2020: One City, Seven People, and the Year Everything Changed
A meticulously reported, character-driven, unforgettable investigation of a time when nothing was certain and everything was at stake, by the acclaimed sociologist and best-selling author Eric Klinenberg
“A gripping, deeply moving account of a signal year in modern history, told through the stories of seven ordinary people. Klinenberg’s narrative shows how the legacy of that year continues to shape us, our politics and our personal lives.”—Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies
2020 will go down alongside 1914, 1929, and 1968 as one of the most consequential years in history. This riveting and affecting book is the first attempt to capture the full human experience of that fateful time.
At the heart of 2020 are seven vivid profiles of ordinary New Yorkers—including an elementary school principal, a bar manager, a subway custodian, and a local political aide—whose experiences illuminate how Americans, and people across the globe, reckoned with 2020. Through these poignant stories, we revisit our own moments of hope and fear, the profound tragedies and losses in our communities, the mutual aid networks that brought us together, and the social movements that hinted at the possibilities of a better world.
Eric Klinenberg vividly captures these stories, casting them against the backdrop of a high-stakes presidential election, a surge of misinformation, rising distrust, and raging protests. We move from the epicenter in New York City to Washington and London, where political leaders made the crisis so much more lethal than it had to be. We bear witness to epidemiological battles in Wuhan and Beijing, along with the initiatives of scientists, citizens, and policy makers in Australia, Japan, and Taiwan, who worked together to save lives.
Klinenberg allows us to see 2020—and, ultimately, ourselves—with unprecedented clarity and empathy. His book not only helps us reckon with what we lived through, but also with the challenges we face before the next crisis arrives.
Praise for 2020: One City, Seven People, and the Year Everything Changed
"In Eric Klinenberg’s excellent 2020, we are given both micro-incident—closely reported scenes from the lives of representative New Yorkers struggling through the plague year—and macro-comment: cross-cultural, overarching chapters assess broader social forces . . . Throughout, Klinenberg’s mixture of closeup witness and broad-view sociology is engrossing, and reminds this reader of the late Howard S. Becker’s insistence that the best sociology is always, in the first instance, wide-angle reporting. As we flow effortlessly from big picture to small, we learn from both."
—The New Yorker
"2020 is...a masterful piece of rigorous journalism, rigorous sociology, and incredible story-telling."
—Chris Hayes, MSNBC News
"I can easily see this book being invaluable in the future."
—Stuart Miller, Los Angeles Times
"Elegantly written and well researched."
"A call for thought and planning—and a shaming. Klinenberg...tells a factual story, of course. But the unexpectedly moving trick he pulls off—the way he humanizes statistics alternately chilling and numbing—is by writing profiles of seven New Yorkers grappling with the disease, both at work and at home."
“A gripping, deeply moving account of a signal year in modern history, told through the stories of seven ordinary people trying to survive at the epicenter of the crisis. Klinenberg’s narrative not only exposes the social fault lines that made 2020 epically traumatic but also shows how the legacy of that year continues to shape us, our politics and our personal lives.”
—Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies
“In 2020, Eric Klinenberg explores the meaning and impact of the pandemic through the experiences of seven New Yorkers who lived through it. The result is a book that's at once intimate and far-ranging, a work that reveals the importance of social solidarity and also its fragility.”
―Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction
“A sociological investigation of an unforgettable year. Klinenberg profiles a radicalized bar manager, a determined school principal, and a cast of Americans whose stories reveal how 2020 reshaped life in the United States. By asking fresh questions—Why did crime and social division spike in the U.S. but not elsewhere? How did masks get so politicized?—2020 compellingly reveals what the pandemic laid bare about our culture, our institutions, and ourselves.“
—Matthew Desmond, best-selling author of Poverty, by America and Evicted
"Klinenberg...compiles a superb 'social autopsy' of turbulent 2020, investigating how institutions, societies, and political leadership cracked....This exceptional discussion of the chaos and catastrophe of COVID-19 ranks alongside Lawrence Wright's The Plague Year (2021) as essential reading on the subject. Let's hope that the experience of 2020 has bestowed upon us 20/20 lucidity, resolve, and solidarity moving forward."
—Booklist, Starred Review
"Rigorously researched....[Klinenberg] pays tribute to people’s resilience and generous responses in the face of terrible odds, via profiles of seven individuals....Engrossing, this book captures the lingering uncertainty that has characterized the COVID pandemic, while assessing its global effects and likely future challenges. This vital title has breadth."
—Library Journal, Starred Review
“Riveting…a vivid and nuanced account.”