Things Are Never So Bad That They Can't Get Worse: Inside the Collapse of Venezuela (Hardcover)
Named Foreign Affairs Best Books of 2022 and the National Endowment for Democracy Notable Books of 2022
"Richly reported...a thorough and important history." -Tim Padgett, The New York Times
A nuanced and deeply-reported account of the collapse of Venezuela, and what it could mean for the rest of the world.
Today, Venezuela is a country of perpetual crisis—a country of rolling blackouts, nearly worthless currency, uncertain supply of water and food, and extreme poverty. In the same land where oil—the largest reserve in the world—sits so close to the surface that it bubbles from the ground, where gold and other mineral resources are abundant, and where the government spends billions of dollars on public works projects that go abandoned, the supermarket shelves are bare and the hospitals have no medicine. Twenty percent of the population has fled, creating the largest refugee exodus in the world, rivaling only war-torn Syria’s crisis. Venezuela’s collapse affects all of Latin America, as well as the United States and the international community.
Republicans like to point to Venezuela as the perfect example of the emptiness of socialism, but it is a better model for something else: the destructive potential of charismatic populist leadership. The ascent of Hugo Chávez was a precursor to the emergence of strongmen that can now be seen all over the world, and the success of the corrupt economy he presided over only lasted while oil sold for more than $100 a barrel. Chávez’s regime and policies, which have been reinforced under Nicolás Maduro, squandered abundant resources and ultimately bankrupted the country.
Things Are Never So Bad That They Can’t Get Worse is a fluid combination of journalism, memoir, and history that chronicles Venezuela’s tragic journey from petro-riches to poverty. Author William Neuman witnessed it all firsthand while living in Caracas and serving as the New York Times Andes Region Bureau Chief. His book paints a clear-eyed, riveting, and highly personal portrait of the crisis unfolding in real time, with all of its tropical surrealism, extremes of wealth and suffering, and gripping drama. It is also a heartfelt reflection of the country’s great beauty and vibrancy—and the energy, passion, and humor of its people, even under the most challenging circumstances.
"22 Books to Look Forward to in 2022"--Newsweek
"This shocking, definitive account of Venezuela's crumbling is driven by deep reporting, startling data and most of all, stunning humanity. Neuman draws on profound interviews he conducted and his deep knowledge of the country and its history to starkly detail how the country got to where it is today." —Newsweek
"How did a country that Christopher Columbus described as paradise on earth, a country with more oil than Saudi Arabia, descend into a Hobbesian nightmare? Let William Neuman tell you. Things Are Never So Bad That They Can't Get Worse is a timely, heartbreaking story of ruinous mismanagement, economic implosion and political cynicism (not least in Donald Trump's Washington)."
—Bill Keller, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, founding editor in chief of The Marshall Project, and former executive editor of The New York Times
"A deeply reported, lyrically written portrait of a nation in freefall. Neuman chronicles Venezuela’s surreal descent from tragi-comic dysfunction to catastrophe with authority, wit and above all compassion. Anyone who wants to understand how a country with the world’s biggest oil reserves fell into the void should read this book."
—Rory Carroll, author of Comandante: Hugo Chavez's Venezuela
"William Neuman’s beautifully written, incisive, and often heart-rending account must be required reading for anyone who wants to understand our neighbor to the South."
—Mary Jo McConahay, author of The Tango War
“Journalist Neuman presents a jaunty, intimate look at the recent (and ongoing) implosion of Venezuelan society that emphasizes the perils of the petrostate and the human cost of endemic corruption.” — Booklist
“As the Caracas-based Andes bureau chief for the New York Times from 2012 to 2016, Neuman is well qualified to recount the South American nation’s precipitous decline. … The author delivers the best kind of journalism, combining powerful facts and pointed observation, as he moves from one alarming event to the next, bringing into the spotlight countless Venezuelans who have little hope for the future. A heartbreaking yet authoritative, necessary look at a ruined nation.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Journalist Neuman debuts with a heartbreaking and deeply reported account of the ongoing crisis in Venezuela. … Through lyrical prose, in-depth interviews, and lucid discussions of political and economic matters, Neuman makes the scale of Venezuela’s tragedy clear. Readers will be riveted and appalled.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Neuman, who lived in Caracas for years, writes lyrically and uses in-depth interviews and reflections to put individual faces to Venezuela’s dissolving bonds of fellowship. … A riveting personal exploration of Venezuela’s slow-moving collapse.” —Library Journal