1968: The year that rocked the world, Mark Kurlansky

I like the way that this book sounds, an historical text rewritten as a story by a journalist who has the ability to make anything sound interesting. The research involved is penetrating in the way that it picks up on personal points from eye witness accounts, this leaves the reader with a genuine sense of enlightenment from the start.

The narrative manages to be informal whilst retaining a certain credibility, like it reads well but isn’t unnecessarily academic. The story is written with an infectious pace and momentum that strings together seemingly unrelated scenarios in a fascinating manner. Towards the end of every chapter the reader is treated to a preview of what’s coming next in the same manner that a DJ will mix themes into a mix. Kurlanksy achieves this amongst the diverse subject matter available from Europe and the Americas, no mean feat considering the differences between the continents at the time.

I looked forward to getting to the station in the mornings for the next instalment of the unending chaos that was 1968. Much of the book is preoccupied with student protests from around the globe, especially those in the US, sometimes at the expense of events in Vietnam and Czechoslovakia. However this is my only criticism worth noting. The tempo of violence towards demonstrators increases as the book moves towards an ending, ultimately finding a conclusion in the disastrous events in Tlatelolco, Mexico. Some of the accounts of Police brutality should shock, but for some reason seem entirely plausible – a sign of the cynicism and reality of modern living maybe.

Around every corner seemed to be a fresh face from the news waiting to have some sort of involvement that would propel them to fame in the next thirty odd years. Some of them are welcome in the form of Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and Abbie Hoffman – last weekend I read a large chunk of the book whilst playing the above mentioned music to great effect. Others are more ominous faces from the past that seem to linger with us, think Nixon, Reagan, Colin Powell and the Soviet Union.

1968 is a riveting book written with speed, enthusiasm and humour. A complete success every morning on the District line.

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