Voices: The Imagined Diaries of Early 20th Century Americans

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Voices: The Imagined Diaries of Early 20th Century Americans

Last Free on: 5th Dec 16
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...Written in first person viewpoint, the author manages to give each of his characters a distinct voice and their different backgrounds and attitudes come through clearly in his writing. A light read for a lunchbreak or two. ...

This book has an interesting conceit: taking the photographs of Americans from the early twentieth century and writing point of view pieces for each. I’ve seen similar exercises done as a writing challenge by writers to put themselves into other people’s mindsets, but making it a themed collection is an interesting idea. It is easy to imagine this as a thick hard-bound coffee table book, full page photo on one side, essay laid out on the other.

These short pieces are completely independent of each other, but give interesting insights into personalities, different views of similar events, and the time periods the subjects lived in. Each section is short, maybe one thousand words at most, and written in first person viewpoint, but the author manages to give each of his characters a distinct voice and their different backgrounds and attitudes come through clearly in his writing. There are some interesting titbits, such as the difference between tramps and hobos, and the comments on the New Deal from a family saved by it. Topics range from religion to politics and the environment, events from the turn of the century to the Dustbowl and Depression.

This isn’t the type of book I would normally buy – I prefer straight historicals and biographies – but it is an interesting read. The written content is short, only 454 locations (under 50 pages) and my original read took under an hour. Each section is laid out in the same format: title, picture, copyright, and essay. The formatting is thrown off slightly on the Kindle Cloud Reader, with the title of the section, the photograph, and the copyright all on different pages. This is easily overlooked however and the editing, spelling, and grammar are fine, allowing for the strong accents some of the characters possess. Despite the heavy graphic content, the photos are black and white or sepia and the ebook is perfectly viewable on older e-readers. There is no table of contents, so if you want to find a particularly essay you have to flip through.

Checking the dates on the photos it is entirely possible some of the people pictured are still alive, if elderly (e.g. coal miner’s son, 1940). If it were possible to get their views on these pieces, I would be fascinated.

I am honestly not sure who this book’s audience would be, which makes it hard to give a rating as it is difficult to gauge the book’s appeal to them. Personally, in terms of interests I’d give it a 2, but that’s unfair as it isn’t a bad book, just not my type of book, and Unrated gives the wrong impression. It may have more appeal to Americans, whose family lived through the events.

As a coffee table book I’d give this a three: It’s a good light read, but it is short, and the pictures while essential increase the download fee for users outside the US. On the other hand, if you can get it free, it is a light read for a lunchbreak or two.

Rating: 3
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rz3300 (10 October 2016)
This seems like it would be a very valuable read. I always am looking for some good non-fiction to combine and balance out with all of the fiction that I read, and this might just be that nice little break. A good lunchtime read is always welcome for me too.

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