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Showing 1-10 of 22 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 60 reviews
on September 10, 2016
Kaplan makes an excellent case the year 1959 was one, if not ‘the’, turning point for subsequent decades of USA history. The book is clearly an introduction to forces leading up to what happened in 1960 and rest of the decade. Among other things the USA dominant position in international affairs includes much of what happened in 1959. He writes history as literature including insights typically not found in more traditional historians such as Paul Johnson. Johnson’s “Modern Times” hypothesizes that relativity theory spread as a forceful idea effectively permuting subsequent socio-cultural and economic patterns of world history. Johnson’s book covers history from 1919 to 1979 compared to one year for Kaplan. ‘1959’ is essentially only concerned with historical experiences in the USA.
The thesis of Kaplan’s book is stated in early pages as “A feeling took hold that the breakdown of barriers in space, speed and time made other barriers ripe for transgressing.” This is directly comparable to the first chapter in Johnson’s book “Modern Times” which articulates events confirming relativity dating from physical measurements made in the critical year 1919. “It was”, Johnson states, “as though the globe had been taken off its axis and cast adrift in a universe which no longer conformed to accustomed standards of measurements.” It was felt there were, therefore, few or perhaps no standards for measuring all human behavior any more. Reading Kaplan (2008) and Johnson (1992) together is not a bad idea though Kaplan is the more current and fluent of the two.
Robert, another Kaplan, also writes (“The Coming Anarchy”) from a different piont of view about threats of nation-state disintegration he traces to tribalism and sectarianism. Both of these are consequences, and as well as influences, of events in 1959, 1919 and subsequent worldwide socio-politco-economic changes of every ilk. A common thread in all of these books is technology which, for the curious, leads to reading many other books being published distinctly establishing power of technology to influence everything in human life as well as the environment.
While there is much to be gained by reading all three of these books selecting just “1959” supplies a broader discussion of all diverse and complex forces affecting the world today begun in a single year The most important element left out of these books is climate change. Tracing exact influences between climate and socio-politico-economic forces is more complex but are clearly definable vector forces as in corporate drive to capture large segments of earth’s surface for the mineral values. Explicit and elementary actions damaging localities as in eastern USA coal or Peruvian copper mines for example.
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I finished my premed studies, and spent the summer in Germany. I had never thought that it was a pivotal year, but Kaplan mentions so many. Birth control pills; Castro came to power; JFK announced his big campaign; microchip invented; "New Frontier", Motown, Malcolm X, radiotelescopes, Edsel, Toyota all new names; Guggenheim museum opens.

So I think I'm now convinced. It WAS a pivotal year.
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on August 10, 2013
Given the wealth of things that actually occurred at the end of the 50's, it's too bad that the author spends so much time talking about how what happened in NYC was part of the events that chaged everything. Started out ok, but after awhile, I was tired of reading about the Village and the beatniks. Read David Halberstam's The Fifties. That's a great read about the 50's and how events changed the world.
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on March 25, 2016
At 1c for a book, I think this is a steal. I ordered this for my dad and he was absolutely thrilled to receive the book.
One of the fine reads to delve into the past!
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on February 12, 2015
An entertaining read, but suffers from structural issues. Unsure if it's kindle formatting, but there are way too many "breaks", which is interesting, as I usually don't like chapters that drag on too long.
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on September 3, 2016
Excellent read and fascinating thesis that the world really changed in 1959
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on May 2, 2010
Having graduated from college in 1959, I was attracted by the title and by a need to find out what I had missed in my undergraduate years and later. Mr. Kaplan helps me do just that by covering the Beatniks, Norman Mailer, Margaret Sanger, and other people and events that led to huge changes in our society, not all of which were good. For example, he explains how we went from absolutely no legal pornography in 1959 to what we have today. He makes a serious contribution to the history of the culture at the time and of the people and events that led to the chaos of the late 1960s and beyond. Despite the author's left-leanings, I found the book easy to read and track, enjoyable and informative and a good source for me as I am try to write a memoir for my family. Among other revelations, I now understand why I have recordings by Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis in my collection and none by one Ornette Coleman!

I must point out one error in the book: On the first page of Chapter 14 he writes of the Vietnamese city where the first Americans were killed in 1959 and calls the town "Hoa Binh." He meant to write "Bien Hoa." Where were the fact checkers? He also calls this provincial capital, "tree lined" implying a very nice place. Having spent time there, I would not have described it as such.

I recommend this book to those interested in history, the popular culture, contemporary affairs, and those who just want to learn about the world. I gave a copy as a gift to a retired college professor friend, also class of 1959, and he had high marks for the book.
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on August 5, 2017
Bought it for my brother-in-law; he loved it.
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on November 6, 2015
I was a little mired in some of the in-depth scholarly treatment in part of the work, but I thoroughly enjoyed reliving some of my past.
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on May 7, 2015
Bought for husband born in 1959. He wasn't sure about it when I gave it to him, but once he started to read it, he couldn't put it down. An interesting read.
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