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Article in Category:Adult Nonfiction, and Category:Historical

Here are non-fiction accounts of past eras. Books about individual lives are placed in the Category:Biography

Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Egan tells the story of the settlement of the southern American plains, how a bill of goods called "dry land farming" was sold to those who came, and how despite the warnings of the cowboys and early explorers, the grassland of the plains, which had protected the soil in this land of desert like dryness for thousands of years, was plowed under in the space of a few years in the rush to capitalize on a boom in wheat prices. In 1929 wheat prices failed with the glut on the market, and then came the predictable long years of drought, when the unrestrained dust rose up and buried the debt ridden farms. Beautifully written history.
"Commodore" Vanderbilt was notoriously tight-lipped, and many of the anecdotes of his life come from testimony during a heated litigation of his will. Stiles bypasses this poisoned well and concentrates instead on the ways by which a steamship and railroad operator helped to create the American corporate world and its financial base:
"Like a ghost, the business enterprise departed the body of the individual proprietor and became a being in itself, a corporation with its own identity, its own character, its own personhood. Over the course of his career, Vanderbilt lived out the history of this abstraction, the invention of this imagined world." (p. 564)