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The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault) (And I’ll Never Do It Again) Hardcover – January 7, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1st edition (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802121977
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802121974
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

P.J. O'Rourke and Dave Barry in Conversation

In the first paragraph of the prologue to his new book, The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way... And It Wasn't My Fault... And I'll Never Do It Again, political humor writer P.J. O'Rourke declares in no uncertain terms that he is "full of crap." Similarly, in the introduction to his upcoming book, You Can Date Boys When You're Forty, humor columnist Dave Barry explains that his book, despite its subtitle "Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About," is not about parenting.

It's easy to imagine that when these two bestselling authors and longtime pals get together, commiserative silliness ensues. But in this case, no imagination is necessary. We popped in on an email exchange between these two masters of existential trolling. Here's what happened:

Dave Barry: P.J. — I loved The Baby Boom which manages to be both hilarious and insightful. What I want to know is: How did you remember all that stuff? Especially about the '60s. Didn't you take drugs? Of course not! Neither did I! Drugs are bad! But my memories of that era are very purple-hazy, whereas you seem to remember every detail of everything that happened. How did you do that?

P.J. O'Rourke: I made it up. I'm a professional reporter. I'm PAID to make things up. Actually, I do remember a lot about the '60s. Probably because I still know a lot of the same people. And they're still yelling at me about things I did back then. Keeps memories fresh. Sort of like a wife. Just kidding, dear. Sort of like a first wife. And I loved You Can Date Boys When You're Forty. You admit you went to a Justin Bieber concert. Kind of pushing the envelope even for a confessional memoir. You're brave, dude, brave.

DB: I did indeed go to a Justin Bieber concert, because my daughter really really really wanted to go because she LOVED Justin Bieber. It was terrifying. I was in Coral Gables, Florida, in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew passed over and nearly took off the roof of the home in which I was cowering. I understood then why the noise of a hurricane is always compared to a freight train. What it SHOULD be compared to is a Justin Bieber concert. Given the choice, I'd rather sit through Andrew again.

PJO: When I pick my daughters up from school they, for some reason I can't imagine, don't want to listen to Rush Limbaugh, and so they tune the radio to what sounds to me like somebody donated 200 drum sets and an Auto-Tune to a juvenile delinquent corrections facility. But does this mean today's music sucks? Yes.

Read the full conversation on Omnivoracious.


Praise for The Baby Boom:

"Prolific political and social commentator O’Rourke, author of 17 books, including the bestselling Parliament of Whores, has created here a thoughtful portrait of the baby boomer generation and what its members have done for the American way of life, and “the way we talked everybody into letting us get away with it.” While O’Rourke acknowledges that sweeping generalizations about millions of Americans do not always apply, he seems to feel comfortable enough standardizing boomers at large as creatures of self-interest, hypocrisy, and hysteria. But even while discussing annual income and per capita GDP, O’Rourke maintains the dry wit that makes every chapter a delight, even if the picture they form is incomplete. The hilarity is helped along by plenty of anecdotes from his own life as a boomer, including the tale of when O’Rourke’s underground newspaper was occupied overnight by Balto-Cong radicals. As a cultural analyst, O’Rourke’s ability and willingness to simultaneously lampoon and celebrate himself and his generation are unequaled." - Publishers Weekly

“P.J. O'Rourke's Baby Boom may just be his best book ever. Teems with heart and humor -- much of it laugh out loud, or as the post-boomers would say, LOL -- as well as with his trademark brilliant social commentary. A terrific American memoir, in tone a beguiling mix of Jean Shepherd and "Animal House." In fact, I'm going to revise my prior statement and say flat-out that this is O'Rourke's best book ever, which is a saying a lot.”- Christopher Buckley

"His simultaneously hilarious and brainy new book, "The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way And It Wasn't My Fault And I'll Never Do It Again," holds a cracked magnifying glass up to the generation of Americans born between the end of World War II and the early 1960s. Sifting through demographic and economic data and combining the results with generous portions of personal memories, O'Rourke finds much to deplore in the boomer character, but even more to cherish and celebrate." -- Chicago Tribune

"Better than an Ed Sullivan marathon, more enjoyable than Beach Boys Radio Weekend, and more fun than cleaning out your parents' attic, this book is a boomer's delight. If your bags are packed for a trip down memory lane, 'The Baby Boom' is a book you'll want to remember to take with you." -- The Spectrum

"Delightfully and devilishly hilarious...O'Rourke shows no sign of slowing down when it comes to his witty chronicling of American life." -- Toronto Sun

"A comedic and caustic cautionary tale for future generations — and, for those of us who are Boomers, a nostalgic and hilarious diversion." -- NPR

Praise for P.J. O'Rourke:

“A prolific humorist continues his outpouring of solid writing. . . some very fine travel writing, the best of which is wickedly droll — O'Rourke at his very best. . . . Here's hoping there's another 15 books still to come.”—Los Angeles Times on Holidays in Heck

“If all of America’s registered Republicans were struck by an ideology-specific bird flu, and 50 among them had to be placed in a secure bunker to repopulate the species entirely, P.J. O’Rourke would hold a place on many people’s list, mine included. He’s funny. He tends to be against boredom and in favor of the pursuit of nonsobriety. He has a sharp nose for cant and bogusness. His conservatism is rooted in a fondness for ordinary things and a philosophy of individual common sense.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times on Holidays in Heck

“O’Rourke is an actual conservative, with ideas and a conscience, as opposed to the stealth flacks staying on party message that often pass for conservatives in these Hannitized and Limbaughtomized days.”—Chicago Sun-Times on Peace Kills

“Mocking on the surface but serious beneath, sharply attuned to quotidian hypocrisy and contradiction...this book contains some of O’Rourke’s best work to date. When it comes to scouting the world for world-class absurdities, he is the right man for the job.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review on Give War a Chance

“His explanations . . . with a-joke-each-phrase aplomb (forget waiting until the end of the sentence) make you wish he had been your economics professor in college instead of the bow-tie wearing nerd who droned on about widgets. In fact, if you fell asleep hiding your eyelids under the rim of your baseball cap during Econ 101, this book is for you.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer on Eat the Rich

“Highly pungent and wickedly accurate observations . . . [from a] boisterous, pedal-to-the-floor humorist . . . The results would curl the ponytails of most poli-sci professors.”—The New York Times Book Review on Parliament of Whores

“An acerbic master of gonzo journalism and one of America’s most hilarious and provocative writers . . . a volatile brew of one-liners and vitriol.”—TIME on Give War a Chance

More About the Author

P. J. O'Rourke was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, and attended Miami University and Johns Hopkins. He began writing funny things in 1960s "underground" newspapers, became editor-in-chief of National Lampoon, then spent 20 years reporting for Rolling Stone and The Atlantic Monthly as the world's only trouble-spot humorist, going to wars, riots, rebellions, and other "Holidays in Hell" in more than 40 countries. He's written 16 books on subjects as diverse as politics and cars and etiquette and economics. His book about Washington, Parliament of Whores, and his book about international conflict and crisis, Give War a Chance, both reached #1 on the New York Times best-seller list. He is a contributing editor at The Weekly Standard, H. L. Mencken fellow at the Cato Institute, a member of the editorial board of World Affairs and a regular panelist on NPR's Wait... Wait... Don't Tell Me. He lives with his family in rural New England, as far away from the things he writes about as he can get.

Customer Reviews

Very entertaining and very funny.
Arlene Langlands
The second half of the book was tedious and boring.
Honest John
This is just laugh out loud funny.
The Bay Gourmet

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By C.R. Hurst TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In his preface and prologue to The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way P.J. O'Rourke warns his reader that his book is "a freehand sketch, not a faithful rendering" of those Americans born between 1946 and 1964, the generation "that made the biggest impression--on ourselves." And that is exactly what he delivers in its opening chapters: an off-key serenade to his generation, sung with his signature irreverent wit and scathing social commentary. Unfortunately, I found O'Rourke's signature style increasingly less effective as the book progresses, making The Baby Boom in my mind more messy rant than pointed satire.

Being a member of the Baby Boom generation, I laughed out loud and nodded in agreement with O'Rourke's observations concerning our generation's innocence self-absorption, our spoiled brat assumptions that "we are the world" and that we will never grow old. But we did grow older, the youngest Boomer is now 50, the oldest 68. O'Rourke even organizes us into classes: freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior, each with its own character, quirks, and famous members (for example, Stephen Colbert is a freshman, Hillary Clinton a senior). He also contrasts us with other generations, especially the Greatest Generation, our parents, who "didn't get divorced" or "hit us much", and who only wanted us to be good and to be happy. I also thoroughly enjoyed O'Rourke's examination of the early influences that define us--the neighborhoods, the games, the schools, the churches, and the sports that made us, to borrow a phrase from the author, the "buttheads" we are today. Throughout these chapters I found O'Rourke's commentary a terrific mix of bravado and bull.

However in subsequent chapters, that terrific mix proved more difficult to sustain.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By David Wineberg TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Baby Boom compiles a lifetime of clichés from birth, childhood, adolescence, teen, college, and adulthood. It is introduced with these sage words: "I am - it is a writer's vocation and the métier of his age cohort - full of crap."

O'Rourke describes his generation as the first to have too many answers. As high schoolers, everyone wanted to never change from that state. O'Rourke asks us to imagine the world if that had happened. It would be exactly as it is. The generation that invented tackle basketball is now running things. Are there any other questions?

It's a tongue-in-cheek one-up of The Greatest Generation - the Baby Boom's uptight, boring parents. O'Rourke claims the Baby Boom generation is the greatest, and spends the entire book disproving it, while still claiming it. What it all comes down to is nothing- we're still just humans, doing a middling to lousy job of it. Generation labels notwithstanding.

The book operates at three levels. At the lowest and least sharp, O'Rourke relives his own life, with his various friends, neighbors and family being the butt of his humor. The middle level is how they all fit into postwar and new (Viet Nam) war America, with its hypocrisy, politics and prejudice. The top level is by far the best. It is paragraphs of sweeping uncalled for generalizations about the Baby Boom, the Boomers, and American Society. There he swings for the fences, while at the other levels he has to settle for forced clever. So it's all over the place, sometimes wild, sometimes flat, but always trivial.

David Wineberg
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R. Patrick Baugh on December 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Classic O'Rourke, maybe a little less humorous than previous books, but a little more thought provoking. As someone born at the very end of the Baby Boom generation, I still don't consider myself a baby boomer, but don't feel like a part of Gen X either, so this was a good primer of what I should be feeling/dealing with as a boomer.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Paul A. Mastin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The arrival of a new book by P.J. O'Rourke is always a cause for celebration. He is, hands down, one of the funniest, most insightful living writers. The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn't My Fault) (And I'll Never Do It Again) continues his string of great humor, great social commentary, and great thinking. O'Rourke fans will not be disappointed.

In the style of a rambling memoir, O'Rourke recounts his own life as a mirror of his generation. Much has been written about baby boomers, none of it as funny as The Baby Boom. Randomly open the book and you will, without fail, find some laugh-out-loud one liners. But reading the book cover to cover and seeing the themes and running jokes develop make this much more than a collection of jokes and anecdotes.

I devoured the book and found plenty to love, but I am still nostalgic for some of his past books. I don't know of a better book on our system of government than Parliament of Whores. And no one breaks down international economic theory better than O'Rourke in Eat the Rich. The Baby Boom is more like CEO of the Sofa, a loosely structured stream of consciousness.

O'Rourke is a national treasure. Long may he make us laugh.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Carpe Diem on January 15, 2014
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I have read all of O'Rourke's books over the years and this one, like the others, does not fail to provide the usual mix of semi-tragic insightful humor and merciless, critical self-reflection that made me alternate between laughter and tears. Here, he ambitiously paints the generation from 1946 to 1964 with a broad brush from the perspective of a rambunctious midwestern middle class kid raised in a milk toast neighborhood who eventually gets caught up in left wing campus drug, sex and political activism scenes. He takes on an entire generation's ideals and pretentiousness, its material excesses and its self-indulgence, its creativity and its hypocrisy, and its power to control and change the world. Whether or not the changes were for the better are debatable.

The best part of the book is the first half, where he hilariously describes miscellaneous "boys will be boys so get out of their way" antics to which most middle class American kids from that era will be able to relate. The second half is more serious, and though still peppered with wickedly biting humorous reflection, includes more controversial commentary and off-hand barbs against everything from the Viet Nam war to the burgeoning national debt, without offering much in the way of point counterpoint.
The book is definitely politically incorrect and adult-oriented, guaranteed to offend almost everyone, and thus is not for people who take themselves too seriously. You will likely laugh out loud in many parts, so it would be rude to read it on redeye flights where others are trying to sleep.
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