I first read this book at 16, in the process of searching for an anchor for a newfound identity. I desperately needed some cultural context for my own life, and I was incredibly grateful for this book.
It's a great mix of personal stories and objective history, so that the narrative never gets too dry but still does an excellent job of pulling back to show the bigger picture. It's incredibly well-researched and informative, but also funny and sad and poignant by turn, almost what you would expect from fiction.
The pictures included are amazing in terms of being able to see the march of progress in the faces of real people, as well.
I've re-read it many times since I was a teenager, and it's still fascinating. I keep meaning to read the author's other works, but somehow haven't managed it yet - but my battered old copy of this book has survived numerous moves and oh-god-I-have-to-get-rid-of-some-books moments because I love it so much.