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Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  306 ratings  ·  76 reviews
From longtime New York Times columnist Bob Herbert comes a wrenching portrayal of ordinary Americans struggling for survival in a nation that has lost its way

In his eighteen years as an opinion columnist for The New York Times, Herbert championed the working poor and the middle class. After filing his last column in 2011, he set off on a journey across the country to repor
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2014)
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4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  306 ratings  ·  76 reviews

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Lark Benobi
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved Herbert's moral clarity. I love that he quit his prestigious perch as a New York Times columnist to research and to write this overwhelming call to action. I love that Herbert uses words like "lousy" when describing current US infrastructure planning--here is a public policy book that actually speaks to me as a US citizen with power to change things in my community, through my community service, and through my vote. I love the way he reminds me that investing in infrastructure--whether i ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
It is so much more edifying to read about the fall of the Roman Empire and think about how mighty projects have fallen in the past. It is quite a different thing to read about the rot in an empire in which one lives. It is not nearly so edifying as alarming and depressing. Whether it Gilded age style plutocracy, a bought off political system owned by the rich, crumbling infrastructure, struggling and declining middle class, destitute and despairing working class it is not so entertaining to live ...more
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Most engaging was the emotional pitch of the stories. Many tugged at the heartstrings, working especially hard on the psyche. The Pittsburgh Opera event fueled by Corbett's deep education budget cuts is a good example; what in fact led me wanting to see the logic explored, Corbett's point-by-point reasons for purportedly trimming the budget down so drastically. Given the steep population drop… due to such reasons as many people no longer being able to afford having children, I wondered if low st ...more
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Bob Herbert's Losing Our Way is an important, masterful work - an earnest, heartfelt contribution really - to our societal awareness, discourse and decision-making. It has a few glaring, jarring flaws, but it's so powerful that these diminish its importance only in a minor way. To put a finer point on it, if you read this and are not wounded, torn and spurred to action, you aren't human/humane....

What the author seeks to do is two things: first, to examine our polity and to describe how we have
Susan (aka Just My Op)
If you are already depressed about the state of the United States, this book ain't gonna cheer you up. And if you have your head in the sand or just don't know about some of these things, this book will open your eyes in ways you may not want to know.

Despite that, this is a very good book, and should be read for anyone who wants to know more about where we stand.

Don't think anyone is going to get off easy; there is plenty of blame to go around. Corporations are at fault. Government is at fault,
Todd Wright
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
A good old fashioned populist polemic. Herbert is upset about the state of America, and he is not shy about expressing it.

If you like books that are angry and poorly researched you must read this book. Herbert is happy to rely on cherry-picked research and the feelings of “ordinary citizens.” But he is able to back that up with anecdotes and his opinion.

President Obama and his staff were stooges who did not understand what they were doing. The same with President Bush. And most experts, do we w
Rhonda Lomazow
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bob Herbert has written an intimate gut wrenching book about today's America.He introduces us to families who were living the American dream work hard buy a house some day retire.Instead with the economy crashing people are losing their jobs their homes food banks can barely keep up with the demand in the face of the new needy the shame of hardworking people applying for food stamps desperately looking for jobs.we meet a young soldier who loses his legs proudly makes miraculous recovery walks ag ...more
Michael Hillman
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A sobering look at the U.S. Today. Everyone should read it before our next election.
Kate Penner
Aug 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-15
Just a few quick notes: On everything but school reform (infrastructure, military, etc.), I would've given this book 4 stars. Herbert vilifies extreme data-driven instruction, teacher firings, school closures, online education, charter schools, and teaching to the test without acknowledging the issues that these tools were introduced to neutralize. Initially, he claims American public schools are really not that bad (and those who claim otherwise are the equivalent of Chicken Little), and later ...more
Kacee Moreton
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great insight into the root causes of the economic and social decline of our society. The focal points are the costs of our perpetual wars, collapse of infrastructure, poverty and income inequality, and the deterioration of educational standards. Our future and more importantly our children's futures have a grim prognosis if we don't change course.
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A powerful, must read book. There are persuasive counterpoints to some of Mr. Herbert's assertions, I'm sure, but his book is still a clear call to lift up all of our society, not just the fortunate few.
Bookish Jen
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been a long-time fan of Bob Herbert. From 1993 to 2011 he was an opinion columnist for the New York Times, and when he left the paper I was heartbroken.

But lucky for me I read his book Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America and it is the perfect read this election year, very timely and a healing balm for me after reading Donald Trump’s truly loathsome Crippled America.

Losing Our Way is divided into carefully crafted chapters, written in with the wisdom, thoughtfulness an
Colt Bradley
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Definitely worth a read. Herbert investigates problems in America today and focuses on four specifically: infrastructure, education, economic inequality, and war. With each, he delves in both personal stories from those effected and prominent expert opinion to lay out the problem with all it's nuance, try to address what went wrong, and give starting points for solutions.

Herbert doesn't offer solutions--to do so would be naive and irresponsible. Instead, he hopes this information serves as a wa
Maggie Robinson
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. Reading this now after all the political crazy since beginning of summer last year, it really opened my eyes to see how we got here. When I say here, I mean with Drumph and all the chaos in making anything come together now. This book shows how the people of America are living and dealing with some of our failed systems. It opened my eyes and I think anyone could benefit from reading this book now.
Randolph Breschini this book and I feel like we've slowly slid into a deep canyon BUT the climb out is SO, SO STEEP and ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE...for and schools, infrastructure, endless wars without a clear mission, declining jobs for the middle class, inequality, healthcare, etc. This book was written PRE-Trump...I feel now we as a nation are sliding EVEN faster into the deep, dark canyon...It is time to turn-around our nation...seriously...
Nov 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read for a class. A little less aggressive than my normal preference for left wing polemics on the rot in America imposed by the ruling ideology of neoliberalism. I learned nothing but still good. Quick read.
Robert S
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, politics
"...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. "
- Hubert H. Humphrey
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Mmnp?fb az Wasdfi*g
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very concisely and movingly draws a picture of the major problems facing our country, many of which are never talked about.
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, nonfiction
The best explanation of "how we got here" I've seen.
Nov 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
The author of this important book looks at four major areas that reflect a "troubled America," a country in which Americans seem to have lost their way:
-- the appalling state of the country's infrastructure: highways, bridges, water and electrical distribution systems, the country's air traffic control system. All of this "infrastructure" has been badly maintained or not maintained at all; through neglect, the cost now of bringing the infrastructure back to 21st century standards is mind-boggli
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Bob Herbert was one of my favorite columnists when he was at the New York Times; I was very sad to see him leave in 2011. Since his departure, he has been researching and writing this book. He has spent his time well.

This is an exceptional narrative that describes the terrible path our country has taken in the last 50 years. He uses personal stories (thus, "intimate portrait") to show how our absorption with ourselves and the dominance of the financial elite has led us astray. We now have a cou
Oct 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Some truly sad stories of middle class Americans and their decline into bottom rung of our economy.

"For the middle class, the crisis was nothing short of existential."

About our school systems:
"There are astonishing amounts of money in play, and some of those deep pocket types are in it for the personal gain, for sure. But the motives and the aims vary. It's not just about profits. It's not simply a case of greedy people. For an awful lot of them, it's ideological. They're playing this game of e
Bonnie Brody
Bob Herbert believes our country is in BIG trouble. According to him, the most dire problems that the United States faces are the country's infrastructure, the employment crisis and the disappearance of the middle class, the public school system, and funding "pointless and debilitating wars." In his own words, the "goal of this book is to get beyond the din of clueless politicians and nonstop talking heads and show what really happened, how we got into such a deep fix, and how we can get out of ...more
May 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
This sober and thoughtful book is well worth reading as a wake-up call to our country. I loved Bob Herbert's columns and was sorry that he is no longer in the paper, but very happy that he wrote this book. Herbert documents a number of issues that we need to pay attention to in the U.S.: the state of our bridges, roads, and general infrastructure; how our veterans are treated (and often ignored); how education has become in thrall to for-profit "reformers;" and how good blue-collar jobs have dis ...more
Nov 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I can't say that I enjoyed this book at all. It really made me angry the more I read. But the truth needs to be told about the problems that confront America right now. More books like this need to be written; and more importantly, more people need to read them.

The four major problems that author Bob Herbert identifies and describes are:

1) America's deteriorating and ill-maintained infrastructure.

2) The huge financial and human and future costs of waging two unnecessary wars.

3) Poverty and Ineq
This was a depressing book. It is quite exhaustive in the detailing of how the cabal of moneyed elites have systematically deconstructed all aspects of governing in America that were created to enhance the middle class of the nation. Many of these changes are so entrenched that it would be difficult to overturn them (Citizens United; District Gerrymandering; State voting restrictions and many more).

These same moneyed folks have helped destroy the public schools by enforced state testing and dra
Bill O'driscoll
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Former NYT columnist digs deep into a well-defined set of problems facing the U.S. -- unmaintained infrastructure, unsupported public education, unjustifiable war -- and shows the human cost: deadly bridge collapses, students unable to reach their potential, soldiers maimed physically and psychologically. He gets both the close grain and the big picture about eminently solvable (or avoidable) problems that few of our so-called leaders seem ready to face. A couple particularly astute observations ...more
Oct 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Bob Herbert’s Losing Our Way: A Portrait of Troubled America attempts to explain what is behind the increasing sense of uneasiness so many Americans seem to have. In essence, why do so many people seem to think that something has gone wrong in the United States? Herbert’s looks an array of issues including: decaying infrastructure, income inequality, public education, mismanaged wars, and failure to care for veterans.

Many of the topics and issue covered in this book are not new to me. Furthermo
David Quinn
Aug 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Herbert brings a highly readable and thoughtful style to his lament of America’s crumbling infrastructure, the polarization of its wealth, the untold costs of its wars and the woeful condition of its public education system. The people we meet along the way illustrate his points very well and he brings in enough data to support his positions but not so much that it bogs down the narrative. The unfortunate people he chronicles are very likable and appear periodically to keep the book moving along ...more
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“She was” 0 likes
“We have to ask ourselves: ‘Is this the kind of society we want? Is this the sort of thing we ought to tolerate?’ It has become overwhelming, and yet there doesn’t seem to be any national outcry. People have pretty much accepted what is truly a terrible situation. We should not allow ourselves to remain comfortable knowing that so many people are in such deep trouble. Above all, I’d like to see people get angry, really angry—angry to the point where we say, ‘We can’t have this. It isn’t right.’ ” 0 likes
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