Let Us All Praise Famous Men by James Agee

Let Us All Praise Famous MenPublished: 1939

Genre: nonfiction farm life

Length: 416 pages

Setting: rural Alabama, 1930s

Interest: It was recommended at the end of The Contrary Farmer

Summary: The book is Agee’s attempt to describe sharecropping life in rural Alabama. He describes the difficulty of finding an “average” sharecropping family and how he became friends with the Ricketts, Woods, and Gudgers. He describes their lives, including how they get money (what little they make sharecropping), their home and possessions, their clothes, education, and work. We also get a couple of vignettes describing an interaction or scene in the life of one of the families that Agee observes or participates in.

Final thoughts: This was a hard book to read, mainly because of the style of writing. Agee enjoys stream of consciousness sentences that will often run an entire page long. It usually took me a few minutes of reading just to get into the rhythm of his writing, so I had to be sure I had some time to dedicate to reading when I picked this book up. It wasn’t good if I only had five minutes or if the kids were constantly interrupting. At the end of each section, I did stop reading this book and switch to something else for a while.

I find books that detail all the work that people used to have to do in order to survive fascinating when you compare them to life today. That being said, this book was depressing. The lives of the sharecroppers seemed so hopeless with no chance to make things better and just crushing work and a lack of beauty in their lives. I know Agee found their lives fascinating and pure, but I found them hopeless and sad.

Title comes from: A bit of poetry at the end of the book.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 69/100 in the Read-a-Latte Challenge, 12/14 in the Nerdy Nonfiction Challenge for history or memoir or agriculture (I can’t decide, but I’ve got all three topics already, so I’m not going to worry about it.)

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