God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre by Richard Grant
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God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  2,321 ratings  ·  318 reviews
From the acclaimed author of Dispatches From Pluto and Deepest South of All, a harrowing travelogue into Mexico’s lawless Sierra Madre mountains.

Twenty miles south of the Arizona-Mexico border, the rugged, beautiful Sierra Madre mountains begin their dramatic ascent. Almost 900 miles long, the range climbs to nearly 11,000 feet and boasts several canyons deeper than the Gr
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 4th 2008 by Free Press (first published 2008)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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Mar 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
WOW! I really had no idea about the Sierra Madre, what it was like there and how lawless and crazy it really is.
This book was so good, I'm going to have to go out and read everything Richard Grant has written. I really couldn't put it down.
Every little detail of every little town he was in was truly fascinating (at least to me anyways). I want to hear more about the Sierra Madra; however, I think to get any deeper, you would probably have to die.
Oct 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
Nancy Perl, Seattle's celebrity librarian, has a method for deciding when to abandon a book, and for someone like me that's a serious act, akin to betrayal, but here it is - up until the age of 50 you give the author 50 pages, and if (s)he hasn't gotten to you by then you can let the book go. For every year past 50, you give the author one less page, so by the time you reach 99, if the author hasn't grabbed you on page one, you can feel free to drop it, (it will probably slip out of your hand as ...more
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
December 31, 2011 My recent reading about the border reminded me of this book, which tells about what happens in Mexico long before the drugs get anywhere near the border.

The author had a fascination with the lawless and very dangerous Sierra Madre region of northern Mexico. This area is ruled by competing narcotraficantes(drug traffickers) who produce staggering amounts of marijuana, opium, and cocaine. Law enforcement is so corrupt that there's no way to stop the problem.

Grant rather foolishly
Nancy Oakes
May 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
You know that a) this is going be good and b) this is going to be different than anything you've ever read when the opening chapter finds the author being pursued by 2 crazy men with guns in the middle of the night out in the wilds of Durango, Mexico. Naturally, after you read that chapter, with a cliffhanger for an ending, you have to wonder how he got into this predicament and you're hooked. This book just didn't let up. Grant decides that he wants to traverse the Sierra Madre Occidental, a mo ...more
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: guys who like guns and readers who like edgy travel writing.
This is an engrossing, depressing gross-out of a book, and my feelings about it are wildly dissonant. In brief, it relates the author's travels in Mexico's Sierra Madre mountain range, an extremely large, rugged, and dangerous place, much of it bereft of any rule of law (unless the convenience of drug lords can be called that). The people who live there have such punishing lives that their grasp of reality has been twisted out of true and much of their magical thinking abets their misery. Everyo ...more
Jocelyn Guite
Aug 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Fascinating, disturbing, vivid....appreciated this first-hand perspective of this complicated region. North Americans should have an understanding of what is so near.
Mar 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a horrible, horrible place. Richard Grant seems like an asshole, but at least he likes puppies, which is more than you can say about anyone who lives in this horrible, horrible place. Everyone who thinks pot is just a harmless drug should read this book and get to know the horrible, horrible puppy-haters who are growing your weed. Do you want dead puppies on your conscience, pothead? Didn't think so...

Sep 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit that I knew nothing about the Sierra Madre before I started reading this book. And now that I've finished, I understand more about the reasons behind why many Mexicans flee to the USA. The author of this book is a writer from London who charmed his way through the Sierra Madre in order to write about it. He said that he "began to enjoy that edgy, adrenaline-hyped feeling that comes with pushing your luck in a place you don't belong, getting by on your wits and charm and trying to ...more
Patrick Gibson
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people avoiding Bill Bryson
Shelves: road_trip, the_west
Let’s face it. I bought the book mainly because I thought the title was clever and funny. It was also set in my back yard (sort of). My buddy and I often take road trips to the Mexican border. We cross occasionally to have little adventures (mainly drinking in Juarez) so I was even more intrigued by what this book might offer.
It’s violent – but nothing like Cormac Mcarthy’s works of fiction. Then again Mr. Grant, I doth thinketh thou exaggerates enough to verge on fiction! Despite the overly dra
Jun 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
I am not really sure what the author intended with this book. It winds itself up nicely but never seems to go anywhere? The history of the SM is an interesting one. It's obviously a hard life and one that the addition of a corrupt society overrun with drug lords doesn't make any easier.

The author tries to investigate the SM region of Mexico and in doing so takes his life in his own hands. Some of the characters he meet along the way are interesting but the book seems rushed and incomplete. I fe
I see some of the bad reviews, a few of which are prefaced with, "Admittedly, I don't know much about the Sierra Madre..." which may also mean, I don't know much about Mexico or Mexicans. Perhaps knowing such is what it takes to get more into this book, because beyond some of the side-splitting anti-heroics and mishaps Grant happens into, so much of this book should resonate with anyone who knows Mexico well, and/or has spent significant amounts of time with/among them. As only one of many possi ...more
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
I’d give it 3 1/2 stars due to the interesting content about a fascinating corner of the world, but the author got on my nerves a bit and some of the writing was a little clunky.
Sep 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favs
God's Middle Finger belongs to the class of books I find most valuable: books that have pushed my self to the point where determining an angle to approach them becomes an exercise in recognizing my limitations.

To attempt an objective report on the words between the covers: Richard Grant, a white native of England has written about his travels in and attempts to explore the communities of Mexico's Sierra Madre mountains. This includes descriptions of the food, clothing, livelihoods, attitudes an
Mar 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
The one-phrase rundown: this book was on sale for nine bucks and that’s a travesty.

I blasted through Grant’s travelogue quickly, finding his observations oddly reminiscent of my own. I squandered some particularly mis-spent youth on the Texas/Mexico border, watching the Sierra Madre oriental (east of Grant’s travels) hover in the hazy distance (west Texas – where mountains float and rainbows wait). I interacted with some unsavory characters and I wondered if everything I heard about the Madre’s
Paul Pessolano
Richard Grant is an Englishman who has had a fascination with the Sierra Madre mountains. The Sierra Madre is twenty miles south of the Arizona-Mexican border. It was the location for the famous Humphrey Bogart file, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre".

This is the story of going into the mountains, sometimes with guides, sometimes not. After reading the book one wonders why anyone would venture into this lawless land. The area is controlled by drug dealers, and if there is any semblence of law, i
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: maps, geography, travel
Richard Grant has written the kind of travel book I like -- attention to detail, crazy characters, historical backgound, and an easy-to-read writing style. If the Sierra Madre were a more appealing place, this book would make me want to go there. It's really not all that far away, after all.

One of Grant's skills as a writer is his ability to write so warmly about the beauty of the area he travels in, while at the same time juxtaposing it against the brutality of living in an anarchic drug-produc
Sep 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-fun
This is what travel writing should be. The Sierra Madre are a place you shouldn't go and people tell Richard Grant that constantly. He ignores their advice and goes in, even sometimes on his own which is a big time no-no. But he doesn't make it out like he's some bad ass adventurer. Instead, he points out how niave and sort of sick he is for wanting doing what he is doing. The places and people are insane but he presents them in an endearing way without judgement, unless of course the thing is s ...more
Mar 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: topshelf
I believe a quote from the author will suffice:

"I drove out of the mountains and then north across the plains and deserts and I didn't stop driving for fifteen hours until I was within striking distance of the U.S. border. I was ready to write about celebrity bathroom fixtures for a living, designer footwear, what your window treatments say about you. Some other fool could go into Sinaloa. I never wanted to set foot in the Sierra Madre again. The mean drunken hillbillies who lived up there could
Apr 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Gain further insight into the surreal of Mexico and the erosion of native culture while drugs and violence escalate the embrace of “modern life”.

Highlight’s include:
1. A live version of “The Most Dangerous Game” hosted by beer drinking, coke snorting hillbillies with the author as the unfortunate "guest".
2. Beer drinking, cigarette smoking Indians beating North American runners in a marathon.
3. Religious celebration centered on drinking beer. [my favorite:]

Recommended for those that grew up in t
Pat Loughery
Aug 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
A thrilling page turner of an adventure novel. You learn the history and current state of north central Mexico's Sierra Madre mountain range as the author tries to travel its spine in order to see if it is really as dangerous as you have heard. It feels like a mix of Sebastian Junger and Ernest Hemingway. It's hard to tell if the overwhelming narco-traffic content is embellished, but I sense that it's not. It certainly gives more perspective on the nature of the drug trade coming from Mexico to ...more
Jul 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
Very good book about this crazy english dude who decides to go off by himself into the sierra madre mountains in mexico, where a good percentage of the people are drunken, homicidal drug dealers. not my idea of a good time, and it almost gets him killed. the sale of drugs from mexico to the us is a $50 billion a year business and 90% of all cocaine in the us comes from mexico. it's quite funny, in a twisted kind of way...these mexican drug lords still live in shacks but have $40,000 chevy pickup ...more
Dec 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"We (the author and a local guide) got back in the truck and rolled slowly into the village. There were about two dozen shacks, most of them built out of crudely woven sticks and dried mud with palm-thatch or corrugated tin roofs. More often than not, they also had a solar panel, a TV satellite dish, and a big American pickup truck parked out front."

"'With the money from your first marijuana crop you buy clothes, jewelry, and guns,' said Gustavo. Then you buy your truck, your solar, your satelli
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book feels very padded with uneven research, retelling of other authors, many historical anecdotes and tall tales. It reminds me of a gonzo version of very old travel writings, looking for and emphasizing the dangerous and exotic, and full of anecdotes about the area. He never did get to Sinaloa, as he felt it too dangerous. He's trying too hard and coming up with too little. I am left with the feeling that the book might be entirely fiction. One correction points out the narrow and spotty ...more
Mar 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travelwriting
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It is a little sobering to realize that one of the most dangerous places on earth is only 250 miles from where I live. The Sierra Madres is a place of legends and nightmares. Richard Grant enters the mountains feet first and brain last yet survives to tell the story. One of the most harrowing adventure travel books I've ever read. ...more
Brigitte Zabak
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. I wanted to believe that there is still hope for someone like me. Someone who is timid, but has a real desire to travel the world and be a part of something bigger than me. Yea. This book did that for all of about 4 seconds. While it had its moments, God's Middle Finger was just a really tedious read. ...more
Jun 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Whoa. - Travel in the Sierra Madre is not for the feint of heart. It is foolhardy and usually fatal. I am so glad that this man survived to write about it because it is a thoroughly entertaining wild ride from the safety of my armchair.
Amanda Dove
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed traveling through the Sierra Madre with Ricardo, he is a very colorful storyteller.
Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
God’s Middle Finger
Author: Richard Grant
Publisher: Free Press, Simon and Schuster
Published In: New York City, New York
Date: 2008
Pgs: 288


900 miles north to south, 11,000 feet in elevation, the Sierra Madre mountains dominate the interior of Mexico. Time has stood still here. Bandits, drug smugglers, Mormons, cave dwelling Tarahumara Indians, opium farmers, cowboys, and the outcasts of a continent hidden from wider civilization. For 15 years, Richard Grant’s fasc
Dallas Swindell
May 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4 for me due to the overall tone, and perceived audience, of the book. At times engrossing and often irreverent, God's Middle Finger is a niche read for those interested in bridging the past and present of a unruly range left to it's own devices.

"It's always been dangerous, it's always been an anarchy, but now... it's become the kind of anarchy that gives anarchy a bad name." Though replete with guero cowboy truisms and often reminding of the ever-present violence a
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Richard Grant is a freelance British travel writer based in Arizona. He was born in Malaysia, lived in Kuwait as a boy and then moved to London. He went to school in Hammersmith and received a history degree from University College, London. After graduation he worked as a security guard, a janitor, a house painter and a club DJ before moving to America where he lived a nomadic life in the American ...more

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58 likes · 4 comments
“At the same time I grew increasingly dissatisfied and irritable with what we are prone to call normal life. Except for wine, music, and books, I disliked shopping. Television grated on my nerves, the commercials in particular, so I got rid of the television. I found it harder and harder to rouse any interest in sports, celebrities, electronic gadgets, the chatter of the culture, the latest this or that. Nor did I have any desire to own a house, or get rich, or start a family. I wanted to keep traveling and see the world, live an eventful, unpredictable life with as much personal freedom as possible, and have a few adventures along the way.” 4 likes
“proceeds and walking” 0 likes
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