Pros: Easily digestible A&E style learning, variety of techniques employed, good round-up of Americana
Cons: Utterly unaware of the world outside of the US, Jennings a let-down for the ever-ignored Canucks
Everyone has their own little litmus test for this sort of book; mine is Pierre Trudeau. 'The Century' flunks -- Trudeau doesn't appear anywhere. All the more saddening since Jennings is a fellow Canadian. Ghostwritten, perhaps?
It reminds me of the sort of heavy tomes I used to yank off my parents' shelves and page through as a kid -- you run out of your library books, so you go and page through the atlas for a little while, and years later find yourself yelling out 'Cote d'Ivoire' as the correct answer to a trivia question, all thanks to that boredom. I never really learned anything of lasting importance from any National Geographic or New York Times publication, but just blew a few hours with some weird stories.
This is about as ground-breaking and informative. It's filling in a few gaps in my knowledge, but leaving even bigger ones: as has been pointed out by virtually everyone, this is 'The AMERICAN Century.' It reflects the American news media standard, viz: the United States, then a few tid-bits about happenings in countries in which the US has economic interests, and possibly, if there's time, a word or two about really, really dramatic goings-on in countries like the Ivory Coast.
It claims to be a 'keepsake volume...for every family,' which it might be. I'll leave it around on my shelves with the idea that eventually I'll have children who'll pick it up and find something interesting. Most of it makes for good reading, which is a negligible benefit: historical accuracy sometimes falls by the wayside to make space for anecdotes and the like. A century from now this book will be of more note to historiographers than historians: it's nothing new or terribly insightful as US history goes, but it is a bizarrely accurate portrait, if unintentional, of the way news and history are 'made' at the close of the 20th c.
It would still make an excellent gift for that pompous git in your life who likes to have an opinion on everything, but couldn't tell you what the New Deal was with a gun to his head. If somebody gives it to _you_, page through, and then set it down and hope your kids pick it up.
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About the reviewer
K. Mennie (kmennie)
Oct 27, 2010
Nov 23, 2010 02:45 PM UTC
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A sourcebook and guide to the events, people, places, and images of the 20th century, this ties in to two TV series scheduled for broadcast in early 1999, hosted by ABC News anchor Peter Jennings. Over 500 photographs. A "New York Times" Notable Book for 1998.