Thursday, December 23, 2010
A thoughtful look back
Were the 1960's really the years when everything flew in the face of the past? 1959: The Year Everything Changed is a smart, engaging book that posits that it was the late 1950's, and especially the pivotal year 1959, that ushered in new ways of thinking and behaving that ultimately shook the nation to its core. As demonstrated by writer Fred Kaplan, things may have exploded in the 60's, but the seeds were planted in '59.
I enjoyed the mix of heavier and lighter topics covered in the book's essay-like chapters: the arms race; innovations in jazz; the civil rights movement; the development of artificial birth control; the rise of Motown; the last gasp of censorship; the embracing of youthful politicians over comfortably old and seasoned ones, etc. So don't worry, if reading about the US/Russia arms race isn't your cup of tea, you'll soon be immersed in the jazz clubs of Harlem.
While some of Mr. Kaplan's assertions are stronger than others, in general he argues his case well, and I think most readers will walk away from this book with a new appreciation of an era that most of us have regarded as perhaps not the most vibrant time in our modern history. I'm grateful for Mr. Kaplan for providing the opportunity to give this period a second look.
I listened to an audio version of 1959: The Year Everything Changed, nicely read by Joe Barrett, that I downloaded from Audible.com. The book is also available on Kindle for $9.77.