I came of political age in the 1960s. One of the first books to grab my attention and drive me toward a career of activism was Michael Harrington’s The Other America.

Someone of my generation will have a hard time not remember Harrington’s book when reading Nicholas Kirstof and Sheryl WuDunn’s new book, Tightrope.

It is not the same kind of book as The Other America in that it focuses on the small faming community that Kristof grew up in which he and WuDunn visit regularly. That said, the picture they paint is very much of another and very worrisome America. Virtually everyone Kristof grew up either died or contracted a debilitating disease long before any of them turned sixty. Drugs. Alcohol. Crime Depression. It’s all there. And, it lives across generations.

I’m not sure this book will spark the same kind of reaction that Harrington’s did when it became a benchmark for the reform efforts of the late 1960s. If so, it won’t be because Kristof and WuDunn did not do their job.

This book is one that we all should read, especially those of us who live lives of privilege.