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Bound for Glory

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  4,308 Ratings  ·  217 Reviews
The original road novel--even though it takes the form of autobiography. If Guthrie didn't actually invent the footloose, no- strings-attached American hero (remember this guy Twain who wrote something about lighting out for the territory?), he certainly solidified the 20th-century version. Guitar slung over the shoulder as he sprinted to boost himself aboard freight train ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published 1970 by Signet (first published 1943)
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Feb 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
This partial autobiography was written in 1943 and is an account of Guthrie's life and his reflections on America in the 1930s. The slang is colourful and takes a little getting used to. Parts of this book are brilliant, but there are a lot of gaps.
The first part of the book is about Guthrie's childhood (apart from the first chapter set in the early 40s. It gives a good deal of family background and dynamics, with a mix of loss and tragedy. His mother's bouts of odd and self destructive behavio
Debbie Zapata
Nov 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: saturday
I've known of Woody Guthrie all of my life; used to sing This Land Is Your Land around campfires and on hayrides. But until reading this book, I never knew about the man at all. He had a rough life right from the git go, and this book tells us bit by bit about some of the tragedies that shaped the man he became.

He was a working man who bummed around the country, singing songs about the life and the people he saw around him. This book tells about his childhood, his family, his years on the road,
For years, I’ve been a Bob Dylan fan and fascinated by Dylan’s biggest inspiration, Woody Guthrie. Dylan biographers, and Dylan himself, often reference Guthrie’s autobiography Bound for Glory. With great pleasure I realized my local library had a copy.

I didn’t know what I was embarking on. The jacket of the book has a quote from the Springfield Republican that reads, “Reading Bound for Glory is an emotional experience far more stirring for some readers at least, than even the penetrating Grapes
Apr 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had no idea what to expect with this book. I wasn't really looking forward to reading it. Boy was I wrong. I loved it. It is not the usual boring biography, he is simply telling stories, in his own unique way. His stories made me think, what would I have done in the same situation. Could I have rode in the box car, waited to pick the apricots, saw my sister burned to death and kept going. Could I take a beating on the dead main street and still manage to keep going? Could I have suffered so mu ...more
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
How can people really write like THIS when I can barely scratch out a little review here? Damn. There's not much music in here until the end, but his story itself reads as this jaw-dropping rambling epic earthy American folk ballad.

The back of my crumbling 1970 mass market edition quotes the following review. I will just nod vigorously:
"Even readers who never heard Woody or his songs will understand the current esteem in which he is held after reading just a few pages... always shockingly immed
Pete daPixie
A folk song is what's wrong and how to fix it or it could be
who's hungry and where their mouth is or
who's out of work and where the job is or
who's broke and where the money is or
who's carrying a gun and where the peace is. - WG

Anytime is a good time to read 'Bound for Glory'. First published back in 1943, Woody's biography remains one of the essential works in the poptastic genre. In 2012, Woody Guthrie's Centennial Year, B.F.G. is still a classic of twentieth century American folk music.
Suzanne Moore
Bob Dylan's music turned me on to Woody Guthrie. When I heard about Dylan's love of Bound For Glory, I had to read the book for myself. In fact I read anything that may have inspired Dylan, since he is my inspiration. I remember singing “This Land is Your Land” in grade school, not knowing anything then about Woody.

His story begins as a young boy and his years at home with his mother. Then he takes the reader on his adventures riding the rails and singing his songs. It is tragic how his sister
Mar 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I first read this book when I was in my last year of high school, many years ago. Woody Guthrie was my hero then, and he still is. This book is a great road book, but that is perhaps 1/100th of why the man is my hero. Woody spoke for the people, the real people, - disenfranchised, broken up, busted down - the man/woman who has no idea where his next meal is coming from, let alone where in the hell he's going to sleep that night.
Loved this - the stories were like so many songs I know and the drawings were exellent.
This book was quite different from anything I usually read. (It was assigned for school - otherwise, I would never have read it.)

What I liked:
1. It successfully captures the Great Depression/Dust Bowl era of America and how tough life was for people back then.
2. It seemed honest and frank, not put on or embellished (beyond what his memory could provide, of course).

What I did not like:
1. The timeline jumped forward without much warning, which confused me because I couldn't keep track of his age
Tim Weakley
I came across the name of this book in the Dylan book I had been reading earlier in the year. When I went to a local book store to buy it the clerk in the music section was surprised firstly that it was still in publication having been written in the forties, and secondly that given that…that they did not have it in stock! She ordered two copies. When I got my hands on it I was taken right away by the picture of Guthrie on the cover. It kind of reminds me of an old painting of a martyr from som ...more
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have an old paperback version of this book. It has some of Woody's drawings in it. The words in the book seem to be ghostwritten at some points, I don't know for sure if they are or are not, but the drawings really make Woody seem tangible while you read his autobiography. It is, of course, not Woody's complete story, but it is a good story that he told. (There is no mention of him leaving his wife and children behind to go on all those adventures). Mostly, his story focuses on the earlier par ...more
There was clear and strong movement in the plot. Woody is of course a good wordsmith and his descriptions are crisp and interesting. The historical aspect of the yarn and also the language used added interest. The use of language and some of the hobo slang picked up may have been one of my favorite aspects. He is writing in the style of Steinbeck, Sarayon, Twain and others and makes similar social commentaries by revealing to an equal degree that the characters could be blammed and fate can play ...more
Nate Jordon
For thesis research...

Here ol' Guthrie hits the rails and highways - a vagabond and his guitar. But you don't get to those adventures until midway through the book - half the damn book is about his childhood adventures and once someone's told you two stories about barnyard shenanigans involving slingshots and spiders, well, you've heard them all. He never mentions how he decides to pick up the guitar, nor how he learned to play it; it just magically appears in his hands and the songs pour forth.
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-memoir, music
Oh please: I grew up on Woody (from my parents) and then Arlo (my time). This book was in the house I grew up in (actually, apartment but you know what I mean). I used it to build home for my dolls before I was old enough to read it; I read it before I was old enough to understand it (8? 9? years old-in those days, we couldn't afford that many books and I read whatever I could). I always loved it-my father had a story about when he met Woody, in the kitchen of some activist or another and I gues ...more
Wickovski Steve
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is probably one of the most inspiring books by a musician I've ever read.
Woody lived a hard travelling life during the great depression, writing songs that reflected the life he was living and the plight of his people.

They were the poor migrating farm workers from all the Dust Bowl states that moved west following the terrible ecological disaster that hit the region during the 1930's. Steinbeck would have loved to have invented Woody Guthrie, only Woody got there first.

Woody was real Amer
I've quite enjoyed this book. I now own a copy, which will allow me to GASP! write in it when I reread it and to enjoy the last part a bit more (I had it on a library loan that was not nearly long enough to read it and not feel rushed). I think everyone should read it, and I feel that way about very few books. I think much of what's written about in the book is still/again relevant to the average Joe/Jane.

Here are a few sections I liked especially, that are also short enough to type out quickly
Dec 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
One of the best books I've read in ages, don't know since when. Words the way no one could write them now, words to be spoken in box cars on a long cold and hungry trip to anywhere. Words that rip you up and make you laugh, that open up a whole world of childhood and poverty and madness, boom towns and dying towns and dead towns, immense kindness and violence and desperation. And yeah I noticed that he was married twice and mentioned neither of those wives or 5 kids neither in this book, but I g ...more
Aug 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Woody rides the rails and takes us along for the journey. It’s growing up with a smirk and a knowing smile and seeing your country for all it is – the good, the bad, the ugly – and finding a way to put it all in song, in a way that feels special and pure to you. It makes you want to pick up an old nylon string and hit the road yourself. Sure, there’s probably a little poetic license in some of Woody remembrances, but that’s art – like Kafka said; it should be larger than reality, while still ref ...more
Ian Wood
Sep 22, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music-biography
I first heard of Woody Guthrie through the Bob Dylan tracks ‘Song for Woody’ and ‘Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie but he drifted out of my consciousness until Brue Springsteen recorded his ‘Tom Jaod’ album but again this didn’t particularly hold my attention until Billy Bragg recorded the ‘Mermaid Avenue’ albums when I suddenly found I had two LP’s of fantastic songs by a singer-songwriter of whom I’d never heard. To right this obvious wrong a bought a Woody Guthrie compilation and fell in love w ...more
Virginia Baker
A gritty American tale of life in the early 20th century. Woody narrates life out on the Oklahoma plain, from a simple, easy childhood that ended too quickly when the Dust Bowl came around and his parents left town and he was out trying to fend for himself at the age of 14. A true tale of strength and an inspiration for everyone to create art and work hard, this book is filled with insights into the true spirit of humans; the need to look out for each other and come together in times of struggle ...more
Startling, fresh, and also quite alien--something from a completely different era, particularly when compared with most memoirs written today. Guthrie lost a sister in a fire in which his family also lost all of their possessions, his father left home when he was twelve, he was raised by a brother after his mother was institutionalized for mental problems, and after all this, Guthrie still writes compassionately about them all. Part of the weird alien nature of this book is how family members di ...more
Mar 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Woody Guthrie published two autobiographies that are wildly different. This is the better of the two. It's a very valuable piece of American folklore and reveals a lot about Guthrie's own philosophy. It's a folksy Grapes of Wrath . I think it is a very dear, wonderful, and important book.

This is what Guthrie says about hearing "Worried Man Blues" in a Dust Bowl camp, "It was so clear and honest sounding, no Hollywood put-on, no fake wiggling...And, instead of getting you all riled up mentally,
Genesis Hansen
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't often read memoirs or biographies, but I was inspired to pick this up because of Guthrie's centennial birthday celebration. As a life history it's very incomplete, but as a series of vignettes that give you insight into Guthrie's formative years it's very effective. He certainly had the ability to paint a picture with his words! I was also impressed with how he maintained his compassion and a general sweetness of character in spite of (or perhaps because of?) a great deal of tragedy and ...more
Todd Wendover
Mar 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's a reason Bound for Glory left more of an impression on Bob Dylan than even On The Road. It gives what may be the best portrait of America ever in literature.

After pouring over the thousand songs that Guthrie wrote in his lifetime, Billy Bragg stated that he believes Guthrie is America's greatest poet, right up there with Whitman.

Read this book and find out the true nature of America, or reestablish it.
Oct 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the few memoirs I've read and was pleasantly surprised. Found the book a delightful insight to the man. The fact that his writing was edited as little as possible made a nice change, I felt as if I was sat in an old bar with a good whiskey, listening to a reluctant legend. This book is probably a very good document to American social history too, without looking through the proverbial rose tinteds.
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recommend every American and music lover to read this book. Woody Guthrie had a fantastic way of telling his life story, using the language with which he grew up hearing and speaking himself. Think uneducated southern dialect. I became so invested and interested in his stories that it bothered me to put the book down.
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Guthrie's autobiography. I've wanted to read it for years just never got to it. Finally I did and I wasn't dissapointed. First non-fiction I'd read in a while so I had to prepare my mind for that. Great to ride on the trains, steal cars, and hitchick along with Guthrie.
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are lies, damn lies and statistics. This book is the second one but I love a tall tale and it is an engaging story. I know this is supposed to be an autobiography but he seems to have liberally borrowed from the lives of others...and I am ok with that.
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a pretty amazing book. Unparalleled experiences of living on the poverty line combined with beautiful writing and authentic dialog. All with the background of a nascent performing and songwriting talent and au unexpected and touching love affair. Quite brilliant.
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Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie was an American songwriter and folk musician. Guthrie's musical legacy consists of hundreds of songs, ballads and improvised works covering topics from political themes to traditional songs to children's songs. Guthrie performed continually throughout his life with his guitar frequently displaying the slogan "This Machine Kills Fascists". Guthrie is perhaps best know ...more
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