This book has 3 recommendations

Ryan Holiday (Founder/Brass Check)

In terms of other surprising memoirs, I found JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy to be another well-written gem.

Tudor Mihailescu (Finance and Business Enablement Manager)

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (Vance) is probably least known in my selection, yet I enjoyed a lot. It is less of the actual story it tells, rather by providing a glaring example of ‘there is more than meets the eye’. It shows the power of context to how a certain person is brought up, ends up doing in life. And, at a bigger scale, may explain political or social trends that otherwise appear as a total surprise. Personally, I was reading this book while on the professional side I was working to improve my leading through questions techniques, which also pushes you to have patience to drill to a root cause before jumping off to conclusions.

Bill Gates (Founder/Microsoft)

The disadvantaged world of poor white Appalachia described in this terrific, heartbreaking book is one that I know only vicariously. Vance was raised largely by his loving but volatile grandparents, who stepped in after his father abandoned him and his mother showed little interest in parenting her son. Against all odds, he survived his chaotic, impoverished childhood only to land at Yale Law School. While the book offers insights into some of the complex cultural and family issues behind poverty, the real magic lies in the story itself and Vance’s bravery in telling it.

Amazon description

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

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See more books recommended by: Ryan Holiday, Tudor Mihailescu, Bill Gates

See more books written by: J. D. Vance

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