A stunning portrait of an Appalachian community, the people who call it home, and the enduring human quest for quiet
Deep in the Appalachian Mountains lies the last truly quiet town in America. Green Bank, West Virginia, is a place at once futuristic and old-fashioned: It’s home to the Green Bank Observatory, where astronomers search the depths of the universe using the latest technology, while schoolchildren go without WiFi or iPads. With a ban on all devices emanating radio frequencies that might interfere with the observatory’s telescopes, Quiet Zone residents live a life free from constant digital connectivity. But a community that on the surface seems idyllic is a place of contradictions, where the provincial meets the seemingly supernatural and quiet can serve as a cover for something darker.
Stephen Kurczy embedded in Green Bank, making the residents of this small Appalachian village his neighbors. He shopped at the town’s general store, attended church services, went target shooting with a seven-year-old, square-danced with the locals, sampled the local moonshine. In The Quiet Zone, he introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters. There is a tech buster patrolling the area for illegal radio waves; “electrosensitives” who claim that WiFi is deadly; a sheriff’s department with a string of unsolved murder cases dating back decades; a camp of neo-Nazis plotting their resurgence from a nearby mountain hollow. Amongst them all are the ordinary citizens seeking a simpler way of living. Kurczy asks: Is a less connected life desirable? Is it even possible?
The Quiet Zone is a remarkable work of investigative journalism—at once a stirring ode to place, a tautly-wound tale of mystery, and a clarion call to reexamine the role technology plays in our lives.
About the Author
Stephen Kurczy is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Christian Science Monitor, among other outlets. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he was a 2016-2017 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economics Journalism. Kurczy has lived without a cell phone for over a decade.
"What a fascinating book! This corner of America is unique for its electromagnetic silence—but once Stephen Kurczy starts looking he finds that it's unique in other ways too. The Quiet Zone will live on in your memory."
— BILL MCKIBBEN, author of The End of Nature
"A vividly written book that captures an unusual place with a story-teller's touch, perfectly timed to this moment of confronting our complicated relationships to technology."
— ELIZABETH CATTE, author of What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia
"A quest for our most precious substance—peace and quiet—leaps with exuberant aplomb in to the murk of American kookery—electrosensitives, Nazis, unsolved murders—and reveals that simplicity is far more complicated, far more weird and wonderous, than the self-proclaimed #simplelife."
— MARK SUNDEEN, author of The Man Who Quit Money and The Unsettlers