Understanding the 1950s

I’m going to undertake a new direction in my reading.  I want to understand the post-war generation, the 1950s and Korean War.  I have several books on my shelf which have been waiting for my interest to align with their subject matter.


This is surely the most intimidating book of the bunch. The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953 is over one thousand pages of small print.  The Washington Post says it is “far and away the most authoritative and comprehensive one-volume military history of the war, and…rattling good narrative as well.”  I’m counting on the rattling; I’m depending on the rattling.  My knowledge of the Korean War is akin to my knowledge of The Great War (WWI) before I plunged into Passchendaele and environs three years ago: gauzy, thin, about the substance of cheesecloth.  My father-in-law’s older brother was killed in Korea.  I hate that I don’t know why.  Why we were in Korea in the first place.  Korea is also one of those places that captures my imagination.  

One of my lifetime reading goals is to read all the books that David McCullough has written. I have currently read four of ten titles. Thus reading his 1993 Pulitzer Prize winning Truman will help me achieve two goals. This book was not on my shelf, but used copies are selling for .13 + 3.99 shipping.  Ahem. I just realized that it is 1120 pages. If it is like any other McCullough book, the pages will turn quickly.

My friend told me about Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure; her short summary had me salivating. Harry and Bess Truman took a road trip after his presidency, the two of them in their Chrysler with no Secret Service.  They stopped at roadside cafés, filled up at gas stations, and were pulled over by a Pennsylvania state trooper…five months after he left the highest office in the country. I know so little about Harry Truman, but I know road trips.  A trip in the car with my husband is one of my favorite activities.  

Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 1890-1952 may not be the best biography to read on Ike, but it’s the one on my bookshelf.  Lately I have read more varied opinions of Eisenhower’s presidency that I am curious.  I have appreciated other books Ambrose authored, particularly Band of Brothers and D Day: June 6, 1944.  Ambrose holds Eisenhower in high esteem; he’s been accused of being too generous with him in this book.  We shall see!

I’ll let you know how it goes.  So many times I make a commitment (even if only to myself) and suddenly – suddenly! – a latent fascination, be it Dostoevsky, Flannery, Spurgeon or Solzhenitsyn, tries to nudge into first place.


3 thoughts on “Understanding the 1950s

  1. Carol, I have that McCullough Truman bio on my shelf as well. I also have his “Mornings on Horseback”, a Teddy Roosevelt bio on my shelf.  Someday!I’ve always been interested in Truman as he is the only president from my home state of Missouri. Enjoy! I can’t wait to hear your reviews.Sandy

  2. If you’re ever in Kansas City, be sure to visit the Truman Library in Independence.  We went not long ago and learned a lot.  My in-laws are Truman fans; we are less so, but it was still very interesting. 

  3. I love this thought: “waiting for my interest to align with their subject matter.” What an excellent reason why I have so many unread books (besides time, that is!). I’ll look forward to hearing about your new venture.My husband read both McCullough’s Truman and Ambrose’s Eisenhower several years ago and enjoyed both. The page length, though, is daunting for me right now. Your reading pursuits are always so encouraging!~Janie

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