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The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis—and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  4,765 ratings  ·  833 reviews


In an era of safe spaces, trigger warnings, and an unprecedented election, the country's youth are in crisis. Senator Ben Sasse warns the nation about the existential threat to America's future.

Raised by well-meaning but overprotective parents and coddled by well-meaning but misbegotten government programs, America's youth are i

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published May 16th 2017 by St. Martin's Griffin
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Gabriel I'm surprised to see a question of such low quality for a book this thoughtful, helpful, and succinct. Did... you actually read it? He states -- multi…moreI'm surprised to see a question of such low quality for a book this thoughtful, helpful, and succinct. Did... you actually read it? He states -- multiple times and very politely -- that he's neither claiming to have "The" answers nor "The" solution to parenting or growing up. Hell, on page TWO he says '[y]ou will hear very little 'Get off my lawn!' screaming in these pages." and says variations of that again multiple times throughout the book.

He went out of his way, multiple times, to give an opinion and then say (paraphrasing) "It's not the end of the world or anything, but this is how our educational system is -- in my opinion -- going the wrong way, and this is the background for my opinion."

Based on Colton's response and because Ben Sasse is a senator, I assume this "question" is trying to take a jab at him politically? Frankly, I was surprised at how happy I was to read a (non-political or otherwise) book by a politician, let alone a currently-in-office Republican, and now, having read it, I'm surprised that you, Max, would have such a low quality "question" about this amazingly well-executed book.

I asked before, but I mean it: Did you read the book? (less)

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May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
If you don't like this book because you think it's too preachy, you're the problem.
Ken Zimmerman
May 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book is not worth the time or energy required to read it. It's a hodge-podge of this and that. Mostly incorrect and missing the real points of the lives it supposedly describes. Self-reliance is not as Sasse assures his readers being on one's own and making one's own way. Among all the nations of the Earth the USA is the least likely of these to exhibit such ways of life. Sasse's supposedly an historian. He should know better. The history of the USA is one of neighbors, cities, towns, and s ...more
Mar 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
I read this book a couple of years ago, and was quite impressed. My original review can be seen below. Despite Senator Sasse's early criticisms of Donald Trump, he voted to acquit Trump during the impeachment trial. So, despite my original 5-star rating, I am changing my rating to 1-star. Why?

Sasse wrote that the children of today lack character. But he has shown me that he himself lacks character, or honor. Sasse wrote that the children of today are unable to become independent. However, Sasse
Steven Kaminski
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ben Sasse is one of those Senators who looks like a career politician from a movie or central casting. But actually he was running a college before he came to the Senate. And in his book here he puts his finger on something very unique happening in society today that I have been guilty of (a little also) and that is the disengagement of people within society. And in particular for millennials (now that graduation is upon us) they are supposed to becoming adults...but they are doing nothing to ac ...more
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Ben Sasse is sharp, witty, and highly educated. He also harbors a reservoir of dangerous and frighteningly bad ideas. The first time I realized this, I was listening to a debate between him and Dave Domina who was his opponent running for the U.S. Senate in 2014. I clearly remember the moment when Sasse started talking about his desire to dismantle Social Security — but unfortunately the moderator cut him off and switched topics before voters could hear more about this position.

Many more of S
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture, parenting
I'm glad to have read this while my boys are 5 and under. When my oldest resists doing something he could do for himself, I have been saying with a smile, "Ezra, we are building a culture of self-reliance." He has no idea what this means, but he thinks reliance has something to do with lions. So, he likes to respond with things like, "we are building a culture of monkeys" or "we are building a culture of dads who don't say things."
Megan Parrott
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
I went into this with a ~mostly~ open mind, but give me a break.* This quote, from an NYT review, sums it up for me: "It must be nice to be Ben Sasse, in a position to pick and choose the hardships one will adopt in order to learn some life lessons — and to feel morally superior for having triumphed over phony adversity. But to anyone who buys into the notion, especially now, that the country’s political future can be rescued by getting our toddlers to bring us our socks, one can only say: Good ...more
Joe Lynn
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
The basic message I got from this book is that it is a parent's responsibility to raise their children with a strong work ethic and the background knowledge and skills to be able to think critically and to be self-reliant. I agree that these are essential skills and that is a laudable message. I found myself agreeing with most of what Senator Sasse espoused and I am giving fours stars based on that message.

I did find it troubling that he is painting an entire generation with the same brush, and
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics, culture
I can’t believe it. I think I may have just found a Republican U.S. senator I’d actually vote for.

I’m as surprised as anyone that I read, let alone greatly enjoyed, a book by Republican (but, phew, #NeverTrump) senator from Nebraska. I really think the only reason I picked it up was because Sasse’s face isn’t on the cover. If it were, it would look like every other politician’s memoir and therefore a waste of time.

But this isn’t that, not by a long shot. Sasse, a Ph.D in history and former colle
Mark Jr.
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, audio, library-book
A good-hearted, tough-minded, generous, hopeful, Mr.-Smith-goes-to-Washington who nonetheless knows his Augustine (and, more importantly, his Paul) well enough to take account of human depravity in his politics.

An earnest, Christian, Ivy-league educated, cornfields-to-Congress husband and father and former university president who saw sad deficiencies in his students and worked to remedy them in his children.

I don't fundamentally share the hope Sasse has for America; I just don't have it in me.
All the stars are not because I love the book or agree with everything in it. A lot I do: I share the concern that our culture is failing our children, and that schools and the whole concept of how they are set up and run is a big part of the problem, and needs to be massively re-thought. I also agree that parents have to take responsibility and teach by example and explicitly, you can't rely on school or on teen culture to magically turn your children into successful adults. The fact that I dis ...more
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
How can Americans parent well in the 21st century? Dr. Sasse suggests we consider the perspectives of the past. This is a book written by a person with a phD in history who also clearly teaches very well. The reader probably won't be thinking of the author as a United States Senator while reading. You will be reflecting upon the thoughts of Aristotle and Lincoln among many others. This is a call to direct our children toward wide reading and meaningful travel...even if only blocks away. A call t ...more
Emily Koopmann
Nov 10, 2017 rated it liked it
A book published this year:

Dear Mr. Senator,

Your book was ah-ight.

Who was your intended audience? I'm hoping it's people like us -- white, mid-western, privileged folk. I think that was your intent, but to not explicitly state that makes me wonder if you think all young people have equal footing in this race of life. As you mention you were afforded great opportunities (traveling abroad, bowls games, trips to the ocean, experiences on the farm, etc.), but there are young people and their parent
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, this thing happened. I read a book by a frickin' politician. It was brilliant. It was intelligently argued. It was theologically thoughtful.

HE SUGGESTED THAT EVERYONE SHOULD READ LUTHER'S GREAT GALATIANS COMMENTARY. It made me want to be a better dad, and it gave me practical advice on how to do that.

I was inspired and challenged (in a salutary way) by a book BY A POLITICIAN. Like that happens. Well, yes, I guess it does. BECAUSE IT DID.

Go Huskers!
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm very impressed with Senator Sasse and thoroughly enjoyed his call to raise our children to be responsible adults.
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This has some good ideas. But I found reading it very disheartening. I disagree with the reviews on this site which class this book as "superior think" of the lucky. It isn't. If you spend anytime around young adults you will know that it isn't. It simply requires to suffer somewhat and be tested in order to maintain a sufficient or maximum strength as a human being. The parenting skills in ALL economic classes and the lack of strong family units which hold a strong consequence for shirking cann ...more
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am aware, especially after reading Tom Nichol's book "The Death of Expertise", that we are all suseptible to confirmation bias, which is the immediate acceptance of anything that reaffirms our own, pre-existing opinions. And so it is with that caveat that I say I thought this book is an important look at some of our national issues; specifically regarding the upcoming generation. As a father myself, and a sometimes leader of youth in my LDS congregation, I have given these same issues a lot of ...more
Dave & Lindsay Gurak
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thoughtful approach to analyzing modern American culture

This book was written thoughtfully and thoroughly. The background on world and American history, in conjunction with the Senator's perspective on today's culture is fascinating and appreciated. I look forward to hearing more from Senator Sasse in the future!
John Boyne
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-issues
After reading this book I confidently say that I’m on board the Ben Sasse for president in 2024 bandwagon! Sasse’s books is a well written work on the problems effecting our nations youth and the failures of society to train them for adulthood. Delayed adolescence has become a major problem in our culture that excuses laziness and failure. Sasse works to correct that problem and he provides an excellent work here for young people to follow and parents to emulate when raising their children. Sass ...more
Zy Marquiez
May 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-reviews
Wide in scope, and methodical in its examination, The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse is not only a dire warning, but a call to action for those who are seeing the decline of modern adults and the transmutation and erosion of adulthood in modern times, and the erosions of Freedoms as well.

Examining a veritable panoply of issues, the author centers upon myriad issues in modern schooling such as age segregation, over-consumption, lack of knowledge or literary skills, and also the incomplete
Jordan Shirkman
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ben Sasse is smart. He's winsome. And I love his vision of raising kids into adults who shape their nation into what it could become. It's a daunting task, but it's possible.

As Sasse says, before we disagree about political solutions, we need to agree on the problems. One of the main problems is that we're failing our children in helping them become the type of people who are independent, well-rounded, gritty problem solvers. I want to raise the type of kids Sasse envisions. He provides plenty
J & J
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Sasse has some excellent observations and he would be spot on if he hadn't forgotten how much the world has changed in the last 100 years. This felt more like a "here's how I've been parenting so you should do it this way too" kind of book versus what the title and description display. I say this with a mutual agreement and respect for many of his parenting techniques, as I live by those mantras as well but I didn't want or expect this book to be parenting advice.
Jody Curtis
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sure, I like this book's message: Teach our kids to be responsible and resilient adults; avoid the pitfalls of Neverland and Affluenza. I also liked Wendy Mogel's "Blessing of A Skinned Knee," which in 2001 beautifully put forth this philosophy.

Ben Sasse is much more intriguing when he gets into the weeds about creating a list of books that his homeschooled kids should read in preparation of "coming of age." (One of his multiple post-graduate degrees is from St. John's College--the Great Books
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
"These damn lazy millennials want universal healthcare and affordable higher education...don't they know that's communism?!!@!1" /s
Valerie Kyriosity
Very politiciany. The book would have been half as long if he hadn't stopped to ever so carefully nuance every single thing he said. I'm in agreement with Sasse (I always want to pronounce it "Sassy") much of the time, and I could see myself possibly voting for him if/when the time comes, but he's just a little too shiny for my tastes.

EDIT: Also, the lame Photoshop job on the cover bugs me every time I look at it. 😆
I couldn't be bother to make it past the first few pages of the introduction.

The author quickly claims that this isn't going to be a "get off my lawn" rant, but the nature of his first examples provided too much evidence that he doesn't have a very sophisticated vision of "the problem".

Specifically, he says:
  But first, we need to agree on the problem.
  I believe our entire nation is in the midst of a collective coming-of-age crisis without parallel in our history. We are living in an America of
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Glad I read this book before starting a family--also before the age of Trump convinced me to give up on the idea of America.

Sasse disabused me of my latent, millennial skepticism toward American exceptionalism and republican government. More than a policy pamphlet, however, this book works from the ground up--starting with the simple idea that America has always been a country of resilient adults, but that young people today (my age) have opted into a form of perpetual adolescence, shirking all
Ericka Clouther
Ben Sasse is a Republican United States Senator from Nebraska since 2015. At first, I thought this was going to be a really interesting read. Throughout the book, I felt myself agreeing with many of the individual sentences that Sasse wrote. He's highly intelligent so these sentences certainly sound good and are true... in a way. For example, I agree with his advice for middle-class young people to expand your view of the world by traveling and reading classics. Though, I think the latter is mor ...more
Nov 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
I wavered between giving this 3 or 4 stars. I definitely felt like there were a lot of overall points that I agreed with the author, but often he seemed to harken back to how life used to be with almost a wishful nostalgia. There were also parts that were a little slow going for me - times when he focused on the historical context. Overall, however, I agree with his overarching ideas that adolescents today seem to have lost some motivation and hard work ethic. I may have to purchase this book so ...more
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U.S. Senator Ben Sasse is a fifth-generation Nebraskan. The son of a football and wrestling coach, he attended public school in Fremont, Neb., and spent his summers working soybean and corn fields. He was recruited to wrestle at Harvard before attending Oxford and later earning a Ph.D. in American history from Yale. Prior to the Senate, Sasse spent five years as president of Midland University bac ...more

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“...there is almost nothing more important we can do for our young than convince them that production is more satisfying than consumption.” 11 likes
“I believe our entire nation is in the midst of a collective coming-of-age crisis without parallel in our history. We are living in an America of perpetual adolescence. Our kids simply don't know what an adult is anymore - or how to become one. Many don't even see a reason to try. Perhaps more problematic, the older generations have forgotten that we need to plan to teach them. It's our fault more than it is theirs.” 9 likes
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