There is no sort of history as difficult to write as contemporary social history. By its nature the best of it requires a critical/analytical approach without subjective irritation and Mr. Dodds supplies this in a wry and refreshingly forthright style. He shows that democracy produces a popular culture and that this struggles with the inroads of mediocrity. He does this by tracing the literature, the music, the humor, and the living accommodations of the United States since the nineteenth century. He has compressed what must be a vast amount of reading in these areas into chapters that flow with a conversational ease. His descriptions of our twentieth century economy in terms of real obsolescence and the psychological obsolescence induced by advertising, is the most direct we have seen offered to younger readers. His discussion of literary trends is a sound digest of the history of the popular book in this period and his discourse on the attitudes resulting in changing styles of American humor is excellent. Mr. Dodds is a professor of English at Stanford University.