The Fifties

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Overview

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 ...

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The Fifties

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Overview

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

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Best and the Brightest, The Powers That Be, and The Reckoning has created his masterpiece--a stunning, panoramic view of a pivotal and popular American decade. From Ike to Elvis, McCarthy to Marlon Brando, all the people and phenomena of that fabulous time are captured in Halberstam style. 32-page photo insert.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The Fifties were more than just a mid-point decade in a century; they were to be the crucible in which the rest of the 20th century was forged. Halberstam (The Next Century, LJ 1/92) here touches every thread in the warp and woof of the national fabric. This is the true drama of history: President Truman's firing of General Douglas MacArthur, the Eisenhower years, Senator Joe McCarthy's red-baiting, the early U.S. involvement in Indochina, the H-bomb, the purging of atomic scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Supreme Court ordering the integration of schools, troops in Little Rock to enforce it, the Montgomery bus boycott, the rise of Martin Luther King, Russia's sputnik launch, and Castro's revolutionary Cuba. Halberstam also explores major social and cultural changes--the advent of national television, fast-food restaurants, the flight to the suburbs, huge cars with fins, the phenomenon of Elvis Presley, the contraceptive pill, and much more. A superb book; recommended for all libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/93.-- Chet Hagan, Berks Cty. P.L. System, Pa.
Kirkus Reviews
In The Best and the Brightest, The Powers That Be, and The Reckoning, Halberstam proved that he can master intimidating subjects with aplomb—and in this massive tome on a convulsive decade in American life, he meets with equal success. Such a sprawling panorama can't be depicted coherently without selective use of material, and some of Halberstam's omissions are open to question. While rightly lingering over McCarthyism and the development of the atomic bomb, he skims over Communism's advances in Eastern Europe and China in the late 40's, leaving an inadequate sense of why Americans yielded so readily to national-security hysteria during the period. Halberstam also fails to explain fully America's role in reviving the postwar economies of Japan and Western Europe. And why is there nothing on the advances that put air travel in reach of the average American? Nevertheless, Halberstam keeps his narrative tightly focused by concentrating on the era's human instruments of change, including some famous (Eisenhower, Elvis, Brando, Kerouac, Milton Berle, et al.) and others more obscure (Kemmons Wilson and Dick and Mac McDonald, founders of, respectively, Holiday Inn and McDonald's). In this often "mean time" of redbaiting, change still managed to burst out, with the invention of the Pill, the moves by Japan and Germany to undercut GM's preeminence in the auto industry, and the assault on legalized segregation. Halberstam finds at the heart of this decade of social, political, and economic innovation a deep split between an acceptance of change and a yearning for earlier and simpler times, and he examines thoroughly how TV altered various aspects of Americanlife—its recreation habits, its advertising, and, inevitably, its politics, through the medium's coverage of the Little Rock crisis and the JFK-Nixon debates. Compulsively readable, with familiar events and people grown fresh in the telling. (Thirty-two pages of photographs—not seen) (First Serial to American Heritage)
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From Truman & Eisenhower to McCarthy & Kefauver, from Ginsberg & Kerouac to Berle & Ball, from Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King to Khrushchev & Castro--here is the full story of the 1950s, a decade newly wired for TV & ripe for its own fall from innocence. B&W photos.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780449909331
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/1994
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 800
  • Sales rank: 126,869
  • Product dimensions: 5.47 (w) x 8.23 (h) x 1.57 (d)

Meet the Author

David Halberstam
DAVID HALBERSTAM graduated from Harvard, where he had served as managing editor of the daily Harvard Crimson.  It was 1955, a year after the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools.  Halberstam went south and began his career as the one reporter on the West Point, Mississippi, Daily Times Leader.  He was fired after ten months there and went to work for The Nashville Tennessean.  When the sit-ins broke out in Nashville in February 1960, he was assigned to the story as principal reporter.  He joined The New York Times later that year, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his early reports from Vietnam.  He has received every other major journalistic award, and is a member of the Society of American  Historians.  

Biography

A journalist, historian, and biographer, David Halberstam brought his idiosyncratic and stylistic approach to heavy subjects: the Vietnam War (in 1972's The Best and the Brightest); the shaping of American politics (in 1979's The Powers That Be); the American economy's relationship with the automobile industry (in 1986's The Reckoning); and the civil rights movement (in 1998's Freedom Riders).

His books were loaded with anecdotes, metaphors, suspense, and a narrative tone most writers reserve for fiction. The resulting books -- many of them huge bestsellers -- gave Halberstam heavyweight status (he won the Pulitzer for international reporting in 1964) and established him as an important commentator on American politics and power.

Halberstam was also known for his sports books. In The Breaks of the Game, which a critic for The New York Times called "one of the best books I've ever read about American sports," he took on professional basketball.

In The Amateurs, he examined the world of sculling; in Summer of '49 and October 1964, he focused on two pivotal baseball events: the Boston Red Sox's exasperating near victory over the New York Yankees for the 1949 pennant, and the 1964 season, when the Yankees lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1999's Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made, Halberstam documented the making of a legend.

Always happy to extend his reach well beyond the subject at hand, Halberstam packed his books with social commentary as well as sports detail.

His writing routine was as strenuous and disciplined as that of any of the athletes he wrote about. To sustain his steady output of extensively researched, almost-always-massive books, he allows no unscheduled interruptions: "Most of us who have survived here [New York] after a number of years have ironclad work rules. Nothing interrupts us. Nothing," he once wrote in The New York Times. "We surface only at certain hours of the day."

Good To Know

David Halberstam's first job was as a reporter for a small-town Mississippi newspaper.
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    1. Date of Birth:
      April 10, 1934
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      April 23, 2007
    2. Place of Death:
      San Francisco, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Harvard, 1955

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    History presented in detailed, easy to read content.

    THE FIFTIES is researched extensively and the chapters are full of examples, quotes, and background information that make the Age of Conformity alive to the reader. A lengthy book, the decade takes on flesh as the author examines the many factors that shaped it. If you're interested in the time that gave us both Joe McCarthy and rock and roll, this book is highly recommended.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2006

    Very Pertinent To Life In the U.S., in the 2000s

    If you want to understand, regardless of your perspective, how we've arrived where we are today as a nation, this is the book for you. It does an excellent job of bridging the old U.S. to the new U.S. I was born in the early 50s, and was surprised at how this took my knowledge and memory of isolated events, and wove them into a complete, and logical result of the events of that decade. The book is written in vignette form - a chapter or two for each issue, going back periodically to keep you in a timeline perspective. I've read some in-dpeth writings in the past on the topics covered, and Halberstam somehow manages to give you all the most important details, and concensus opinions on each. I highly encourage those in the generation born between 1970-1990 to read this - it will explain a lot about your grandparents, your parents and you.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2004

    Timely book for the new century

    I, as they say, came of age in the 50s. Belately reading this book, I found it amazingly timely. Take away the 'communists' and insert 'terrorists' and you get a sense of what America is facing. Many of the fundamentals in our policies started during this era and unfortunately continue. A well-written, people-driven narrative of an amazing period. Highly recommended for those who lived through it or for those trying to understand them.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2013

    Just fair

    Far too long. Far too many words on relatively minor topics. Seems to see no influence or driving force other than television.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 28, 2009

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    Posted November 2, 2013

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    Posted August 28, 2010

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    Posted May 10, 2009

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