Book Review: Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

Slouching Towards Bethlehem
by Joan Didion

Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers (first published 1968)
Pages: 256

Classic literary journalism which defined, for many, the state of America during the upheaval of the Sixties Revolution “It was not a country in open revolution. It was not a country under enemy siege. It was the United States of America in the cold late spring of 1967, and the market was steady and the GNP high and a great many articulate people seemed to have a sense of high social purpose and it might have been a spring of brave hopes and national promise, but it was not…” “So physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate” that people tended to forget that her presence ran counter to their best interests, Joan Didion slipped herself into the heart of the Sixties Revolution, only to slip out again with this savage masterpiece, which, since first publication in 1968, has been acknowledged as an unparalleled report on the state of America during those curious days. Now that some of the posturing and pronouncements of those times are being recycled, Didion’s sobering reflections are timely once again: ‘the future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past.”

Source: Goodreads


I won “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” and two other Joan Didion books in a competition run by subscription box Reading in Heels. I chose to start with this one after doing a bit of research to find out which one was published first.

Usually when I’ve finished a book, no matter if I liked or disliked it, I can give you a summary of what I’ve just read. Even a day or two after finishing this book, I still can’t tell you much about what I’ve just read.

I didn’t hate this, but I was confused by almost every one of the 20 essays. I didn’t feel intelligent enough to appreciate the content and as a result I just felt a little bored. Despite being short in length, this book is not a quick and easy read; each essay is full of dates, locations and statistics that didn’t mean much to me and I easily lost focus.

I’ve been thinking a bit about why I didn’t get this book and I think part of it must be down to my age and my lack of knowledge of America, especially in the 1960s. It’s not really a time or location I know a lot about, and because of that I felt a little like an outsider reading something intended for a very different audience.

I can’t really tell you anything more about this book, but to be honest, I’m glad it’s finished. I’ve heard mixed reviews of Didion’s books, so let’s see if things turn around with the other two Joan Didion books on my shelf…

Overall rating: I’m giving “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” 1 star, but not because it’s bad or poorly written but mostly because I just didn’t understand it.

See my other reviews of books by Joan Didion here:


6 thoughts on “Book Review: Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

  1. Aw man, I’m sorry your experience wasn’t any better! To be fair, I usually avoid books like this one because of the fear that it will go over my head and I will feel stupid. But I’m glad you pushed through and I hope the other books you won are better!

    Liked by 1 person

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