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Janesville: An American Story

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  6,209 ratings  ·  830 reviews
* Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award Winner
* A New York Times Notable Book
* NPR Best Books of 2017

“Moving and magnificently well-researched...Janesville joins a growing family of books about the evisceration of the working class in the United States. What sets it apart is the sophistication of its storytelling and analysis.” —The New York Times
Kindle Edition, 369 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by Simon & Schuster
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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Mar 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trish by: Christopher Howard
This must have been a difficult book to write. Goldstein almost succeeds in giving us a 360⚬ view of the deindustrialization of one Wisconsin city—Janesville, Paul Ryan’s home town—but the effect is oddly muted. In trying to describe the city’s fortunes in a strictly nonpartisan way, she unfortunately emasculates the place. Her view, while it lives and breathes through the portraits of workers she introduces, does not explain.

The only reason I know that Goldstein’s street-level stories do not ex
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Each year I try to finish a distinctly American book on or around the Fourth of July. In years past I've completed a Ron Rash novella and Gone With the Wind on this date. This year, I've focused on nonfiction and rather than force myself to read a great American novel, I stuck with a true story. One of our group reads in the Nonfiction Book Club is Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein. Providing a current snapshot of Americana, Janesville is a story that should not be overlooked.

Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
updated to include some information the author missed in her telling (last 3 paragraphs).

I started reading this because I grew up near Janesville and my father-in-law's job was related to GM. He passed away before the layoffs of this book. Growing up we'd drive 20 minutes to Janesville to see a movie, go to the mall, or go to Woodman's and I remember my high school social studies teacher lamenting that she should have taken a job at GM to make better money than she did teaching (she told us this
The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane)
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Janesville was devastated by the closing of the General Motors plant in December 2008. Amy Goldstein's book takes us through the five years following the plant closure. Janesville survived the loss of the plant and all of the supporting industries but it never finally recovered.

It was refreshing to get an honest appraisal of what happen in Janesville. Millions of dollars flowed into Janesville for job retraining which proved to be a dismal failure. None of the jobs that Janeville residents retr
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Janesville: An American Story follows the city of Janesville, Wisconsin from 2008-2012 during America’s most recent recession - Goldstein provides an account of how this blue collar, hardworking, middle-class city, and its residents were impacted during this time frame, beginning with GM’s announcement that the company would be closing its plant in Janesville.

As a whole, I found the book depressing. As someone who graduated college in the height of this recession, I found some of the struggles
Full disclosure: I received this book in a giveaway from Goodreads. Also, I grew up mostly in Janesville and attended Blackhawk Tech, moving away from Janesville for the last time in 1998. This book sent me back through a lot of old feelings about "plant rats," as non-GM workers called the GM workers. For at least the first half of the book, I felt much the same way as I had in high school, an opinion I picked up from my mother and from friends' parents. I didn't know anyone that worked at GM, a ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With some reservations this is a book that everyone should read. The author took leave from the Washington Post to research this book and moved to Janesville. The book is a vivid and heart wrenching assessment covering six years of the manufacturing town in Wisconsin. The reporting occurs after GM’s shuttering of its Janesville automotive plant during the ‘08 economic meltdown. Impeccably researched, the stories cover former GM workers and other people working at other manufacturers. We see the ...more
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, not-fiction
This was soul crushing. It was a long, hard look at the devastating effects of corporate greed and in many ways, it is an accurate depiction of what it means to work in America today, where loyalty and job security are a thing of the past. Well-researched and well written, this is the story of those deeply affected by the decimation of industry in an industrial town: those who triumphed, those who didn’t, and some incredibly charitable souls, who did everything they could to support and help the ...more
Absolutely fascinating and compelling look at what happened in Janesville following the closure of the GM plant which had made the small city an almost-ideal middle class dreamland. There are a ton of POVs here, from high school students impacted by their parents' job losses, to those who chose to work in Ft. Wayne, IN, and commute back home to Janesville every weekend, those in politics and those in local nonprofits trying to help people get back on their feet.

I live just outside Janesville and
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding witness "eyes" for those who lived in Janesville, WI during the Great Recession, just before and for the decade since too in much of the copy having "after" information updates at the end.

4.5 star and only being kept from a round up by the jumpiness from one family, school, project for homeless teens- down to bottom government "eyes" for attention to the situation etc. It's difficult to combine all of these inputs (plus a flood too) into Janesville's dilemma.

But I do love the style
Thomas Ray
Details what happened to many of the people of Janesville WI when the General Motors plant closed in 2008.

Far too little on why it /shouldn't've/ happened.

GM went bankrupt, was allowed to leave the rest of us paying the consequences of its bad bets, close 15 plants. And let Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Michigan bid against each other, who will pay the most extortion to have one GM plant. Michigan won, paying $1 billion !! for a plant with 1400 jobs [$700,000 per job!!!]--many of those jobs at $10
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Edited 12/22/19, one of my top 10 for 2019

4.5 rounded down.

I'm approaching my 60s and at different points of my life I've faced the same challenges as the Janesville citizens. Even reading it gave me a sense of wanting to clip coupons, raise the AC and cook more!

Much to think about here. The one item that really shocked me was how retraining DID NOT work. All that money spent on developing classes, gas, books, tuition, time and who benefits? That money could have been better spent building a n
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Janesville very quickly but it was a tough read. 2008 may have been the start of the Great Recession but I feel that from my teen years, back in the 70s, I've been living in one recession after another.

My home town on the Columbia River is a lumber town, a mill town. Logging, sawmills, a paper mill, aluminum plant, were all steady, productive, well paid blue collar jobs. Hard work, dangerous work (I was an adult well into my 30s, living many miles away before I realized it was not the us
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Janesville, Wisconsin grew up around a General Motors plant. For nearly a century, GM provided thousands of good paying jobs and supported a number of other businesses that provided parts to GM, retailers that provided goods to its employees and professionals that provided services to their families. In 2008, as part of the Great Recession, the GM plant closed, setting off a cascade of economic decline for the community. Goldstein explores the impact of the Great Recession by following a handful ...more
Athan Tolis
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I work in Finance and as I’m reviewing “Janesville” this Friday, January 5, 2018, it happens to be Nonfarm Payrolls day, the day of the month when most pundits on CNBC and Bloomberg TV have ritually argued for quite some time now that the Fed’s low interest rates have led the economy to full employment, while others have begun to agitate for hikes, for the QE-related bond purchases to be reversed etc.

And from 40,000 feet the picture seems to be quite clear: even if things are far from perfect,
Ellen Matheson
Goldstein's book paints an empathetic and thorough portrait of ex-GM workers in Janesville - a group of lower to middle income Americans whose economic livelihoods were ravaged by the extensive reach of the Great Recession. While I appreciate Goldstein's talent for storytelling, I found this book to be incredibly lacking in contextual analysis; we read "Janesville" and we sympathize with the Whiteakers, Vaughns, and Wopats of this country, so, what do we do now? Goldstein presents zero policy re ...more
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, at the library, I’ll pick up a book at random based solely on the cover or the title and start reading it, ignoring the dust jacket and blurbs on the back. That’s what I did with Janesville—and I’m so glad I did. Were I asked, “Want to read a book about a town in Wisconsin that suffered after a GM plant closed?” I would have passed, not out of coldheartedness but because there are only so many hours in the day to read what grabs us.

This book is a great achievement for several reasons.
Rachel Blakeman
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a solid 4-star book. It was what I was hoping "Glass House" was going to be but wasn't. Despite what my profile says, I live in Fort Wayne so I felt a geographic connection to the storyline for the GM gypsies and the descriptions about Fort Wayne although limited were accurate. Like the comment on the back cover from Robert Putnam says, this is an extension of the themes in "Hillbilly Elegy" but on a community-wide level.

I have lived my entire life in the industrial Midwest where I have
Jan 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was compilation of stories and vignettes on people and politicians in a town undergoing de-industrialization. The stories are interesting, but I don't get the high praise for this book. It doesn't really contribute to the larger discussion of inequality and globalization or politics. Other books have done a much better job at really explaining the processes that led to these plant closings and what it has done to people and towns. There are also books on right wing politics like those p ...more
Casey Fegs
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two days before Christmas in 2008, the oldest GM plant in the nation rolled out its last SUV from the assembly line and closed its doors in Janesville, Wisconsin. When it did, over three thousand men and women from this plant were left without work. Janesville is the story of what happened next.

Amy Goldstein, a writer for The Washington Post moved to Janestown and lived there for years in order to get to know people and truly understand the impact GM's closing had on the town. It was enormous. T
Sep 26, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

Amy Goldstein depicts the impact of the closure of the dominant employer (GM) on a handful of people and the town they live in (Janesville, WI). The stories of the displaced employees are told sympathetically and make for interesting and thought provoking reading. Families that once donated to food pantries eventually find themselves in dire need of their services. Homelessness climbs. Education and retraining programs are costly and of limited help. Remedies are scarce.

Goldstein isn't
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What's interesting is how easily the Republican fu*kery to screw over the working class also quickly divides working class Americans amongst each other. That's something that isn't outwardly stated in the book, but comes up a lot with many examples used. Scott Walker fueling anti-teacher sentiment (seriously, what kind of assholes blames economic woes on teachers?) as a way to start busting Wisconsin unions is pretty low. Maybe not as low as Paul Ryan blaming unions for giving workers a sense of ...more
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein has won many accolades, including 100 Notable Books in 2017 from the New York Times Book Review and the McKinsey Business Book of the Year.

Goldstein presents the story of a town and its people coping with the closing of the GM factory and how the town and families worked to reinvent themselves.

Janesville, WI was a tight-knit community with a successful history of factories beginning with cotton mills in the late 19th c, including Parker Pens and t
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An Ode to a resilient town, Janesville follows some of the middle class residents of the Wisconsin in the aftermath of the closing of the General Motors assembly plant that employed many residents. The book begins just before its closing in 2008 and follows the political and social drama that ensued as not just the people who worked in the plant, but the people who manufactured their car seats, as well as those who transported and cars to and from the train station.

We read about the people who d
Todd N
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finance
This was recommended by Riona, so I downloaded the Kindle and Audible versions. (My 2018 New Years Resolution is not to read any books without Whispersync.)

This is a worthy, if maddeningly neutral, addition to the Midwest-in-decline-porn genre of book that is so popular among certain types of readers these days.

It follows the effect of a GM plant closure, the major employer, on the town of Janesville, WI from 2008 through 2013. The plant closure is more or less a foregone conclusion, so the book
Lisa Robbins
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an incredibly sad look at what happens to a city when the primary employer is no longer there. GM was a crucial part of jobs in Janesville, WI for decades. In 2008 the plant closed, along with local companies that supplied it. The effect was devastating to the economy of the city. This was shortly followed by the Parker Pen factory closing, after several buyouts and lay offs. I grew up about 25 miles from Janesville. I always remembered it as a nice city that seemed to be pretty well off ...more
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amy Goldsteins book is troubling on multiple fronts. Its story is obviously chilling: things just continue to get worse for the main characters of Janesville: I can think of no displaced workers in the book that are really better off by the end of the book. The biggest winners where Paul Ryan and Mary (a bank executive in Janesville). For everyone elese their struggle seems to have no end, and none of the conventional solutions seem to work in the slightest.

That is the other shocking story of Ja
May 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Janesville is, at heart, human-interest journalism. Which is fine, as far as that approach allows, and at times the book really is heartwrenching. But I expected a book with specific policy analysis and recommendations, or at the very least investigative journalism. Goldstein quickly reveals her neoliberalism, a political stance that’s almost necessitated by her position at the Washington Post. She’s not so much outraged by the political and corporate system that perpetuates the war on the worki ...more
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Heartbreaking non-fiction about the demise of the American auto-industry in Paul Ryan's hometown - Janesville, Wisconsin. The story takes place over the years from 2008-2016 - focusing on three families and numerous characters. Ironically after GM closed its doors in 2008 (permanently in 2015) - jobs did return to Janesville and unemployment dipped to 4% -- but the money never came back with people earning significantly less than what they had earned 8 years prior. Amy Goldstein, WAPO journalist ...more
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