Brian R. Alexander
Reviews

GLASS HOUSE
The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town


"So few journalists today spend time in America’s small towns, even though the people residing in them represent roughly half of the American population. In his remarkably nuanced Glass House, Brian Alexander gives readers an imbedded, close-up view of one iconic Ohio town — his hometown — that illuminates the lives that most politicians and urban dwellers seem to have forgotten. Part sociological study and part investigative business reporting, this book should be required reading for people trying to understand Trumpism, inequality, and the sad state of a needlessly wrecked rural America. I wish I had written it."

– Beth Macy, author of Factory Man and Truevine

"Brian Alexander’s Glass House reads more like a great novel. But I’ve driven by the Anchor Hocking plant (the Glass House of the title) at least several times a year since the mid-70s and seen its decay firsthand. Glass House is a fascinating, multi-layered, and superbly written account of how politics, corporate greed, low wages, and the recent heroin epidemic have nearly destroyed a once prosperous Midwestern city. This is a must read for anyone interested in really understanding the anger and frustration of blue collar workers and the middle class in America today."

– Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Heavenly Table & The Devil All the Time

"Glass House is a compelling and harrowing look at the corrosion of the social and economic institutions that once held us all together, from the corporate boardroom to the factory floor. It's the most heartbreaking tale of a city since Mike Davis's City of Quartz."

– Victor Fleischer, New York Times columnist; Professor of Law, University of San Diego

"A compassionate but clear-eyed description of how deindustrialization, financial speculation, union-busting and deregulation undermined the social fabric of Alexander's home town, illustrated with gripping personal stories."

– Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap

“Brian Alexander’s ‘Glass House’ dramatizes vividly how a half-century of economic ‘progress’ dismantled America’s once-sturdy middle class. By focusing his narrative on the inhabitants of Lancaster, Ohio, Alexander personalizes this familiar story in a compelling, often surprising, and utterly heartbreaking way.”

– Timothy Noah, author of The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It

"An essential book to understand American reality and politics"

The Washington Book Review

“A must-read book”

CBS MoneyWatch

“As Alexander carefully documents, Anchor Hocking and Lancaster were not undone by foreign competition, but by domestic corporate raiders, unshackled from regulations during the Reagan administration.”

— The Chicago Tribune

Glass House is among the best of the books to hit shelves in the last several years exploring what’s happened to the nation and the role that greed and the collapse of once solid institutions played in the demise of small-town, middle-class America. Among the others are George Packer’s The Unwinding and J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy.”

Newsweek

“Emotionally striking…Alexander has combined his considerable journalistic talent with love for his broken hometown, producing an incredible, unshaking look at the true story of the American working class.”

Booklist

“Lays out a step-by-step account of Anchor Hocking’s slide, benefitting not only from Alexander’s strong reporting, but from candid interviews with key players. What is revealed is a complex system – Alexander argues it is deliberately complex – that allows savvy investors to make relatively small, highly leveraged bets on companies like Anchor Hocking…A valuable contribution.”

Forbes

“A devastating read…For anyone wondering why swing-state America voted against the establishment in 2016, Mr. Alexander supplies plenty of answers.”

— Roger Lowenstein, The Wall Street Journal

“[The book] really comes alive in Alexander’s portraits of the people caught up in the town’s unraveling…If you want to understand the despair that grips so much of this country, and the love of place that gives so many the strength to keep going, Glass House is a place to start.”

Christian Science Monitor

“An examination of a town in Ohio that quite literally fell apart—and how that town in and of itself serves as a microcosm of the most pressing issues being faced in America today. From drug dealers to cops, from industry to finance, Alexander goes deep into the heart of what ails us and takes no prisoners.”

— Chelsea Hassler, Newsweeks “The Week in Reading”

“Lancaster, Ohio, was declared the All-American Town by Forbes in 1947; its Anchor Hocking Glass Company was the foundation of a healthy, booming community. The town began to crumble as the factory shut down, as with too many other once-vibrant American hubs, leaving its citizens dreaming of the good old days. This well-reported book is all the stronger given the author’s connection to it: Lancaster is Alexander’s hometown. Shades of JD Vance’s ‘Hillbilly Elegy.'”

The New York Post

“For those still trying to fathom why the land of the free and the home of the brave opted for a crass, vituperative huckster with an unwavering fondness for alternative facts instead of the flawed oligarch Democrats served up, Brian Alexander has a story for you.”

— Len Boselovic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Reads like an odd—and oddly satisfying—fusion of George Packer’s The Unwinding and one of Michael Lewis’ real-life financial thrillers.”

Laura Miller, Slate.com

“Gripping…There are those who argue that leveraged acquisitions and restructurings of the sort that Anchor Hocking has endured make companies more efficient and steer capital to better uses… Alexander makes a persuasive case, though, that from the perspective of Lancaster, it’s been one big fleecing… leaving behind a city with a weakened economic base and a shredded social fabric — and precious few resources to repair them with.”

Bloomberg Businessweek

“Provocative.”

The Columbus Dispatch

“Alexander deftly shows how Lancaster represents the collapse of the American dream in microcosm. The other Ohio. The other America. No New Deal awaits them. Their predicament is not covered on the evening news. But they have Trump.”

Inequality.org

“A well documented examination of how this once flourishing Ohio town became something else altogether.”

Dayton Daily News

“A particularly timely read for our tumultuous and divisive era.”

Publishers Weekly

“Those mystified by the election of Donald Trump could well start here…A devastating and illuminating book that shows how a city and a country got where they are and how difficult it can be to reverse course.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“An an extraordinarily important book at the exact moment it is most needed…Glass House concludes that, rather than some ill-explained and spontaneous decision of working people to suddenly become shiftless and lazy, there are actual real, straightforward and understandable institutional reasons for Lancaster’s decline…Please, read Glass House. Read it especially if you read Hillbilly Elegy… a smart, sensible, approachable and eye-opening book that treats a complex topic with necessary sophistication while treating the real human beings at its center with the respect they deserve.”

— Craig Calcaterra

“[M]ore than another elegy for good times in Middle America.”

– Justin Fox, Bloomberg.com

“Lancaster native Brian Alexander chronicles the rise and fall of his hometown in his new book, Glass House. “People are genuinely struggling,” he tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies. “The economy of the town is struggling, not because there’s high unemployment, [but] because the employment that there is all minimum wage, or even lower than minimum wage.”

NPR.org

“This is a particularly timely read for our tumultuous and divisive era.”

– Publishers Weekly

“28 books to read in 2017”

The Week