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Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  821 ratings  ·  164 reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - A passionate manifesto that exposes hypocrisy on both sides of the political divide and points a way out of the tribalism that is tearing America apart--from the CNN host hailed as "a star of the 2016 campaign" (The New York Times), now seen on The Van Jones Show

Van Jones burst into the American consciousness during the 2016 presidential
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Ballantine Books (first published October 10th 2017)
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Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I remember seeing Van Jones commenting during the 2016 election, but there was so much noise going on that he didn't make any kind of special impression on me. Although I do remember his teary "How do I explain this to my children" speech on November 9, 2016. So I started Beyond the Messy Truth curious but without any particular expectations. But, WOW, from the get go, Jones had my attention and he kept it from beginning to end. Here are some of my disorganized thoughts about why:
-He has so much
I imagine that seeing the name Van Jones is either going to make people decide not to read this or jump for joy thinking it will validate liberal views. I hope both sides would rethink their positions and give this a try.

To put it all out there, I am a liberal. A liberal with a capital L and not afraid to be called a bleeding heart. However, I do try to keep up with the press and thoughts of conservatives. Nothing has ever made me understand some of the reasons people voted for Trump like this
I received this pre-release book in a Goodreads giveaway, in exchange for my unbiased review. With that in mind, please know I would have gladly paid for it, because it truly is worth it. Rarely do I read a book in two days, but I couldn’t put this down. I truly wanted answers to the questions posed by the subtitle: How did we come apart? How do we come together? This book delivers, and then some, if you are willing to listen to the answers with an open mind and an open heart.

Perhaps my favorite
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Van Jones has been working hard at making the world a better place for a long time, with particular focus on underserved communities of color. He's also a lawyer and CNN contributor. In this book, he takes both perspectives and uses them to analyze and synthesize the messy state of US politics. He's got four key steps to get us out. I'm watching to see what elected office he runs for in 2020.

Earnest, but sometimes preachy. It's a 3 1/2 star read for me.

Full review at

I could identify with Van Jones. He is a liberal who grew up in a conservative area. He can understand where people on both sides of the political divide are coming from. He tries to offer insights to both sides in this book.

He points out that many people in this situation end up moving away from rural conservative areas which makes the isolation from people with differing viewpoints get worse and worse. He talks about the problems of trying to go home and convert your friends and relatives to
Elizabeth Theiss
As a liberal who has lived and worked in a red state for nearly twenty years, I found this book fascinating. Jones dissects and critiques the rhetoric of the right and the left, and identifies policy areas where both sides might work together productively.
Beyond the Messy Truth by Van Jones

“Beyond the Messy Truth” is the engaging and heartfelt manifesto of what we can do as citizens to fix America. CNN political contributor and host of coincidentally enough The Messy Truth provides readers with a provocative look at why our core democratic institutions are worth preserving and valuable insights and proposals that point the way forward. This genuine 257-page book includes the following six chapters: 1. America Betrayed—by Both Parties, 2. An Open
Anita Dawson
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Must read. If I wrote a review of all of the good points in this book, it would be longer than the book. However, I would like to let the author know that I appreciate his insight into the wisdom of his relationship with the Prince. In Politics we have Red States and Blue States, but the state of mind of the Purple One, Prince was absolutely enlightening.(red and blue colors together make purple). Thank you Mr. Jones...
Drew Pulliam
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was pleasantly surprised with how good this book was. This book made the central focus people instead of who was currently winning: Republicans or Democrats. In this time, I think it’s important for politicians to remember that they are there to serve people and not promote their own agenda. It’s time for Republicans and Democrats find common ground and work together, and Van Jones so beautifully illustrated that in this book.

I don’t usually read books about politics, but if I had to recommend
Mal Warwick
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
More than half the American people complain about Donald Trump. But few are doing something about it. Van Jones is one of the exceptions.

Van does not mince words. "There is evidence that Trump is crazy," he noted in a Nov. 5 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, "but he has also driven us crazy." Van's new book advises us how to treat that craziness.

InBeyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together,his third book,Van writes at the outset that "the same political
I love me some Van Jones. I always feel smarter after I hear him speak. I don't have cable, so I haven't seen his show(s) on CNN, but in the clips and interviews I've seen, I am always impressed by how knowledgeable and well-spoken he is when it comes to American politics. During the last election, I watched a few of his short interviews that he put on Facebook, and found them to be enlightening. He seems to me to be a person of good will, intelligence, and compassion...all of which makes him as ...more
I'd never heard of Van Jones until I stumbled on this book (a Goodreads recommendation for me, I believe) but I will be checking out his TV news commentary in the future. His book is an exhortation to his liberal/progressive followers to listen to our conservative neighbors and friends, and to find common ground from which we can solve real problems, rather than continuing to ramp up the blame game, finger pointing, and outright nastiness that characterizes so much of what passes for ...more
Nicole DiStasio
I’ll say this: Van Jones seems like a genuinely nice guy. He’s the kind of guy I’d love to invite over for a dinner party (if I was the kind of person that had dinner parties!) because I bet he’d bring the best dish AND help you clean up after. It’s clear he is upset by the outcome of the election, and that he is working hard to mend bridges. He’s positive, forward-thinking, and dedicated to solutioning. But… I, sadly, think he’s pushing a rock up a hill. I am honestly not sure how to bridge the ...more
This was a gift from my mother, which is why I finished it. (It was a struggle.)

I spent most of the time while reading trying to figure out who the heck he thought he was writing for. People who are super passionate about politics, but haven't thought about it for more than 20 seconds? I guess college students? Except it's a book, I thought The Kidz didn't read any more?

He spent a lot of time doing the "both sides are equally bad!!" thing, which I don't buy into. (Everything isn't equal. Flaws
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this era of increasingly putrid political division, there are lots of books out there attempting to diagnose America’s problems and suggest workable solutions. And although I’m not convinced that Van Jones’s Beyond the Messy Truth is necessarily the best of them, if I had the ability to force all Americans to read this book, I would probably do it (very un-American, I know). Beyond the Messy Truth is an intelligent, stirring, and no-nonsense exploration of, in Jones’s words, “How We Came ...more
Chelsea slytherink
3.5 stars!

When Beyond the Messy Truth was released back in October, I immediately knew I wanted to read it. I’ve seen Van Jones on CNN many times and while I don’t always agree with him, I admire his work.

I listened to the audiobook which sadly isn’t narrated by the author himself. It’s still good though, but that would’ve been even better.

Like I said, I often disagree with Van Jones and that’s the reason why I didn’t enjoy this book more than I did. I completely understand where’s he’s coming
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dragonfly
Bravo. I would love for every rational, patriotic American to read this book with an open mind and let it sink in. Although Jones certainly leans left, he presents a fair-minded, rational approach on both sides. And I agree that the top-down approach repeatedly has let us down, and it’s up to us to stir a grassroots movement to move both sides toward each other. I intended to quote some passages of his conclusion, but would have had to quote the entire chapter. So instead, I implore y’all to ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.7 rounding to 4

Jones’ smooth verbal eloquence is doesn’t particularly translate into his writing. The book would have benefited from an editor’s guiding hand to sound more erudite and less middle-school caliber. But there’s no mistaking his passion in making the case that the conservatives and progressives actually have values and agenda in common if only they could move beyond rhetoric and make an honest effort to listen. He provides several examples of collaboration to illustrate the
Daniel Schulte
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Van Jones speaks to my soul. Using green jobs to employ and empower Americans, teaching coding to help individuals upload apps and their creativity instead of just downloading others' opinions, and finding common ground between fighting political parties. All things that I can get behind.
Michele Dubois
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finding common ground between the two political parties seemed to be Van Jones' central theme in this book. I respect his optimistic approach to bipartisanship, but at times felt he was too "rose colored glasses," given the last 2 years of GOP tactics to stall or block even the basic tenets of our democracy, like filling a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court by a sitting President.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It made for healthy discussion and debate with my book club. I especially liked the
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“America is a good idea brought to life and made real. We exist as an ongoing act of collective will, rooted in the conviction that shared beliefs matter more than shared bloodlines.”

Most of us who actively follow politics and related news everyday are guilty of surrounding ourselves in an echo chamber that strengthens our own existing views. Neither do we tolerate opposing views, nor do we even want to listen to them. What we don’t realize is that this is exactly what has led to the current
Emi Bevacqua
Van Jones is such an inspiration, I feel this book (along with Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy) should be required reading for every American. The over-riding message in Beyond the Messy Truth is that "mutual respect, even in passionate disagreement, must be the goal" and he likens the plight of America to a baby that's fallen down a well while extended family (our political parties) points fingers and lays blame, rather than effectively taking action. Jones tells the reader that we must play the ...more
Paul Eaton
In general the book has a good message. I appreciate the attempt to bridge the divides in our politics. There are many good resources. I think our politics are a long way from what this book calls for, however. I really think we need to move beyond the simple two-party system, and this is where the book falls short in developing a new dream for The United States. Still worth the read.
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know it, but I needed this book. Many of us have been rocked and rolled since the election, reacting to every action from an administration we believe is flying in the face of everything we believe in. But Jones sums up the reality of Conservative vs. Liberal... In the end, while we each have our own perspective--liberty and justice--we must learn to come together, because we need each other. Each side brings its own set of skills that, when focused on solving vital tasks, can bring ...more
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To say I needed this is putting it all too simply. After our last election in 2016, I found myself needing clarity, understanding, and a reason to move forward. Thankfully, I tapped into Van Jones's newest book, which walks us through the election and after effects. His ability to tap into the good on all sides, while clarifying ways we have been manipulated by negative and even fallacious--harmful--messages pushed on the American people helped me to better understand how we got to this place. I ...more
Becky R.
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clearly outlines the election of 2016 and how we fell apart as a country in our vision toward equality and justice. Nothing startling here, but I do think he speaks to the necessity of opposing views to keep a balanced government. I think I just needed the space here to think through our goals as a country and how to stay focused on those goals.
Sharon Orlopp
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding book that evaluates the political divide in America and what people from both parties can well as what citizens can do. Enlightening and powerful! Looking forward to hearing Van Jones speak in April in Arizona.
Lee Richardson
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Van Jones for President!

Ever since the 2016 election, I and many others have started following the political landscape a little close. One of the best concepts I've learned is that the 'content' of the political discourse, while important, is not as important as the process of political discourse. By this I mean, the details matter specific issues (e.g. THE WALL), but what's more important is that all parties are playing a common game, and that the rules of the game at set so that the country
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In our current climate of political blood sport.... Where debate can quickly decend to screaming matches and hyper aggressive back and forwards between two sides with no comment ground, I respect Van Jones for trying to do the seemingly impossible: find common ground, and come together as a nation.

Let's get my criticisms out of the way first:

He does not talk about Healthcare policy. He does not talk about tax reform. He does not touch money in politics or campaign finance reform. He also does
Jeri Rowe
My friend Barry at the local Y turned me onto this book, and I admit when I first started reading it, I felt like I often feel when I watch too much cable news. You know, the feeling of "Alright, already!" I had heard it all before in one form or another. But the deeper I got into the book, the more Van Jones delved into his personal story of growing up in small-town Tennessee and the lessons he learned from his father to Newt Gingrich to Prince. And that for me was when "Beyond the Messy Truth" ...more
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Anthony "Van" Jones is the Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Appointed by Barack Obama in March 2009, the newly created position will find Jones working with various "agencies and departments to advance the administration's climate and energy initiatives, with a special focus on improving vulnerable communities."

“In a sane society, common pain should lead to common purpose.” 1 likes
“other progressives where they are wrong. Too many of us can deconstruct everything but can’t reconstruct anything and make it work. Too many of us know how to run a protest against the adults on our campuses but don’t know how to run a program” 0 likes
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