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Summary

The most startling thing about disasters, according to award-winning author Rebecca Solnit, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy. That joy reveals an ordinarily unmet yearning for community, purposefulness, and meaningful work that disaster often provides. A Paradise Built in Hell is an investigation of the moments of altruism, resourcefulness, and generosity that arise amid disaster's grief and disruption and considers their implications for everyday life. It points to a new vision of what society could become - one that is less authoritarian and fearful, more collaborative and local.

©2009 Rebecca Solnit (P)2014 Audible Inc.

Critic reviews

"The freshest, deepest, most optimistic account of human nature I've come across in years." (Bill McKibben)

What listeners say about A Paradise Built in Hell

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Similar to Shock Doctrine but from another angle

What was one of the most memorable moments of A Paradise Built in Hell?

The descriptions of the aftermath of Katrina were shocking to a non-American and something I was surprised to hear. The basic failures of the government during this time was something that I was aware of but the details were grisly and something I won't forget, and nor should I.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The entirety of the book was filled with moving encounters of underrepresented examples of humans at their best in the worst possible scenarios. I certainly recommend it to those who have lost their faith in the people of the modern world.

3 people found this helpful

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Boring. Too American.

This is very American centric which makes it a lot less interesting than it could have been. I listened to the first couple of hours and it takes too long to say anything so I shall ask for a refund.
The narrator’s performance is dull too.

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Great book, accents were a bit much.

The book was fantastic and brought together a different and more positive view of the world. The reader was very strong, but I think she got a bit too much with the accents- was a bit embarrassing. Great read though.

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  • zachery
  • 09-10-15

Eye opening and thought provoking

The Author shares the truth about how most people respond to disasters, and it is not what you have been taught by media and government. The most good can be accomplished by trusting people to help each other.
I totally disagree with the whole climate change theory but other than that I found the book to be eye opening and thought provoking! Thanks.
I also appreciated the partial dramatic reading as well. Good job

4 people found this helpful

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  • D
  • 07-03-18

Narration interferes with story

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Narration

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

Learning about the criminal behavior of the authorities during the San Francisco earthquake and fires. Fascinating. Other stories were not as cohesive.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

I hung in there until The narrator started speaking with an accent when reading quotes translated from the original Spanish. I found it very offensive and distracting as I wondered whether she would use an accent when quoting people from other non-English speaking nations - will she dare to use a Japanese or Chinese accent??!! (Answer- no, she only used a “Spanish” accent). I finally gave up on listening to the rest of the book since I couldn’t focus on the content.

Any additional comments?

Loved Solnics other writings, especially The Faraway Nearby.

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  • Balto McGrath
  • 03-09-21

Okay

Touching stories of triumph of the human spirit amidst disasters…. But mostly weird anarcho-fetishism commentary whose very own examples, in my view, don’t even really support the thesis.

Narration was fine, fake accents are always cringe-y to me… not sure if there’s a great solution to that.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 28-12-20

AN idea whose time has (finally) come

After the mess that was 2020 and what we surely face in the years to come this book is a must read. I worked with Food Not Bombs during Occupy and while it wasn't a disaster, suddenly having 1000 people to feed three meals a day when we usually fed 50 1 meal a week certainly caused a community like Ms Solnit describes in this book. We wpuld do well to heed someone in the book's wiords “It's tempting to ask why if you fed your neighbors during the time of the earthquake and fire, you didn't do so before or after.”

Another world is waiting for us.

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  • lolo
  • 30-08-20

Necessary reading for now.

The first chapter is the gem. The takeaways about the role of beliefs, community and action are not only important but necessary in the Covid-19 reality.

1 person found this helpful

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  • LAC123
  • 09-05-18

Really informative and uplifting

This book was so worth my time. I loved the positivity. How humans respond to each other during disaster is a very interesting topic.

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  • A. Rendon
  • 27-05-22

Don't do voices on non-fiction.

The book was GREAT. So insightful and both uplifting and frustrating in what it shows you about the world.
I've heard much worse narration. I think I'd like her fine if this had been a fiction book, but she was making up her own character voices for real people (including MLK?!) and it made me cringe throughout.

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  • kevin mercer
  • 23-01-22

Good but falling short

I loved the idealism, but feel short in the end. Surprisingly dated at times. And the narration is awful and actually pretty racist.
Wish this had been better.

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  • Barb
  • 09-01-22

Stop with the accents.

The story? Excellent. Thought-provoking and occasionally rage-inducing. The reader ruined the experience with her attempted accents of every type. Ma’am, you’re not an African-American man. Stop trying to sound like one. It’s distracting, and worse, insulting.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-11-21

One of the best books I read last year

Rebecca Solnit is one of the most interesting thinkers around. She examines individuals behavior during crises and shows how people show up to help time and again. A most reaffirming view of people.