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Publisher's Summary

Two award-winning historians explore the origins of a divided America.   

If you were asked when America became polarized, your answer would likely depend on your age: You might say during Barack Obama’s presidency, or with the post-9/11 war on terror, or the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s, or the “Reagan Revolution” and the the rise of the New Right.   

For leading historians Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer, it all starts in 1974. In that one year, the nation was rocked by one major event after another: The Watergate crisis and the departure of President Richard Nixon, the first and only US president to resign; the winding down of the Vietnam War and rising doubts about America’s military might; the fallout from the OPEC oil embargo that paralyzed America with the greatest energy crisis in its history; and the desegregation busing riots in South Boston that showed a horrified nation that our efforts to end institutional racism were failing.   

In the years that followed, the story of our own lifetimes would be written. Longstanding historical fault lines over income inequality, racial division, and a revolution in gender roles and sexual norms would deepen and fuel a polarized political landscape. In Fault Lines, Kruse and Zelizer reveal how the divisions of the present day began almost five decades ago and how they were widened thanks to profound changes in our political system as well as a fracturing media landscape that was repeatedly transformed with the rise of cable TV, the internet, and social media.   

How did the US become so divided? Fault Lines offers a richly told, wide-angle history view toward an answer.

©2019 Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer (P)2019 Audible, Inc.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Listeners over 50 will enjoy this review of the major political and cultural changes that have occurred during their lifetime - from the resignation of Nixon to the improbable ascendance of Trump. Narrator Fajer Al-Kaisi is a capable guide who moves the audiobook along at a brisk and confident pace." (AudioFile Magazine)

What listeners say about Fault Lines

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good overview of the past 45 years

History and the tools of the historian are important to understanding both history and how we got to the place where we are. Kruse and Zelizer are writing a recent history with their tools as historians. I was born in 1973, the year before this really starts and so it was a helpful, especially for the first 20-25 years old where I have some memory but not as much context as I do about the more recent history. Fault Lines is a brief overview of the past 45 years focusing on the polarization that is a result of increasing diversity and increasing cultural and political power of women, racial minorities and LGBT people and the backlash against those changes. That framing I think is helpful, but incomplete. But I am also not sure how to be more complete without the book ballooning to a thousand pages. 

There is lots of information that I had either forgotten or did not know. But this is a fairly introductory overview.  From what I understand, it is based on an undergrad class that the authors teach at Princeton. In areas where I have a bit more knowledge the gloss I think is a bit superficial in places. 

What I appreciate is both the readability and the role that pop culture and tech play in the history. The pop culture and tech are not fluff, they really do play an important role in politics and history of the late 20th and early 21st century.  

I also appreciate that the book is working at giving a complex picture of the subjects of the book. Few characters are presented in a solely positive or negative light. In particular I think Carter and Bush Sr are given more credit for their roles, which I think is where historians generally are moving. And Reagan and Clinton are approached more critically. It does make me want to read more about the Carter and Bush Sr presidencies. (I picked up President Carter: The White House Years last week when it was on sale and will read eventually.)

I listened to this on audiobook and the narration was fine. But the narrator kept trying to almost do voice impressions of well known politicians. The impressions were enough to be annoying but not enough to be really accurate. I would have preferred that the quotes have been read straight. 

23 people found this helpful

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Good review of events

It's a history book. Not an interpretation of events. If you're looking for insight, it will have to come from within yourself. :)

7 people found this helpful

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A chronology without perspective

I don' t like it when historians crowd history with their bias and interpretation but this book went too far in the other direction. We have a chronology of events without any real perspective. I was disappointed by the end and much prefer the book, The Unwinding, to cover a lot of the same material but toward a reasonable interpretation at the end.

13 people found this helpful

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Required reading

Honestly, who amongst us ever learned anything about history and 1974. What a wonderful resource for tying in recent and current societal changes and political forces. An excellent read.
I was a bit put off by the narrators voice. A bit monotone, but seriously, the writing and content speaks for itself.

5 people found this helpful

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Introduction to the state of American politics

A brief introduction traces the lines of conflict that have let to the present polarization and partisanship in the US.

Clearly and concisely written, the book portrays events that are often saddening and sometimes infuriating.

The performance is well executed, except for the baffling decision to mimic the accents and cadences of people whose quotations are presented in the text. (Sarah Palin's, for example.)

Well worth it, nonetheless.

5 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars

Headlines Headlines Headlines

this book did not have such great analysis. instead it was largely filled with headlines, and the analysis was thin.

6 people found this helpful

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Excellent! Fair and balanced

Provides a survey of key political, economic, cultural, and news/entertainment media changes in the US since the resignation of US President Richard Nixon. The author presents his opinion of the impacts on internal US politics following each major shift. Highly recommended!

6 people found this helpful

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good summary of the last half-century

The history Kruse lays out is concise and easily digested. The accents were kind of weird, but performance was otherwise good.

1 person found this helpful

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interesting idea ruined by poor narration.

Narrator seemed uncomfortable with American pronunciation. Trump impersonation inappropriate in serious nonfiction. Using a native speaker familiar with American structure and pronunciation would help.

1 person found this helpful

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Just Disappointing

I expect more from historians than just a regurgitation of data points. I learned not one new factoid. But the much more important idea of interpretation or finding binding themes or a central coherence are totally lacking. Time & money not well spent

4 people found this helpful