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Letter from America, 1946-2004

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  191 ratings  ·  22 reviews
For over half a century, Alistair Cooke entertained and informed millions of listeners around the world in his weekly BBC radio program "Letter from America." An outstanding observer of the American scene, he became one of the world's best-loved broadcasters, and a foreigner who helped Americans better understand themselves.
Here, in print for the first time, is a collecti
Paperback, 510 pages
Published June 2nd 2005 by Penguin Books (first published October 1st 1994)
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I'm working my way through it, savouring the letters. This is the Folio Books edition - yes I'm a sucker for their beautifully produced books - and that adds to the pleasure. Alistair Cooke has a nicely rounded turn of phrase and he has so much to say about America.

For my part, I have a lot to learn, even though I've visited once or twice each year since 2005. A fascinating culture, rich and robust.

Alistair Cooke's extraordinary career chronicles the rise and glory of the superpower from the tri
Cooke, Alistair. LETTER FROM AMERICA: 1946-2004. (2004). *****. Most of know Cooke through his series for PBS, “America,” and for hosting various specials on that channel. His fascinating book that accompanied the “America” series was also a best-seller. He was born in 1908 in Slaford, Lancashire, with the name of Alfred. He later changed it to Alistair. From early on, he was an ardent Americanophile, and moved to this country in the 1940s, taking up American citizenship in 1941. “Letter From Am ...more
When I was a child, our family used to cluster round the 'wireless' to hear Alistair Cooke's Letter from America. In post-war Britain, that weekly report from a suave journalist whose voice hovered somewhere between British and American English was for millions of people the authoritative guide to the still poorly known country that had been our ally and with which we had a 'special relationship'. Cooke continued with his weekly letter into his final year, at the age of 95, becoming a broadcasti ...more
Visually, the book is the thickness of a good sized beefburger. Which is an apt description for this delicious opus of American history. As English as cups of tea, guard change at Buckingham palace and sunday roast- Cooke guides us through half a century of Americana in a sweeping, unsympathetic style. We go from the black slums of 1940's Louisiana to the gilded luxury of 5th Avenue; from the segregated and private jazz clubs to beat-boxes blaring out hip hop for all to hear. It documents presid ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]Part of the Sunday morning routine of my childhood was to listen to the weekly ten or fifteen minute "Letter from America", one of the world's longest radio programmes, produced in a stunning 2.689 editions over 58 years before Cooke gave up in 2004, a few weeks before his death at the age of 96. By the time I started understanding the content of the talks, Cooke was already sixty and had been doing it for over half his life.[return][return] ...more
I think this was most interesting for the look at history and how the world has changed over the 60 years covered by Cooke's broadcasts. I think that Americans still have an erroneous idea of British superiority or sophistication or enlightenment and this book manages to debunk that. Cooke was as gullible and prone to racial bias and (up to the end) male chauvinism as the country he covered. He also was more conservative and supportive of the government position in all things (less so with Presi ...more
Alistair Cooke's famous BBC programme, Letter from America, was begun in part to teach Britain about America. This collection of his essays fulfills that aim. These letters are both excellent short pieces demonstrating Cooke's command of the English language, as well as a standalone history of America. Cooke's longevity in his adopted country and remarkable ability for meeting the great and famous allows him to describe all aspects of America's culture and history from the end of the Second Worl ...more
Taken from his radio broadcasts called Letter from America, this is a truly remarkable volume. Through a rich tapestry of details on a vast range of subjects you are taken to very heart of a nation, it's a 360 panorama. Cook's portrait of America and Americans is insightful, his knowledge encyclopedic, his journalistic style unique, calm, beautifully crafted and never glib or derogatory. This book is highly entertaining, informing, full of fascinating anecdotes and, above all, a delight to read. ...more
I discovered Alistair Cooke's "Letter from America" in 2002, I think, and listened to it regularly until he died in 2004, only a week or two after his last broadcast. He spoke about the people he met, about his musings on the week, about politics and world events, and about his observations on the character of America and Americans. I saw this book in Barnes and Noble in the winter of 2004, and when I read from it, I could hear Cooke's voice in the ear of my mind, witty and wry and full of obser ...more
A brilliant collection of broadcasts which capture Cooke's insights on the American way of life from 1946 to 2004. Each letter stands by itself as a minor masterpiece of observation, wit and style. Cooke writes about the great and good of American society from Presidents to Hollywood stars from the Vietnam War , the assassination of Kennedy and the Watergate scandal to his favourite sports of Golf and Boxing.
This man had the best job in radio. A weekly BBC broadcast about life in the US that lasted for 58 years.Its an encyclopedia of American life written with such a beautiful attention to detail and a little old school charm.

This man must have had one hell of a contact book and yet I never got the impression that he took his job for granted. For a snapshot of American culture its one of the best books Ive read.

This book was a series of Letter Cooke was commissioned to write from America to the UK. There were also turned into a series of radio casts. There were some really interesting articles in here and the richness of Cooke’s style pours out on every page. The only downside was that there was soo much about American politics that those I simply skipped - hence the 3 star rating. Not interested in that side of things at all. Some of the interesting letters for me were about: immigration in USA, Joe L ...more
Am loving it, but the podcasts are better. His voice and diction add his personal subtle humour to the stories and allow the imagination to see what he saw.
Here is a link to the podcasts:
Alastair Kerr
A choice selection of transcripts from Alistair Cooke's fantastic long running radio show. Really captures the changes in the United States over 50 years and the thoughts of a unique journalist.
Excellent essays, especially the ones NOT around some topical person or event.
In 1946 the BBC asked writer and journalist Alistair Cooke to do a weekly broadcast from the US to Britain about America, its life, history and idiosyncrasies. That short weekly broadcast became a national institution and one that Cooke kept up until his death in 2004. This book collects letters from each decade that they were written and they provide a fascinating insight into that vast continent-as-country. The early letters in particular show both an America and a Britain very different to to ...more
I dont remember when I discovered the BBC radio broadcasts. Most likely in the early 90's when I was bored with the Top 40 and Latio stations I usually listened to in my car.

There was a familiar voice which sounded comforting and polished, talking about America to the listening audience in Britain. The voice belonged to Alistair Cooke, familiar to most Americans as the polite British man who held our hand as he introduced us to British Drama on Masterpiece Theatre on PBS.

His radio segment called
Anthony Cleary
When it comes to day-by-day observations of the life and times of the most powerful nation on Earth, this is as close as one can get to beautiful writing. If you were lucky enough to hear the weekly broadcasts, the soft tone belying the incisive comment, you will be transported to the side of your radio each time you open this wonderful book. Highly recommended.
A book to dip in and out of. Some of the talks now seem a little outdated, but others provide an insight into events that I only had passing knowledge of. For example the description of the OJ trial and Watergate.
What a marvellous life and what a wonderful writer and voice.....!
Feb 09, 2009 Jim marked it as to-read
savouring slowly
(thx to jawin)
I'm a relatively recent convert to Alistair Cooke so I read this to catch up on the 60 years of broadcasts I missed! What an interesting book, full of anecdotal insight and humour.
Sascha marked it as to-read
Oct 02, 2015
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Alistair Cooke, KBE (1908-2004), was a legendary British American journalist, television host, and radio broadcaster. He was born in Lancashire, England, and after graduating from the University of Cambridge, was hired as a journalist for the BBC. He rose to prominence for his London Letter reports, broadcast on NBC Radio in America during the 1930s. Cooke immigrated to the United States in 1937. ...more
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