through the lives of four differently involved people: Mara, an aging hippie, part of those who "started it all" with the back to land movement of the '70s; Bob, a Sheriffs officer, who just spins his wheels trying to enforce an the un-enforceable law against the growing; Crockett, a cog in the commercial growing industry; Emma, who "escaped" the cycle of death and arrest among children of growers throug ...more
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A very engaging read that draws you in immediately with a colorful cast of characters... but it's all strictly nonfiction! Strongly recommended, for advocates, opponents, and everyone in between.
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a fun and light read yet an excellent account of Humboldt's marijuana culture told through the life stories of four characters. I highly recommend it.
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really fascinating look at a community on the brink of dynamic change. Reads like fiction, but with all the interesting details only nonfiction can provide. A quick and thought-provoking read!
Jessica Raya
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had the pleasure of meeting Emily Brady a few months ago and knew instantly that this was a non-fiction writer whose book I had to read. I expected Humbolt to be smart and well-written. What I didn't expect was to be thoroughly captivated by these people and this place, so much so in fact that I'd devour the story over a weekend. Partial credit goes to the intriguing subject matter (having grown up in British Columbia, where the scent of pot is as ubiquitous as Lululemon leggings, even I had m ...more
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. What an incredible insight into such a taboo subject. Brady has really captured the personal and human side to the marijuana trade. It tells like a sequence of separate stories that all intertwine to paint a delicate picture that leaves the reader with so many questions and an alternate view of this often negatively cast subject.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting

Humboldt told the story of the marijuana industry in an off the grid community. The book shares the perspective of a variety of Humboldt residents with different roles in the marijuana trade. This was book was informative, interesting and shared diverse perspectives from a variety of people living in the community relying on the black market marijuana growers.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting look at the economic and social impact of marijuana growing and legalization in rural Northern California.
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting essay on the marijuana economy and culture present mostly in southern Humboldt County in California. Quick, interesting read. Very topical for today’s controversies.
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
Humboldt county, sparsely-populated, green, surrounded by ancient redwood trees, is, in some ways, the epicenter of marijuana production in the United States. In the 1960s, hippies fleeing corporate greed and the government's violence and hypocrisy built communities here. Now, the place is inhabited by the families they established and, increasingly, by opportunistic businesspeople who have transformed the cultivation of marijuana from a small-time, family affair into a powerful, community-defin ...more
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Since I live in Humboldt County and I have heard a lot about this particular book, I decided to read it to become more educated about the marijuana legalization issue, which is to be on this November's ballot once again in California. The author spent years with several people in Humboldt County to immerse herself in the cannabis culture so that she could write a realistic book about the subject. She uses her interviews with four main characters: Mare, Crockett, Emma and Bob, to illustrate four ...more
Cheryl D
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Economics of Growing Marijuana 101

This was my first Goodreads book that I received via the giveaways.

When I first received the news that I won Humboldt my reaction was "Oh great, a book about marijuana...NOT!!!!!" It certainly would not be a book that I would go and pick up on my own. And as a person who is against people using marijuana for recreational purposes (but waffles about medicinal use) it was not a subject that I particularly wanted to read about especially because I thought I ha
Venus Smurf
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
I can't say that I really enjoyed this book. The subject matter was interesting, the characters themselves were well presented, and the perspectives offered were occasionally surprising, but the narrative was all over the place. There were too many seemingly random jumps between topics and time, and this made the book a lot harder to follow than it should have been.

I admit that my biggest issue with this book, however, stems from the presentation of the subject matter. The author too clearly ha
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
During road trips up and down the west coast, I've stopped in various places in Humboldt County. The beauty of the country is hard to beat and driving or walking among the redwoods never ceases to inspire me with awe. Stopping along Hwy 101, I've been impressed by the friendliness of the people I've met at the restaurants and shops who are easy to engage in conversation, ever eager to answer my "tourist" questions and offer suggestions for things to see, places to eat. On one such occasion in Ar ...more
Douglas Lord
Nov 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Slow-paced, even lyrical, this book is a measured look at life in a community where the most important commodity is illegal. It’s difficult to comprehend how big the marijuana crop is to the 1,200 square mile Humboldt County until one reads that 15 to 30,000 workers make their living from the industry. It is “the backbone of the county’s economy”: grower “tithes” fund little leagues and volunteer ambulance services, for example. Through the stories of four “typical” residents, readers get a sens ...more
Lois Tucker
Dec 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed this very much. It's narrative non-fiction, telling the story of the growing biz through a young college woman who grew up there, an older woman who moved there as a idealistic hippy and who was one of the first to start growing pot, a man who is one of two in charge of a huge grow operation, and a cop who lives and works in the area. I love the description of the area, and enjoyed learning more about this business that is one of the biggest economies in Calif. I heard via a Eureka rep ...more
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier provides a rare and enlightening look into the history, culture and individuals that populate this picturesque Northern California community. Author Emily Brady immersed herself in Humboldt life for over a year, and offers an insider's look at the County's marijuana culture through four distinct points of view - a young, money-minded grower in Humboldt, an original "settler" of the area during the counterculture era, a youth's perspective of growing ...more
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
A well written and engaging book about the marijuana industry and its effect on a corner of Humboldt County. I picked up this book because I have relatives who live in Humboldt (not at all involved with this line of business) and I'm always blown away by the natural resources and drop dead gorgeous scenery when I visit. But we're also warned not to wander onto private property, not to linger too long where we aren't known, and to just plain stay away from certain areas (although to be fair, my r ...more
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
You always know you've got a good book when you finish it in a short matter of days or hours.

I thoroughly enjoyed journalist Emily Brady's book, Humboldt: Life on America's marijuana frontier. It has achieved the prestigious place amongst my category of "Emily's all time best reads". Previous books that have also gained this status are Wild by Cheryl Strayed and The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.

Brady's book is in the narrative nonfiction genre, one that I enjoy for its focus on storytelling but bas
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book. The author tells a journalistic political story through narative characters. It was a great read.

Humboldt is a narrative exploration of an insular community in Northern California, which for nearly 40 years has existed primarily on the cultivation and sale of marijuana. It's a place where business is done with thick wads of cash and savings are buried in the backyard. In Humboldt County, marijuana supports everything from fire departments to schools, but it comes with a heavy
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
This portrayal of Humboldt is comprised of the tales of four individuals: the business-minded grower, the marijuana activist, the SoHum-born non-grower, and the deputy sheriff assigned to the area to navigate the territory of 215 laws. The author, Emily Brady, pieces these glimpses of Humboldt life together well in an easy-to-follow and engaging story.

Following the story, it's not too terribly difficult to surmise the author believes marijuana should be legalized. Obviously, this is a very compl
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
A great overview and presentation of the different angles through real characters who are brought to life well. Doesn't glamorize or condemn, but paints a clear picture (and none of it involves illegal Mexican cartels in the CA mts). Not only did I learn about Humboldt life, I learned a lot more about what's going on in my new home of Oakland. I was happy with the feedback Mare got from Harborside. Hopefully she will continue the fight so even weed doesn't get anesthetized and corporatized like ...more
Virginia Markhart
Apr 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Borrowed from a friend at the office. I was interested in the book primarily because I am familiar with the area. Many of the towns and streets mentioned are one that I have either been to or heard of. The marijuana saga was quite interesting. I had always thought that growers would be all for legalization of the crop. Not so. That would mean a heavy hit to the price and mass production would take over. Lots of information about growing. I had no idea that there is a difference in outdoor growin ...more
Sep 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A great glimpse behind the redwood curtain. This part of northern California and southern Oregon has been known for years as the emerald triangle. It's secretive residents brought the area back to prosperity after the lumber industry left. The way they did this was to grow the best cannabis in the world under the sun, the way it was always grown. Adapting to the changes post 215 and the continual change the industry has gone thru.

Emily focuses on 4 growers, and we get to see these changes fro ea
Jun 17, 2013 rated it liked it
I head a really interesting interview with Emily Brady on NPR about this book and I decided to give it a read. The subject matter is fascinating, and she did some really admirable journalistic work to get the stories and get to know the Humboldt-ers that she profiles. I enjoyed how she weaves the history of Humboldt county throughout the personal stories. That being said, the writing left something to be desired -- I found there to be lots of corny descriptions and dramatic literary devices wher ...more
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Emily Brady is the author of "Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier." A graduate of San Francisco State University and Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, she began her career at an English-language newspaper in Caracas, Venezuela. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Village Voice, Time, and Smithsonian, among others.