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The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  493 ratings  ·  45 reviews
Say "the Sixties" and the images start  coming, images of a time when all authority was  defied and millions of young Americans thought they  could change the world--either through music,  drugs, and universal love or by "putting their  bodies on the line" against injustice and  war.

Todd Gitlin, the highly regarded  writer, media critic, and professor of sociology at  the
Paperback, 544 pages
Published July 1st 1993 by Bantam Books (NY) (first published 1987)
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3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  493 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Inanna Arthen
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fascinating memoir of Todd Gitlin's journey through the radical movements of the 1960s. I especially appreciated the detail about the very early period, late 50s and early 60s, which are often disregarded in popular treatments of the era. Gitlin's writing is very literary/academic in style, and is consistent with a lot of other writing from the 1960s, something that I think many people would be surprised by. The driving personalities of that time were college students and extremely intelligent y ...more
Nov 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up-on
I don't often write negative things about books, since even the worst among them generally has some useful ideas or at least expands your mind by challenging a firmly-held opinion. Unfortunately I cannot in good faith say any of these things about Todd Gitlin.

Gitlin's writings are so pernicious precisely because they lull you into a false sense of intellectual security; Gitlin's book has about as much use for serious historians and activists as the movie Forrest Gump. It's rare indeed that a bo
Kressel Housman
In true 60's tradition, I don't remember much about this book, but I do remember that I finished it, I enjoyed it, and it taught me the phrase "red diaper baby."
Christopher Saunders
If nothing else, Todd Gitlin's The Sixties encapsulates the canned, commonplace Boomer historiography which still dominates our discourse about the age of LBJ and Civil Rights, Nixon and Vietnam, activism and backlash. It's alternately insightful and shallow, complex and simplistic, self-effacing and egotistical. In his youth, Gitlin co-founded the Students for a Democratic Society, and it's little surprise that the book's most compelling passages focus on Gitlin's activities shaping the New Lef ...more
Craig Werner
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, sixties
Addendum to the review that follows: I managed to forget one of the things that irritated me most about the book, which is that Gitlin pays almost no attention to Vietnam veterans, who make their appearance only very late. A clear reflection of his, and the New Left's, insular qualities. I've changed my mind and am reducing the rating to two stars after fall.

Very difficult book for me to evaluate with anything resembling "fairness," which is appropriate for a book that looks at the 1960s from th
Andy Miller
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When I ordered this book, I had expected to enjoy it or at least find common points of reference (I am of an age!). Then, when it arrived and I saw the size of it, I decided I would have to skim read and focus just on those sections that most grabbed my attention or accorded with my own experiences. In the end, I was hooked and read the whole of the 220K+ words.

Gitlin hones beautiful sentences and maintains this style throughout his detailed history of the politics of 'the Left' and the 'counter
Dan Gorman
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, us-history
No book cannot synthesize all elements of the U.S. in the the 1960s, but this monumental volume mounts a valiant effort. It's a stunning mix of social, cultural, and political history, combined with the autobiography of the onetime president of Students for a Democratic Society. Student protests form the narrative throughline of the book, although Gitlin shows direct action in many segments of society, from Mississippi Freedom Democrats to Haight-Ashbury performance artists. Gitlin calls the 196 ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Because of Gitlin's deep involvement in SDS, this is the most personal of the major books about the Movement. I made lots of comments in the margin, often arguing with his conclusions, which is a good sign of how he engaged me. I was quite moved by his concluding sentence: "'It was not granted you to complete the task,' said Rabbi Tarfon nineteen hundred years ago, 'and yet you may not give it up.'" We need to keep on resisting, hoping, and dreaming.
David Allen
Gitlin's focus here is the student protest movement and how it splintered, rather than a '60s overview. Well written, informative, surprising at times (the Kennedy brothers weren't well regarded by activists), but too dense in its details of the movement for the casual reader.
Tracey Gill
Only a sociologist could make interesting material boring.
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
The author gives the reader of the culture of the decade that changed America. Young people protested the Vietnam War for they felt it unjust in killing women and children in a foreign land. Our soldiers coming home were disrespected and spit upon and called baby killers. Drugs and the counterculture set the tone for liberalism. Students protested the bureaucratic system at the Universities and creating groups to fight and be recognized for their rights and music became of communicating how some ...more
Erik Graff
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
While I was growing up Dad subscribed to Consumer Reports. Well, he didn't actually subscribe. He actually would sell ten subscriptions a year, mostly to colleagues at work, then get his subscription for free. In bad years he'd buy gift subscriptions for friends and family in order to get his "free" one.

I was introduced to The Guardian, an independent radical newsweekly which published from 1947 through 1992, in high school. In college, it being my favorite leftist rag, I got my own "free" copy
John Mosman
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I found this history of the anti-war, anti-government and 60's revolution a difficult read but a fascinating one. Todd Gitlin was a president of SDS during the sixties and deeply involved with anti-war movement during the decade. This intellectual gymnastics about the third world wars of liberation (Vietnam and Cuba two examples) tortuous and difficult to follow a times. Having grown up a teenager and young man in the sixties, Gitlin gets the cultural side of the youth movement, the times, the m ...more
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
To say I 'read' this book is not correct. Over the years I have 'dipped' into it now and then, picking out pages that I thought I might find interesting. Mostly I found it too intensely detailed particularly about the early sixties and focused on campus happenings and the SDC . I guess I sort of ran between the raindrops of events in that period. I began to pay attention about 1966 to the point that by 1968 I was working at Pacifica Radio, and the turmoil of that period is more relevant to me. I ...more
Stephen Van
Aug 12, 2012 rated it liked it
If you can endure intense over-analysis of the political, social, and cultural cauldron of the 1930s-190s leading up to the discussion about the actual 1960s, you will like this. If not, you might find one of those "What a year it was!" books with the pictures of bell-bottoms and beer ads from the period. I actually thought this book might give a broader overall of the decade, but basically focused on the Leftist youth revolt of the 60s, and the author's personal experiences within. It starts wi ...more
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was weird reading about the creation, growth and self-destruction of the radical left from the perspective of the radical-right dominated 2014. Gitlin's detailed, up-close-and-personal history is enlightening, sad, perceptive and a warning of how far we've come. What was once a legitimate opposition would look foolish and be called terrorists by today's conservative-dominated media. As much as the New Left was spied on, harassed, antagonized into fracturing, today they would probably just be ...more
Jul 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Meh. Way too densely packed with detail about the SDS and other revolutionary groups. I was expecting this to be a broader history book; instead it's a memoir that only a small group of people can probably appreciate. I suppose if you were a member of these organizations, you'd care to read hundreds of pages about the bickering and in-fighting between individual group members. What this has to do with the general decade of the 1960's I have little idea. I skimmed a lot of it and gave up.

Oct 24, 2015 rated it liked it
The Sixties were like another world. They seem so far in the past, like my youth. I am familiar with the politics and interpersonal dynamics of the New Left groups and author Todd Gitlin mentions nothing that seemed jarring to my memory. Opposition to the war in Vietnam virtually exploded in a paroxysm of anger and disillusionment. Then the focus seemed to shift to anti imperialism, anti Americanism, and misplaced admiration for international revolutionary movements. Looking back, it seems odd t ...more
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book provides an extensive, detailed, well-researched, and personal account of the 1960s political youth movement. The combination of factual accounts of major events and anecdotes of illustrative minor events evokes the zeitgeist of the 60s. Although I do not always concur with Gitlin's extrapolated wisdom regarding movement strategy, his theoretical commentary is thoughtful and never overwhelms the other content. This work gets five stars primarily because Gitlin's exposition of the nitty ...more
A very detailed account of the decade, especially inside the radical student movement and the hippie/yippie dissenters. Like Charles Kaiser's book, it was published in the late 1980s long enough after to permit some reflection, some might say revisionism. This book covers some of the same events with more of the context. I enjoyed reflecting on the events myself after even more time has passed. It was surely a tumultuous decade. Like any generation in the modern time, we made some goofy, naive m ...more
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Give this book a chance. It's slow at times and not as detailed at other times as one might like, but its coverage of some events of the 60s (Columbia University sit-ins, the events of 1968, rise of Weather Underground, problems within SDS) are really riveting. And I like the conclusion where he tries to put all the puzzle pieces together in the messed-up decade of the Sixties. A little too philosophical at times, but wasn't that what the Sixties were all about?
Feb 08, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: put-downs
Well, this book just wasn't what I thought it was going to be or be about, even...completely focused on "New Left" movement of the 60s, which was kind of interesting and is definitely essential to understanding the political landscape of that time. However, it's not what I had in mind and frankly, it gave me a headache. I felt like I was doing homework. Meet the first book I've ever returned to the library without finishing it.
Dan Kugler
Apr 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is perhaps the most important history of the last radical movement that america has had... very well written by a scholar, journalist, and important SDS member (in the pre-violent, pre-druggy days)... a great counterpoint to the cultural trend (which began, after all, in the 60's) of downplaying the era's struggles for racial, gender, homosexual, and social justice and instead characterizing it as one of hedonistic irresponsibility...
M.L. Rio
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a reason you'll find Gitlin quoted in most books written on the Sixties: he was in the thick of things, and he's a sharp, incisive writer. While the book is not without its problems (the gender politics are badly outdated; it's worth remembering this was written in the 1980s), his account of the ebb and flow of radical politics in the most (in)famous decade of the 20th century is vivid, compelling, and disturbingly relevant 50 years on.
Oct 11, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: Sixties buffs or those fascinated with political movements
Gitlin is organized and thorough, but the material is a little dense. I originally read parts of this book in a college course and have returned to it chapter by chapter over the years. I assigned parts to my students, but they would have been better off with more general readings. Gitlin is a good writer, however, and it's the best read of books of its kind. Whenever I forget the names of the founding SDS members or the Chicago Eight, I don't panic, but reach for the Gitlin.
Dana D. Burnell
Nov 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
I don't mind an undisciplined sentence or six--but after a while I yearn to break out the whip! This book is interesting when Gitlin isn't discussing himself and his own experiences in the 60's, but when he's knee-deep in info about the SDS. . .well, there's no need for warm milky beverages to put me to sleep.
Aug 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
All I can say after reading this massive tome is that Mr. Gitlin's sixties were different from mine! I guess I was one of those people he talks about who took no interest in politics and wandered off in search of themselves. Not such a bad thing to do Todd, really!

That being said, if you want a reasonable history of the SDS by someone who was involved in it then this is probably your book.
Nov 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
As with And the Crooked Places Made Straight I read selections from this about 10 years ago and cannot remember the details. I have the impression that this text felt more "academic," and probably less accessible to the general public, but otherwise an interesting and broad history of the 1960s in the United States.
Francisco Acuna
Sep 27, 2013 rated it liked it
This is really a 3.2 rating. This book truly has surprisingly thrilling and interesting moments. However, the writing style that engages in excessive navel gazing detail and pandering rhetoric, suffocates them, rendering an otherwise brilliant work into a sadly boring one.

I still think is worth reading it but simply fast forward to the more historical parts.
Jul 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Super frustrating endnotes. Gitlin is a great writer that uses imaginative metaphors though out his history. His less than radical liberalism is tough to forgive, coming from such a radical background as SDS.
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Todd Gitlin is an American writer, sociologist, communications scholar, novelist, poet, and not very private intellectual. He is a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University.