Like "The Fifties" but for other periods?
October 9, 2013 9:03 AM   Subscribe

I read "The Fifties" by David Halberstam awhile back and loved the interconnecting of chapter-focused-vignettes with the decade as whole, coming together to provide some similar themes. Do you know and recommend any similar non-fiction books for other periods of time or even events?
posted by sandmanwv to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It doesn't focus on one specific decade (rather, multiple periods throughout history) but I enjoyed Counterculture Through the Ages: From Abraham to Acid House. It examines lots of different movements through history with an eye towards finding a common theme in what prompted them.
posted by lovableiago at 9:25 AM on October 9, 2013

Any of Dominic Sandbrook's books would suit you - he's written volumes starting in the late 50s and is currently up to the 1970s. I've read the first two and they're great - they straddle the divide between academic and accessible really nicely. They focus on British history rather than world events.

There's also Andy Beckett's When The Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies, which focuses on different aspects of the decade by chapter.
posted by mippy at 9:30 AM on October 9, 2013

Your question made me think of My Century, by Gunter Grass. It's fiction, but very informatively reflective of 20th century Europe, with an ultra-short story for each year of the century. There are some interlocking themes and recurring characters. And it's very, very good.
posted by Corvid at 9:50 AM on October 9, 2013

I very much enjoyed Francis Wheen's Strange Days Indeed: The 1970s: The Golden Days of Paranoia.

Arthur Marwick's The Sixties is good, though maybe not as narratively satisfying as what you're looking for.
posted by otio at 9:54 AM on October 9, 2013

Are you aware of the new book The Unwinding, by George Packer? It's not exactly the same, but I think you would like it.

Also, you know that Halberstam's book The Children is about the civil rights movement? If you like The Fifties, I think you would like this one, as well. Halberstam was a great writer on any topic.
posted by janey47 at 10:28 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's not about a specific decade exactly, but Rick Perlstein's Nixonland would fit the bill. It's one of my favorite non-fiction books ever. I highly recommend it, especially if you're at all interested in modern politics.
posted by dialetheia at 2:29 PM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Rick Perlstein in Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America doesn't structure the story exactly like Halborstam does, but he provides an excellent sense of how people perceived the events, the politics, and the social changes of 1960s America.

The book is not a chronicle of Nixon's career, so don't let the title put you off. It's much more about how the country seemed to shift from an apparently liberal consensus following Kennedy's assassination to the sharp and bitter divisions that we think of when we talk about "The 60s"... and beyond. While describing how alienated many Americans became from mainstream culture, it also shows how adept Nixon was at exploiting the revulsion the mainstream felt towards civil-rights activists, anti-war protesters and the overall counterculture movement. And it has some great vignettes on lots of the pivotal moments from that era.

Anyone wanting some good background on how the Republican party became what it is today should check this out.
posted by theory at 2:31 PM on October 9, 2013

Note: I haven't read it, but from things I've read and heard, I think Season of the Witch might fit your criteria.
posted by kristi at 10:31 AM on October 11, 2013

Only Yesterday is a very good book about the 1920s, published with literally no historical perspective as it came out in 1931. So it's a view of the period from someone basically still in it.

The same period gets covered with much more humor and perspective by Bill Bryson in his book One Summer: America, 1927.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:28 AM on July 11, 2014

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