Synopses & Reviews
Like a lot of Americans, Steve Almond spent the weeks after the 2016 election lying awake, in a state of dread and bewilderment. The problem wasn't just the election, but the fact that nobody could explain, in any sort of coherent way, why America had elected a cruel, corrupt, and incompetent man to the presidency. Bad Stories: Toward a Unified Theory of How It All Came Apart is Almond's effort to make sense of our historical moment, to connect certain dots that go unconnected amid the deluge of hot takes and think pieces. Almond looks to literary voices — from Melville to Orwell, from Bradbury to Baldwin — to help explain the roots of our moral erosion as a people. The book argues that Trumpism is a bad outcome arising directly from the bad stories we tell ourselves. To understand how we got here, we have to confront our cultural delusions: our obsession with entertainment, sports, and political parody; the degeneration of our free press into a for-profit industry; our enduring pathologies of race, class, immigration, and tribalism. Bad Stories is a lamentation aimed at providing clarity. It's the book you can pass along to an anguished fellow traveler with the promise, This will help you understand what the hell happened to our country.
"Steve, I'm sorry but I've completely destroyed my copy of Bad Stories. Seriously, there was something in every chapter that inspired furious underlining or dog-eared pages or the scribbling of hasty notes in the margins. The upside is that I feel like I have a much better grasp of the tortured American psyche. The downside is that I can't loan the book to anyone, because they'll think I'm a madman. Thanks for the thrilling read." Nathan Hill, author of The Nix
"Almond is an excellent prose stylist, and [Bad Stories] is a welcome change of pace from its mostly wonky competitors." Chris Carroll, The Washington Post
"With the same biting wit that marks Almonds previous books of social criticism, Against Football (2014), the accomplished fiction writer and journalist aims to decode the social conditions that landed Trump in the White House....Almond holds up literature as a guide through Americas age-old moral dilemmas and finds hope for his country in family, forgiveness, and political resistance." Booklist (Starred Review)
"It's a rare writer who has the power to make one aware in every paragraph of the moral necessity of literature, but in Bad Stories, Steve Almond has done just that. With fierce intelligence, moving candor, and dazzling insight, Almond draws on everything from The Grapes of Wrath to the voting practices of his babysitter to dismantle the false narratives about American democracy that got us into the political pickle were in. I was enlightened and spellbound by Bad Stories, outraged and consoled. This is a profound and essential book for all time, but especially for now." Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild
About the Author
Steve Almond is the author of eight books of fiction and nonfiction, including the New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football. His short stories have been anthologized widely, in the Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, Best American Erotica, and Best American Mysteries series. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. He teaches at the Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard, and hosts the New York Times podcast “Dear Sugars” with fellow writer Cheryl Strayed.