20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2004
After long being accused by writers as being "slackers" and "apathetic," finally a book comes along that explores Generation X in the historical context of being the 13th Generation - an exploration that forces the reader to reconsider their opinion of our misunderstood generation. Mr. Strauss explains that no generation can be defined in a vaccuum. Instead one must understand the preceeding generations as well as the social, political, and economic forces in place during the growth of a generation. Furthermore, generational characteristics and the social, political, and economic environment is cyclical, a theme which he explores in a later work, The 4th Turning.
As a member of the 13th Generation, I knew I was different than my parents and much different than my younger siblings (all members of the Millenium Generation). I went to an elementary school where the classrooms had no walls and students were asked how they "felt" and facts were discouraged. The free-swinging 70's found Playboy and Penthouse in parent's bedrooms, available for the neighborhood kids to sneak and explore. I have been through 2 family divorces and now have 3 half siblings and 3 step siblings - 2 of whom are named Jeff. I have always felt a little lost and very much alone. Reading this book helped me to understand more about myself, without giving me too many "outs" to excuse my life choices. Instead, Mr. Strauss provides facts (and yes, a little opinion)so that myself and other 13ers may rethink our role in society (we're not all slackers) and begin to make our mark in history.
42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 1997
When I first perused this book, I steeled myself
for another flood of invective from former Education Secretary and baby boomer pit bull William Bennett and his ilk about how everyone
and anyone born between 1961 and 1981 (the 13th generation born in the US) is an illiterate thug at worst or a attention-deficient con artist at best.
I was pleasantly surprised. Neil Howe and Bill Strauss, with a format capturing my (I confess, I'm a 13er too) peer group's main modes of expression, slick images and reproduced Internet mail messages and chat, counterpointed by an abundance of statistical and historical data, produce a fascinating and ultimately hopeful assessment of an age group that to many "just doesn't fit."
The authors think this is so because of key events in 13ers' early lives--the effect of a long parade of inept leaders, faddish educators and errant parents, a rising information overload and endless elder doomsaying. This, along with the gut-wrenching changes in the US society and economy that were and still are occurring, left them on their own emotionally and physically quite early and socially and economically so as time passed.
Howe and Strauss believe these and related experiences taught 13ers to think pragmatically, act quickly and be ever-resourceful in the face
of an often absurd and always overwhelming, fast-moving world. The authors dismiss the mainstream alarmist hype and conclude these and other streetwise skills of 13ers will serve the nation well when it's their turn to "take command" in the next century.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 1996
There is much misunderstanding of the generation which followed the baby boom. This book paints a rich, deep picture of what forces shaped the 13th Generation (aka Generation X) into the reactive generation it is. Taking evidence from census data, sociological statistics and cultural trends, this book shows the 13th Generation as babies when demon-baby movies (Omen, Exorcist, etc.) were popular, as the generation most affected by the 1980's recession (just as it was entering the workforce) and the generation for which social security will be bankrupt by the time it retires. But the book is not apologist. Rather, the book is an in-depth example of the generational paradigm of history put forth by Stauss and Howe in _Generations_ and shows that such a reactive generation is part of a larger historical cycle that has been operating since before the Pilgrims landed on American shores. The book has a great layout for the short attention span audience. The sidebars give great quotes to support the text, there is an ongoing e-mail dialog between the baby boom authors and a gen-x critic, and the mostly black humor cartoons are well chosen to illustrate the text. A must read for anyone who wonders why Gen X folks just don't behave the way they "ought to," or for those Gen X'ers who wonder why the world is so messed up
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2003
I bought this book when it first came out because, well, I don't remember why. I think it had something to do with Coupland's Generation X book and the whole notion of actually being a part of some 'generation'. This book seemed a good way to find out what that actually meant. And it did help me to understand the idea of a 'generation'.
It's kind of a quirky book, with a curious layout of sidebars containing quotes from individuals, from books and movies, experts and other pop culture references and statistics, that seem to drive home the point the authors are striving toward. Unto that end it is a great package.
The book is important as it gives a voice to a generation living life under the shadow of the 'Baby Boomers'. These are voices that appear fresh with time and it is great to see them in print.
Revisiting this book almost ten years it seems, though, that the book was trying too hard. It got ahead of itseld in trying to sum up a generation (made up of individuals who didn't realize they were actually a generation!). It seems to me that it was (and still is) a marketing label, a way to define individuals in order to 'target' them. This, in my opinion, is the end result. Looking back at it and the 'hipness' of the narrative voice and the layout, they were trying to market the book without appearing to market the book, trying to be 'hip' without appearing to try to be hip.
While the book does a remarkable job of compiling statistics and nailing down the 'whys' of 13th Gen (more accurate than the term Generation X) behavior, in the end the book doensn't help to explain me (born within the years 1961-81) too much at all. It is good for some nostalgia but it feels a bit outdated. It ultimately fades into oblivion with an overabundance of pop culture defintions, cliches and general and generic observations. It seems that we (or is it just me?) have moved on.
I give it four stars for its readability, interesting statistics/quotes and its historical value.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2004
I read this book when it was new -- I'm a younger 13er, and it was a gift from my brother, a much older 13er. I think it describes his classmates a lot more accurately than mine, which makes the book seem shortsighted now. Howe & Strauss have some interesting things to say about how Boomers viewed parenthood (the wave of demon-child movies they list is a surprising statistic that I still remember years later) but their examples are too specific to the time-period they wrote in. It talks a lot about the 90's recession and the Gulf War -- the book practically hums with pre-millenial tension. Many of their economic predictions for 13ers seem based on an instictive pessimism about the economy (the internet boom was years away from full power,) and they draw grand conclusions about the 13er psyche based on some sparse observations about controversial elements in pop culture. I believe it is also geared toward an older and white audience, people who were leery of gansta rap and grunge rock, and confused the quick judgements of the younger folk with thoughtlessness. (As I remember, they spend a little too much time on Nike's "Just Do It" slogan.)
The style of the book is interesting, especially when read as a companion piece to Douglas Coupland's books "Generation X" and (more relevantly,) "Microserfs." They invent a 13er gadfly who hacks into their book to post his comments (or maybe he's real, I don't know, but I doubt it) and the commentary becomes a sort of occasional parallel narrative, sometimes with arguments that undercut the points made in the main book. One can see a sort of fascination with the post-modern possibilities of the internet, which is even more dated than their references, but in a kind of cheering way. As I grow older, I agree with the "hacker" more than the authors' own voices; the 13ers are more difficult to define than they would have you believe.
This book would be a good read for anyone interested in how the 90's saw itself, or for a person born before 1961 who has *never* thought about the next-younger generation. The statistics are interesting, but their conclusions are so unsupported that I wouldn't consider this a serious reference work.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2006
This book was written over 10 years ago, when Gen X bashing was a cottage industry for Fortysomething Baby Boomers, who seemed to be grumpy that they could in NO WAY be considered "Young and Hip" anymore, and had to take it out on those who WERE. While the book's authors are fairer than most, they still insist on depicting my generation in stereotypical terms. And if they're better than most of their peers, it is ONLY because they attempt to explain what motivates these stereotypes. Pity they don't ever feel compelled to question why THEIR generation feels the need to be SO critical of every other generation under the sun, be it their parents, us, and/or their precious little Gen Y brats. THERE's a book I'd pay $13.95 or whatever to read. Then again, I understand from friends who've read it, that their book on Gen Y is nothing but overly optimistic wishful thinking, so maybe they're just idiots. Here's a little free advice to any Boomers reading this reveiw: Wanna know what's up with younger generations? Quit assuming you know ANYTHING about us, put away that critical eye of yours, and talk with us, NOT at us... Then you might actually learn something. Then again, maybe not.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 1999
An interesting perspective of those belonging to the 13th generation. Provides a non-traditional perception of the generation in terms of atitudes, styles, beliefs, perspectives, etc. in a non-traditional form and style of writing. Simply put it is a fun and interesting piece of reading that portrays this generation in a way that has never been thought of before. The text is accompanied by creative cartoons and quotes that work to enhance the interest and understanding of the reading.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 1999
13th Gen. is a very well meaning and ambitious effort, but isn't that good. Much of the book comes accross pretentiously, using sweeping generalizations and over exegerating generational differences. Also, this book makes so many current social refereces, it already seems dated only 6 years later. For better reading on generational studies we suggest the author Grace Palladino.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 1998
As a disillusioned Baby Boomer (still hoping my generation will rally from its yuppie-puritan rut to restore its Sixties roots), I found this book astonishingly incisive. Having lived with 13ers (Xers) in student housing for several years, I can say this book captures the two generations perfectly. One understandable flaw: too many flat elder lies about "kids today" are presented as statistical and research fact, when in truth crime, drug, and other measures show it is the Baby Boom's (not kids') behaviors which have deteriorated drastically. Which is why our "huge collective egos" need such relentless inflating, usually involving slander against the "demographic junk we see in our rearview mirrors." The artwork in this book, and the text, both are worth the price many times over. Highly recommended.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2003
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I read their previous book, Generations. I was, of course, most interested in their descriptations of my generation, 13er, and how much we were like Hemingway's Lost Generation, Mark Twain's Glided Generation, and George Washington's Liberty Generation.
Strauss & Howe do a wondeful job of getting past the bad reputation of my generation, and show why we are the way we are. America may not appreicate our strengths right now, but we'll be the ones that'll save this country when the next Big Crisis, like World War Two, happens.