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Boomer Nation: The Largest and Richest Generation Ever, and How It Changed America Hardcover – May 25, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The historian/host of the History Channel's History Center, Gillion chronicles post-WWII America through the lives of six boomers who represent different strands of baby boom cultureâ€"which Gillon asserts has become synonymous with American culture. Four of his subjects have achieved national prominence: Bobby Muller, who founded Vietnam Veterans of America; lawyer and cancer survivor Fran Visco, who became president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition; Marshall Herskovitz, developer of the seminal television series Thirtysomething; and architect Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, who created the avant-garde Florida community of Seaside. Together with Donny Deutsch, a self-made advertising mogul, and Alberta Wilson, who overcame substance abuse and poverty to become a Christian educator, they provide the focus for a look at the Vietnam War, the women's movement and the attraction of some boomers to fundamentalist religion. What Gillon uniquely accomplishes is to illuminate how pervasive boomer influence continues to be in the 21st century. He touches on iconic events and influencesâ€"Catch-22, Woodstock, the Cold War, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther Kingâ€"but he is refreshingly unnostalgic about them. Gillon makes especially interesting points when exploring the continuity from the boomers to Gen X (born between 1965 and 1976) and Gen Y (1977â€"1995). His assessment of the boomer is generally favorableâ€"boomers did not abandon their core values of self-reliance, entitlement and idealism, but have applied those values to the changing challenges they have faced. The result, he says, is that "we are all boomers now."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

"The Baby Boom would prove to be the single greatest demographic event in American history--more significant, even, than the staggering loss of life during the Civil War," insists this academic and television host, who focuses on those born between 1947 and 1957 rather than 1946 and 1964. He contends that there is a common thread running through this generation that constitutes 29 percent of the population, but at the same time he recognizes the great differences in backgrounds, unique personal crises, conservatives, liberals, political independents, churchgoers, and others. They are today's decision makers in boardrooms and government. To tell the story of this generation, the author profiles six individuals whose experiences reflect the broad themes of the age: television, advertising, religion, architecture, feminism, and the Vietnam War. Harsh reality has had a profound effect on this generation, being raised on expectations of the good life and "having it all." This tale of the boomers who reshaped America is fascinating. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (May 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743229479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743229470
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,630,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Gleick on July 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Although there's little debate that baby boomers transformed America in important ways, there are surprisingly few books that try to analyze in meaningful ways what the boomers actually did and what it means, in the first place, to talk about the Baby Boom as a distinct generation. Gillon rectifies that with this book, which uses the stories of six different boomers of dramatically different social and cultural backgrounds to illuminate the experience of a generation.
Needless to say, the people we now call boomers were hardly all alike, and there were all sorts of ties -- ethnic, religious, professional -- that connected them more closely to people in other generations than to people in their own. But Gillon convincingly shows how the demographic realities of the boom shaped the lives of nearly everyone in it, and had a deep-seated cultural impact that was hard to escape. This is a sharp work of history, rigorous in the way it approaches problems but thoroughly entertaining in in its storytelling.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Giesen on September 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Boomer Nation is interesting. It is a compelling read only because it is extremely well written and takes a group of lives and walks them through the late 1940s to 2000. The book's strength is a journalistic technique called "personification," where a writer takes dull statistics and uses anecdotal information to illustrate hard numbers.

That's a wonderful idea, if you have the data to back up why you chose who you chose for the anecdotes. Author Gillon was incredibly shallow in presenting hard data to back up why he selected to profile the people he did. Only one couple, two architects whose urban concepts featured "Back to the Future Design," was apparent for why they were there.

The book takes a diverse array of, primarily, easterners and uses biographical sketches to illustrate everything from Vatican II to the women's movement to the lost decade of the 1970s, when America seemed to ignore the fact it had a drug, booze and vision problem.

Why these people were choosen was never clear. They just, frankly, appear. While they represent different themes of the last 50 years, most are extremes. What's lost in the discussion is why there people are better examples of their generation than, say, Bill Clinton, or, for that matter, me!

In summary, the book is well written but poor documentation makes a potentially good book at best mediocre.
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17 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Lynn H. Carrier on November 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Gillon writes with an exciting and entertainly style. I enjoyed reading it, as much as I enjoy someone like Neil Gaiman. Neil writes good fiction and he entertains me. Gillon writes entertaining non-fiction, but it's not representative of most of us.

For someone, like myself, from the boomer generation, the people he selected as examples could not have been more different than me or any of the people my age. One fellow sold a business for $270 million. A woman obtained her PhD. Another woman spearheaded a successful campaign for breast cancer. Another fellow has several successful TV shows. I don't know people like that. I don't drink beer with them. They have success in their lives that only 1 in 10,000 people find, maybe more. They are celebrities.

I couldn't relate to real life people he talked about. Sorry, but I couldn't connect the changes in America with what these 4 people did with their lives either.

The people I know, work, pay their bills, worry about raising their children, and how they will get along after they retire. During the last 30 years, the people Gillon didn't talk about, struggled to get a good education, get a good job, keep the job, and hold their marriage together. They are in debt up to their eyeballs. Gillon's characters were building billion dollar businesses, getting PhD's, meeting the President, or having their TV shows on a national network.

Good for them, I am happy for them, but no one I know has any experience living a charmed life these people have.

I hope Gillon makes lots of money and becomes famous, because that is what he admires.

I hope my family loves me, I set a good example in my neighbor hood, and I can help someone along their way.

Different strokes for different folks, as they say.
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Just what the world needs. Here is yet another book analyzing and dissecting the wants, needs, accomplishments and frustrations of the so-called "Baby Boom" generation. I don't know about you but I am getting sick and tired of hearing and reading about them. And I was born in 1951!!! In "Boomer Nation: The Largest and Richest Generation Ever, and How It Changed America" author Steve Gillon attempts to explain the unique set of circumstances that existed after World War II that helped to shape a generation. At the same time, he introduces us to six "Boomers" of varying backgrounds and follows these folks on their journey from adolescence into adulthood. What strikes me about many of those portrayed in this book and so many other members of my generation is the incredible amount of pain in their personal lives and so much of it self-imposed! I guess sex, drugs, alcohol and rock 'n roll are not all that they were cracked up to be.

Steve Gillon argues that through all of the trials, tribulations and turmoil of the past four decades America in the year 2004 is really a much better place. I would beg to differ. Has the 24 hour/7 day a week economy created by Boomers really enhanced your quality of life? Do we really need to live in houses 4 and 5 times the size of the houses we grew up in? And is it really necessary to shop in a grocery store with 25000 items? I must say that I have to agree with Paul Begala, hardly a conservative Republican, who views Boomers as "the most self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self aggrandizing generation in American history." But judge for yourself. If you are not already bored with the subject matter you may find this book to be a worthwhile read. If nothing else this is a very well written book.
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