Alison Garwood Jones

What’s on my nightstand

February 16, 2022

The Vanderbilt's Breakers

WHAT’S ON MY NIGHTSTAND: Anderson Cooper’s Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty (Harper Collins, 2021)

Anderson’s clear-eyed analysis of all the ways his Vanderbilt forebears set out to be as unequal as possible is America itself.

This is the story of entrepreneurship, wealth, success, and individualism built on the myth that all of it is available to anyone who is willing to work hard without help (another myth).

When I scan the non-fiction landscape today — all the articles, podcasts, vlogs, and social media conversations — I’m moved by the number of Americans, from all walks of life, who are staring this myth in the eye for the first time in their lives.

Some are shaking their fists at it, others are throwing punches or giving it the middle finger, but most are weeping at its feet. They are rejecting hustle culture and the winner-take-all definition of success that has long been the gas in America’s engine. BTW, Canada has always breathed in its fumes.

When this identity crisis subsides and another America emerges, it will be interesting to see if the country insists on more meaning behind all the striving, and if it chooses to help a wider swath of folks get there.

Those Americans who have never been equal have been insisting on this for centuries.


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