Friday, June 28, 2013

Booknote: The New York Times: The Times of the Eighties

William Grimes, ed., The New York Times: The Times of the Eighties. New York: Black Dog and Leventhal, 2013.

ISBN: 978--1-57912-933-0

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: history, popular culture

This is a compilation of news stories with photos that shaped the decade of the 1980s. The material, naturally, comes from The New York Times. I have to say that though there is coverage of world events, most of the focus is still centered on the United States. Ronald Reagan looms large in the narratives. Granted, he was a major figure and influence on the decade, for good or ill, but it seems the editor wanted to make sure he was present pretty much in every section of the book. Was Reagan really so omnipresent in the decade, or were the folks at the NYT just really big fans? Maybe it's a little of both, and it is a question I will allow readers to consider.

The book begins with an introduction that presents the decade and provides some context. We get a basic summary of what happened. For those of us who lived through the decade, this is a trip down memory lane. For those born later, it's a basic summary and explanation of the decade's significance. For instance, many of the inventions we take from granted today came about or took shape in the 80s.

The book is divided then into eight thematic chapters: national (U.S.); international; business; New York (remember, this is a book from The New York Times); science, technology and health; fashion and life & style; and sports. Each chapter opens with an introductory essay that sets up the stories selected for each chapter. After each essay, we get a very good sampling of stories for each chapter's theme. Aside from what I mentioned earlier in terms of coverage, the book does pick up a lot of events and people from the decade. From the great business scandals to accomplishments in sports and arts to great moments in science and technology, it seems like almost everything is in here.

This is a book that lends itself to browsing. As I mentioned before, for those who lived during the decade, it is a walk of memories from great joys such as "the Miracle on the Ice" to disasters such as African famine and what became the AIDS epidemic. It is an interesting experience reading this book knowing how things have turned out, saddened at times that some lessons from the past have not been learned. Still, this is a good book to look through, and I think it is one worth sharing with younger generations. The book also features some good color photos with the news clipping. I will say I wish some of the photos were larger.

There is a lot to see, remember, and learn from the 80s, and this book does pretty well in capturing a very large part of it. Fans of the decade will probably want to acquire it. As a librarian, I think this may be a good selection for public libraries. Some academic libraries, especially in teaching schools and/or with popular culture collections may want to consider it as well.

Disclosure note: This review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley as an e-book review copy in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more. The book was scheduled for publication June 4, 2013, so it should be out in stores by now. 

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