• Wildland

  • The Making of America's Fury
  • By: Evan Osnos
  • Narrated by: Evan Osnos
  • Length: 17 hrs and 7 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (294 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This program is read by the author.

"Evan Osnos compassionately shares his extensive research on the crumbling of American democracy, civility, and equality. Listeners join him as he visits three diverse places he has lived: wealthy Greenwich, Connecticut; segregated Chicago; and coal-mining Clarksburg, West Virginia." (AudioFile)

"One of the books of the year.... Wildland by The New Yorker's Evan Osnos draws the backstory to America's rage through deep reporting and 'thousands of hours of conversations' in three places he lived before DC." (Axios)

After a decade abroad, the National Book Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Evan Osnos returns to three places he has lived in the United States - Greenwich, CT; Clarksburg, WV; and Chicago, IL - to illuminate the origins of America’s political fury.

Evan Osnos moved to Washington, DC, in 2013 after a decade away from the United States, first as the Beijing bureau chief at the Chicago Tribune and then as the China correspondent for The New Yorker. While abroad, he often found himself making a case for America, urging the citizens of Egypt, Iraq, or China to trust that even though America had made grave mistakes throughout its history, it aspired to some foundational moral commitments - the rule of law, the power of truth, the right of equal opportunity for all. But when he returned to the United States, he found each of these principles under assault.

In search of an explanation for the crisis that reached an unsettling crescendo in 2020 - a year of pandemic, civil unrest, and political turmoil - he focused on three places he knew firsthand: Greenwich, Connecticut; Clarksburg, West Virginia; and Chicago, Illinois. Reported over the course of six years, Wildland follows ordinary individuals as they navigate the varied landscapes of 21st-century America. Through their powerful, often poignant stories, Osnos traces the sources of America’s political dissolution. He finds answers in the rightward shift of the financial elite in Greenwich; in the collapse of social infrastructure and possibility in Clarksburg; and in the compounded effects of segregation and violence in Chicago. The truth about the state of the nation may be found not in the slogans of political leaders but in the intricate details of individual lives, and in the hidden connections between them. As Wildland weaves in and out of these personal stories, events in Washington occasionally intrude, like flames licking up on the horizon.

A dramatic, prescient examination of seismic changes in American politics and culture, Wildland is the story of a crucible, a period bounded by two shocks to America’s psyche, two assaults on the country’s sense of itself: the attacks of September 11th in 2001 and the storming of the US Capitol, on January 6th, 2021. Following the lives of everyday Americans, in three cities, across two decades, Osnos illuminates the country in a startling light. revealing how we lost the moral confidence to see ourselves as larger than the sum of our parts. 

A Macmillan Audio production from Farrar, Straus and Giroux

©2021 Evan Osnos (P)2021 Macmillan Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year, 2021

L.A. Times Book Prize - Finalist, 2022

"Stellar reporting. ... As an overview of a fractious ideological landscape, this skillful treatment is hard to beat. An elegant survey of the causes and effects of polarization in America." (Kirkus, starred review)  

"Incisive. ... An engrossing and revealing look at how deeply connected yet far apart Americans are." (Publishers Weekly) 

"Through clear, engrossing writing, [Evan Osnos] gives shape to the past 20 years." (Christopher Borrelli, The Chicago Tribune)

What listeners say about Wildland

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  • Overall
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    3 out of 5 stars

More of a painting than analysis

What I felt lacking in this book may be exactly what some will appreciate most. The author uses his unique perspective as a recently returning American from years abroad to paint several vignettes to explain of how far his homeland, by 2013 when he returned, had descended into bitter political division. The writing and performance, both by the author, are excellent as description. The vivid details of many of the characters in these vignettes attest to hours of interviews and patient studies of their lives for which the author is to be commended.

Mr Osnos undoubtedly has a broad base of knowledge of American history based on the many historical facts and references sprinkled throughout the work. However, the work overall doesn’t seem to add to much more than an impressionist’s painting our country’s woefully divided condition.

Full disclosure demands that I admit, I have written this review after skipping several of the later chapters, hoping for a summation in the final 2 chapters which would compel me to go back and reread and pick up the the ones I missed. But in the absence of any conclusions or prescription that seemed to require any supporting justifications, I will leave my bookmark where it is.

4 people found this helpful

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Beautiful, albeit sad, recounting of modern day America

This book is a terrific expose of modern day America. By “profiling” three very different places, Osnos illuminated the systemic fault lines in our society. The way the author weaved in his personal history was masterful and kept me engaged as the story weaved through the past decade of American political history. This book reminded me a lot of George Packer’s The Unwinding. If you liked that book, I recommend this one too. The one downside is the stark reminder that there is perhaps no solution to our problems. Osnos closes with some vague references to our communities and hope in the future; but it is not very concrete. Then again, perhaps there is no concrete solution to our current divisions. Highly recommend this book!

3 people found this helpful

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Knowing what you are struggling against, helps!

It’s something to hear plainly and with full supporting evidence the things you intrinsically understand must be happening and must have happened, to move us to this point of great discontent in America. I once read interviews of slaves in America where some said they often considered poor whites in the south to be even below them, based on the degraded situation in which poor white families lived. America has had its heel on the neck of blacks and poor whites for most of its existence. For blacks it was never denied, poor whites experiencing the same seem never sure what or whom they were struggling against, that is crazy making.

2 people found this helpful

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fantastic

beautifully written
compelling selection of stories to illustrate each point. highly recommend to anyone who wants a richer look at what the hell is going on

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Cover too many issues. Break into Segments

Good but should have been broken into segments by time, issue location. Your insights are excellent. Well done. Charlie, Chicago

1 person found this helpful

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You can't get more descriptive than this.

This my second book by Evan Osnos. The first was so good that I bought this one on name alone. It did not disappoint. The facts are laid out plain and simple. It should be required reading for all high school and college students.

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Relevant information for our time.

The authors insight, research, and presentation are certainly worthy of our time to digest it.

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Critical content for every American

If you’re looking for some rhyme or reason as to why the United States has become so polarized, this book is an ABSOLUTE must-read. I’m no stranger to feeling overwhelmed with the direction the U.S. has taken, and frequently wonder how it could ever possibly right itself again… This book has been so enlightening, highlighting the throughlines between past events through to the present day, in the most engaging, humanistic, and fact-based way possible.

I feel better education and actually able to speak on why the divisions in our country run so deep. I honestly wish this was required reading for every American, because at the end of the day, we’re all in a such similar boats (unless you’re a hedge fund manager taking in hundreds of millions of dollars per year, of course). I simply cannot recommend this book enough.

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Best explanation of U.S. political dysfunction

I've read (or listened to) dozens of books over the past few years trying to understand how our political system (and fellow citizens) became so broken. This one combines all those other narratives into one complete story that is compelling, true, and personal enough to follow along and feel like it could be YOUR story too. Most of us already know this story--massive inequality, unresponsive political system, corrosive media environment, etc. When all of these problems go unaddressed by both major political parties and voting citizens start consuming propaganda rather than information, what did we expect would happen? This wildland was primed for a fast moving fire from a single spark.
This book is equally critical of Democrats and Republicans for their various failings, although it does come down harder on the Trump years because...well, you know--truth. This book is appealing to those of us standing squarely in the middle of the political spectrum who have not yet abandoned our ability to think clearly and recognize lies for lies and accept hard truths as needed.
The narrative is driven along by focusing on various places the author has lived. I was initially skeptical of this approach, but it turns out to work perfectly by exposing the contrasting stories of Greenwich hedge fund billionaires, poor West Virginia coal miners, and urban minorities around Chicago. Osnos is a good story teller who weaves all these different parts into an incredibly coherent whole. I find myself disagreeing with parts of even my favorite books, but I couldn't find a single thing to fault in this book.
I first heard about this book in an interview of Evan Osnos with Charlie Sykes on The Bulwark podcast (start listening to it now--it's awesome!) and knew I needed to give it a try. I'm highly critical of everything I read and rarely give out 5's across the board. This one is a 5-star (even though it is read by the author which is usually a mistake authors make--normally it's best to leave it to the professionals to read your work).

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Powerful, Human Stories on What’s Gone Wrong in America

Powerful, human stories of strains pulling America apart in the Trump Era. Author has a smart, sweeping perspective on economic and cultural forces tearing at our society — not least the pivotal role of cynical calculations of financial elite, including his former Greenwich, Conn., neighbors.
The author reads the book himself and does a very good job.