The Fifties Info

Check out Readers reviews and rating for books about American history, ancient history, military history. You can easily download The Fifties by # author# from the best rated book stores online. Read&Download The Fifties by David Halberstam Online


The Fifties is a sweeping social, political, economic,
and cultural history of the ten years that Halberstam regards as seminal
in determining what our nation is today. Halberstam offers portraits of
not only the titans of the age: Eisenhower Dulles, Oppenheimer,
MacArthur, Hoover, and Nixon, but also of Harley Earl, who put fins on
cars; Dick and Mac McDonald and Ray Kroc, who mass-produced the American
hamburger; Kemmons Wilson, who placed his Holiday Inns along the
nation's roadsides; U-2 pilot Gary Francis Powers; Grace Metalious, who
wrote Peyton Place; and "Goody" Pincus, who led the team that
invented the Pill.
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

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Reviews for The Fifties:

3

Mar 12, 2017

This book is an interesting and engaging overview of the 1950s in the USA. The author writes with a genuine enthusiasm and an almost conversational style and covers a very wide spectrum of topics. I certainly learnt quite a bit, so I'm glad I decided to take a chance on this book based on a recommendation.

I have two problems with the book, though; one quite minor and one quite major.

The minor quibble is that Halberstam writes this book from such a US-centric point-of-view that I really think the This book is an interesting and engaging overview of the 1950s in the USA. The author writes with a genuine enthusiasm and an almost conversational style and covers a very wide spectrum of topics. I certainly learnt quite a bit, so I'm glad I decided to take a chance on this book based on a recommendation.

I have two problems with the book, though; one quite minor and one quite major.

The minor quibble is that Halberstam writes this book from such a US-centric point-of-view that I really think the title would better have been 'The Fifties in America' or something along those lines. Like so many American writers, Halberstam forgets the rest of the world even exists until the US is at war with part of it. It doesn't seem to even enter his head that anybody who isn't living in the USA might want to read his book. As I say, though, this is a minor quibble and I'm aware I'm probably being a bit nit-picky.

The major problem I had with this book, however, is the ending... or, rather, the lack of one. The book just stops dead halfway through the presidential race between Nixon and Kennedy. If I'd been reading a paper copy of this book I'd have been tempted to check that a bunch of pages hadn't been torn out, it ended so abruptly. There is no conclusion, no afterword, no epilogue, no post script... In fact, there is absolutely no attempt made to summarise or extrapolate the impact of the 1950s on the decades that followed, which I found very strange and somewhat offputting to be honest. It felt like the author just thought 'I can't be bothered to write any more' one day and just sent it off to the publisher unfinished.

This is a shame as, other than this, The Fifties is a very informative and entertaining read. ...more
4

Jul 29, 2008

I just love this book. I've read it before but I have it on my nightstand now, probably as a result of the confluence between "Mad Men" being back on AMC (oh my goodness, WHAT is going on with Betty?!) and my parents' ongoing Great PreDeath Cleanout of Books. It's a great book for just dipping into and reading; you can easily skip around, and/or just read the chapters that intrigue you. I have to say I find the book rather slapdash in that sense--the chapters usually are stand-alone essays I just love this book. I've read it before but I have it on my nightstand now, probably as a result of the confluence between "Mad Men" being back on AMC (oh my goodness, WHAT is going on with Betty?!) and my parents' ongoing Great PreDeath Cleanout of Books. It's a great book for just dipping into and reading; you can easily skip around, and/or just read the chapters that intrigue you. I have to say I find the book rather slapdash in that sense--the chapters usually are stand-alone essays rather than leading from one to the next in any kind of chronological or thematic fashion. But it's just really fascinating! I never knew Levitt's experience as a Seabee that influenced the construction of the houses/suburb. I mean, that's neat! Anyway. If you like "Mad Men" (heh) or reading about American popular culture/popular history, this book is worth owning. ...more
1

Aug 07, 2013

So David Halberstam, a winner of The Norman Mailer Prize and the Pulitzer prize, was unable to keep from writing historical tomes without filling them with his own, subjective views on the world. That tells me something about those prizes, that's for certain.
According to Halberstam, the movies of the fifties can be summed up in Brando's performance of A Streetcar Named Desire and James Dean's performance in Rebel Without a Cause. Considering the wide range of movies produced in that era this So David Halberstam, a winner of The Norman Mailer Prize and the Pulitzer prize, was unable to keep from writing historical tomes without filling them with his own, subjective views on the world. That tells me something about those prizes, that's for certain.
According to Halberstam, the movies of the fifties can be summed up in Brando's performance of A Streetcar Named Desire and James Dean's performance in Rebel Without a Cause. Considering the wide range of movies produced in that era this tells me a great deal about the author.
How odd to see him spend far more time on the political campaign of Adlai Stevenson than Ike, the man who would define politics for this decade. You can easily hear Halberstam's disappointment when Ike wins the election.
His glorified accounts of Margaret Sanger and Alfred Kinsey (he says more good things about Kinsey than Eisenhower), along with his effusive admiration for the Beat Poets and the attacks on traditional values by Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan turned this book into a liberal's fantasy.
At least he did a good job of detailing where so many of the origins of our present (U.S.) decay can be found. ...more
5

Feb 19, 2010

Everything I've ever read by David Halberstam has been rewarding and everything, except his early and probably most important book, The Best and the Brightest, has been a sheer pleasure. The Best and the Brightest reads most like an academic history. His other history books are more popular in their style, flowing like collections of short stories on a single theme.

The Fifties interested me because that was Dad's decade. He was in his thirties, done with school, back from Europe with a Everything I've ever read by David Halberstam has been rewarding and everything, except his early and probably most important book, The Best and the Brightest, has been a sheer pleasure. The Best and the Brightest reads most like an academic history. His other history books are more popular in their style, flowing like collections of short stories on a single theme.

The Fifties interested me because that was Dad's decade. He was in his thirties, done with school, back from Europe with a war-bride, got his first house. obtained employment with the company he eventually retired from and had his two children. It was also the decade of my earliest memories. History classes in high school, college and graduate school rarely seemed to get that far and if they did it was usually about foreign, not domestic, affairs. I wanted, finally, to see how one grownup at the time, but distant enough from it to attempt objectivity, might portray it. My own memories were those of a child, from a child's perspective.

I was not disappointed. Indeed, I was fascinated. It was like reading the bible for the first time. I already knew something about most everything, but I'd never put it together so well or with so much detail--I'd not known how much I knew, but Halberstam revealed it to me. ...more
3

Apr 14, 2015

Halberstam writes like a fuddy-duddy who has no respect for Elvis Presley, or James Dean, or for anything connected with the glory days of early rock and roll.

On the other hand, there's some fascinating information about the early space program, in America and the USSR, the birth of the Civil Rights movement, and even the quiz show scandals on television. But not many men can totally hate on Douglas Macarthur AND Elvis Presley!

What drove me to distraction as I read this book was trying to Halberstam writes like a fuddy-duddy who has no respect for Elvis Presley, or James Dean, or for anything connected with the glory days of early rock and roll.

On the other hand, there's some fascinating information about the early space program, in America and the USSR, the birth of the Civil Rights movement, and even the quiz show scandals on television. But not many men can totally hate on Douglas Macarthur AND Elvis Presley!

What drove me to distraction as I read this book was trying to figure out the link between MacArthur and Elvis. Halberstam hated both of them. But how could an aristocratic army officer with enormous personal dignity, strategic and tactical genius, and ultra-right wing politics have anything in common with a greasy punk kid who had no values of any kind except moaning and making women want to touch themselves?

Finally I figured it out. What Elvis and MacArthur had in common -- what David Halberstam can't stand -- is that neither one of them were team players. Halberstam, though he never says it, is really first and last an organization man. In Fifties terms, Halberstam is the man in the gray flannel suit. He admires strivers and upwardly mobile success, but only when it comes through ticket punching and playing by the rules. He loves guys like Joe DiMaggio and Edward R. Murrow because they worked hard to conform, to wear suits and act dignified, to efface their humble working-class origins. Elvis and Douglas MacArthur offend him because -- in his mind, at least -- both of them were showboats, egomaniacs, only in it for themselves. And he's right, as far as it goes. Elvis could be vulgar, and MacArthur could be ruthless, but neither of them could ever be anything but themselves. Halberstam is terrified by that level of self-assurance.

He admires talent but genius scares the hell out of him.

It was ironic, Carol Storm often thought, that a man as pompous and pedantic as Halberstam was drawn so often to write about turbulent times and passionate individuals. He wrote always with an air of great importance, anxious to convey not only the seriousness of the subject but his own stature as journalist with every word he wrote. Yet when confronted with disturbing ideas or the inconvenient existence of perspectives different from his own, he seemed surprisingly clueless, almost at a loss. Perhaps in the end, his greatest gift was simply to trivialize the momentous, and to complicate the obvious. ...more
5

Oct 28, 2012

If you happen to love American History as much as I do, please read this fabulous book! I just completed the 3rd re-read of David Halberstam's in depth look at the culture of the 1950's. Aside from the fact that he was a marvelous writer (who is sorely missed) -- Mr. H tells us everything we should know about America in the mid 20th century. How (and why) Playboy got started, how Walmart came into being, the alienation caused by the deluge of white-bread television that fostered the myth of the If you happen to love American History as much as I do, please read this fabulous book! I just completed the 3rd re-read of David Halberstam's in depth look at the culture of the 1950's. Aside from the fact that he was a marvelous writer (who is sorely missed) -- Mr. H tells us everything we should know about America in the mid 20th century. How (and why) Playboy got started, how Walmart came into being, the alienation caused by the deluge of white-bread television that fostered the myth of the American family (that haunts us to this day), McCarthyism, Eisenhower and Stevenson, the rise of post-war gender discrimination against women and how advertising fostered female guilt and the "Feminine Mystique," the stardom of Marilyn Monroe, movies,the birth of rock and roll and Elvis, the rise of the corporation, TV dinners, "The Pill".... you name it. If it came out of the 50's, Mr. Halberstam includes it. It is the story of the baby boomers.

I love all of David Halberstam's books, but this one has always been my favorite. In depth but very entertaining, "The Fifties" is the most complete look at this very misunderstood decade. Rather than being an "innocent time" before the 60's, he shows us how much change was churning beneath the surface and how the tumult of the 60's *had to happen* as it's outgrowth. ...more
5

Oct 10, 2014

The 1950s is a seminal decade in the history of our nation. Some of the things that people believe about it are true, but by no means all. It was fun to read David Halberstam's book The Fifties, and it brought back a flood of memories.

When I look back on the decade, what I remember most was my fear of thermonuclear war, which looked like a distinct possibility after Sputnik was launched in 1957 and Francis Gary Powers and his U-2 aircraft were downed by the Russians in 1959. I was in my middle The 1950s is a seminal decade in the history of our nation. Some of the things that people believe about it are true, but by no means all. It was fun to read David Halberstam's book The Fifties, and it brought back a flood of memories.

When I look back on the decade, what I remember most was my fear of thermonuclear war, which looked like a distinct possibility after Sputnik was launched in 1957 and Francis Gary Powers and his U-2 aircraft were downed by the Russians in 1959. I was in my middle school years at that point, and I read Time Magazine religiously from cover to cover. The news was not good: Nikita Khruschchev was a canny Soviet leader who was adept at making the Americans frightened until his downfall a few years later.

My only complaint about Halberstam's book is its organization. The chapters were more or less random, interspersing cultural, economic, social, and political events. It could very well have gone on for another five hundred pages, bringing in additional topics such as Mad Magazine, Westerns, Film Noir, the Mafia, Suez, and the Congo. It had to stop somewhere, and, as I was reading on the Kindle, I was shocked that it stopped suddenly at the 80% mark, the rest of the book consisting of photos, a bibliography (a good one, too), and notes.

At worst, the book is a great starting point; at its best, a reminder of what we have managed to survive in that anxious time. ...more
5

Sep 08, 2013

I seriously loved this book. I'm not sure how much of that has to do with having come of age in the fifties, but I found Halberstam's narrative to fulfill that secret desire that most of us have to be flies on the wall in the inner sanctums of government and power when and where the decisions are made that affect the course of history. He really does a good job of shining a microscope on all the major events, both cultural and political, that in many ways set the tone of my life and the life of I seriously loved this book. I'm not sure how much of that has to do with having come of age in the fifties, but I found Halberstam's narrative to fulfill that secret desire that most of us have to be flies on the wall in the inner sanctums of government and power when and where the decisions are made that affect the course of history. He really does a good job of shining a microscope on all the major events, both cultural and political, that in many ways set the tone of my life and the life of the 20th century right through to the present.

I especially enjoyed his insights into the behind the scenes workings of the Eisenhower administration, and his deconstruction of the man himself. A man both more and less than he has been thought to be (at least by me).

All that we are experiencing now as a culture and a nation is the natural evolution of the decisions and actions that were set in motion in the first decade following WWII. It makes great reading and is totally relevant to today's struggles. ...more
5

Sep 12, 2013

David Halberstam’s reflective THE FIFTIES is a wonderful return to my formative years. I graduated from high school, went to college, got married, and had two children, all in the Fifties. Halberstam caught it all; not my personal story, but the events that occurred and their impact on life during that lively decade.

Halberstam, the noted historian, journalist, and writer who died in a tragic car accident in 2007, remains one of my favorite writers because of his versatility. It’s difficult to David Halberstam’s reflective THE FIFTIES is a wonderful return to my formative years. I graduated from high school, went to college, got married, and had two children, all in the Fifties. Halberstam caught it all; not my personal story, but the events that occurred and their impact on life during that lively decade.

Halberstam, the noted historian, journalist, and writer who died in a tragic car accident in 2007, remains one of my favorite writers because of his versatility. It’s difficult to put a label on his genre. In his career he published over twenty works that covered history, politics, the Civil Rights movement, media, culture, business, and, in his later years, a broad spectrum of sports. He wrote about the actions of and battles between American generals, media moguls, car industry giants, celebrities, foreign policy decisions, national economic positions, and sports luminaries. He was critical of many things but somehow managed to write about them with tact and almost unassailable logic.

In THE FIFTIES, Halberstam uses the same writing style that was his hallmark. Clear concise accounts are presented on every topic that I recall as happening, as well as many I had forgotten. He recounts generals’ nonmilitary battles, car wars, the beginning of rock and roll and rise of Elvis, the sexual revolution, fast food, mass marketing, brooding movie stars, political favorites and failures, and the genesis of a great American tradition, the televised political debate.

How in the world could he stuff that much information in one book? You’ll have to read it to get the answer. But it’s all there plus more, in Halberstam’s entertaining and conversant style.

He considered the decade to be the foundation of what our nation is today. He believed that although the surface appeared peaceful, almost lethargic, there was an underlying social ferment beginning to roil to the top. Those of us who lived it, enjoyed it, and felt so calm as the 1950s unfolded, tend to push the nasty business of vocal and physical public dissent, with the sidebar of drug proliferation, into the Sixties. Halberstam seems to agree, although he doesn’t give us a free pass. Apparently he thinks of us as parents of such bastard children.

It’s a must read.





...more
5

Jul 16, 2013

It has occupied 2 inches of my bookcase for close to 20 years. THE FIFTIES is Halberstam’s 732 page grand epic of American history published in 1993 which covers all things political, cultural, social, and economic for the decade most often thought of as the “good old days”. Here we have the cold war, space, Levittown, suburbia, Television, Ozzie and Harriet, I love Lucy, Elvis, the Kinsey report, Castro, the CIA, U2 flights, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, McCarthy, Eisenhower vs It has occupied 2 ½ inches of my bookcase for close to 20 years. THE FIFTIES is Halberstam’s 732 page grand epic of American history published in 1993 which covers all things political, cultural, social, and economic for the decade most often thought of as the “good old days”. Here we have the cold war, space, Levittown, suburbia, Television, Ozzie and Harriet, I love Lucy, Elvis, the Kinsey report, Castro, the CIA, U2 flights, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, McCarthy, Eisenhower vs Taft, Peyton Place, Richard Nixon, the Birth Control pill, consumerism, cars with bigger engines and bigger fins, the woman’s place in the home, sports, corporate conformity (The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit), racism and the fight for civil rights. The book offers a broad sweep and through a series of chapters which are in effect small essays Halberstam brilliantly gives an insightful review of this major decade. A decade that Halberstam sees as setting the stage for the social change in the much more publicized 1960’s and which really offers up many of the issues we confront today. (One great thing about the book is that you don’t have to read it cover to cover as I did. You can stick your toe in a chapter here and a chapter there and be well rewarded.)
One theme in the book shows how the culture and stereotypes seems to recycle themselves. For example he mentions that women were needed in the work force in World War II. However, before the war more than half the states has laws prohibiting married women from working. A majority of public schools, 43 percent of public utilities, and 13% of department stores had policies not to hire wives. A poll showed 82% of Americans disapproved a married woman working if she had a husband. So when the war was over those women who had been so needed were fired, 800,000 alone in the aircraft industry. Within two years over 2 million woman lost their jobs. Women were how expected to live in suburban homes with their great new time saving appliances. No one seemed to expect to hear that they may not be happy.
There are a lot of issues and situations that may give any reader pause to reflect. The rise of television and its impact on the news is one. But the issue of race and how blacks were treated is just horrific. It is really hard to believe that this was only 60 years ago and I became a teenager during that decade. No doubt you can see the roots of the cultural issues surrounding race and the need for change. But no doubt we can often still see that history and culture still hangs over the country today.
This is a terrific book that is in part a page turner that I expect you will find constantly interesting and like Halberstan’s other books extremely well written. (By the way it does not read like a twenty year old book.) ...more
5

Dec 18, 2012

Halberstam's epic masterpiece is a colossal historic narrative of the 50's that combines his usual incisive social commentary with sharp insight, weaving together seamlessly throughout. Always lively and analytical, The Fifties is arranged so well chronologically that it has a cinematic feel to it. It is easy for the reader to visualize the activity in each of the chapters - and it becomes addictive, compulsive reading after a short while.

The main, or overarching theme, of the book that he Halberstam's epic masterpiece is a colossal historic narrative of the 50's that combines his usual incisive social commentary with sharp insight, weaving together seamlessly throughout. Always lively and analytical, The Fifties is arranged so well chronologically that it has a cinematic feel to it. It is easy for the reader to visualize the activity in each of the chapters - and it becomes addictive, compulsive reading after a short while.

The main, or overarching theme, of the book that he returns to in several chapters is the effect that America's obsession with the perceptions of the threat that Communism held then. Halberstam excellently conveys how the head-to-head confrontations transformed the American political landscape causing a dramatic shift from Democratic control to Republican dominance during the decade.

But there are many 'stories' to tell about the 50's - and are told here. An early chapter explains the development of fast food and the 'marketing magic' behind it when discussing the McDonald brothers & Ray Kroc. Other chapters discuss how TV caused a major upheaval change in American culture, effecting virtually every key event or figure during the decade. The use of images and film, mass distribution of information and the editorializing of 'talking heads' on TV instantly changed the ways in which Americans could be influenced - and created the problem of "what's rhetoric - what's truth?"

Interestingly, Halberstam focuses on the 'anti-heroes' of Hollywood during the era like Marlon Brando & James Dean. And he focuses on the vulnerability of Marilyn Monroe instead of her sexuality and mass appeal (both much discussed elsewhere already previously). There's also Levittown, the creation of Holiday Inn, the Quiz Show scandals, the invention of the birth control pill, the racial crisis at Little Rock...and so much more.

The most important point I took away from my reading of this superior book is how the 50's paved the way for the social unrest and cultural disorder that came to a seething head in the 60's. It's critical to anyone's understanding to get a historical perspective of the decade of the 50's to fully comprehend why the changes that happened in the 60's came to be. Halberstam's comprehensive - yet even at 800 pages I'd say concise - The Fifties is a convincing, persuasive and logical account that neatly makes it evident that the changes of the 60's were a natural result of the previous decade. ...more
5

Aug 04, 2018

I wasn't born yet, but Halberstam brought the decade alive. Loved this read.
4

Nov 29, 2018

A book I've been reading for months. Ambitious, a book covering an entire decade. I mean, I only gave it four stars because it was so sprawling it was hard to focus or stay focused, but I certainly learned a lot. Things like that Eisenhower was the last American president born in the 19th century. And who Adlai Stevenson was (he was the Democrat who ran against Eisenhower). Many things were terrible, including McCarthy and McCarther. I hate reading about war, but getting the facts about the A book I've been reading for months. Ambitious, a book covering an entire decade. I mean, I only gave it four stars because it was so sprawling it was hard to focus or stay focused, but I certainly learned a lot. Things like that Eisenhower was the last American president born in the 19th century. And who Adlai Stevenson was (he was the Democrat who ran against Eisenhower). Many things were terrible, including McCarthy and McCarther. I hate reading about war, but getting the facts about the Korean war was good. The Nuclear testing so awful, making the Hydrogen bomb (even stronger then the Atomic bomb), testing it. Also horrible, lynchings (Emmett Till), and the racism of white Southerners freaking out about integration (it would be nice to read about the past and think we've gotten better, but sadly, I think our country's slipped back with the White Supremacists and police shooting and killing black men like once a month).
...... But, a lot of what was huge in the 1960s really began in the 1950s. Birth Control pills? Invented and tested in the 50s. The rise of black people? Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King were in the 50s. The rise of counterculture? The Beatniks did it first. Sex? Kinsey. Etc, etc. Just because the film was black and white doesn't mean life was. ...more
4

May 24, 2019

The decade was 70% completed when I was born. I have no recall of the 1950s, even though I was born late in the decade. Having now read this massive history, I now feel as if I lived through the decade.

Halberstam begins his story with Truman’s election of 1948, the Soviet test of a nuclear weapon in 1949, and the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. The short time the United States had as the leader of the world and the only nation with nuclear weapons had come to an end. We were beginning a new The decade was 70% completed when I was born. I have no recall of the 1950s, even though I was born late in the decade. Having now read this massive history, I now feel as if I lived through the decade.

Halberstam begins his story with Truman’s election of 1948, the Soviet test of a nuclear weapon in 1949, and the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. The short time the United States had as the leader of the world and the only nation with nuclear weapons had come to an end. We were beginning a new era, the Cold War. The uneasy situation with the Soviets would remain throughout the decade and Halberstam ends this book with the story of the U2 being shot down over Russia (which ended Eisenhower’s quest for a nuclear treaty) and the planning for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

A lot happened in the 1950s and, as Halberstam points out, much of what occurred in the 60s had its roots in the 50s. From music to Vietnam, civil rights to foreign policies, the sexual revolution to television, space and science to the rise of suburbia, McCarthy to Kerouac, the 60s (and 70s) grew out of seeds planted in the 50s. Halberstam follows these developments through vignettes, stories of what was happening. In ways, the stories can stand alone, but taken together they paint a picture of vibrant decade that too often has been portrayed as sleepy.

Many of the people whom Halberstam writes about are well known and became even more famous in the 1960s (Richard Nixon, Hugh Hefner, Marlo Brando, Marlyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Martin Luther King, among others). Others were less well known, but their ideas caught on as they developed fancy car designs, hotel and restaurant empires, housing tracks, and pushed America into a consumer culture. As I approached the end of the book, I was shocked to see one such individual that I knew personally. Kensinger Jones (pages 629-635) spent his retirement years on a farm south of Hastings, Michigan. He was a member of First Presbyterian Church in Hastings while I was pastor. Unfortunately, he was unable to be very active due to health issues, but I often visited with him and his wife Alice and enjoyed our conversations. Ken Jones was responsible for a series of Chevrolet ads that weren’t designed to “sell cars, but to sell dreams.” These ads were essentially a mini-story told visually as the consumer was encouraged to “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet.” While Ken certainly appreciated the power of the image, as Halberstam notes, he also appreciated the written word. After he could no longer attend church, he would read my sermons and often wrote notes of appreciation. And he was an author himself. I have two of his books on my shelf today.

Toward the end of Eisenhower’s presidency, there were those who suggested it was a shame there was the 23rd Amendment that kept a President from running for a third term. Eisenhower, whom it seems in Halberstam was never sure if he wanted to be President, would have nothing to do with such talk. He didn’t want a third term nor did he think anyone should be President over the age of 70. I wonder what Ike would think about our last election with both candidates over the 70 mark?

This is a wonderful book with many great stories. Even those who have no memories of the 1950s will find themselves entertained and will learn how this decade influenced future decades in America. ...more
2

Aug 28, 2007

I tried. I really did. I wanted to be a good person and finish this book. But I just couldn't....I just got too bogged down in the details, and I think that I really needed the Cliff's Notes version. The writing was good, but the subject matter just wasn't for me. I still feel the shame.
5

Feb 22, 2010

David Halberstam was a giant in my opinion and I have loved every book he ever wrote, including the ones about baseball!!! This window on the era of bomb shelters and President Eisenhower is just stunning. If you remember the 1950s, as I do, it is like time travel.....if you don't remember the 1950s, you will after reading this book. The book has a style that I would call comfortable.........Halberstam was a true storyteller as well as a great historian of the American experience.
5

Sep 24, 2010


Always liked Halberstam's style, makes history real fun reading. Areas I really liked
were the start of the franchises that we take today as just being part of the
woodwork, and often derisively so.

However when McDonalds, Holiday Inn and the like got started there was
a real need for their services, a clean, cheap place to feed the family, and
reliable place to stay. Fascinating how they grew and grew. I recall
going on an Indian Guides field trip when I was a little kid to
McDonalds and they
Always liked Halberstam's style, makes history real fun reading. Areas I really liked
were the start of the franchises that we take today as just being part of the
woodwork, and often derisively so.

However when McDonalds, Holiday Inn and the like got started there was
a real need for their services, a clean, cheap place to feed the family, and
reliable place to stay. Fascinating how they grew and grew. I recall
going on an Indian Guides field trip when I was a little kid to
McDonalds and they showed us the french fries were always
straight and it was exciting to see when they changed the
sign to the next whatever million sold.


Definitely a book you can pick up again and cherry pick a favorite
subject now and then. Halberstam has his favorites he leans towards
a bit too much in this book and his other writings, but that's just him.

...more
4

Oct 15, 2015

at some point deep within the book, the author questions as to why the decade of the 50s is now viewed as so noble and innocent to which he concludes (paraphrasing): "it's not that it actually WAS better or more noble, rather, all references to the 50s are always about its noble and innocent aspects" ... so too I came to find this book, for while it's cover (the up-close shot of a 50s auto tailfin) promised a look at the cultural and societal icons of the decade, it takes a much deeper look ... at some point deep within the book, the author questions as to why the decade of the 50s is now viewed as so noble and innocent to which he concludes (paraphrasing): "it's not that it actually WAS better or more noble, rather, all references to the 50s are always about its noble and innocent aspects" ... so too I came to find this book, for while it's cover (the up-close shot of a 50s auto tailfin) promised a look at the cultural and societal icons of the decade, it takes a much deeper look ... this is serious history - comprehensive and masterly presented; it is what amounts to about 50 thorough vignettes, covering the 10 years as blanket, for example, the chapter that begins by describing the life and times of Sam Phillips also takes side roads to present us to Elvis, Ed Sullivan, James Dean and Marlon Brando ... an enormous undertaking, successfully accomplished ...more
4

Oct 13, 2014

A huge book. It was actually difficult to read because it was so heavy. While I found parts rather ponderous, and was tempted to skip through them, to my credit I hung in there. As a child of the fifties, growing up in a family that was determinedly unworldly and disinterested in current affairs, I have little recall or understanding of the events that shaped my world, so this book filled some very big and very sorry gaps in my education. The election of 1952? I remember wearing a button that A huge book. It was actually difficult to read because it was so heavy. While I found parts rather ponderous, and was tempted to skip through them, to my credit I hung in there. As a child of the fifties, growing up in a family that was determinedly unworldly and disinterested in current affairs, I have little recall or understanding of the events that shaped my world, so this book filled some very big and very sorry gaps in my education. The election of 1952? I remember wearing a button that said "Adlai All the Way" and picking pretend fights with kids wearing ones that said "I Like Ike" McCarthyism? The Cold War, Elvis, the missile fact, television, Elvis? Halberstam is a master at putting the proper contexts in place to understand why and how events took the turns they did. I feel immense gratitude to him and sadness that his life ended before he was done. ...more
5

Mar 08, 2015

Woot! I'm finally finished with this book! Every week my history teacher would assign my class a certain amount of pages due the following Monday, and every week I would wait until the Saturday and Sunday to read the 100-200 pages. Which meant that I would be forced to read those pages in one go, which took about 4-5 hours. Luckily, this book was interesting and enjoyable to read. Now, I'm sure all you non-history lovers would be fainting and cringing in disgust at the idea of having to read a Woot! I'm finally finished with this book! Every week my history teacher would assign my class a certain amount of pages due the following Monday, and every week I would wait until the Saturday and Sunday to read the 100-200 pages. Which meant that I would be forced to read those pages in one go, which took about 4-5 hours. Luckily, this book was interesting and enjoyable to read. Now, I'm sure all you non-history lovers would be fainting and cringing in disgust at the idea of having to read a history book, especially one that is almost 800 pages long. But history is really quite fascinating! I never realized how important a decade the fifties were, but it really was the changing point for creating what American society is today. Reading this book has helped me understand the time period better, not just as facts on a timeline, but with depth of people and events. Halberstam writes really well and every chapter was tied together in a way to make this book not boring. I highly recommend this book, especially if you enjoy history. I personally really enjoyed it! ...more
4

Jan 08, 2013

This book has been re-issued several times. This copy was provided by Open Road Media and Netgalley.
This a lengthy book that attempts to cover an entire decade. The fifties did indeed bring about a great many changes to our country.
This book reminds us of how suburbia took hold, motel chains like Holiday Inn took off , as well as McDonald's.
We revisited the cold war , McCarthyism, Eisenhower's administration, Korea, desegregation, television, music, the pill, popular actors and movies, bombs, This book has been re-issued several times. This copy was provided by Open Road Media and Netgalley.
This a lengthy book that attempts to cover an entire decade. The fifties did indeed bring about a great many changes to our country.
This book reminds us of how suburbia took hold, motel chains like Holiday Inn took off , as well as McDonald's.
We revisited the cold war , McCarthyism, Eisenhower's administration, Korea, desegregation, television, music, the pill, popular actors and movies, bombs, Cuba, popular automobiles, and a lot of politics.
For me personally, I enjoyed the chapters that focused on the roles of women and their growing dissatisfaction and the subtle brainwashing the popular magazines used to sell an image that was impossible to maintain.
I also enjoyed the chapters on pop culture. Elvis, Marilyn, James Dean , Marlon Brando, Lucy, and the infamous quiz show scandal.
However, there were more chapters devoted to the H bomb, wars, and politics than anything else. While a lot of that was interesting, it did read like very dry history and I often found myself tuning out.
I did enjoy most of the book and learned many things about the fifties I didn't know and I enjoyed the nostalgia as well. There are a few photos provided at the end of the book.
Overall this one gets a B +
Thanks again to the publisher and Netgalley for the digital copy. ...more
4

Aug 12, 2013

very, very impressive 4, really pushing the 5. if GR permitted the half star, 4.5 off the bat, and under consideration for a possible upgrade. David Halberstam, lifetime journalist, made his name at the age of 35 in 1969 with The Best and the Brightest--examining what was then, in those more hierarchal and establishment times, the 'paradox' of the nation's best intellectuals and minds leading the country into an unwinnable war. although there was a minor echo of this phenomenon with the Enron very, very impressive 4, really pushing the 5. if GR permitted the half star, 4.5 off the bat, and under consideration for a possible upgrade. David Halberstam, lifetime journalist, made his name at the age of 35 in 1969 with The Best and the Brightest--examining what was then, in those more hierarchal and establishment times, the 'paradox' of the nation's best intellectuals and minds leading the country into an unwinnable war. although there was a minor echo of this phenomenon with the Enron Scandal of the 2000s, (most of Enron's staff was Harvard MBAs and mathematics PhDs; they placed bets on energy prices that worked until they didn't), probably society in general is a bit less in awe of quadruple PhDs or whatever... anyway, enough about Halberstam's most famous work.

I've read Halberstam before. The Coldest Winter was quite impressively written--but among the "top books," (meaning, published by big publishers, reviewed by all the professionals), it spent almost half of its considerable length attacking Douglas MacArthur. now Gen. MacArthur has generally assumed a negative reputation among historians, but there is that paradox that if we spend hours and hours criticizing somebody, we are actually paying homage in a sense... another digression I guess...

ANYWAY, you will read this book if you enjoy 850 pages on the 1950s. Halberstam's method was to go chapter-by-chapter on distinctive personalities. thus we have coverage of Marilyn Monroe, Eisenhower, the McDonalds brothers and Ray Kroc, the inventor of the pill, German V-2 scientists brought over to work on NASA rockets.

there is A LOT of material here. and 850 pages means you'll be buried for more than a day, -- and of course not everyone is terribly interested in the 1950s or a journalistic character-by-character study, but the style is smooth, the writing fast-paced, and dollar for value (if this book is on ebook special), really we should be talking the full 4.5 ...more
3

Aug 21, 2013

Halverstam, prolific and erudite, wrote a serious book coupled with a popular culture book in series through twenty-two volumes. The Fifties was his pop book published in '93 in between The Next Century and October, 1964.

The Fifties, given its subtext, doesn't require the fiery drive or the coruscating words of his power / politics books, and instead takes us through an amble across a decade. Halberstam's goal is to illuminate an era that he grew up in, one where the world changed from bucolic Halverstam, prolific and erudite, wrote a serious book coupled with a popular culture book in series through twenty-two volumes. The Fifties was his pop book published in '93 in between The Next Century and October, 1964.

The Fifties, given its subtext, doesn't require the fiery drive or the coruscating words of his power / politics books, and instead takes us through an amble across a decade. Halberstam's goal is to illuminate an era that he grew up in, one where the world changed from bucolic to fast and modern, one where the seeds of the 1960's and hence our current culture were planted and grew. He has several themes that he carries forward (such as the indomitable and crushing power of advertising). The structure and style of the book is laid out by Halberstam's humanity – he uses vignettes of people small and large to tell the story of a decade, and we care about most of these people. He starts and stops themes as he goes, proceeding with the ten years of chronology, but in each case, he has chosen real people and their stories to weave a picture of the 1950's. It's a powerful motif, as he leaps from personal desire of the individual up into sociological meaning for the U.S. As usual in his books, the level of detail and research are extraordinary, and the author's surmises and elucidation of his characters motivations feel dead-on.

The sections on the big themes – feminism, race, politics, rock and roll, consumerism, advertising the H bomb, and American hubris – are the most compelling, and only occasionally do we head off down side streets of little import: the story of Ricky Nelson's alienation from his Dad cannot compete with the power of the Emmet Till narrative. He does indeed show that the 60's were derivative and predictable from the events of the 50's (without convincing the reader that the 50's were more interesting). The significant failure of the book, however, is the finish. Halberstam ends with the epic battle between Nixon and Kennedy. In doing so, he fails to deliver the drama or the crisis that would draw the decade together. Rather, he ends with Dean Acheson's evaluation of the two candidates – “They … bore the hell out of me.” So somehow did this chapter. ...more
4

May 31, 2015

Review title: His stories about the Fifties
My title for this review works both ways.

--Halberstam writes in classic narrative history style when tackling a subject as a broad as a decade. He doesn't limit his topics to politics, wars, economics or "great people" biographies, but tells the history of the decade in stories about television (then reshaping marketing. news and entertainment with its always-on eye in a growing number of households), music (Elvis made "race music" safe for white Review title: His stories about the Fifties
My title for this review works both ways.

--Halberstam writes in classic narrative history style when tackling a subject as a broad as a decade. He doesn't limit his topics to politics, wars, economics or "great people" biographies, but tells the history of the decade in stories about television (then reshaping marketing. news and entertainment with its always-on eye in a growing number of households), music (Elvis made "race music" safe for white teenagers) and changing cultural mores (The Pill gave women sexual freedom, but affluence and suburban single family living left them stranded in ennui inducing isolation). This story telling approach to history by definition is episodic but Halberstam does a good job weaving his stories into a narrative flow, and besides how else is he to keep his book to its barely manageable 700-plus pages?

--Halberstam like so many of his readers lived through the decade, so at least some of these are by definition his stories. Since the Fifties are a decade often remembered and captured in movies, songs, novels, and Broadway plays with longing and nostalgia, even those who didn't experience it first hand (I was born in the last six months of the decade so I only "remember" it second hand) can claim some stake in the stories as well. The long memory of television, movies, music, and even the technological artifacts (57 Chevies, the first Corvette and Thunderbird) keep the decade alive as if it never ended and we all still live there, or could wish we did.

Of course a Cold War cold dose of reality in some of Halberstam's stories should serve to convince us otherwise. The Korean and nascent Vietnam wars, McCarthyism, the spector of nuclear war abroad and violent racism at home bent on denying African-Americans their rights and even their lives, are all stories Halberstam tracks through the decade. Even the escapist entertainment world saw the fragile and exploited Marilyn Monroe planting seeds of self destruction and the wildly popular quiz shows proven to be fixed. Seemingly simple stories raise questions of moral complexity that cast a shade on the Eden of popular shared memory. In Halberstam's capable story-telling hands we learn the history through the stories. ...more
3

Jan 12, 2017

For those who remember the Fifties (I do, a bit) and succor a nostalgia for simpler times when "America Was Great," this is an appealing summary of some of the decade's "greatest hits." I can't call it a serious historical work, although it might usefully be assigned to undergraduates enrolled in classes that focus on the period. It is really more of a series of "historical sketches" without a central, analytical perspective.

Halberstam tries, more or less successfully, to tease out the For those who remember the Fifties (I do, a bit) and succor a nostalgia for simpler times when "America Was Great," this is an appealing summary of some of the decade's "greatest hits." I can't call it a serious historical work, although it might usefully be assigned to undergraduates enrolled in classes that focus on the period. It is really more of a series of "historical sketches" without a central, analytical perspective.

Halberstam tries, more or less successfully, to tease out the consequences of the decade for subsequent American history, and indisputably some crucial features of the Sixties and Seventies were prefigured in the Fifties. Joe McCarthy and Charles Van Doren did as much to increase distrust of politics and the media as Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. The "sexual revolution" had already begun thanks to Margaret Sanger, Alfred Kinsey, and Hugh Hefner. Elsewhere, Halberstam overlooks some obvious consequences (Hey! Ray Kroc! Thanks for the obesity and diabetes crises. Hey, William Levitt! Thanks for white flight and the urban riots of the Sixties.). He also conspicuously avoids mention of some embarrassing facts about the careers of his heroes; Margaret Sanger, for example, along with Planned Parenthood were enthusiastic advocates of voluntary euthanasia.

Written in 1993, Halberstam's research may have been superseded by subsequent work. For instance, Irwin F. Gellman argues in The President and the Apprentice: Eisenhower and Nixon, 1952-1961 that Eisenhower did not want to "squeeze" Nixon off the Republican ticket in 1956 (pp. 329-30), while Halberstam argues the opposite (p. 328); Gellman also claims in The Contender, Richard Nixon: The Congress Years, 1946-1952 that Nixon's defeat of Helen Gahagan Douglas in 1950 was the result more of Douglas' ineptitude as a candidate (pp. 336-8) than any dirty tricks by Nixon (Halberstam, p. 326). Not that I am advocating for Gellman's point of view, which is clearly influenced by his high regard for the former president, only that some of Halberstam's history may be out of date.

In the end, Halberstam argues that the most important single factor in the shaping of politics, society, and economics in the Fifties was technology. Perhaps a banal conclusion but one that is hard to refute. ...more

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