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Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,168 ratings  ·  223 reviews
In 1947, Forbes magazine declared Lancaster, Ohio the epitome of the all-American town. Today it is damaged, discouraged, and fighting for its future. In Glass House, journalist Brian Alexander uses the story of one town to show how seeds sown 35 years ago have sprouted to give us Trumpism, inequality, and an eroding national cohesion.

The Anchor Hocking Glass Company, once
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 14th 2017 by St. Martin's Press
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3.91  · 
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 ·  1,168 ratings  ·  223 reviews

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Jessica Jeffers
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The "Hocking" in Anchor Hocking is the name of the river that I could see from the window in my childhood bedroom, less than an hour south of Lancaster. This book tells a story that is very important to me, personally.

I have millions of thoughts on this book and I will eventually coalesce them into something coherent, but for now just let me say: fuck Milton Friedman. Fuck him with the biggest, thorniest stick on the planet. Fuck Ronald Reagan for legitimizing Friedman, fuck Mitt Romney for his
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-criticism
I grew up in Lancaster. When I was five I lived on Maud Avenue and could see the west side Anchor Hocking plant from my back yard. My grandma lived by Cherry Street Park and you could see the defunct east side plant from her front porch. But by the time I was in high school Anchor Hocking's heyday had passed. In 1997 Lancaster felt like a dying town, so I did what almost everyone I knew did - I left. But my family stayed and over the next ten years I'd visit once or twice a year when I had leave ...more
In the year following the Trump election, there has been a renewed journalistic focus on the "white working class" and its miserable economic state. This has produced many superficial articles along the lines of "Trump supporter still supports Trump, still dislikes black people and Mexicans", and doesn't tell us very much about how things got where they are.

This book is an investigation in greater depth, and has become a case study of the decline of manufacturing towns in the Midwest. Alexander'
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Forget Hillbilly Elegy, if you want to understand why Donald Trump is President, why he won in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, read this book. This is a damning indictment on why America is coming unraveled, and why if we keep on our current trajectory without making some big changes, without a new social contract our nation is headed for chaos, for dissolution, for revolution. Thank you Mr. Alexander, for this book.
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Corporate elites said they needed free-trade agreements, so they got them. Manufacturers said that they needed tax breaks and public-money incentives in order to keep their plants operating in the United States, so they got them. Banks and financiers needed looser regulations, so they got them. Employers said they needed weaker unions–or no unions at all–so they got them. Private equity firms said they needed carried interest and secrecy, so they got them. Everybody, including Lancastrians them ...more
Carla Bayha
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The life and death and signs of life of Anchor Hocking Glass Company serves as a platform to tell the story of how greed brought on by Reaganomics and private equity raiders ("Barbarians") stole most of the capital from a company and a thriving Ohio town, capital that took decades to build, but only a few years to destroy. There's lots of heroin, too, of course. This is a more difficult read than "Hillbilly Elegy," but a far more honest and encompassing book. Put it together with "Dark Money" fo ...more
Christopher Lawson
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
GLASS HOUSE a story that shows the more base side of capitalism, where short-term profits are paramount, and people are just things in the way. The story is not a fun read--it's actually quite sad, and unfortunately, there isn't a cheery ending. Nevertheless, this tale is a story that needs telling, and a discussion worth having. The events documented in this book are sure to bring up lots of questions--especially regarding the ethics of corporate buyouts.

Brian Alexander explains what happened
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this while on vacation in Florida, so maybe that was a n odd choice to read poolside, but this book pissed me off so much. There is sometime so fundamentally wrong with this country and I'm sure there isn't one specific moment in time that we can blame, but Reagan and Friedman and their terrible, greedy, despicable, and disgusting economic policies had a whole lot to do with the state of the country and how unbalanced and unfair it is. I believe that if you work hard you should have succe ...more
Lorianne DiSabato
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
We've all heard the now-familiar story of how the American dream dies. Outsourcing and foreign competition shutter factories, and in the absence of jobs, working- and middle-class laborers turn to heroin and right-wing politics to numb their pain. The story of Lancaster, Ohio initially seems to follow this pattern, with the fates of the town and its citizens following the rise and fall of the local Anchor-Hocking plant. But the fall of Anchor-Hocking can't be blamed on foreign competition, jobs ...more
Leo Walsh
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
GLASS HOUSE by Brian Alexander is the book I thought HILLBILLY ELEGY would be: an insightful. historical dissection of how our politicians have allowed people in flyover America, the once glorious Rust Belt, to suffer and die at the hands of vulture capitalists.

Set on my birth-state Ohio (GO BUCKS!!!!), GLASS HOUSE tells the story of the small, once-prosperous city at the Appalachian foothills name Lancaster, OH. And like many small Midwestern towns, Lancaster's economy was built around a major
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All, Ages 14-Up (High School and Above)
Recommended to Evie by: NPR
This Book Was: Informative, Heart-Rending, A MUST-Read for 2017 in America. If you read Hillbilly Elegy and/or Strangers In Their Own Land, you NEED to read this.

Content Rating: Rated-R for (quoted) Cursing, Drug Use, Racism, and Depression-Triggers for anyone with a sense of Empathy.
Maturity Rating: High Maturity. While mostly a flowing read, you need to come into this with an open mind.

Would I recommend it? -- YES. Everyone should read this, but especially those in America who could not und
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
Did I understand all the finance in this book? Nope. But it's desperately important to demystify the methods by which late capitalism (not immigration) defangs unions and enables opioid addiction.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I heard Brian Alexander interviewed on NPR and immediately reserved the book at the library. This read like a horror story of impending doom.

Corporate takeovers occur for many reasons. Sometimes it's to consolidate industry rivals. Other times (most often nowadays) it's to make financiers even richer. Rarely is it to elevate the fortunes of the workers. Frequently it weakens once-proud brands, sometimes to the point of no return. That was the case for Anchor-Hocking Glass and its hometown of La
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
If you've ever wondered where the current state of raging income inequality in America came from, this book is a good place to start.

It tells the story of a tight-knit Ohio town profiled by Forbes magazine in 1947. Back then, while there may have been uneasy tension between the owners of the town's largest employer, the Anchor Hocking Glass Company, and its unionized workers, they all lived within a few miles of each other, their kids all went to the same schools, their wives worked on the same
John Devlin
Jun 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Glass houses, like hillbilly elegy and heartland, paint a grim picture of middle America.

I could disagree with he author about blaming Milton Friedman etc, but I want to address the structural fallacy that many on the right and the left miss.

The era after WW2 was a one-off.
Never again will this country enjoy such a concatenation of forces to bring it such prosperity.

Once that’s accepted, the idea that America is failing just demonstrates myopia. No, America is just sliding back to the mean. Of c
Paul Womack
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very fine introduction to the systemic decisions that can destroy lives, not to mention companies. I kept going from the book to the internet, looking up people and places mentioned in this book. My distrust of corporate raiders, private equity firms and neocapitalism has been reinforced. The means people use to abuse themselves and others continues to amaze. In ways the book is more depressing than hopeful. I read it as a compliment to "Hillbilly Elegy" and "Strangers in Their Own Land". I ex ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
It’s not unusual to read about history that you lived through. However, it is much more intimate to read about history at a specific company that you lived through.

Familiar names of past co-workers and quick mentions of "offices being a windowless concrete cell of a room" and Burger on the Bricks bring back nostalgic memories. However, unfortunately in this book, that is for the most part, that is the extent of the happiness.

This really isn’t a story about Anchor Hocking a housewares company wit
Susan Rainwater
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
When I was in college, my roommates and I drove 45 miles up Rt 33 to the charming town of Lancaster, Ohio. There, at the Anchor Hocking factory store, we bought glassware for our apartment and Christmas presents for our family. It remains a fond memory.

Glass House is the story of what happened to that charming town when 20th & 21st corporate raiders and private equity companies decided to destroy Anchor Hocking for their own personal gain. It represents hundreds of other cases of American bu
David Quinn
Due to some very poor editing Glass Houses is two books in one. One is good and the other is great, but because they don't mesh together the overall product is merely good.

The sections about the people of Lancaster, Ohio are generally good and at their best are reminiscent of David Simon's excellent book The Corner. However, too many people with not enough depth made the local aspect of the book a distraction from the better conceived macro viewpoint.

The sections about private equity firms, the
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very powerful and thought provoking book. If this doesn't make you angry, not sure what will. Shows the myriad of actors involved in destroying an American town's economy and how the demands put on companies to appease shareholders in the short term rather than build for the long term contribute at least as much as globalization to these problems. The story is told in terms of how all levels of the community -- from the boardroom to skid row -- are affected as the social contract that we grew ...more
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was...not-that-great. I was really looking forward to it, and...I feel like I don't understand anything more than I did before I read this book. I also think the 1% economy part is a little misleading; though maybe that's just my lack of understanding coming into play.

Also, this was leaden, in terms of pace. I think it could have moved faster. Anyway, sad that this wasn't as good as I hoped.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nancy Mills
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a follow to "The Jungle." And it was purely accidental ... I tend to rotate science, economics, classics, mysteries so I don't get stuck on one thing ... this was non-fiction and it was the next on the shelf.
And if you think "The Jungle" is depressing, this will make you want to just chuck it all in, if you're working or middle class and still chasing the American Dream. Because this book is about a town where the American Dream really IS dead, and it's just an example of post-industrial t
Elizabeth Stolar
Dec 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a must-read, especially if you are interested in the state of our country and the anger of the working class. This is actually better than Hillbilly Elegy -- both books written by native Ohioans about their hometowns, although Hillbilly Elegy is more strictly memoir whereas this book is more of a journalistic piece. Although this is why I knock off a star -- the author writes about his hometown, but struggles to keep the reporting at a distance. But this isn't acknowledged, and often the ...more
Rachel Blakeman
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book, however with a two-star rating I was clearly disappointed. I was optimistic about it after hearing the author interviewed on Fresh Air. And with my interest in stories from the Rust Belt I thought this could be a mashup of "Dreamland" and "Hillbilly Elegy." It was not.

Far too much time was spent on the corporate ownership of Anchor Hocking in a way that never really moved the story forward. The stories of the residents were interesting at times but never had t
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This the story of a small Ohio town that for decades was the home of Anchor Glass. It tells of the beginnings of the company, how good this company was to it's employees then it moves onto it's downfall in the 80's. The deregulation and tax cuts for businesses back in the 80's destroyed so many towns because that help did "not" go to the every day people but the wealthy businessmen and made them wealthier.

This book tells what happened to so many good businesses in America and why corporate gree
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, the author expanded my limited knowledge of private equity and how it squeezes our skilled laborers. Alexander explains the complex equity arrangements in understandable analogies, but some of it is opaque in a way that is clearly by design in that industry. Devastatingly sad how corporate greed wins over and over again. A great tribute to the tireless work of those investing in the community like Michele Ritchlin. Proud to know you Michele and good luck to you.
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A rare five star from me. A compelling, eye opening brutal truth about the reality facing small towns and businesses across our country. The enemy isn't across an ocean or border. It's in board rooms in big cities, hidden in loop holes in secured transaction laws, at tables holding $1000 meals for big bank rich guys.
Buy American, sure. But ask which conglomerate is eroding the wages, pensions and benefits of the small town worker making the product.
victor harris
Apr 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Lancaster, Ohio is one of the many communities that suffered immensely because of the excesses of pirate capitalism. Once a bastion of middle-class comfort it would be devastated by hostile corporate raiding and inept detached management. When the book treats the social history it makes for a compelling story, unfortunately it is awash in inscrutable corporate maneuvering and Wall St.-speak which makes the narrative drag.
John Deever
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Best book I have read in years -- personal memoir combined with complex insights into how greedy arcane finance guts regular American towns and the lives of the people living there. A+ reporting and a gripping read.
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“Corporate elites said they needed free-trade agreements, so they got them. Manufacturers said they needed tax breaks and public-money incentives in order to keep their plants operating in the United States, so they got them. Banks and financiers needed looser regulations, so they got them. Employers said they needed weaker unions—or no unions at all—so they got them. Private equity firms said they needed carried interest and secrecy, so they got them. Everybody, including Lancastrians themselves, said they needed lower taxes, so they got them. What did Lancaster and a hundred other towns like it get? Job losses, slashed wages, poor civic leadership, social dysfunction, drugs. Having helped wreck small towns, some conservatives were now telling the people in them to pack up and leave. The reality of “Real America” had become a “negative asset.” The “vicious, selfish culture” didn’t come from small towns, or even from Hollywood or “the media.” It came from a thirty-five-year program of exploitation and value destruction in the service of “returns.” America had fetishized cash until it became synonymous with virtue.” 4 likes
“Monomoy sent what was left of Lancaster’s once-grand, 110-year-old employer into bankruptcy court while it made off with millions and the employees walked their wages and benefits backwards in time. Lancaster’s social contract had been smashed into mean little shards by the slow-motion terrorism of pirate capitalism.” 2 likes
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