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Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush V. Gore

(The Oxford History of the United States #11)

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  610 ratings  ·  63 reviews
In Restless Giant, acclaimed historical author James Patterson provides a crisp, concise assessment of the twenty-seven years between the resignation of Richard Nixon and the election of George W. Bush in a sweeping narrative that seamlessly weaves together social, cultural, political, economic, and international developments. We meet the era's many memorable figures and e ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 23rd 2005 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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Bryan Alkire
Aug 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
Waste of time except as an intro to the period. I was very disappointed with this one. I learned absolutely nothing new about the period. It’s standard history with no new insights. It’s choppy writing. In short, it’s the worst entry in the Oxford History of the United States. They really made a poor choice of author to do the post 1945 volumes. It reads more like a timeline of post-Watergate events than a history which means it verges on current event analysis rather than the detached objective ...more
Jeremy Perron
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My final stop on my march through the ages is James T. Patterson's Restless Giant. This volume has a very different feel from both Patterson's previous book Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 (Oxford History of the United States) and from the Oxford series in general. This book is more upbeat than the previous; this could be due to the material. Grand Expectations leaves you a little emotionally down in a reflection of the disappointment of the time period. In contrast, Restless Gi ...more
Jim
Jan 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Worthy history but a long haul and frequently rather dull. I enjoyed the portraits of the presidents from Nixon to Bush junior but in between were seemingly endless reams of statistics and data that I found a little heavy going.
Duncan
Sep 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Okay, so it's not an edge-of-your-seat thrillfest.

But if you're interested in how your world got so screwed up, Patterson has some answers.

From post-interation bussing in the 70s through Carter's good ol' boy cabinet, Reagan's public spending excesses, Bush's attempts to get the economy back on the rails, through the pop culture and electronic boom of Clinton's 90s, Patterson plots social, political and economic maps that show us how we got to where we are.

Since I wasn't born or raised in the US
...more
Lauren Hiebner
Not the greatest, not in-depth, and a somewhat conservative analysis of the times. Too soon to truly be considered history.
Richard Greene
Got this one as the last in the chronological installments of the Oxford History of the United States, covering the period from the Ford presidency to the 2000 Election. Easy read...about half the length of most installments...managed to knock it off in a day. Too soon? Yes, as in, this book written in 2005, was written too soon to cover the history of its era. Of all the writers in the series, Patterson is the most interpretive. Here, with recent events and relying entirely on hand-picked secon ...more
Mark
Nov 29, 2011 rated it did not like it
James Patterson's second contribution to the Oxford History of the United States (after his Bancroft Award-winning Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974) is by far the weakest volume of the series. Part of it is the result of the problem posed by contemporary history, which lacks the perspective provided by distance from events and an ability to render an assessment based on knowing what were the long term consequences. Patterson recognizes this difficulty, yet his response exacerbate ...more
Rodolphe
Sep 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
A good summary of the last 30 or so years of US history. It expains cogently the back story of our current political, social, and cultural problems.
Justin Evans
Dec 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-etc
A perfectly readable summary of political and cultural happenings between, as the subtitle puts it, the end of Nixon to the start of Bush II. Readable, but deeply unsatisfying, since Patterson is unwilling to actually exercise any judgement--this is a chronicle, not history. There's no causation here and no suggestion that people may have done good or bad things, just events and more events. The general tenor is "So and so said that this happened. But thus and thus said that that happened. Movin ...more
Christopher
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
From the Oxford History of the United States, Patterson presents a balanced and straightforward history of the U.S. from the resignation of Nixon to the contentious SCOTUS decision of Bush v. Gore. A central theme is the increase in various "rights movements" throughout the country by various political (and sometimes ethnic) minorities. These movements generated an ever increasing sense of entitlement among these groups and when those entitlements were not met, an increasing sense that life wasn ...more
Nick Harriss
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Following on from the high standards of the other Oxford History of America series I have listened to, this was not quite as interesting to me. While covering 1973-2000, compared with 1945-1973 and 1929-1945, not dissimilar timescales, it went into much less detail (it is just over half the length of the previous two volumes), albeit that the period covered meant much was within my living memory. It is still an excellent book, just not as good as its predecessors.
Simone
Jun 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Patterson struck again with this great summary of US history since 1974. The title is deceiving because he does not deal with Watergate at all. Still, the book summarizes the cultural, economic, political, and social developments in the late 20th century. My students really enjoyed it.
Tom Rowe
Aug 22, 2011 rated it liked it
I felt like I already lived through all of this before. It felt like a recap of the headlines throughout my life. I think it may still be too soon to look at this time from a historical perspective.
Nathan
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
It is said that people are less familiar with the recent past (those years during which they have lived) than they are with the history of previous generations. This book certainly made that point crystal clear to me. The book covers the years 1974-2001...

Patterson has provided us with a clear, consise history of America during this nearly 30 year period - covering everything from the social history of integration to the political turmoil surrounding Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, & Clinton,
...more
Ryan
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s stated early in Patterson’s survey of the United States, which begins with Nixon’s resignation and ends with the election of George W. Bush, that the history we understand least is the one that surrounds the years of our birth — i.e., our own time.

And how!

Having read several books on topics of this time period, much of the material here is revelatory and its analyses of the cultural, economic and international events during those pivotal decades fresh.

Two standouts: Patterson makes an unde
...more
Ryan O'Mulriain
Recapping a period of time that had ended only several years prior would seem an impossible task. Patterson pulls it off as well as might be humanly possible.

Approach this project as a general overview that mainly skims the surface, an obligatory end to the Oxford series (which strangely includes other yet-to-be-written volumes, 15 years after the publishing of this 'final' one). Patterson does his best to provide a useful point-counterpoint that includes an adequate amount of data (which would
...more
Matthew Griffiths
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I love the Oxford History of the United States series and this was a welcome addition to the series covering more recent history, however as enjoyable a read as it was, it isn't of the same calibre as the rest unfortunately. Weirdly it's more the authors' style than the level of detail that I feel let this one down, the narrative jumps around a lot by theme and unless you are coming to this with a fairly detailed knowledge already of historical events it could be very hard for the casual reader ...more
Ziyad Khesbak
Nov 14, 2020 rated it liked it
A history text which discusses a time period from the late 70s to the early 00s. A timely read, perhaps most notable for the zeitgeist of negativity despite some significant advances (and tragic regressions). Important to read now if only that it breaks the narrative of doomsaying being a recent development, though I am always made to think of Cato the Elder decrying city life in Rome some 200 years before the republic ever fell. This book also offers interesting wrinkles and new looks at old pr ...more
Piker7977
James T. Patterson continues his survey history of America's postwar years with this volume that builds upon the themes he covered in Grand Expectations and shows how they became more recalcitrant leading up to 2001. The narrative is straightforward and, in my opinion, very objective. There are a lot of political, foreign policy, and economic perspectives, along with cultural considerations, that underline the main events and trends.

...more
Jeff J.
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A comprehensive history of the United States from 1975-2000. The author is particularly strong on economics (the impact of technological advances such as personal computers and the internet), and to a lesser degree social history (the end of the sexual revolution due to the Aids epidemic). It was fun to relive the incredible popularity of Ronald Reagan and his presidency, in sharp contrast to the corruption and arrogance of the Clinton administration. Recommended!
William Smith
Indulging in recent history can be a stupor. Whilst this addition to the Oxford American History series may be the driest, the quick-step, hopping-stone overview from 1974 to 2001 is at its best when conveying an effortless cultural uniqueness of each intermediate decade. History is more than facts; understanding of any time necessitates deep, difficult relativism - the core strength of Restless Giant . Advisable for all those not alive during the time.
Brian
Sep 17, 2016 added it
Patterson’s Grand Expectations is duly noted, but I think time has been moving quicker and Restless Giant, though obviously too close to the period to really see as much as will someday be seen, is still an immensely valuable book.

When I was growing up, history really ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union with perhaps some attention to Terrorism and so forth. We needed to talk about the history of the country. It seems that basically, the same annoying thing that happened in the fifties a
...more
Tom Schulte
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historical author James Patterson assesses the twenty-seven years between the resignation of Richard Nixon and the contested election of George W. Bush. This narrative encompasses social, cultural, political, economic, and international developments in a context of "culture wars" between liberals and conservatives. At times, such as calling Gulf War Syndrome a "conspiracy" and with criticisms of sex, etc. in art I feel Patterson is possibly much more conservative than I, yet I feel this does not ...more
Beckie
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grad-school
A good, although sometimes boring, overview of America from 1970s-2001. I read this for a graduate class on America since 1975 and it was invaluable in helping me comprehend the primary sources I had to read for class.
Rick
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A well-written, cohesive review of US history from Nixon to Bush 43.
Kumail Akbar
This book, unlike its predecessor, felt a lot more rushed with not enough justice done to all the events and personalities in this time span.
Aisha Manus
Leans slightly left but overall a good history of the time frame. Easy to read. Recommend
Jack
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Same comments as Oxford History: Grand Expectations
John E
Apr 17, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A trip down memory lane. Still too much politics and statistics.
Brian
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
"James Wilson, a thoughtful social scientist, observed in 1995: "Today most of us have not merely the hope but enjoy the reality of a degree of comfort, freedom, and peace unparalleled in human history. And we can't stop complaining about it." pg 364

The second book of James T. Patterson in the Oxford History series which takes up from Watergate through Bush v Gore but wraps things up shortly after Bush is in Office, not speaking of 9-11 in any serious way that informs you of the particulars. He
...more
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James T. Patterson is an American historian, who was the Ford Foundation Professor of History at Brown University for 30 years. He was educated at Harvard University. His research interests include political history, legal history, and social history, as well as the history of medicine, race relations, and education.

Other books in the series

The Oxford History of the United States (10 books)
  • The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789
  • Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815
  • What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 - 1848
  • Battle Cry of Freedom
  • The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896
  • Reawakened Nation: The Birth of Modern America, 1896-1929 (Oxford History of the United States, Vol. 8)
  • Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945
  • Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974
  • From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776

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