More Cowbell - What to Read After "Hillbilly Elegy"

Chris Schluep on June 13, 2017

HillbillyJ.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy has spent a long time near the top of the Amazon bestsellers list. Readers have turned to the book to try to understand how we got to where we are, and sometimes more specifically, how Donald Trump got to where he is. There was a point after the election when Orwell’s 1984 was the zeitgeisty book of the moment as well—but that audience was smaller and more inclined to anticipate where we might be going, as opposed to where we stand right now. Much like the actual year, 1984 has since slipped behind us.

The timing of Hillbilly Elegy couldn’t have been better. That’s not meant to take anything away from its quality—we Amazon editors picked it as the #2 book of 2016—but when a great book hits at just the right time it becomes a phenomenon. So many people have read it, I thought I'd put together a list of books for those wondering what to read after they’ve finished -- provided they're not super depressed and looking for something completely different.

Hillbilly Elegy has precursors—books that looked at class struggle on a personal level. The Grapes of Wrath and The Jungle come to mind. But those read like historical documents now. What if you want to read something more contemporary?

So here's my list of books that would be good next reads after Elegy. It’s meant to be broad, so I’ve tried to divide the list into subcategories. There are many more books to read after Hillbilly Elegy. Feel free to recommend your own in the comments.



Nonfiction - Economic and social distress



Nonfiction - Politics


Nonfiction - How Bad Could it Get?



Nonfiction - A Small Dose of Optimism




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