The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman

The Nineties

The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman is a multi-dimensional masterpiece that captures the nuances of life in the 1990s. Written by one of pop culture’s most influential critics, this book is an exploration of the decade’s film, music, sports, TV, politics, and changes regarding race and class and sexuality. Klosterman’s writing is smart and delightful, and his book is a joy to read.

Klosterman’s book is a reckoning with the decade that gave us slacker/grunge irony about the sin of trying too hard. He examines the decade’s prominent figures and influential artists, as well as those whom the dominant culture ignored.

Klosterman also delves into the predicament of his enterprise: how to explain the soft differences between life in the 2020s and life in the 1990s to any person who did not experience both as an adult.

The Nineties is a book about all things 90s by a very 90s figure. It inadvertently captures what was so problematic about this period, and it is an excellent book on an important era. It is a work of synthesis that will be referred to by future historians as Klostermanian.

What I Liked

Ohhhhh boy wow, was this book hilarious and amazing. Now – I was born in 1985 and spent years living outside the US in the 1990s, so this book almost felt like it was written to explain the 1990s and what on Earth has happened to me. Like – I lived through the decade and was aware of generally what was going on, but, I was a kid and didn’t really understand the full scope of cultural change.

I loved how he framed the ’90s – it started with the fall of the Berlin Wall and ended with 9/11.

I loved the book’s Big Idea – the ’90s were the Last Decade. Because of shifts brought about by the Internet and globalization, the ’90s were the last time where you had true trends in culture. Now, it’s everything everywhere all the time all at once – in the ’90s, you could go to school and actually talk to someone about Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, or the newest music album, or what clothes someone had bought – there was a cultural consciousness that existed in every decade previously…but now no longer exists.

I loved, loved all the weird cultural changes that have taken place so quickly that we didn’t notice it. For example, he pointed out that in 2000, everybody in the US received, for free and on their doorstep, a catalog of everyone’s phone number and home address in a giant, published book. You had to pay to opt out of this thing. But now, it is not only considered rude, but can be criminal harassment to publish someone’s address and phone number online. Very weird.

What I Did Not Like

Nothing! However – it is going to hard to recommend this book to anyone born after 1995. And really, it’s really only perfect for anyone who was a young adult or kid in the ’90s – think Gen X or Millennial.

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