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Summary

Well known for The Jungle, his scathing exposé of the Chicago meatpacking industry at the turn of the 20th century, Upton Sinclair here takes on yet another massive industry: coal mining.

Based on the 1914 and 1915 Colorado coal strikes, King Coal describes the abhorrent conditions faced by workers in the western United States' coal mining industry during the 1910s. The story follows Hal Warner, a rich man looking to get a better view of the lives of commoners. It is a tale of struggle, threats, and violence, of hardened men and the advocacy for workers' rights. In this business, the road to unionization is a rocky one.

Public Domain (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Enzo G.
  • 02-08-18

A little preachy

Loved The Jungle, but with Coal you can tell the fame of the former impacted the latter. You know what you are getting with Sinclair politically, but this was a over-bearing deeper in the book. Sure, it is a classic and I trust a lot of his details, but it drones on with holier than thou descriptions of rich people and how he was the smartest guy in the room. Be ready with the 30 second skip button from time to time. It was due to this I unfairly started to get aggravated with the narrator’s voices.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • DFK
  • 25-11-18

So relevant today, still - workers must unite!

This is a superbly told and superbly narrated story that evokes all the evils of uncontrolled capitalism, the corruption in government it brings, the exploitation of workers, and the challenges of those who wish to demand their rights. It is worth reading up a bit of background, or, perhaps even listening to the postscript first, so that you know that Sinclair is not exaggerating. Coal mining is still an industry that is dangerous, harmful to us all (though this book does not at all touch on the environmental problems), and yet big industrial giants influence the continuation of this method of providing energy. (Today’s lead article in The New York Times is “The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why is it so Hard?”). You can read an article entitled “Mining for Meaning: Reflections on Upton Sinclair's King Coal and Tawni O'Dell's Sister Mine” and see that coal-mining, 100 years after the publication of Sinclair’s book is still a problematic industry. As is the problem of workers without strong unions (or without unions at all). Whether it is the way service workers in fast-food restaurants are paid and treated, so that the companies can avoid providing them with health insurance, or the conditions and pay of workers in Amazon warehouses, there is still great need for more workers’ rights. And, like then, it is the Republican Party that is most opposed, such as their opposition to raising the minimum wage. The gap between the super-wealthy and the poor is an issue today, as it was then. I fear that this book will be “preaching to the choir”, that those who need to be touched by it most (the Koch brothers come to mind) will not read it, and even if they did, would not be moved to change their path. But read it and be inspired! The narration is excellent.

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  • Nicholas Turner
  • 13-04-18

Excellent

Well written story of labor exploitation in the early 20th century. Highly recommended read for all people.

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  • J
  • 24-02-15

Upton Sinclair does it again

Similar to oil! This novel brings the reader into the world of working class struggle in early 20th century US. Worth the listen!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful