Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

eBook - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
The end of retirement? From the beet fields of North Dakota to the National Forest campgrounds of California to Amazon's CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves "workampers." On frequently traveled routes between seasonal jobs, Jessica Bruder meets people from all walks of life: a former professor, a McDonald's vice president, a minister, a college administrator, and a motorcycle cop, among many others—including her irrepressible protagonist, a onetime cocktail waitress, Home Depot clerk, and general contractor named Linda May. In a secondhand vehicle she christens "Van Halen," Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately. Accompanying Linda May and others from campground toilet cleaning to warehouse product scanning to desert reunions, then moving on to the dangerous work of beet harvesting, Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy—one that foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, she celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these quintessential Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive. Like Linda May, who dreams of finding land on which to build her own sustainable "Earthship" home, they have not given up hope.
Publisher: [Place of publication not identified] : [publisher not identified], 2017.
ISBN: 9780393249323
Characteristics: 1 online resource

Related Resources


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Dec 02, 2018

Read Evicted first

Oct 02, 2018

Book Group Selection
Reading Nomadland brought about a range of emotions, sadness, anger, fear, and numbness from the reality of what life is / can be, for the Baby Boomer generation. Well researched and written. Kudos to the nomads who shared their stories for the world to read.

PimaLib_NormS Aug 30, 2018

Hitting the open road seems like such an American thing to do. But, being on the road permanently? Living in a vehicle? Nah, not for this American. However, there are people doing exactly that, either by choice, or out of necessity, and Jessica Bruder has written a book about them called “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century”. For some, it is temporary (they hope), while others enjoy the freedom of not being tied to a house, or family, or a job. Many of these nomads refer to themselves as “workampers”, meaning they camp in their RVs or vans or vehicles, and they find transitory employment in the area. A good number of them work seasonally in the processing facilities of a certain ginormous online retailer. The jobs there, for the most part, sound terrible - hard work for little pay. One could wonder why they subject themselves to it. For those not independently wealthy, and few of these American nomads are, it can be a matter of survival, so they will do whatever they have to do. I was somewhat surprised at the sense of community that these folks have. Sure, there are lone wolves traveling the country, seeking solitude. But, for those wanting to be a part of an informal tribe, there are regularly scheduled gatherings publicized online and on social media, and by word of mouth. “Nomadland” peels back the layers of this sub-culture, exposing a way of life that is mostly unseen, but not in hiding.

Aug 22, 2018

I really enjoyed this book. It gives a nice insight into a world that is close by, yet hidden to the average person. Excellent work, Jessica Bruder the author obviously spent a lot of time researching the material- including becoming immersed in the community of folks she was writing about.

May 31, 2018

Book looks at the phenomenon of older Americans in financial straits taking to the open road, looking for temporary work, family-like connections and ‘freedom.’ I’d heard about people like this taking to the open road in their RVs, but less recently, and with the consequences of The Great Recession added in making many now having less financial resources. Amazing how technology connects them and the companies like Amazon and Minnesota’s own Crystal Sugar depend on them.

May 26, 2018

A compelling and sympathetic read. Describes individuals who work hard to make their lives 'their's' and who draw strength from community even as they are transient. The author does a nice job of relating the challenges faced as well as the root of many of those challenges as negative consequences of poor decisions. Uplifting in the end though as resilience and opportunity are the themes that dominate - life is hard, harder when we make poor decisions, but it is sweet when blessed with freedom to define and pursue dreams. Read this as a final book in a series of fine reads starting with Hillbilly Elegy, Evicted, and Janesville: all are worthwhile.

May 11, 2018

Light on analysis, full of real people.

May 10, 2018

The books reads easy, but looks a bit unfinished business...seems to me that it could be written as a series of articles, and not a book. Maybe that is only me, but I was expecting deeper analysis and a better story.

PS. Now I see that another comment below also mentioned the article feel of the book...interesting!

Apr 22, 2018

I read this book for my book club. The writer certainly did her work by following the "Van Kampers" for 3 years, doing research. In doing so, I believe she may have portrayed them in a more positive light than most would hold them. Although this group denounces the traditional values of home ownership associated with the "American Dream," the ultimate dream of the protagonist, Linda, that ends the story, is to accomplish her own land, her own home.
VanKampers or however one classifies them are the bane of the Seattle area at this time, although they do not adhere to the values stated by the group. Our area VanKampers have moved from sanctioned "homeless camps" to industrial areas, and now into residential areas. They say they enjoy better water/mountain views, parks, and better amenities--however they do this at the expense of residential homeowners who actually pay the taxes that fund these resources. When the Kampers are forced to leave, a wake of garbage, human waste, syringes and needles, and ecological damage is left behind. If one steps away from this book and takes a larger perspective, the picture painted here is a real nightmare.

Mar 27, 2018

If you have ever wondered about (or considered being) a nomadic worker or vandweller, you should read this book for some interesting and revealing insights into this alternative lifestyle! It is also an entertaining and interesting read; well-researched and written.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Subject Headings


Find it at KCLibrary

To Top