Posts Tagged ‘books’

Pete Peterson

February 9, 2010

I am saddened to read of the passing of Pete Peterson, eminent sociologist and scholar of country music. My library copy of his book Creating Country Music is full of yellow stickies with notes on them. In his writings on the cultural history of country music, he explores the intersections of business, technology, society, music, and culture in a way that both informs us about country music itself and provides a model for the study of any type of American music in the twentieth century. His voice will be sorely missed.


The Time Machine – Best Sellers

June 13, 2008

I have been examining life during the late 1950s and early 1960s from as many angles as possible. Today’s trip back on the time machine was to visit the best sellers of that era. According to the “Best-Selling U.S. Hardcover Nonfiction Year-by-Year, 1912-2002” list, apparently culled from Publisher’s Weekly, the Bible (RSV) was the winner from 1952-1954. This is the first appearance of the Bible on this list; the next was in 1961 (The New English Bible: The New Testament) and the last was in 1972-1973 (The Living Bible, or the hippie Bible as some called it). The full Protestant version (Old and New Testament) of the RSV Bible was first published in 1952.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book of reflections and essays, Gift from the Sea, was the best seller in 1955 and Dan Dale Alexander’s Arthritis and Common Sense in 1956, just one of his several common sense health books of the period. 

Finally we enter the period I am most interested in, 1957, and after years of war memoirs, a cookbook, the Bible, and books about health, we have–for two years running, no less–Art Linkletter’s Kids Say the Darndest Things! This book was an outgrowth from his popular TV series, House Party, where Linkletter interviewed children. In later years, he teamed with Bill Cosby to present a show by the same name as the book. 

The teenage culture is clearly making its mark in 1959 when Pat Boone’s ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty: Pat Talks to Teenagers holds the top spot. I can’t seem to find a summary, but given what I know of Pat Boone, I can only imagine what kind of advice is being handed out. If I find time, I will look for a copy in the library. 

You can almost feel the innocence about to be shattered here. The fact of the popularity of Boone’s book suggests to me that parents, those good, upright, Christian, law-abiding, authority-bound parents were feeling the first quivers of the teenage cultural explosion that was about to bear down on them. Even Linkletter’s book hints at the way the morality line is fading in the sand: “darndest”? We know what he really meant to say. And what are those kids saying? They’re saying grown-up, edgy things in cute, innocent voices. That they are talking at all is a contrast to earlier generations who advocated that children should only speak when spoken to. You can almost hear the crack in the wall.