"Writing a global history of the second half of this century is, of course, an impossible task."
You've got to give Cambridge fellow David Reynolds credit for such frankness, but it certainly didn't stop him from setting out to accomplish the impossible. Thankfully, Reynolds succeeds brilliantly, as becomes quickly clear from this marvelous, unbelievably readable 860-page survey, roughly bookended by the Berlin blockade and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The project is impossible, "of course," thanks to the subject's staggering size and complexity, but Reynolds takes this in stride, admits his limitations, and digs into a robust, good-spirited, and even-handed analysis, intimidating as a whole but approachable and engaging in its parts.
One World Divisible does tackle it all--the political, social, and cultural changes of an era that witnessed ever-increasing unity, interconnectedness, and globalization. All the usual suspects--the cold war, the decolonization of Africa and Asia, the rebirth of post-war Germany and Japan--get predictably thorough treatment, but Reynolds also takes on the "feminist earthquake" of women's lib and the pill, examines how advances in electronics and genetics far outweighed the impact of exploiting the atom, and even tracks the global spread of "Coca-colonization" and rock & roll. Through it all, Reynolds's readable voice and thoughtful organization keep you reading; discrete, intuitive chapters such as "Israel, Oil, and Islam," "Color, Creed, and Coups," and "Chips and Genes" give you just enough to chew on along the way. A fine beginning to W.W. Norton's ambitious Global Century series. --Paul Hughes