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Detroit: An American Autopsy

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,657 Ratings  ·  1,544 Reviews
An explosive exposé of Detroit, icon of America’s lost prosperity, from Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charlie LeDuff

In the heart of America, a metropolis is quietly destroying itself. Detroit, once the richest city in the nation, is now its poorest. Once the vanguard of America’s machine age—mass production, automobiles, and blue-collar jobs—Detroit is now America’s
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Hardcover, First Edition (U.S.), 304 pages
Published February 7th 2013 by The Penguin Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Hadrian
Here is an elegy for a city, and the funeral oration is delivered by the long-lost son of Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson.

I have a personal bias towards any stories about Detroit. I was raised in what was once an industrial town in Michigan and grew up among rust. My parents, who worked in medicine, were fortunate enough to still have jobs, as people don't stop dying when they get poorer.

This book hit me. It is not from the journalism as prose-poetry style, although that helps. It is no
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Jennifer Oddo
Feb 15, 2013 Jennifer Oddo rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Detroiters and people who like horror stories
Recommended to Jennifer by: Jeffrey
It's sad how accurate this book is.

Charlie LeDuff isn't just from Detroit, he's an insider. His revelations about many of the stories I heard about on the local news are scary and completely believable.

My only criticism of the book, if I had to give one, is not LeDuff's failure to recognize the "good parts" about Detroit (really, that's not the focus of the book) but rather the unwritten implication that the "white suburbs" stand quietly by, not suffering from what's happened to Detroit. In re
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Rachael
Dec 03, 2013 Rachael rated it did not like it
It was a cold morning; the fog had settled in low over the city and the mood on the street was grim as always. I'd just finished reading the daily rag and was throwing it in the trash when there was a knock at my door.

"Detective, there's a...there's a BOOK here to see you. It says its name is Detroit: An American Autopsy."

"Christ. Send it in, Dolly, and keep your mouth shut about it." Dolly's full, plum-colored lip quivered as she turned to usher in the tome, her ample breast heaving within the
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Marilyn
Dec 04, 2013 Marilyn rated it it was ok
I am a native Detroiter who is still loyal to the city, hoping it will again be a place where families can live a decent life in a cultural metropolitan city. I picked up this book, hoping for some answers on what happened to Detroit. After all, an autopsy promises some answers, a beginning to unraveling a mystery of what happened.

You won't find any of that in this book. The author lays down some anecdotal stories, which while interesting, weren't very fulfilling. At this point, we all know Detr
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Bill Shea
Jan 21, 2013 Bill Shea rated it it was amazing
Charlie is a friend, but I say this regardless of that: I enjoyed this book immensely. I read it in bed at night, and it made me want to stay up and read more. Now, that may be because I know these stories and live in Detroit, and know LeDuff, but I think it's also because it's a good read. It's not stifling academic lecturing. It's down in the gutters. A good look at how a prominent journalist does his work, too. My full review is coming out in an upcoming issue of the Columbia Journalism Revie ...more
Carol
May 11, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
WHAT AN EYE OPENER THAT READS LIKE A HORROR STORY!

Whew! So much corruption at all levels of government, local, State, and even Wayne County? I am shocked! Having grown up in a suburb of Detroit and hearing of some of the corruption and hard times via relatives who still reside there over the past years, it never really struck me of how bad it is/was until I read this book.

Of all the horribly sad stories of innocent children dying, homes set on fire for fun, police and fire departments understaff

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Megan
Intrigued by the beginning, but thinking it could really go either way with this one by the time I reach the end... the stories are always interesting, but the journalistic machismo is getting distracting.
Stuart
Feb 01, 2013 Stuart rated it really liked it
I was in Detroit a few months ago doing research at the Ford archives. People were very friendly to me during my entire stay in that down home, I put one pant leg on at a time way that they are in the Midwest. Even wealthy Grosse Pointe types were like this. Someone asked me how often I came to Detroit. "I was last here 34 years ago for my best friend's wedding," I said. "Well, it was a lot better here 34 years ago, that's for sure," he said. "He's damn right," another said who had been eavesdro ...more
Walter
Feb 21, 2013 Walter rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful book, so real as to be too much so at points. Author Charlie LeDuff is unflinching in his portrayal of two stories: his own and that of his hometown, Detroit (to which he returns at mid-career). While LeDuff's life story is intriguing, the tale of the Motor City is almost too fantastic to believe ... and it's in this gritty, unflinching and ultimately loving relaying that the book achieves its glory.

As the author makes clear, Detroit is a window into and reflection of our coll
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Nina
Oct 10, 2014 Nina rated it it was ok
This is the kind of book that you get when some guy, who tells a decent story now and again, and who is often the recipient of a pat "you should really write a book about this someday, you know?" finds himself with time on his hands and decides to make a go of this whole book thing. The result doesn't quite hold together.

It's part Guy Noir (“The strain was showing on Monica Conyers like a cheap cocktail dress”), part anecdotes about how commonplace corruption and violence is in Detroit, part De
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
This was a great book that I couldn't put down, as much as you can say a book about a destroyed city is great. What makes it great is the journalist-author Charlie LeDuff, who is from Detroit and has lost several family members to terrible situations there. This makes it different from a detached, paid-to-experience book that most journalists will write, forgotten the minute they are published. This is partly about the city of Detroit, and partly about Charlie's own life and background. The mix ...more
RandomAnthony
May 10, 2013 RandomAnthony rated it liked it
I am somewhere between three and four stars for Detroit: An American Autopsy. First off, I must own a oversupply of northern Midwestern pride, and although I've only visited Detroit a couple of times, I feel like an invisible chain links Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit, etc. So if you're picking on Detroit you're kind of like picking on my cousin. However, my cousin is in bad shape, no doubt, and he shoots heroin and has lost too much weight and is kind of an asshole. But he's my cousin.

L
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Steve
Mar 31, 2014 Steve rated it it was ok
It's OK. Actually, LeDuff is a really good writer, and the pages do fly by, but I couldn't help but feel that on a number of occasions he was so over the top that I thought I was caught in a chapter of Elmore Leonard's City Primeval (a better book, IMHO). Then again, I Googled up images for Detroit, particularly the areas LeDuff writes about, and was shocked at how bad Detroit does look. These areas often look like haunted war zones. If this is the future, we're totally screwed. The book itself ...more
Christopher
Apr 02, 2013 Christopher rated it did not like it
Rambling, pointless book by a journalist who became momentarily well-known because of his involvement in a news story about some dead guy in Detroit whose feet were found sticking out of a frozen puddle in an abandoned building. This book is a collection of disconnected vignettes that supposedly illustrate life in Detroit, but they don't add up to much of anything. (A lot of people wander into the book, but none are treated in any depth, and it all seems to be idle stuff dumped out of a reporter ...more
Anne
Jul 04, 2013 Anne rated it liked it
Examining the ruins of Detriot is a fashionable pastime these days. I admit, I am interested in the empty, rotting factories and found the documentary "Detropia" fascinating. And I'm a little bit obsessed with Henry Ford at the moment. What a dick!

Detroit: An American Autopsy is extremely thought provoking, although the title was misleading. I thought an autopsy would be a systematic, detailed examination of what went wrong and where the city is now. Instead, it is a series of... well...anecdote
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Nancy Oakes
Feb 27, 2013 Nancy Oakes rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite, nonfiction
Detroit: An American Autopsy is a combination of gritty reportage and personal memories punctuated with a vein of dark humor that tells the author's story of his attempt to understand what has happened to his city. Detroit is where Charlie LeDuff grew up and after some time away, where he lives now. The book is an uncompromising account of a city that was once the richest in America and the forces, both external and internal, which have led Detroit down a steep path of decline. At the same time, ...more
Ja
Feb 24, 2013 Ja rated it it was amazing
Every so often when I am not enraged by the overwhelming bias of NPR, I hear on “Fresh Air” mention of a book that fires my curiosity. “First They Killed My Father” was one of those books. Terry Gross, though, really nailed it with this one. I have rarely enjoyed a book more than this one. If it is even appropriate to say that about a book chronicling the human suffering in a city gone all types of wrong, all varieties of bad. I could hardly put it down. Now, to be fair, urban blight and decline ...more
Michael Hicks
Jan 29, 2013 Michael Hicks rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, giveaways
First things first – I was lucky (and honored) enough to win an advanced reading copy through a Goodreads Giveaway. I’ve enjoyed LeDuff’s work on Fox 2 Detroit and had been wanting to read “Detroit: An American Autopsy” since I first heard of its planned publication in a three-part profile on LeDuff that ran on Deadline Detroit.

LeDuff’s on-camera work is polarizing – he’s eccentric, bombastic, assured, confrontational, and sarcastic. He’s a Detroit newsman through and through, but an on-air pers
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Linda Robinson
Mar 30, 2013 Linda Robinson rated it it was amazing
Topnotch reporting told from the personal view of a journalist who left town for the Big Apple and then returned to the D with his new family. LeDuff peels the veneer to reveal the schizophrenic core of the city: you love her and hate what's happening at the same time, and LeDuff's book is funny and excruciating both as well. Detroit grew up on the car business of the last midcentury, and then aged in the post-industrial world of financial decline. Is it all about the money? No, it's about the m ...more
Susan
Apr 22, 2013 Susan rated it liked it
This book should have called "An Autopsy of the Life of Charlie LeDuff With Tidbits About Detroit Thrown In". It was semi-interesting but if you have never lived in the area you would not know where any of the 'burbs he mentions are in relation to Detroit. He didn't have anything in this book that anyone from the area didn't already know. He skimmed over the Coleman Young dynasty, the riots of 1967 and the whole Kwane mess. There was no mention of Motown or the few things that draw us suburbanit ...more
Bryan Alexander
Jul 21, 2013 Bryan Alexander rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
This is a furious book, a snarling love song to a suffering people.

This is not one of those "please say nice things about Detroit" screeds. LeDuff focuses on horror, mayhem, dysfunction, corruption, and despair. Victories are rare and small, scored in the face of general decline.

Which is not to say _Detroit: An American Autopsy_ is not a pleasure to read. The prose is elegant, stripped down in a hurry, and focused on economically outlining key details. Characters appear vividly, either as one-ti
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John Devlin
Dec 04, 2013 John Devlin rated it it was ok
(2.8)A little too much filler from his life and the meanderings of his sojourn through the rusted out hulk that was Detroit.

People should read this and know that this is the paradigm of what happens when Progressive politics and years of race-baiting victimization crash headlong into government entitlements married to a 21st century that has steamrolled manufacturing.

The government isn't corrupt b/c that implies there's something clean and pure that can be found if the rust is chipped away. In f
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Scott Smith
Mar 08, 2015 Scott Smith rated it did not like it
I think that Charlie LeDuff is a journalistic Raymond Chandler, a 21st century Hunter S. Thompson. He's a working class stiff who tells it like it is, without all that intellectual bullshit that passes for writing these days. He got tired of winning Pulitzer Prizes and working for the Gray Lady in the cittay and decided to get on back to his roots in Detroit, where his honest, hardscrabble family still lives. This book, then, is an attempt to get at the heart of what ails Detroit, the heart of A ...more
Heather
May 11, 2013 Heather rated it really liked it
This book read more as a eulogy than anything else. Leduff's journalistic writing style, succinct but not stupid, painted a bleak picture of the city I love so much.

Both of my parents were born in Detroit. They grew up in Hazel Park and moved "all the way" over to Warren in 1965 after their house was built. I grew up with stories of Kern & Company where my grandmother worked in the layaway department, my mother's tales of taking the streetcar to attend Tigers games at Briggs Stadium. Where m
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Zelda
Jan 03, 2014 Zelda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-book, 2014
First book of 2014 and that was a great way to kick off the new year.

I hate reading reviews of books before I read the book but it can be a necessary evil. In the reviews for this book I gleaned some of the criticism of LeDuff's writing and in the end a lot of turned out to be accurate. But, what some saw as negative aspects of his writing I found to be endearing.

Mind you that I heard the book through the filter of someone else's reading. The reader gave LeDuff a gruff, wizened tone that at ti
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judy
Jul 03, 2013 judy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I have rarely, if ever, read a book so gut wrenching on a personal level. Like many residents or former residents of beautiful Michigan, contacts with Detroit, its people and its problems, run in the background of my life. I must have arrived from the East at just the right moment or perhaps just the moment. The author dates the start of Detroit's demise to some 40 years back. I can't say it was sudden but it certainly was obvious that the downhill slide had begun. Cobo Hall, in its first incarn ...more
Todd Nemet
Mar 15, 2016 Todd Nemet rated it it was amazing
Bought this on the strength of a Fresh Air interview with the author and read it in one day.

[[[Aside: I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, about 50 miles south of Detroit. I was always vaguely terrified of the city, probably because several people told me that the city tends to explode into race riots from time to time. My wife and I spent a really fun (and race riot-free) weekend there two years ago doing some typical touristy things (visiting Motown, DIA, a jazz club, etc.), and I highly recommend visit
...more
Jeremy
Jun 10, 2014 Jeremy rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociological
An engaging blend of memoir, journalism, and urban analysis, this book is a deeply sad eulogy about a place that's broken beyond broken. There's no real thesis here aside from reaffirming how utterly disastrous and toxic everything in Detorit is, from municipal services, to the crime problem, to the city's government and judiciary, to the flailing auto-industry, to it's morbidly polarized racial tensions...ad infinitum.

Leduff trades in this most miserable of milieus with a cocky, street-wise se
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Alissa
Feb 09, 2015 Alissa rated it it was amazing
Excellent prose and a tribute to a city that's had its share of tragedy and an ongoing depression. It's also bitingly funny. I recommend this to any of my Michigan friends (along with *Middlesex*) as a book that will make you see a downtrodden city in many lights.

And the section on Kwame Kilpatrick's sexts had me cackling. Oh, MAN.
David Shane
May 23, 2013 David Shane rated it really liked it
This is the sort of book I probably would never have picked up if I wasn't trying to kill time in a bookstore (which still exist, by the way). I "enjoyed" reading it, but it'll come as no surprise that the book is quite depressing - all the more so because it isn't a statistical study on the woes of Detroit, it's the personal stories of individual people. And too often, in Detroit, those people are unbelievably corrupt politicians, selfish union bosses, incompetent business leaders, low-life dru ...more
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Charlie LeDuff is a writer, filmmaker and a multimedia reporter for The Detroit News. He is a former national correspondent for The New York Times.

He covered the war in Iraq, crossed the desert with a group of migrant Mexicans and worked inside a North Carolina slaughterhouse as part of The Times series “How Race Is Lived in America,” which was awarded the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for National Reportin
...more
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“Go ahead and laugh at Detroit. Because you are laughing at yourself.” 20 likes
“But wanderlust is like a pretty girl - you wake up one morning, find she's grown old and decide that either you're going to commit your life or you're going to walk away.” 14 likes
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