Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book Review: People's century, 20th : From the Dawn of the Century to the Eve of the Millennium

I'm finding non-fiction books a little harder to review since you can't complain about bad pacing, nonsensical characters, or coincidence as much since it's real life. But it is up to the author to decide how they will present the events/characters and in what order so it's more like I'm still getting used to reading and looking at non-fiction in a different way.

People's century, 20th : From the Dawn of the Century to the Eve of the Millennium 
I know that the title doesn't match up with the one on the cover but that was the title of it in the library catalog (I just double-checked too) so I wonder if these were different subtitles (or if they library just got it wrong).

Summary: As the title says, the book is from 1900 to the 1990s and has quotes from various people during all the important times (WWI, the rise of Communism, ect) to the more mudane aspects of life (the growing interest in sports, the evolution in movie theaters) and is sepearted thematically rather than strictly chronologically.

The Good:I think I've said this before but my world and American history classes only went to around WWII before we ran out of time each school year (although I was in a private school I think I can say that most young adults would be in a similar boat). So this book was quite nice to read since it covers most of the main events of the 20th century and it's a pretty readable book. I was also keeping an eye out to see if the book seemed particularly biased and nothing really caught my attention and, if there was some bias I missed, it is published in the UK so at least it would be a different bias than what an American is used to.
The Bad: Took me a little while to get used to how the chapters weren't quite in chronological order (since each chapter was a different theme that usually covered a couple years at least) and I thought that some of the chapters (like the one on sport) felt oddly out of place all together. The title of the book does say that it's the people's century, not a history of 20th century wars, and it's a sobering thought that often when people think of a time period they think of the wars that defined it. There were some times when I was thinking "Ah, I've read about this and the ___ incident!" which would then get glossed over so the book did end up brushing over a lot of smaller events within each incident.
The Photography: Unless I miss my mark there are no new photographs in the book but a large collection of well known photographs from over the years. I recognized a number of them and it was interesting to see how some of better known photos are the more recent ones (which I guess makes sense since photography is only 150-200 years old, with how common it is now it's easy to forget). And there are lots of pictures to break up the text but, maybe it was just me, but I like the pictures but find it a little distracting to have to switch from reading the main text to reading the captions/side bars, even if I'm at the beginning/end of a section*.

As a side note, this 603 page book was one of my beach books and I only had to pull it out once for the family to stop asking me why I wasn't bringing my books to the beach. Apparently "I don't want to get sad in the binding" isn't a valid excuse but "I'm reading a huge-ass book none of y'all would dare touch" is. Also, kept getting asked if this was a textbook for school or suchlike, can someone please explain how none of my aunts and uncles with college age kids understand that if I had summer courses now I wouldn't have time to be there?
Also had a pleasant surprise when I found out my mom uses some of the videos from this for her class and she thinks I would like watching some of them so hopefully I'll have a chance to see them before school starts, no reviews on those though unless they're amazing.

*Think I can blame that on my textbooks however, the ones I end up with are big proponents of few pictures, unbroken text, no highlights/bullet points/bolded/italicized words so I've gotten used to reading the text, only the text, and zoning out a bit when I read it.

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