cover image The Century

The Century

Peter Jennings. Doubleday, $60 (624pp) ISBN 978-0-385-48327-8

A companion volume to an upcoming 12-hour TV series on ABC News and 15-hour series on the History Channel, this is one of two major histories of the current century to appear this fall. The other is Harold Evans's The American Century, reviewed below. The Evans is the superior of the two, though both volumes have their strengths and weaknesses and either will make a splendid addition to anyone's bookshelf. Jennings is, of course, the news anchor at ABC, while Brewster is the senior editorial producer of the TV series allied with this book. Like the medium they're most involved with, the authors engage--vigorously--the emotions more than the intellect, while offering little that most educated Americans won't already be familiar with, although their recitation of events and analysis of trends is solid, and they give more coverage to important recent events, such as the rise of the Internet, than does Evans, whose history ends more or less in 1989. Their writing is smooth throughout and the many eyewitness accounts to various events gives the book a personal immediacy that the Evans too often lacks. In essence, their book is a chronicle of glories achieved and disasters overcome. The treatment is episodic rather than thematic, and the chapter dealing with the decade since the fall of the Berlin Wall offers only a kaleidoscopic montage of events with no connecting thread. The array of photographs--125 full color, 425 b&w--is spectacular, however, and for many will be the primary reason to buy the book, as well as the Jennings name and the boost from the TV series, which could easily propel the volume onto bestseller lists. Major ad/promo; BOMC main selection; simultaneous BDD Audio. (Nov.)