How a Highly Influential Magazine Helped Define Mid-Twentieth-Century America

Andrew L. Yarrow

384 pages
41 photographs (15 color, 26 b&w), 20 illustrations (17 color, 3 b&w), index


November 2021


$39.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2021


$39.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2021


$39.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Andrew L. Yarrow tells the story of Look magazine, one of the greatest mass-circulation publications in American history, and the very different United States in which it existed. The all-but-forgotten magazine had an extraordinary influence on mid-twentieth-century America, not only by telling powerful, thoughtful stories and printing outstanding photographs but also by helping to create a national conversation around a common set of ideas and ideals. Yarrow describes how the magazine covered the United States and the world, telling stories of people and trends, injustices and triumphs, and included essays by prominent Americans such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Margaret Mead. It did not shy away from exposing the country’s problems, but it always believed that those problems could be solved.

Look, which was published from 1937 to 1971 and had about 35 million readers at its peak, was an astute observer with a distinctive take on one of the greatest eras in U.S. history—from winning World War II and building immense, increasingly inclusive prosperity to celebrating grand achievements and advancing the rights of Black and female citizens. Because the magazine shaped Americans’ beliefs while guiding the country through a period of profound social and cultural change, this is also a story about how a long-gone form of journalism helped make America better and assured readers it could be better still.

Author Bio

Andrew L. Yarrow has been a reporter for the New York Times and a professor of American history and has also worked in public policy, both in government and nonprofits. He writes frequently for many national media outlets and is the author of five books, including Man Out: Men on the Sidelines of American Life and Measuring America: How Economic Growth Came to Define American Greatness in the Late Twentieth Century.


"Look has now been downloaded from magazine heaven by Andrew Yarrow, a reporter turned academic and the author of five other books. His lavishly illustrated Look: How a Highly Influential Magazine Helped Define Mid-Twentieth-Century America aims not only to rescue the glossy from obscurity but to burnish its reputation for courageous journalism. In the process, he unreels a compact social history of the country from the Depression to the dawn of the 1970s with all its pleasures, pain, breakthroughs and foibles."—Edward Kosner, Wall Street Journal

"Yarrow provides an enormous amount of information about a magazine whose content and success have been overlooked, and that is a valuable contribution to journalism history and American history."—Carolyn Kitch, American Journalism

“This is a fascinating slice of American history: the story of Look, a magazine that ‘informed people rather than riling them up or scaring them.’ Andrew Yarrow writes persuasively and vividly about something precious the world is in danger of losing—journalism grounded in honesty and goodwill.”—Robert Guest, foreign editor of the Economist

“In this quietly amazing biography, Andrew Yarrow brings to life a major mid-twentieth-century magazine, now forgotten or dismissed as ‘middlebrow,’ and reveals it as path-breaking, radical, and surprisingly influential. He shows Look connecting tens of millions of readers who could assume, even when they disagreed, that they were reflecting on and discussing the same facts and opinions. A thoughtful, lively story about a pivotal thirty-four years in America.”—John Poppy, writer for Look, 1960–70

Look magazine was one of the most influential mass-circulation magazines in post–World War II America, combining cutting-edge social and political stories and gripping photography. In this ground-breaking new work, historian and journalist Andrew Yarrow recovers the contribution of this sometimes overlooked publication to examine the critical role Look played in creating an informed citizenry and generating civilized public debate.”—Rosemarie Zagarri, University Professor and a professor of history at George Mason University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. A Forgotten, Misunderstood Magazine That Helped Define America’s Golden Era
2. In the Beginning
3. Look’s Thirty-Five Years in Mid-Twentieth-Century America
4. The People Who Made Look
5. Singing the Praises of Postwar Prosperity
6. Anything Is Possible
7. Look’s Pioneering Role in Covering Civil Rights
8. Changing Families, Changing Roles
9. Changing Ideas about Women and Men
10. Baby Boomers
11. When Government and Politicians Were Respected
12. Look’s “One World” Internationalism
13. Covers, Special Features, and Popular Culture
14. The End of Look, the Postwar Consensus, and America’s Golden Age

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