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Population: 485 : Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  4,768 ratings  ·  775 reviews
Here the local vigilante is a farmer's wife armed with a pistol and a Bible, the most senior member of the volunteer fire department is a cross-eyed butcher with one kidney and two ex-wives (both of whom work at the only gas station in town), and the back roads are haunted by the ghosts of children and farmers. Michael Perry loves this place. He grew up here, and now -- ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published October 1st 2003 by Perennial / Harper-collins (first published October 1st 2002)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  4,768 ratings  ·  775 reviews

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Sep 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
WARNING: Possibly ill-advised, slightly intoxicated soap-boxing lies ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

The title of this book is slightly misleading in that it implies Michael Perry will introduce the reader to a rich, quirky swath of characters who inhabit a very small town. While there are a few folks who shine through, such as Beagle the cock-eyed firefighter, [i]Population: 485[/i] is mostly a detailed account of what goes into being a volunteer firefighter. For that, I appreciated it as this
Heather C.
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Oh my goodness. I have found my new favorite writer. I wish I had read this book before "Truck", as it prefaces a lot of events in that one, but what do you do.

Michael Perry's ability to put into words the people, situations and feelings he encounters is beautiful. I love the area he's from, and it reminds me of the time I spent in Warroad, Minnesota. My favorite paragraph describes his predicament of being a dyed-in-the-wool hick from a small town, but also having the heart and mind of a
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I read the sequel to this book first, Truck: A Love Story, when it came across the counter at the library. I loved it and sought out any other books by the author Michael Perry.

And I loved Population: 485 too! Writers that can hold a conversation with you, make you laugh, and bring on a tear or two are rarefied in my mind. He's very relate-able, and I think even if I wasn't from a rural small town I'd still identify with his portrayal of people and the way he weaves the everyday with musings
Dec 01, 2007 rated it it was ok
A memoir, with distracted focus between life in rural America, working on a small town's volunteer fire department, bachelorhood, and death.

The book lacks a focus. Even a memoir has some kind of focus but this tried to do too much. The humor was strained. Things that I thought ought to be laugh-out-loud funny were only slightly amusing. He didn't seem to know how to set up his jokes efficiently and humorously.

Mostly I found this a bit depressing. So many of the experiences that he writes about
Jul 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you want to read a literary book on firefighting or small town living then this is the book. Population: 485 is a hilarious and moving collection of essays written about New Auburn, Wisconsin; a town of, yes, you guessed it—485 people. Not only is Michael Perry a skilled writer, he is also a volunteer firefighter/emt, and he captures the chaos and insanity of this world beautifully.

Not many firefighters are dedicated to the literary tradition of writing, so it isn’t easy to find such a
I love everything Michael Perry writes. He makes me laugh. Hard. A lot. I cannot read his books before I go to sleep any more, because my attempts not to laugh out loud thereby waking the husband lead to my shoulders jumping and wake him up, whereupon he thinks Wisconsin has been hit with an earthquake.

This is the story of the little town of New Auburn, Wisconsin's volunteer fire department. The population, as you can tell, is a whopping 485.

Born and raised in the small town, Perry had left
Bill Spiegel
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Having grown up in a small town, I relate so much to what Mr Perry alludes to in this book (and some of his others): citizens in small communities - like New Auburn, Wis. - do it all. They volunteer at church, they serve on the volunteer fire dept., they help their neighbors...
And when bad things happen, the whole community hurts.
I loved the stories of small town living, and the characters he introduces us to.
What I didn't enjoy as much were the occasional diatribes the author wades off into.
Will Byrnes
Sep 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Population 485 is Perry’s attempt to communicate what it is like to live in a small town in 21st century America. New Auburn, Wisconsin is the place in question. Perry focuses on his experiences as a volunteer fireman. He was native to the town, had been away for many years, but returned to the roots he knew. His methodology is to relate his personal tales of town life, how his volunteering proved to be a mechanism to further anchor his roots in the community, allowing him to interact with a ...more
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Perry recounts how he moved back to his very small Wisconsin hometown and reintegrated himself into the community by becoming a volunteer firefighter and first responder. This is an amazing book. The stories Perry tells contain dozens of moments that are both hilarious and heart-wrenching—often within sentences of each other. The details about firefighting and working as an EMT are fascinating, as are the portraits Perry draws of various figures in the community—and of the community itself. He ...more
Oct 14, 2016 rated it did not like it
Boorish. Too much historical information that doesn't really add to the stories. Little used words thrown in as if he is doing a word for the day calendar. Writer's descriptions of small town life and people seemed more like put downs that finding the humor. Read as long as I could. Life is just too short to finish reading.
Mark Howell
Dec 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book is kind of a hybrid. There are plenty of wonderful literary works written on the "essence of small-town American life", both past and present. There are also plenty of gut-wrenching, heart-pumping Fire and EMS books for the adrenaline-junkie who doesn't care to put in a semester at the local JC for an EMT license or Firefighter-I academy (if you want a couple references check out Rescue 471 or Firefighters: Their Lives in Their Own Words, or perhaps the new one coming out soon by Shawn ...more
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe I've missed this author until now. It's personal history, family dynamics, small-town character, philosophy and humor. Perry writes poetically about his life after returning to his home town. The chapter on "Structure Fire" included several of the passages that struck me in this book: " is anything but brutish. It is light-footed and shamanic, dancing between the visible and invisible, undoing matter one collapsed molecule at a time, wreaking utter destruction with a touch ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I burned (ha-ha) through this in four days. Yes, I liked it that much . . .

The Goodreads description makes the book sound like an episodic collision of TV's Twin Peaks and Emergency!. Really, it's a little deeper than that, with equal parts comedy / tragedy (there are some almost unbearably sad moments) and all the day-to-day happenings in between.

Volunteer first responders, Midwestern small-town life, farming - Perry covers these things and more in a comfortable, conversational style for an
Mar 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
What a treasure to find this little gem-- quite by accident, I might add, while paging through a sample issue of local magazine that was sent to me.
Perry's thoughtful nature, observations and stories left me laughing out loud (literally), crying and walking away from the finished book with a different view of being "stuck" in Wisconsin. Simply noticing more and enjoying the vast array of people who are here in this cold climate with me.
Apr 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
I abandoned this book four chapters in.

This kind of read like a poorly curated blog republishment. The chapters are too long, the anecdotes per chapter are too short and too scattered.

Also: Mr. Perry, some of us in the Emergency Medical profession are sympathy heavers. Your smug pride about not being one was what finally made me put the book down.
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I took this book on my holidays but couldn't get very far into it. It is o.k.,but far from compelling.It sounded so interesting and I really wanted to like it but just couldn't stay with it. I left it on the boat for someone else to maybe enjoy.
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zz-keep-forever
I love Perry's work, and this is, imo, one of his best. Truck: A Love Story might be even better though. Btw, those of you looking for quirky or amusing would do better to start with something like Roughneck Grace: Farmer Yoga, Creeping Codgerism, Apple Golf, and Other Brief Essays from on and off the Back Forty maybe....

But then you have to bear in mind that (almost) all of Mike's books, together, reference his own (and family's & friends') progression(s) through life and are best
Paula DeBoard
Although numerous people have told me that Truck: A Love Story is the better of these books, I was charmed by Population: 485. It's small-town Wisconsin with all the quirks and tragedies and some laugh-out-loud moments I needed right now.
David P
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
This little gem of a book is about New Auburn, in the north-western corner of Wisconsin, land where farms alternate with forests and lakes, where people coexist with deer and the occasional bear. Garrison Keillor's "Lake Wobegon" is a humorous reflection on such a community, and New Auburn is indeed just across the state line from St. Paul, Minnesota. This book, however, is about the real thing. Michael Perry's words are clear, terse, factual and unpretentious, yet he is also a poet, so his ...more
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wisconsin
There's an amazing sense of community in this small town. Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time. It didn't dawn on me immediately what the title meant. I'd read one of Perry's books previously, Truck, A Love Story It was called.

I took this book in very slow sessions. I don't know what it was but the parts I loved, about the people of this Wisconsin town, the humor, so suddenly interrupted by the calls. How hard it must be to live a life that can be disrupted at the sound
Jan 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
At first glance, the concept of reading the tales of a volunteer firefighter in rural Wisconsin seemed an odd choice of reading material for me. However, I decided to give Population: 485 a shot and I was thrilled with the experience. Michael Perry does an excellent job of presenting a cross-section of small-town life through vivid characters and an attention to detail and perspective that I rarely find in modern authors.

Perry's light-hearted humor, self-deprecation, and appreciation of time,
Shonna Froebel
Nov 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Having read his book Truck: a Love Story, I was interested in reading more. This book actually was written before Truck and contains chapters about his work both as an EMS and as a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of New Auburn, Wisconsin. Perry puts it all out there, including the sad, happy, embarrassing, and comic. He talks about working with his brothers and mother, how his work as a firefighter linked him back to his community, and shows a variety of personalities in both his coworker ...more
Jun 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2008
Favorite quotes:

"Summer here comes on like a zaftig hippie chick, jazzed on chlorophyll and flinging fistfuls of butterflies to the sun."

"I tend to run at night. The idea of running in the morning is repulsive, and I retain strong reservations about anyone who launches their day with briskness of any sort, let alone an alacritous jog."

"Commonalitis of spirit and pretension abound. The man in the Hooters cap and the woman with the NPR tote bag are not promoting restaurants and radio. NRA decals
Dana Stabenow
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thomas Wolfe was wrong; you can go home again. Michael Perry comes home to New Auburn, Wisconsin, population 485, and reintegrates himself back into society by joining the local volunteer fire department. This is my third read by Perry and as always the armchair philosopher takes precedence in the narration. On his brothers, also volunteer firefighters:

Our pursuits and avocations have little in common. They drive log trucks, I sit in a chair trying to herd words. Put us in a row and turn our
Derek Patz

Michael Perry tells the story of returning to the small town he grew up in. He joins the local fire department while learning about the history of the town through talking to people who have lived their the longest.

New Auburn stands between the borders of Barron and Chippewa counties in northwest Wisconsin. I remember in 7th grade our teachers told us that the school was in a different county then the village.

I was finishing up my final years at New Auburn High School when this book hit the
Dawn Tessman
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of small-town anecdotes from a man who, upon returning to his hometown, enrolls in the volunteer fire department in an effort to return to his roots and find acceptance. I admit I had not paid attention to the full title of this book before I began reading it and was, therefore, initially thrown by how the stories focused more heavily on the author’s experiences as a firefighter than about what it’s like to live in Northern Wisconsin. Additionally, the author’s use of ten-dollar ...more
Kyle Sanchez
Dec 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you only read two chapters from this book, "Death" and "Call" are absolutely incredible pieces of writing covering the emotional and psychological toll first responders are exposed to while still trying to lead a normal and happy life.

I was surprisingly impressed by this book and the author's writing style, which weaved between poetic passages and backwoods one-liners like "Summer here comes like a zaftig hippie chick, jazzed on chlorophyll and flinging fistfuls of butterflies to the sun".
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book will have you belly laughing with tears in your eyes. It give you a chance to look through the eyes of a small town volunteer firefighter/first responder and see the the joys and heartbreaks as if you were standing there. This book is an emotional roller coaster that you will want to read again and again.

I would recommend this book to anybody.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
After more than a decade Perry returns to his hometown in NW Wisconsin, where between time spent writing he serves as a volunteer firefighter along with two of his brothers and his mother. Lots of firefighting details as well as much time as first responder for road accidents and medical emergencies. Not a job I could ever do, but so very grateful there are men and women who can!
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Michael Perry was not on my radar. I came across him by way of a recommendation from a friend of mine.

I don't often cry while reading, and this book got me twice. I won't say when or how, suffice to say, this was an excellent read - an absolute gem. I'm excited to dig further into Perry's work.
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Michael Perry is a New York Times bestselling author, humorist and radio show host from New Auburn, Wisconsin.

Perry’s bestselling memoirs include Population 485, Truck: A Love Story, Coop, and Visiting Tom. Raised on a small Midwestern dairy farm, Perry put himself through nursing school while working on a ranch in Wyoming, then wound up writing by happy accident. He lives with his wife and two
“Summer here comes on like a zaftig hippie chick, jazzed on chlorophyll and flinging fistfuls of butterflies to the sun.” 16 likes
“[Fire] is lightfooted and shamanic, dancing between the visible and invisible, undoing matter one collapsed molecule at a time, wreaking utter destruction with a touch softer than breath. Its poor cousins, wind and water, are one-dimensional rubes by comparison. Wind is all push, push, push. Water is suffocating, but passively so. And even when water gets it together to be a torrent or a tsunami, it is but wet wind. Fire is at once elemental and otherworldly. Fire dances on the grave of all it destroys. Fire is serious voodoo.” 6 likes
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