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Extended Audio Sample Humboldt: Life on America’s Marijuana Frontier, by Emily Brady Click for printable size audiobook cover
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In the vein of Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief andDeborah Feldman’s Unorthodox, journalist Emily Brady journeys into a secretive subculture—one that marijuana built. 

Say the words “Humboldt County” to a stranger and you might receive a knowing grin. The name is infamous, and yet the place and its inhabitants have been nearly impenetrable. Until now.

Humboldt is a narrative exploration of an insular community in Northern California, which for nearly forty years has existed primarily on the cultivation and sale of marijuana. It’s a place where business is done with thick wads of cash and savings are buried in the backyard. In Humboldt County, marijuana supports everything from fire departments to schools, but it comes with a heavy price. As legalization looms, the community stands at a crossroads and its inhabitants are deeply divided on the issue—some want to claim their rightful heritage as master growers and have their livelihood legitimized; others want to continue reaping the inflated profits of the black market.

Emily Brady spent a year living with the highly secretive residents of Humboldt County, and her cast of eccentric, intimately drawn characters take us into a fascinating, alternate universe. It’s the story of a small town that became dependent on a forbidden plant and of how everything is changing as marijuana goes mainstream.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A rowdy off-road trip into the homeland of marijuana moonshining, where pit bulls guard the fields, cash fills up holes in the ground, and it’s a bad idea to ask anyone you encounter what they do for a living.”

    Bruce Porter, New York Times bestselling author of Blow

  • “A relaxed yet disturbing look at an alternative lifestyle, its heady profits and its hidden costs.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • Humboldt is a triumph of immersion reporting: vivid, compassionate, maddening, and unforgettable.”

    Jonathan Schuppe, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter and author of A Chance to Win

  • “Deeply reported and populated with vibrant characters spanning generations, Humboldt documents the real lives behind America’s favorite high. A fascinating and timely read.”

    David Kinney, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter and author of The Big One

  • “A tour-de-force of investigative journalism, Brady…illuminates the policy issues around legalization in a series of beautifully rendered character portraits.”

    Suketu Mehta, author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

  • “In her vivid, hypnotic Humboldt, Emily Brady brings the notoriously secretive pot-growing community of Northern California to life through the lives of four very different Humboldters, whose nuanced stories form together like wisps of smoke.”

    Julian Rubinstein, author of Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

  • “Outrageous, funny, and heartbreaking.”

    Brooke Hauser, author of The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens

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About the Author

Emily Brady is the author of Humboldt: Life on America’s Marijuana Frontier. A former New York Times reporter, her writing has also appeared in the Village Voice, Time, Columbia Journalism Review, and Plenty.