The Unwinding - George Packer

The Unwinding

By George Packer

  • Release Date: 2013-05-21
  • Genre: Politics & Current Events
Score: 4
From 306 Ratings


The 2013 National Book Award Winner

A New York Times Bestseller
Selected by New York Times’ critic Dwight Garner as a Favorite Book of 2013
One of Amazon's Best Books of 2013
A New York Times Notable Book of 2013
A Washington Post Best Political Book of 2013
An NPR Best Book of 2013
A New Republic Best Book of 2013
One of Publishers Weekly's Best Nonfiction Books of 2013
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2013

A riveting examination of a nation in crisis, from one of the finest political journalists of our generation

American democracy is beset by a sense of crisis. Seismic shifts during a single generation have created a country of winners and losers, allowing unprecedented freedom while rending the social contract, driving the political system to the verge of breakdown, and setting citizens adrift to find new paths forward. In The Unwinding, George Packer, author of The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, tells the story of the United States over the past three decades in an utterly original way, with his characteristically sharp eye for detail and gift for weaving together complex narratives.
     The Unwinding journeys through the lives of several Americans, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers, who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington insider oscillating between political idealism and the lure of organized money; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire who questions the Internet’s significance and arrives at a radical vision of the future. Packer interweaves these intimate stories with biographical sketches of the era’s leading public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and collages made from newspaper headlines, advertising slogans, and song lyrics that capture the flow of events and their undercurrents.
     The Unwinding portrays a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, its elites no longer elite, its institutions no longer working, its ordinary people left to improvise their own schemes for success and salvation. Packer’s novelistic and kaleidoscopic history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date.


  • Brilliant and insightful

    By Johngomez
    Packer's prose is a breeze to read, though his topic of a changing America since the 1970's is anything but simple to understand. Conflicting forces abound in Packer's deeply researched and enlightening analysis of what's happened to the America today's Baby Boomers may remember from their times as children. Economic systems have altered, buckled under the strain of , along with globalization, while politics has fallen into an insipid trap of corruption, elitism, and lake of vision. The ruling class no longer rules, instead favoring quick fixes for serious problems. Such expediency reformed shallow thinking and adoption organs ill equipped to solve major problems of the day. Such a failure of leadership is brought home in stories of average Americans from all around the country helping to illustrate the soberness of live in America as the vast majority of American struggle to find good jobs, understand new social and political attitudes. Parker showcases his skills as not only a top journalist, but a terrific student of human nature, along with insightful analysis of the problems facing the country from the viewpoint of average citizens, in effect a history written from the bottom up as opposed to history phrased by those in power. For Packer, American exceptionalism has given way to American Economic inequality with the poorest of the society no longer able step up rungs of the cultural ladders,,which was so possible for in earlier generation.
  • Sad...but true

    By Dennis0609
    This book palpates the pulse of the US in our times. The lives portrayed here echo and resonate with the stories I hear from my patients: inability to support their families despite working hard, needing to get on disability because it's the only way they qualify to get state health insurance. To look down on these lives from a position of privilege is to miss the point of this whole great book: you are where you are through a combination of factors, most beyond your control, especially luck.
  • Pointless

    By flydiversd
    Kept waiting for all the characters of these seemingly unrelated stories to draw together in some coordinated effort to save the country, but I guess I missed it. We don't know how anything turned out for any of these individuals, except maybe JayZ and Biden. I just do not get the point of this book except to say that times are hard.
  • A great book, a corrective narrative for our times

    By Mr Clio nola
    The author treats his subjects with respect, but takes a piercing and critical look at the times and forces that made these people (and the rest of us). This book is changing the way I see 21st century America.
  • Interesting but too small of a sample to extrapolate to the 'New America'

    By One Suitcase
    Mr Packer writes well, but I found the book uneven and did not think that his sample size of three primary individuals and two communities (Tampa and Youngstown) were enough to extrapolate his case to national dimensions. What we have here is a few people's and a couple community's 'inner history', not necessarily the nation's. I also found his choice of celebrity profiles odd. (Studs Terkel's investigations of the country's pulse were more compelling.)
  • Must Read

    By chombis1
    Do you want to really understand where we are as a country in this period of time and why? You must read this book. Read it and discuss it with those who really care for the future of our country and for the kind of country we want to leave our children.
  • The Unwinding

    By bonnyjoyd
    Superb. But might have been better with solutions. We know how things have changed,but not how to fix them....if they can be fixed. Be nice to return to these folks in 5 years or so to see how they're doing. Loose ends, but very well written.
  • Liked it a lot

    By Mogadisney
    The good parts (David Price, Jeff Connaughton, Tampa, etc.) are very good, the other (Oprah, Colin Powell) less so, probably due to reliance on indirect sources. Packer succeeds in painting a riveting tapestry of America in decline. The question is though, how many Pygmies can take hunks out this particular elephant until a tipping point is reached and it collapses? Of course that's not knowable, but I read to the end, hoping the Pygmies would stop hacking.
  • Great bookl

    By Jeacklbj
    A great for understanding how the last 30 years fundamentally changed this country and our failure to come to grips with that change. Although it reads like a novel, it is real; about real people and their struggles. I found it hard to put down. I want to know how the people are doing. I hope well. Read it and you will begin to understand where we are as a people and a country.
  • A landmark

    By Smithespis
    This will be the book people turn to in 50 years to get an idea of what our times were like. A great synthesis of the early 21st century.