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Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  7,164 ratings  ·  1,247 reviews
From the beet fields of North Dakota to the wilderness campgrounds of California to an Amazon warehouse in Texas, people who once might have kicked back to enjoy their sunset years are hard at work. Underwater on mortgages or finding that Social Security comes up short, they're hitting the road in astonishing numbers, forming a new community of nomads: RV and van-dwelling ...more
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published September 19th 2017 by W. W. Norton Company
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Jennifer "Full-timers" are a much different group than the focus of this book. If you want more information about this group YouTube "van dwelling, this is you…more"Full-timers" are a much different group than the focus of this book. If you want more information about this group YouTube "van dwelling, this is your demographic. The age demographic is varied, though the book focuses on seniors struggling financially forced into this lifestyle. Full timers often decide to hit the road but do not have the same financial situation, though this is not always true. I've followed this lifestyle and various van swelling you-tubers for years, therefore, I have conflicted feelings about the context of this book. If you want an honest gauge of this group visit the blog and YouTube channel Hope this helps.(less)
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Ron Wroblewski Just finished the book yesterday and I loved it. Am a full time RVer and love it. Travel all around the US, and familiar with some of the organization…moreJust finished the book yesterday and I loved it. Am a full time RVer and love it. Travel all around the US, and familiar with some of the organizations mentioned in the book. Been to Quartzsite but not during the busy season. Really don't like boondocking in the desert, prefer tress and water nearby. Belong to several RV clubs and chapters. (less)

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Average rating 3.97  · 
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Diane S ☔
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
3.5 A month or so ago I read Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, and now having read this, I have come to the conclusion that I have no idea what is going on I'm my own country.

"At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job and worked hard) everything would be fine. That's no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still send up broke, alone, homeless."

A whole society of senio
Richard Derus
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed, returned
SEPTEMBER 2020 UPDATE Read all about the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of the film based on this book! FRANCES MCDORMAND STARS!! There is a link in the CBC article on how to watch the Festival offerings via web from 10 to 20 September.

Real Rating: 3.5* of five

I'm not sure how this happened: A talented writer with a well-regarded agent sells a book to an established and deeply experienced editor at a very good publishing house; the net result is a series of magazine articles, good
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I want to begin by saying that I listened to this audiobook and I definitely do NOT recommend that experience. I am truly surprised I made it through to the end. Trust me, get the actual book. (Also, this book uses lots of special jargon and because I listened, I may be misspelling these special words and may have incorrectly punctuated the quote at the end.)

I’m having a hard time reviewing this book. At its core it’s about a little known subculture of poor retirees who are basically forced by c
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job, and worked hard) everything would be fine,” he told readers. “That’s no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still end up broke, alone, and homeless.”

What do a former Washington State University academic adviser, former taxi driver, former advertising art director, former office manager, and former broadcast journalist have in common? Th
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

“At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job, and worked hard) everything would be fine. That’s no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still end up broke, alone, and homeless.”

Nomadland is the three year study of a subset of retirees living the above quote. Either due to losing (or never acquiring) a pension, the housing
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Some call them homeless. The new nomads refer to themselves as 'houseless'. Many
took to the road after their savings were obliterated by the Great Recession. To keep
their gas tanks and bellies full, they work long hours at hard, physical jobs. In a time
of flat wages and rising housing costs, they have unshackled themselves from rent
and mortgages as a way to get by. They are surviving America."

I finished reading this book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century weeks ago a
Nov 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2017
Nomadland offers various talking points to ponder over and deliberate such as vehicle dwelling, the nomadic lifestyle, and economic issues. I got the most out of Part One which talked mainly about the reasons behind vehicle dwelling and thus my review reflects my thoughts primarily on that section.

"At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job, and worked hard) everything would be fine. That's no longer true today. You can do everything right
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Since my plan is to spend most of my time travelling North America in an RV when I retire I have been doing a lot of research on the subject of living in an RV.

It was a very shocking eye opener when I first discovered that there are people living in cars, vans and RV's just to make ends meet.

The author has spent a long time talking and living with these nomads and even working
the same seasonal jobs. So we get a very interesting and real glimpse at their current lives and what causes people to "c
Nov 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I found Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First century to be a nearly even split between fascinating and terrifying. Journalist Jessica Bruder observes and travels along with “nomads” across the United States. Most of these nomads are older adults, and while some form of freedom and living off the grid may sound appealing, many had limited other options, particularly after the hard times that rocked the nation in 2008.

They live in RVs, older converted vans and trucks, and occasionally
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[4+] I am feeling so many emotions after finishing this book about older Americans who live a nomadic life. I feel sad that there aren't more options in our country for work and healthcare and housing. I am angry that people in their 60s and 70s need to work 10 hour days in transient jobs like those in Amazon warehouses. And I am filled with admiration at the ingenuity and bravery of these "houseless" men and women who have found a way to live that gives them the freedom they need. Bruder did an ...more
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
This was an engrossing but very unsettling read. Similar to the book "Evicted"(Matthew Desmond), the author entered into a community, in this case-- work campers, following them on the road and working some of their jobs. She interviewed many folks, but followed a few in more detail. One woman in particular, Linda May, became her friend and the centerpiece of her story. Most of her subjects were people who would traditionally be considered of retirement age---in their 60s and 70s, even a few in ...more
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I don't read much non-fiction these days, but when I saw this one, I knew I had to read it, since I too am a nomad and have lived full-time in a motorhome with my husband and our dog for two years now. I found this book completely engaging, startling in some ways, and fascinating.

This book is both a sociological treasure and a very personal study. The nomadic folks profiled herein by journalist/writer Jessica Bruder are a little different from me and my husband, as we chose this lifestyle after
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was such a sad eye opening read, a whole subculture I knew nothing about, subsidized by Amazon. My husband and I listened in the car, I said how many stars, he said three, I bellowed 5, it's a topic I knew zip about and I was hanging on every word. He quickly upped his rating to four 😉
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Nomadland takes a deep look at the growing culture of van-dwellers and other nomads that attempt to live on the road, because they can't afford to live otherwise. I thought it was a particularly poignant read after reading Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City earlier this year, since that book examines the issue of eviction among people attempting to still live in traditional ways. The people in this book have left town, leaving mortgages and rent behind, to try to make it through se ...more
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE LONDON FINANCIAL TIMES called Quartzsite “one of America’s more bizarre and seriously demented places.” But Quartzsite is not a national aberration. You’d be hard-pressed to find a town that is so American.

Nomadland started out as a frustrating read for me. The writing wasn’t great and the people were drawn superficially. Then about half way through, beginning with the chapter on the RV parks and the way of life in Quartzite Arizona, the book became more interesting.

First the bad, the autho
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
In Nomadland, Bruder takes an unflinching yet sympathetic look at the growing population of Americans forced into living in mobile homes or vehicles due to their inability to afford traditional mortgages or make rent. These Americans, made up mostly of the elderly, cannot afford to retire and instead drive across the country looking for seasonal work to make ends meet or to supplement meager social security incomes.

The seasonal work they find tend to pay poorly and have terrible working conditio
Diane Yannick
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book introduced me to a growing subculture of seniors who can “not afford to grow old”. Many parts of this lifestyle were upsetting as I am once again awakened to my privilege. Not all of the nomads in this book made bad choices so we can’t go around feeling like this could never happen to me. Many of them lost respectable jobs or savings due to our country’s economic policies. Others had devastating medical expenses. They all ended up living in RVs, cars, trucks—their wheel estate. They at ...more
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
A surprising look at the people, mainly retirees, who are houseless not homeless. In a throwback to the 1930s they travel across America in mobile homes and converted vehicles, generally off the radar, taking seasonal work. Because they can't afford the lifestyle we should all hope retired workers receive.

It's one of those pretty damning indictments of America's social fabric. And let's be careful about too much Canadian smugness until we look at our own seniors.
Helga Cohen
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nomadland was an eye opening book that gave a peek into a society that is literally all around us and in plain sight. A large number of Americans can’t afford to retire or afford to stay in their homes or rent a home. They can’t afford the rent or mortgage payments so they have opted to live in RV’s, campers, vans or even cars while they work seasonal jobs moving around the country. The author interviewed many people and followed them on the road for 3 years and even worked some of their jobs to ...more
This was a brutal and powerful read about the ways in which older Americans are "making due" while having little money to live off in their older years. Bruder follows a series of folks who are working seasonal, low-paying jobs that thrive from the work of these older workers, with a really in-depth look at CamperForce, Amazon's seasonal employees. I have always known Amazon to be a problem with their workers, of course, but this was something else all together. Imagine your grandmother or grand ...more
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-culture
Bruder spent nearly 4 years exploring the lives of retirees who have fallen out of the middle class and now travel the country in often substandard RVs, campers, and trucks. Since many can't afford heat or air conditioning, weather often dictates their current location as well as seasonal jobs with national parks, vegetable farms, and Amazon. Despite being in their 60s and 70s, all these jobs entail hard, physical labor at a punishing pace for very low wages. Amazon evens maintains dispensers of ...more
John Devlin
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm impressed by the resourcefulness of many of these campers. I wish they could take that ingenuity and find away to make money so they weren't forced to live in a van.

I was moved by many of their plights and felt the apprehension they must all feel as they constantly are just one slip, one engine light, one unanticipated event from disaster.

That said, where the author, who writes well, fails to elaborate is on how these folks got to such an awful nexus. Understandably, she can't be a prosecuto
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by author and award-winning journalist Jessica Bruder is an insightful and chilling look at economic struggle of so many Americans subsequent to the financial collapse in 2008 and resulting economic recession. These are people that have found that they were unable to make ends meet on their Social Security benefits. Many were forced into an early retirement because of the economic collapse of so many corporations and businesses, and unabl ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This is a well-researched look at the lives of RV, van, and car dwellers. The focus is mainly on older Americans who have adopted the lifestyle often out of necessity, but sometimes out of a preference for a simpler life. Gaining in popularity after the 2008 financial crisis, many were forced to work temp jobs at places such as Amazon warehouses, sugar beet factories, and camp monitors. The work is difficult, but the community is often a comfort.
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
After reading Jessica Bruder's Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, I will never be able to drive into Wall-Mart's parking lot or the lot of any open all night grocery store or the like without looking to see if there are a couple of vans parked somewhere on the outer edges. And I certainly will never feel the same way about ordering from Amazon again. I won't be able to look at an RV no matter the size and wonder if it really would be fun to travel the open road and live in ...more
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, read-2017
Not at all what I was expecting, but an engrossing read nonetheless. This is the American dream gone awry for a sizable portion of 21st century retirees. The author joined the growing community of van dwellers for three years... learning of their hopes, struggles, and triumphs. Recommended.
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If I could, I've give this six stars; it's that good. More to come.

Thanks to WW Norton for the advance reading copy.
Brendan Monroe
For the record, I've never liked camping. Growing up, my dad would drag my siblings and me out to some campground just off the highway near Phoenix, Arizona. "It's not camping if you can hear the sound of rush hour traffic!" I remember thinking.

Having moved to Florida sometime later, I begged my dad to let me go camping with a group I'd just gotten involved with called the "Royal Rangers". For those who don't know, which is probably all of you, the Royal Rangers are the (very) Christian equival
This will be sharp.

Businesses which have harvested trees and other Earth resources have misled consumers and are now abusing workers. Jessica Bruder tells of a group of migrant workers both challenged and imaginative, workers both limited and liberated, workers on the edge.

Journalist Jessica Bruder sometimes to a small extent and sometimes to a large extent gets in the way of the story. The end of the book is the most extreme example of getting in the way. Bruder wrote this last part as an epil
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is hard to read! Why? Because it is a deep and revealing look at a growing subculture America does not want to acknowledge. What happens to middle class folks after they turn a certain age and lose their jobs, retire on meager social security, or decide they can't crash with their kids and grandkids anymore? Look around you and you'll see: they're living in their cars, RVs, or vans. Read this book, then check the local Walmart parking lot. You'll see what Bruder is talking about. We al ...more
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Jessica Bruder is a journalist who writes about subcultures and resilience.

For her most recent book, "Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century" (W.W. Norton & Co.), she spent months living in a camper van, documenting itinerant Americans who gave up traditional housing and hit the road full time, enabling them to travel from job to job and carve out a place for themselves in our pr

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“THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN ITINERANTS, drifters, hobos, restless souls. But now, in the second millennium, a new kind of wandering tribe is emerging. People who never imagined being nomads are hitting the road. They’re giving up traditional houses and apartments to live in what some call “wheel estate”—vans, secondhand RVs, school buses, pickup campers, travel trailers, and plain old sedans. They are driving away from the impossible choices that face what used to be the middle class. Decisions like: Would you rather have food or dental work? Pay your mortgage or your electric bill? Make a car payment or buy medicine? Cover rent or student loans? Purchase warm clothes or gas for your commute? For many the answer seemed radical at first. You can’t give yourself a raise, but what about cutting your biggest expense? Trading a stick-and-brick domicile for life on wheels?” 5 likes
“A deepening class divide makes social mobility all but impossible. The result is a de facto caste system. This is not only morally wrong but also tremendously wasteful. Denying access to opportunity for large segments of the population means throwing away vast reserves of talent and brainpower. It’s also been shown to dampen economic growth.” 4 likes
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