The Forties in America World War II and the Postwar Years in America

A Historical and Cultural Encyclopedia
. 978-1-58765-659-0. The Forties in America. 3 vols. Salem. 2010. 1296p. ed. by Thomas Tandy Lewis. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781587656590. $364; Online: Salem History Young, William H. & Nancy K. Young. World War II and the Postwar Years in America: A Historical and Cultural Encyclopedia. 2 vols. ABC-CLIO. 2010. 720p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780313356520. $180; Online: ABC-CLIO eBook Collection REF
OrangeReviewStarHistory isn't the only thing that repeats itself; the same can be said of history reference books. Here, two titles examine the major events of the 1940s, detailing the transformation of the United States from World War II to a nuclear superpower. Comparison of article lists reveals surprisingly little overlap. Though this is an oversimplification, Forties may be viewed as the "serious" set, with entries covering the social scene ("Bobby-soxers"), literature ("Literature in the United States"), music ("Andrews Sisters"), law ("Cantwell v. Connecticut"), and many other contemporary topics. Postwar Years is the "silly" set, looking at fads and fashions, movies, comic books, television shows, and all the other ephemeral themes that comprise so-called popular culture. While the former set has more numerous (650) articles of shorter length, the latter has fewer (175) but more comprehensive entries. Each Forties article features fast facts regarding who/what/where, an italicized sentence or two giving the gist of the entry, the article body, and a concluding "Impact" paragraph that explains lasting significance. Longer entries have a "Further Reading" list; regardless of length, all are signed and contain cross-references. Crisp black-and-white photographs, sidebar articles, and 17 appendixes round out the set. (Roughly comparable is the 1940s set from Gale's American Decadesseries, which takes a more narrative approach, though the encyclopedic format of Forties is likely preferable.) Postwar Years similarly presents well-written and interesting material supplemented with black-and-white photographs. An especially appealing feature is a series of tables (103 total) listing Broadway musicals, films, best-selling books, etc., along with pertinent commentary that helps to recall the temper of the times. Rounding out the volumes is a chronology of the decade and an extensive bibliography. BOTTOM LINE These two sets should be seen as a complement to each other—what can't be found in one title may generally be found in the other. Therefore, both are highly recommended for purchase by all public and academic libraries. However, should tight budgets allow only one choice, this reviewer sides with Forties, as its broader scope presents a bigger slice of that decade's pie.—Michael F. Bemis, Washington Cty. Lib., Woodbury, MN
Gr 10 Up—One goal of this set is to portray the decade's many unique contributions to our history and our way of life. The scope is quite broad, but the text is comprehensive, covering people, events, and developments in the United States and Canada. As one might expect, a great deal of the material is devoted to some aspect of World War II and its impact on society. However, other topics are not slighted. The two-column, alphabetically arranged entries vary in length from approximately one to six pages. Each one begins with a description of the figure, event, performance, book, lawsuit, organization, etc., covered, followed by a brief synopsis and an in-depth discussion of the topic. Some entries close with an "impact" statement; all entries are signed and conclude with annotated further-reading suggestions (usually at least three items), and a list of see-also references. Occasional black-and-white photos, maps, charts, and boxed features add to the text. Each volume contains its own table of contents. Volume three concludes with more than 100 pages of detailed appendixes, which consist of various listings, such as "Entertainment: Major Radio Programs" (one of four entertainment categories), legislative actions, and Supreme Court decisions; a bibliography and glossary; a list of entries by category; and photo, personage, and subject indexes. Free online access to the same information comes with purchase of the print set. Libraries should give The Forties serious consideration.—Eldon Younce, Anthony Public Library, KS
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