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Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  5,857 ratings  ·  1,017 reviews
With stark poignancy and political dispassion, Tightrope draws us deep into an "other America." The authors tell this story, in part, through the lives of some of the children with whom Kristof grew up, in rural Yamhill, Oregon, an area that prospered for much of the twentieth century but has been devastated in the last few decades as blue-collar jobs disappeared. About on ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 14th 2020 by Knopf Publishing Group
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 ·  5,857 ratings  ·  1,017 reviews

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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 patch
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 th
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. ...more
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 w
Roy Lotz
Jul 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Something is wrong with America’s tax structure when the working poor pay taxes so the federal government can make a payment to an e-commerce giant owned by the world’s richest man.

This book was timely when it was released, and it has only grown timelier since the pandemic struck. Normally, Americans are typified by high levels of patriotism and pride in our country—the unshakeable conviction that we are the greatest. (Indeed, as the authors note, while Americans students are not especially
I wholeheartedly recommend this book. If ever you wanted an upgrade in your ability empathize, and understand your fellow humans, or insight into how to be of better help, particularly in the United States, please read this book, and if you've never thought you needed either of these things, perhaps it is more crucial that you read it. I truly hope this wakes many Americans up to how we can better care for one another. Grateful this was written. ...more
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.
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
DNF - Not learning anything new from this book. The writing feels superficial. I wanted in-depth look at each of these people, but instead we just get a paragraph or two, followed by an info dump of facts and are then told what to think, which isn't my preferred style for this type of subject. I want showing, not telling. And a great book should lead me on a journey to figure out what it wants me to learn, not just straight up tell me how I should think and feel. ...more
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn was the most sobering and depressing account of where this country is today and why. Nicholas Kristoff went back to the farming community of Yamhill, Oregon to follow up with all of the children on the Route Number 6 School Bus that he had grown up with. These were the children with whom Nicholas Kristof rode to and from school each day on the Number 6 bus, his friends. What he found was harrowing, depressing and disco ...more
Cheryl S (book_boss_12)
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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Dec 16, 2020 marked it as to-read
I'm not sure I'll read this, so this is not a review but a comment... it looks like Kristof focuses on Yamhill, Oregon, which is where my Dad grew up, but he was 15 years older than Nicholas. 15ish. In my Dad's generation, he wouldn't go to high school reunions because most of his classmates died in Vietnam, so, you know, maybe being poor isn't the worst thing.

My entire family is from Yamhill County, and my college degree is from a liberal arts school in Yamhill County... I believe my Dad's canc
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: societies
How do you successfully raise children in these troubled times? A stable home environment seems to be a major factor, increasing the likelihood that they will graduate from high school, avoid drugs, stay employed, and keep out of trouble with the law. Children who grow up in chaotic homes with drug and alcohol abuse, violence, and single parents who have trouble keeping jobs have vastly increased chances of ending up on a downward spiral of poverty, drugs, unemployment, and prison.

This book look
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 chan
Jessica Jeffers
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, audio
This hits the nail absolutely on the head.
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 offens ...more
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 St ...more
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 a ...more
Katy Schneberger
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
It’s difficult to tackle the heart wrenching topics introduced in this book and I applaud the authors for shedding insight on them but this was an extremely painful read for me. There were many points throughout that I felt I was reading a middle schooler’s research paper filled with irrelevant quotes and random studies that did not support the argument the writers were trying to make. There were countless over generalizations and was overall extremely unorganized. I agree with many of their arg ...more
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. ...more
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure what this book was going to be, but having worked with society in one form or the other for over 40 years, I wanted to see if what I thought about many issues I saw were factual. Much of the information in this book is devastatingly sad, nobody wants to hear that the country they love is not as great as you want to believe. But I have no doubt that education is what is going to separate those that will succeed from those who will not... but I am heartbroken that our country is 61st ...more
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am a long-time reader of Nicholas Kristof's articles in the New York Times and I have read Half the Sky by Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn. I was interested in their newest book Tightrope. A few weeks ago while waiting for a talk at a local library, I picked up Tightrope from the new books shelf and started reading. The next day, I went out to a local bookstore and bought the book.

Yet those kids ended up riding into a cataclysm, as working-class communities disintegrated across America, fel
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
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas D. Kristof take a look at America's problems today with jobs that don't pay well, drug difficulties, the lack of a safety net, and poverty, and they start in their own backyard, looking at people they know personally.

It's a careful look at the promise these people had as children and how these people fell off the tightrope that is today's America.

And then they do more---they look at places that offer solutions to these problems, and they offer these up to us.

Let's ho
Tightrope has many powerful moments and statements. Jennifer Garner as a narrator was simply fabulous for me. I feel like she was able to show her passion for the content.

This book feels incredibly relevant now and before in the American society and the deep-seated issues that have needed to be resolved for a long time.

It was definitely worth the read and I want to buy a physical copy to share specific passages more adequately with others.

4-4.5 stars for me
Ruhi Pudipeddi
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
ok so first of all i have to say this book contains exceptional reporting. despite an optimistic subtitle, most of the book’s narratives have a grim arc, which makes it a somewhat demoralizing but compelling read about an america i always knew existed but doubt i’ll ever meet. the authors connect long and short stories + concepts seamlessly and i ended up highlighting so many different lines of elegant analysis. i must say at times, reading this book felt slightly voyeuristic, like fulfilling a ...more
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: people, library
What hope? This book just made my anxiety and anger towards this stupid fucking country even worse.
Mal Warwick
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
If you wonder what’s gone wrong in America and why our society is so deeply divided, you’ll find a lot of the answers in Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn‘s brilliant new book, Tightrope. You’ll also find a litany of possible solutions to the problems they expose. Tightrope could be the playbook for an activist Secretary of Health and Human Services in a progressive future administration. Like the couple’s earlier bestseller, Half the Sky, the book pairs deeply entrenched social problems with imagi ...more
Caroline Yoo
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book brings some very important topics to the table (inequality, the opioid crisis, mass incarceration, education, health disparities, affordable housing), but while reading I frequently found myself a bit distracted. I think part of it is that the authors will start to touch on something but don’t explore it in a way that feels like a comprehensive discussion has been completed. Additionally, they sometimes cite facts that seem vague and don’t bring real substance to their arguments. There ...more
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 thre
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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

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