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Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  831 ratings  ·  91 reviews
Hailed by national leaders as politically diverse as former Vice President Al Gore and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Generations has been heralded by reviewers as a brilliant, if somewhat unsettling, reassessment of where America is heading.

William Strauss and Neil Howe posit the history of America as a succession of generational biographies, beginning in 1584 and en
Paperback, 544 pages
Published September 30th 1992 by William Morrow (first published 1991)
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Bruce Kuznicki
Dec 10, 2010 rated it liked it
I liked this book and found its basic idea intriguing. However, as the book progressed, in particular as it addressed elements of history I am knowledgeable about, I saw that the authors' scholarship was sometimes shoddy; they misused elements of history they knew superficially or not at all in ways that made me doubt them generally. Essentially, I encountered this often enough to begin suspecting they were simply assuming their overall theory was correct and had not done the rigorous work of tr ...more
Nov 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
There are several aspects of this book to review. Writing style: a bit dry. This is forgivable: the authors are laying out a hypothesis that covers almost 500 years of American history, and they want to make sure you've got all their evidence. I figure the book could've been tightened up, but I guess it's better they erred on the side of too much explanation rather than not enough.

The generational theory: plausible and fascinating. The authors summarize the history of 14 generations of Americans
Simone Collins
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: coolhunting
There are only so many books in the world capable of revolutionizing the way one views people and trends. Generations is one of these rare treasures. This 538-page tome co-authored by William Strauss and Neil Howe, lays the foundation of a fascinating theory about generational, social, and political patterns and trends in the United States.

Howe and Strauss argue that since its inception, the United States has seen four repeating generational cohorts which are labeled as Idealists, Reactives, Civ
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Howe & Strauss present a very interesting and useful theory about how generations are different and what makes them so. It is called the generational archetype of four different generational types which follow one another in a repeating order:
Idealist, Reactive, Civic, and Adaptive.

There are two divisions in the generations:
Dominant (idealist & civic)
Recessive (reactive and adaptive).

The dominant generations follow from a spiritual awakening (idealists) or from a secular crisis (civics).

Aug 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Lori by: history buffs; people interested in generational cycles
Shelves: nonfiction, history
This is one of the most fascinating theories I have ever read and considered. Can the cycles of history be predicted (in broad brush strokes, of course) by the general character traits displayed by the elderly, the middle aged, the young adults and the children of each generational cycle. The authors suggest that, yes, somewhat accurate predictions can be made.

The rest is a very intriguing look at American history and the people who have played a role in this history at various points in their l
Jen Watkins
May 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating way to learn history. It makes the history of the US very tangible. I am still deciding the extent to which history is shaped by the characteristics of the generation in charge. There are some revolutionary implications here.
Ben Newton
Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've been wanting to read this book for years because I had started wondering on my own if generations were substantively different from each other and moved in cycles, although I had only gotten as far as positing 2 generational archetypes and not the four this book suggests. I hadn't read the book before now because I was concerned I was a little bit TOO ready to embrace the ideas in this book and wouldn't be reading it with a critical enough eye. I think I was right, because it is the nature ...more
Oct 13, 2013 rated it liked it
I read the 1991 edition of this book meaning it came out when I was one of those little Millennials, not really in the scenes of society. We were just children raised in a protected and loving homes. I have to say some of the predictions were a bit kooky but there were a few were spot on. I do see my generation more team-oriented, community-based folks while many of us do get along with our Boomer aged parents.

It's fun to read about our American history in a different lens through generations a
Apr 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
The book explicitly states a desire to risk "predicting" future trends, so that readers of the future could easily judge his theories for their pragmatic worth. Fifteen years after publication, confirmation of this book's concepts can be found in both the macro environment of world events and the microcosm of the thoughtful reader's own web of social interactions: with parents, coworkers, peers and children.

The book's thesis is that American history follows a near-century long cycle of four ge
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, dew01-499, 1990s
Would like to re-read - wish it was still available in regional library.
NYTimes has a recent article putting book in perspective:
"In the preface to “Generations” nearly 30 years ago, they nodded to the despair that boomers sometimes felt about the character of their peers. “You may feel some disappointment,” they said, “in the Dan Quayles and Donald Trumps who have been among the first of your agemates to climb life’s pyramid.”

Mr. Howe will admit to som
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Ok, about this book, I'm cultish. Inside its pages are all the truths one needs to understand history, time and how it changes. Seriously. I am an ardent believer in this generational history theory. I see it every single day.

Take the current presidential race. Obama's camp figured out at the beginning how to fuel change: grab the Millenials' loyalty by branding Obama as cool and *one of them*. (Millenials generation is 1982-2000 approximately). GenX (1961-1981) soon followed suit, as they do te
Martin Lowery
Jan 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Generations presented an unique and very interesting theory that could be applied to all of history as we know it.

The book itself was tedious at times, and also very repetitive. While the first 100 pages, where the authors first formulate their theory, was fabulous, the proceeding chapters where they try and apply the theory to historical generations began to become dry.

Towards the end, the book picks up, when it applies the generational theory to the modern day and makes predictions about the
Erik Rostad
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-books
Exceptional book. The authors look back through American history to identify 4 generation types, 5 cycles of these 4 generations, and then take that information to extrapolate into the future. Written in 1991, their future predictions are frighteningly prescient.

I loved this book. It provided a framework to consider American history. I wish I had read this earlier in life, for it would have helped me place historical events, people, and turning points within a setting of generations. It was amaz
Rob Salkowitz
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of the most important and influential books of the last 20 years. Offers a completely novel way to look at American history with breathtaking explanatory and predictive power. A huge inspiration for my own work.
John Beeler
Jul 11, 2007 rated it did not like it
This book is a joke. Ha!
Nov 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I really was intrigued by this book and find myself referring back to it a lot.
Oct 21, 2016 marked it as to-read
Reading this with hopes to gain insight into why Trump is an actual candidate for presidency.
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Generations is a four and three quarters book. Its flawed in thinking too much of a schema. However, the schema is highly accurate. I read the book in 1999 and found it compelling, compelling enough to read the Fourth Turning, wherein, the authors toned down the...almost Hegelian or Platonic abstraction, into which one fits the empirical.
I keep thinking of this book though, over years.
A couple of things I wish to note: first is the survey of Generation X, as compared to a similar survey of what
Zach Wadzinski
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: unowned
Strauss is probably on to something but I can’t quite place my finger on it. The premise of the book is that each generation has an overarching theme. This seems agreeable up to a certain point internally in ones nation. However once outside vectors are involved ie WWII and coronavirus, I can’t help but see certain parts of his theory ripped to shreds.

Humans inherently are complex and certainly create dynamic social structures, but theres also uncertainty and unpredictability from outside force
Jeffrey W.
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most exceptional books I have read in my many decades of reading history and socioeconomic tomes. Amazingly, although it was written in the late 1980s, it accurately describes the social and economic trends that have taken place between its publication in 1992 and the current date, July 2020. It even warns of a crisis in or around 2020, which we are currently experiencing. It accurately describes the polarization of America that is taking place and gives a clear rationale for ...more
Matthew Richards
Dec 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Approaching American history from the perspective of age location cohort groups moving through history, showing how different generations experience crises based on their upbringing, and how they interact with other generations was a really unique and invigorating. I have to credit Strauss and Howe for coming up with it.

Unfortunately, they also came up with this really wacky hypothesis about how there are four basic "personalities" of generations (idealistic, reactive, civic, and adaptive) that
Heather Denigan
May 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: polysci, world, history
Even if one shouldn't swallow the authors' conclusions without careful chewing, there's plenty of good stuff here. Two main takeaways: the argument and the methodology. The first four chapters and Appendix A all contain great material.

1) Methodology: Strauss and Howe raise the question: What do we mean when we talk about "generations?" They point out that "generation" has no set definition and has been arbitrarily applied. It can mean 18 years or 40, depending on who you ask. It can mean everyon
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
Well, that sucked.

The overarching theory, that generations affect the society they live in, and the society affects the generations growing up in them, I can buy. Their specific 4-stroke generational theory, though? Not convincing at all.

Early in the book, they make their case that what matters for a generation is birth year, not the parents of the generation. (they accompany this argument with a scientifically illiterate chart showing the spread of birth years from one generation to the next, i
Dawn Klinge
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was written in 1991 and its predictions about the future (which are now our present) are remarkably accurate. I devoured this book, and couldn't put it down for the few days that it took me to read. It explains so much about human behavior and history by picking up on repeating generational patterns. I highly recommend it. ...more
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is probably best read alongside The Fourth Turning by the same authors. Using historical data and adding their own work to the modern theory of generations, they show a pattern that repeats throughout American history. There are recurring cycles of spiritual awakenings and secular crises that impact and are impacted by the repeating types of generations they describe.

For any scientists out there who are fans of the book Panarchy, this description of repeating cycles may sound very fami
Bobby J. Hill Jr.
Jul 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in how generations work.
This book offers great insight into the generations of America and how they were shaped. Why they did the things they did. It also puts forth a radical theory of a cyclical pattern that American generations generally follow. Overall a very good, informative read.
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Everything in cycles.....poorly supported and generalistic examples pad a pretty fundamentally interesting read. Unfortunate that they cherry picked examples to fit their model rather take a truly objective look at generations. This book could've been GREAT, but as it stands it's merely GOOD. ...more
Jun 23, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2011-12
This month I read the book Generations: The History of America’s Future from 1584-2069 by William Strauss and Neil Howe. The book addresses years of research by both authors in the expansive fields of sociology and history into patterns of generational movement. Early on they describe that people often have skewed views of history. For instance, when we think of our past Presidents they seem to be frozen in time. Miraculously they all are in their 40s-50s. However, we know this is not the case, ...more
John Henry
Nov 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
Eccl. 1:4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.
Strauss and Howe write, “Just as history produces generations, so too generations produce history.” This interaction requires critical events, “social moments,” or spiritual awakenings, which define a generation. A generation can trigger a social moment, and therefore “define history.” (35)

Strauss and Howe have shown that every generational cycle has four types of generations, which typically alternate dominant and rece
Jerry Baird
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read this book in 91 when it was first published. It presented me with a wonderful perspective on looking at our past generation , and how they were affected in their youth, active age, and old influences. A wonderful application to everyday life and how we build our influences on the world. Now finished A Generation of Sociopaths and find it disturbing that my generation of the "Boomers" has provided a sad commentary on our current state as a country. Sadly our parents of the Civic Generation ( ...more
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