Monday, November 17, 2008

Timeline of America

Timeline of America: Sound Bytes from the Consumer Culture
by Floyd M. Orr
(iUniverse / 0-595-40004-3 / 978-0-595-40004-1 / June 2006 / 300 pages / $21.95)

The nickname for this book could be Godzilla Stuffed into a Briefcase because that's what it felt like as I was researching, composing, and editing this massive amount of fascinating information into a 300-page book!

Columbus takes a vacation to The Bahamas, and discovers the area to be a fun place. He tells all his other adventurous friends about it, and they decide they all need vacations, too. Soon everybody in The Old Country is loading up enough beer to make the trip and sailing to The Bahamas.

Hysterical events have surprised us, inventions have made us more comfortable, and recreational pursuits have all but dominated our lives. The story of America is told in a pair of Jekyll & Hyde Timelines. You will meet the good doctor inside. His mean, ugly brother will arrive in 2008.

This is a lot more than a pop culture trivia book, although no simpler phrase describes it. Ten timelines tell the story of America’s development from the arrival of Columbus to the homeruns of Barry Bonds and the movie release of The Da Vinci Code. The story is separated into ten topics: events, comforts, cars, toys, movies, television, music, nerds, sports, and gossip. Like any competent trivia book, there is a test at the end, but this tale is about the quest, not the grail. This is a capsule history of the things that have defined us, and Godzilla doesn’t like being so tightly restrained.

Shannon Yarbrough, the author of Stealing Wishes, had this to say about Timeline of America in his five-star review on 8/2/08:

Hated history in high school? Prefer the facts? This pop culture book is for you!

I have the privilege of being the first person to review Timeline of America, a book that is now two years old and a part of book history itself. I must confess. I hated history in high school, almost as much as I hated math. Here's why...history classes were taught by boring coaches who only became teachers so they could coach football or baseball and relive their glory days. I guess history was an easy major for them, because every history teacher I ever had in grade school, junior high, and high school, was a coach! Had Floyd M. Orr been my teacher, I probably would have enjoyed those classes much more. Here's why...

His book, Timeline of America, at 281 pages is a "just the facts" type of book. It does not overwhelm you with the Christopher Columbus exploration, Washington and Lincoln roles, and Civil War chapters we all get crammed down our throats in a classroom. As a matter of fact, Columbus himself is summed up in a few sentences..."1492-Columbus lands in the Bahamas. 1506-Columbus dies believing he has discovered an island off Asia, not America." 'Nuff said. Let's get on with the rest of it.

And this book is loaded with lots of other interesting facts which you aren't taught in a classroom, a ton of "firsts" such as when the first UFO sighting was reported to the first Americans killed in Vietnam. In just 26 pages, the author covers a wide span of history from 1492 to 2006, spotlighting a few single events from each year. And that's just the part devoted to American history.

There are a ton of other sections devoted to inventions, food, music, movies, sports, and lots of other pop culture events that have shaped our nation. Not since a 1980s edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, that I dog eared and spent hours just thumbing through and reading bits when I was a kid, have I had this much fun with a book. Did you know that lead pencils were invented in 1492? In 1880 the first sewage system was developed in Memphis? The flush toilet was invented in 1775 but toilet paper didn't arrive until a century later? Floyd has done his homework!

For those who are car lovers or toy collectors, there are also sections devoted to you. What a blast from the past! Remember Pound Puppies from 1984? Cabbage Patch Kids from 1986? There is a piece of everyone's past in this book which you have probably long forgotten. Kudos to Floyd for collecting these details all in one book for us!

Spend some time with this book and you'll find yourself scratching your head and asking questions like, "Has it really been 10 years since the release of Saving Private Ryan?" Or you'll be reading out loud to others and saying, "Did you know..."

And for those who love to surf the web to find out what happened the year you were born, then this book is for you. Trivia buffs, history lovers, music and movie junkies, pop culture gurus, and anyone who might enjoy fun facts about our country should buy this book. It's perfect for passing the time on a long road trip. I passed it around at work one day and thought I would never get it back!

The author has organized the book by subject matter so it's easy to thumb through and find the subjects you want to read about. Then, each subject is outlined by year. In between, Floyd offers his commentary on wit on things from his own past that he remembers and finds of importance. Yep, I thought history was boring back then, but Timeline of America kept my attention right from the start!

The Table of Contents of Timeline of America

Introduction: Interpreting the Timelines in This Book

Chapter 1: The Timeline
Good for Us, Bad for the Indians
The Timeline of Hysterical Events

Chapter 2: The Comfort Zone
Beginnings, Firsts, Inventions, Food & Other Items
The Comfort Zone Timeline

Chapter 3: Cars
The Automobile Timeline 1859 – 1959
Babyhood, Childhood, & Adolescence on Wheels
The Automobile Timeline 1960 – 1970
Those Muscular Sixties: The Teenage Years
The Automobile Timeline 1971-2006

Chapter 4: The Toy Store
The Politically Incorrect Cap Pistol
Toys Defined for Boys & Girls of All Ages
The Toy Timeline

Chapter 5: Movies
The Movie Theater Experience
The Movie Timeline

Chapter 6: Television
The Boob Tube Conquers America
The Television Timeline
The Louie Martin Ernest T. Helper Story

Chapter 7: Music
Introduction: Forty Rocky Years
Rock & Roll Is Born in The Fifties
Elvis the Pelvis, a Retrospective
The Sixties – Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll
The Seventies Music Explosion
The Eighties – A Time of Transition
The Last Days of Real Rock & Roll

Chapter 8: The Nerd Channel
Publications, Computers & Playboy Interviews
The Nerd Timeline

Chapter 9: Sports Monkey Business
The Monkey Business of Sports
The Sports Timeline

Chapter 10: The National Inquisition
Introduction to American Nosiness
The Gossip Timeline

Chapter 11: The Great Big Trivia Quiz

Timeline of America Press Release

You can get your copy of Timeline of America from Amazon by clicking the link in the title at the top of this article. Here is the link to Barnes & Noble, and you can also purchase a copy directly from the publisher. Timeline is also available as an e-book.

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