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A Paradise Built in Hell

The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Narrated by: Emily Beresford
Length: 13 hrs and 2 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (24 ratings)

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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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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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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  • 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

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

1 person 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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Felicity Stevens
  • 08-08-20

Started out strong

I enjoyed the topic and details included in this book. There were times, especially towards in the middle of the book where the concepts and details seemed circular, repetitive. I found myself a bit bored and thought it good I was listening rather than reading for this might have caused me to stop. Overall, however I am glad I kept going. The information, insights and experiences she conveyed here were beautiful and inspiring.

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  • grandma
  • 03-06-20

Fascinating book on how people react to a disaster

Very complete book with a lot of research on disasters from the San Francisco earthquake to hurricane Katrina. The way people react in troubling times is interesting to learn, especially while we presently are in a pandemic.

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  • Mapache
  • 25-04-20

Narration has problems but worth reading anyway!

Really great experience to read this book in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. It meant a lot to me. I only wish there were an updated version to share the author's thoughts on our current disaster, and the ways in which it's different from her case studies.

I hate to criticize narrators since I know they work very hard, but the narration of this book had some serious flaws. There were tons of strange pauses where it seemed obvious the reader was going to the next page or line without knowing what came next and the whole sentence was off, or the emphasis wrong. The accents were quite bad and I'm not sure they added anything; we get that people in Britain are British and people in Mexico are Mexican, so I'd rather just hear their quotes read in the reader's natural accent rather than in bad imitations. And who says New Orl-ee-ans? Sorry to be so harsh, thanks for reading me a book!

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  • caroline
  • 23-04-20

Absolutely awful voice reading this, could not listen for a second. Terrible,

The reader of the audio is so awful, I could not listen to this. It’s absolutely terrible. Could you have found anyone worse.

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  • melody sheldon
  • 14-04-20

Timely

As predicted Disasters are happening more frequently. The lessons here are even more timely.

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  • Andrew Teeter
  • 21-12-19

Her accents are extremely distracting every time

I would prefer to hear the book without any of these terrible attempts. Old fashioned and not even good

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  • Vander
  • 28-06-19

Makes my list of top 3 worst reads ever.

This book is useless given the author doesn't understand evolutionary theory and whose whole thesis is more a masturbatory excorcise to show how much humanities she can cite while failing to ever get to what is really the underlying question: why did humans evolved altruism, and how and who we apply it to in practice? This is a very old debate in evolutionary science to do with inclusive fitness vs. group selection, something she never brings up. To do so would ultimately undermine the importance of her disaster focus; since altruism in humans evolved via natural selection, then of course it occurs during times of crises -that is the time when people die and are selected.

Thomas Henry Huxley was not at all a "social Darwinist" in the way portrayed in this book. He invented that term, but did not support in any way the type of application to human society of the term in the was she implies. Rather, he argued for societal progress, not individual dominance, and that our we must be aware that some of our baser natures, having arising from the fundamental amoral process of evolution. may need act . She is definitely in my shit book for attacking the very tempered in a moral society.

Solnit also claims capitalism is built on the idea of scarcity which isn't true, (beyond Malthus's population essays, perhaps. Which, despite human technology altering our survival curve, remain fundamentally true). Rather capitalism is built on the concept of the efficiency of trade. Free market eonomists nowadays make the opposite claim we can have unrestricted growth forever (which doesn't make any sense and also doesn't jive with Solnit's black-white political theory).

Performance: The reader for the audio book makes horrible accent the temps when quoting people that grated at me throughout the book.

All around, this is one of the worst books I have ever sat through.