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Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  1,169 ratings  ·  234 reviews
The Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of the acclaimed, best-selling Half the Sky now issue a plea--deeply personal and told through the lives of real Americans--to address the crisis in working-class America, while focusing on solutions to mend a half century of governmental failure.

With stark poignancy and political dispassion, Tightrope draws us deep into an "other
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 14th 2020 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Book of the Month
Why I love it
by Dave Eggers

In a country that purports to root for the underdog, too often we exalt the rich and we punish the poor. This is an unflinching book that illustrates that central, confounding American paradox. With thorough reporting and extraordinary compassion, Kristof and WuDunn tell the stories of those who fall behind in the world’s wealthiest country. In the most vulnerable regions, they find not an efficient first-world safety net created by their government, but merely a
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
A comprehensive book covering many of the issues confronting Americans: homelessness, inequality, drug addiction, poverty, limited education and access to health care and more. Kristof and WuDunn write in an approachable, empathetic manner, personalizing these topics with stories.

One of the problems I have with some non-fiction books is they are sometimes padded magazine articles that are too repetitive. That was not a problem here! But it also didn't feel condensed. I like the authors point
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
When I saw this book on BOTM, I prepared to bore myself with a "textbook like" analysis of the state of America today. I was presently surprised at how personal the author made the book to his hometown and life, by delving into specific family members and friends. I found this to be a quick read, with well thought out scenarios and extensive research.
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m a writer in the margins but I don’t think I have EVER written in the margins more than in this book—arguments, agreements, questions.

I picked this on a whim from BOTM, and I’m glad I did. I devoured it, despite its difficult subject matter. The authors are fantastic storytellers which helps underline and illustrate their points.

I disagree with the authors on a lot of their conclusions, but I found them balanced and thoughtful. They made neither victims nor villains of their subjects. There
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was extremely eye-opening. It gave me a lot to think about with regards to poverty, drugs, obesity, etc in America. I would highly recommend that everybody read this book before the next election.
Erin Cataldi
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading. It's insightful, depressing, yet still ultimately hopeful. Pulitzer Prize winning couple write a gut wrenching account of how America has ultimately failed it's people in the last half century through the lens of author Nicholas D. Kristof's hometown, Yamhill and a few other US locations. From a broken education, prison, health system and more; the authors explain how the system used to be, how it is now, and what can be done to fix it to bring the United ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” - Heather Heyer, 2017

Pay attention, America. That’s what this book is telling us. I may not agree with Kristof and WuDunn’s politics and recommendations at times, but that does not change the fact that they have laid out harsh and painful truths in this book. It is not a perfect book, and some people may be turned off by the authors’ obvious left-leaning biases. Why the 5 stars? Because this is NECESSARY. I feel privileged to have the
Jessica Jeffers
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, audio
This hits the nail absolutely on the head.
Jan 25, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book landed itself in my DNF pile at page 81 at halfway down the page. I do not feel this book is about Americans reaching for hope at all. This book is written by 2 authors who are wanting the US government to coddle and hand out hope to those less fortunate.

Possible indirect spoilers.....

I overlooked the sly remarks blaming President Trump. Co-Authors were discussing and placing blame of the demise starting in the 60s and 70s. It is ok to not like Trump and this did not affect my rating
Joan Fung-Tomc
Jan 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
Political & 1-sided....thereby hindering honest, open dialogue as a country to find solutions for bettering America's challenges.
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own-a-copy
I chose Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope as one of my January 2020 Book of the Month selections. There were no advance reviews for me to read, but the synopsis sounded promising.

Tightrope is an important book for our times. It is thoroughly-researched and compassionately written.

The authors interview people in an attempt to put a face on problems stemming from poverty, including drug addiction, unemployment, poor health, lack of education, abuse. Problems are multi-generational, with each
Jiny S
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is incredibly well researched. The author touches upon many societal issues that are plaguing modern day America, including but not exclusive to 1) the lack of family planning that contributes to unplanned pregnancies that inevitably led to broken careers and child poverty, 2) the systematic way pharmaceutical companies conduce medical professionals to prescribe massive amount of pain medications that turn normal hardworking people to addicts, and 3) the expensive medical, legal, and ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I think we can make a whole library now of books about "forgotten Americans" in the "heartland." This one is better than most because it is cross-racial and they actually do both stories and stats well. The only issue I had with it was that it felt like it was trying to convince the right that poverty was not a result of bad decisions. If you already do not think that, these arguments seemed really patronizing to the people. The solutions sections was also not great in my opinion--they just put ...more
Jill Meyer
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In their book, “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope”, authors Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDann looks at America’s working class and their problems in an economy much touted by President Trump. In many cases, these people have been left behind. They’re not in the Top 1%; in many cases, they don’t reach the Top 80%! What accounts for their lag in today’s society? And what can help them? WuDann and Kristof center ‘round on two things - more and better early education and getting off a ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A haunting look into the severe and heartbreaking consequences of policy failures across America. An absolute must read
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
Nothing in this was new to me, but this would be a good book for anyone who wants to educate themselves on how terrible the economy is in the US. Although honestly the authors are too sympathetic to some of these people.

They do talk a little about Remote Area Medical which is a group I'm a little familiar with. I didn't know the founder died! I moved away from there and no one told me, haha. (Those people sure love getting their free dental care once or twice a year, but they sure don't want
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful book about where America has gone way, way wrong. Before I forget, I have a bit of a syllabus going in regard to the good old US of As woes:

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
Janesville: An American Story

The books above are about working class white people completely imploding. For a tour of African-America's economic and social hellscape, try these
Isabelle Leventhal
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
WuDunn and Kristof do a wonderful job of putting anecdotes and faces to the direct consequences of policy, lack of federal funding, and identifying what makes or breaks people is so beyond their character. As someone who has spent much time thinking about the social determinants of health and deaths of despair, this book felt written for me but is accessible for non policy nerds as well. The vehicle of the kids on Kristof’s bus is especially powerful.
Naomi Krokowski
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Equal parts heartrending and hopeful, this magnificent work of research and reflection was a gripping read. America has invested unwisely in things that have brought us terrible returns: punitive laws and prisons, diminishing life expectancies, rising rates of child abuse and poverty. We are not number 1 any longer in things that reflect a healthy society. The statistics are grim. Thankfully, authors Kristioff and WuDunn assure readers that they are aware of solutions and programs (both public ...more
Kathy (Bermudaonion)
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars
Janet A.
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The authors did a really good job of describing how easily a child can fall through the cracks in today’s America. And how we could help to stop that from happening.
Michelle Mosley
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As someone that's lived in a poor, rural community for most of my life, I was able to relate to these authors' experiences of seeing friends and family members' lives destroyed by drugs and despair and wishing for change that never comes. It's clear that poverty is deeply misunderstood by many people, even those that live in and around it, and that being poor has come to be seen as a sin. A compassionate, thought-provoking, and important work.
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book offers both stories and statistics, as well as specific solutions. I have long known about the problems facing economically depressed small towns in theory, but the stories in this book bring them to life in tangible, devastating and infuriating ways. America can be so much better than this.
Robin Case
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
The best part of this book is the audio version read by Jennifer Garner. I picked this book because many of the anecdotes were from a geographical area near me. I could relate to those accounts. The economic analysis, however, was really terrible. Not recommended for the financial and political literate.
Sierra Menzies
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 500-before-30
#6 in 2020. **Long review warning**

I was OBSESSED with this book. Like others in the similar genre of 'America's disastrous outlook of economic inequality,' "Tightrope" is an easier read than most due to the editorial style writing of couple Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Since I finished the book I have read criticism from this community that the book is centered primarily (but not entirely) on a mostly-white town in Oregon, and the stories are mostly about white people. However, I
Julia Russ
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
My God, this book was depressing AF--But it's an incredibly important book, one that every single American today should read. (Especially leading up to the 2020 election.)

I don't know what I was expecting when I picked up this book, but it delivered SO much more than I ever thought it would. Originally, it intrigued me because one of the authors is from a small town in Oregon (as is my husband) and a lot of the stories revolve around the Oregonians living there. The book focuses on a variety of
Holly Allen
Feb 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
This was a huge disappointment. The book focuses on poverty and inequality and the lack of access to education, healthcare, and other resources in America that are often found free and accessible in other first world countries. The problem is two fold- One is that the book tries too hard to appear moderate or else slightly liberal which means much of the discussion about capitalism and classism is shallow at best. Two is that much of the word choice is so poor it often simply comes off as ...more
Derek Patz
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Welcome to America. Land of the free. Home of the brave. That's what they want you to believe. Deep down America has its citizens on a tightrope. Like in the small town of Yamhill. Where we meet families in despair. Drugs and Alcohol seems to be a way out and more money is spent on incarceration then education.

Out of the blue . I chose this as an Add-on for Book of the Month Club. Nicholas Kristof was a name I have never heard of before. Reading this book I thought of my back yard in Wisconsin.
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
OK, I'm adding this to my list of recommended reading for people who, like me, recognize that they are WAY more advantaged than many in our country. This book, Tightrope, is especially helpful with suggesting solutions, small and large, and with plenty of illuminating statistics. Also, the personal stories of the authors' friends and neighbors in Yamhill County, Oregon remind me that the problems are just as bad here in the Pacific Northwest as elsewhere.

Here's my recommended reading list (so
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Nicholas Donabet Kristof is an American journalist, author, op-ed columnist, and a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes. He has written an op-ed column for The New York Times since November 2001 and is widely known for bringing to light human rights abuses in Asia and Africa, such as human trafficking and the Darfur conflict. He has lived on four continents, reported on six, and traveled to 150 countries ...more
“California’s best public elementary schools are in Palo Alto, accessible to anyone who can buy a house in a district where the median home price exceeds $3 million. Next door in East Palo Alto, which is disproportionately poor and minority, children attend inferior schools that lead to an inferior future” 0 likes
“He calls for a return to social balance through a “morality of grace,” an ethic that relies more on compassion and egalitarianism, less on scolding about personal irresponsibility. The morality of grace arises from the theological concept that everyone can be saved by God’s grace, even the undeserving, the uneducated, the jobless, the addicted and the homeless.” 0 likes
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