The Bookworm Sez

Review: 'The Mindset List of American History'

By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Real AspenAugust 13, 2011
Last week, something happened that hasn’t happened in you-don’t-know-how-long ago.

You got a letter.
“The Mindset Lists of American History” by Tom McBride & Ron Nief c.2011, John Wiley & Sons $19.95 / $23.95 Canada 261 pages

Buy it on Amazon

Hand-written on paper. Brought to your house in an envelope with a stamp. And it wasn’t asking for money, giving you doctor’s results, or telling you that garbage pick-up day got changed. It was from someone who was “thinking of you.”

These days, a letter in the mail is something so rare that it makes you really notice. But in your mother’s day, sending letters was common and easier than making a phone call. In the new book “The Mindset List of American History by Tom McBride & Ron Nief, you’ll read about those and other generational markers.

Sometimes, when you look at the state of the world today, you almost wish for a vacation back in time. But be careful what you ask for…

As an 18-year-old in 1898, Great-Great-Grandma had already seen many of her peers leave school before puberty. The lucky few who attended college became doctors, perhaps, in order to cure deadly diseases not yet identified, but overall, higher education was unlikely.

Instead, people went to work. Unmarried women might find office employment, and the new QWERTY typewriter. They could type, but they couldn’t vote.

Fast forward.

Great-Grandpa, born in 1900, might have skipped high school to work twelve hour days, seven days a week in a factory. After four days, he’d have enough to buy a few groceries but times were improving: politicians had long been lobbying for national health care and automobiles were becoming a means of real transportation rather than just a hobby.

Fast forward

By the time Dad was born in 1939, he could count on zippers to keep his coat on and radio drama to make his heart pound. Upon graduation from high school, he’d seen scrap drives, victory gardens, and the invention of ballpoint pens, and though his parents complained about tax withholding from their paychecks, they got a deal on his college tuition: it cost them a whopping $2,000 for four years’ matriculation.

Fast forward.

This years’ college freshman have probably never dialed a telephone. Computers have always been portable, TVs have always been flat, and “friend” is both verb and noun. For them, there’s always been Disneyland, MTV, and HIV.

Fast forward – again? Nobody knows, but the authors take a guess…

Okay, so maybe you don’t want that time machine after all. “The Mindset Lists of American History” is probably more affordable anyhow. It’s surely more fun.

Authors Tom McBride & Ron Nief have consolidated just about everything you’d find fascinating about pop-culture in the past 113 years, they’ve done it with lists and short narratives, and they’ve done it in one lively book. This is a jaw-dropping, yet lighthearted read that puts plenty of things into perspective, and I couldn’t put it down.

If you’re a trivia fan, a historian, Boomer, or lover of unique knowledge, I think you’ll enjoy it, too. In fact, you’ll want to give “The Mindset Lists of American History” one thing: the letter “A.”

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