The Unwinding

I have this routine, whereby I read book reviews, keep a note of things I like the sound of, and then request them from the local library. Sometimes they get them almost immediately, sometimes they buy them specially, but it never costs me more than 50p a book, and ensures a regular supply of good reading.

My latest discovery is George Packer’s The Unwinding, a study of recent changes in America, consciously based on the model of dos Passos’ USA. So there’s historical snippets from particular years, individual portraits of big names (New Gingrich, Oprah Winfrey) and, most tellingly, accounts of the lives of individual Americans, staged through the book, so we keep coming back to them, increasingly as familiar friends. It ranges over such topics as housing, fossil fuels, manufacturing, party politics and the financial crash, with a terrific command of language and eye for detail. Not cheerful reading, but I feel so much wiser.