cover image The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America

The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America

James T. Patterson. Basic, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-465-01358-6

In a thoughtful look at a tumultuous period, Bancroft Prize–winning historian Patterson (Great Expectations) asserts that 1965 was "a pivotal year in American life." He sets the stage with a picture of "buoyant and confident" white America in late 1964, before addressing the "shifts of mood... politics, culture, and foreign policies" that many found unsettling and divisive. While Patterson covers a wide range of influences, including developments in cinema and music, the bulk of his attention is turned toward the civil rights movement and racial tensions, from Selma to Watts, the Great Society programs of President Johnson and the escalation of the Vietnam War. A complex portrayal of Johnson as a flawed yet ambitious leader helps Patterson to show how cultural discord and polarizing politics made 1965 "the inaugural year of the Sixties" after which, "for better and for worse, the United States would never be the same again." Writing in an informative, accessible manner, Paterson creates a strong narrative, his recitation of facts helping to build his case that 1965—rather than 1968 or 1969—marked a political, cultural, and military turning point for America. 16 pages of photos. Agent: John W. Wright, John W. Wright Literary Agency. (Dec.)