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20 best books on 60s counterculture – 2023 reading list & recommendations

Are you fascinated by the rebellious spirit and transformative energy of the 1960s counterculture movement? If so, you’re in for a treat! In this article, we’ve curated a list of the 20 best books about 60s counterculture that will take you on a captivating journey back in time. From iconic memoirs and historical accounts to thought-provoking novels and eye-opening cultural analyses, these books offer a comprehensive exploration of the era that forever changed society. So, grab a cup of tea, get cozy, and get ready to immerse yourself in the vibrant world of the 60s counterculture.

  • 1 The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
  • 3 The Doors of Perception
  • 4 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • 5 On the Road
  • 6 The Feminine Mystique
  • 7 The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • 8 The Dharma Bums
  • 9 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • 10 The Catcher in the Rye
  • 11 The Joyous Cosmology
  • 12 Slouching Towards Bethlehem
  • 13 The Making of a Counter Culture
  • 14 The Politics of Ecstasy
  • 15 The Armies of the Night
  • 16 The Electric Church
  • 17 The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage
  • 18 The Beatles: The Biography
  • 19 The Revolution Was Televised
  • 20 The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974
  • 21 Conclusion

best books about 60s counterculture The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Buy the book

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

By tom wolfe.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe is a mind-bending journey through the psychedelic era of the 1960s, a book that encapsulates the essence of the counterculture movement. Considered a cult classic, this work of non-fiction takes readers on a wild ride with author Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters as they traverse America in their psychedelic bus named “Further.” Wolfe’s immersive writing style injects readers with a dose of the psychedelic experience, capturing the essence of the era in a way that no other book about 60s counterculture has. Prepare to be transported back in time to a world where boundaries were pushed, minds were expanded, and the spirit of rebellion ignited a cultural revolution. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is truly a 60s counterculture book like no other.

best books about 60s counterculture Hippie

by Paulo Coelho

Hippie, written by Paulo Coelho, is a captivating book that delves deep into the vibrant world of the 60s counterculture. This enthralling novel takes readers on a journey through the experiences and adventures of Paulo, a young Brazilian man, as he embarks on a transformative trip across Europe and Asia.

best books about 60s counterculture The Doors of Perception

The Doors of Perception

By aldous huxley.

The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley is an awe-inspiring journey into the depths of consciousness and perception. This remarkable book on 60s counterculture takes readers on a mind-bending exploration of altered states of consciousness and the profound impact they can have on our understanding of reality. Huxley’s words dance off the page, inviting us to question the limitations of our everyday perceptions and consider the expansive possibilities that lie beyond.

best books about 60s counterculture Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

By hunter s. thompson.

Welcome to the wild and psychedelic world of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas!

This captivating novel by Hunter S. Thompson takes readers on an exhilarating journey through the heart of 60s counterculture. Brace yourself for a mind-bending experience as Thompson immerses you in a whirlwind of drugs, chaos, and outrageous adventures.

Set in the infamous city of Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas follows the drug-fueled escapades of journalist Raoul Duke and his eccentric attorney, Dr. Gonzo. Together, they embark on a wild road trip that defies all societal norms and pushes the boundaries of sanity.

Thompson’s writing style is as electrifying as the era it represents. His vivid descriptions and relentless energy perfectly capture the essence of the 60s counterculture movement. With his unique blend of Gonzo journalism and dark humor, Thompson paints a vivid picture of a society on the brink of madness.

Prepare yourself for a rollercoaster ride of emotions as you navigate through the highs and lows of Duke and Gonzo’s drug-induced odyssey. From their encounters with strange characters and bizarre situations to their relentless pursuit of the American Dream, every page of this book is a thrilling and thought-provoking experience.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is not just a book about 60s counterculture; it is an anthem, a testament to the rebellious spirit of an era that challenged and reshaped society. Thompson’s masterful storytelling will leave you both captivated and enlightened, making this a must-read for anyone seeking an authentic glimpse into the tumultuous world of the 60s.

best books about 60s counterculture On the Road

On the Road

By jack kerouac.

On the Road is an exhilarating journey through the heart of the Beat Generation, a groundbreaking movement that emerged in the 1950s and paved the way for the 60s counterculture revolution. This legendary novel by Jack Kerouac encapsulates the spirit of a generation searching for meaning, freedom, and adventure.

best books about 60s counterculture The Feminine Mystique

The Feminine Mystique

By betty friedan.

The Feminine Mystique, written by Betty Friedan, is a groundbreaking book that delves deep into the societal norms and expectations placed upon women in the 1960s. Considered a revolutionary manifesto, this book on 60s counterculture challenges the traditional roles assigned to women and explores the discontentment and dissatisfaction experienced by countless housewives of the era.

best books about 60s counterculture The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

By malcolm x and alex haley.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a captivating memoir that delves into the life of one of the most influential figures in American history. This groundbreaking book chronicles the journey of Malcolm X, an African-American civil rights activist and prominent leader of the Nation of Islam during the 1960s, a time of immense social and political upheaval.

Written in collaboration with acclaimed author Alex Haley, this book offers a unique perspective on the struggles and triumphs of Malcolm X as he navigates through a turbulent era of racial discrimination, systemic oppression, and the fight for equality. With its raw honesty and powerful narrative, it provides an intimate look into the life of a man who became an icon of the 60s counterculture.

Malcolm X’s autobiography takes readers on a transformative journey, starting from his childhood in Lansing, Michigan, where he experienced the devastating effects of racism firsthand. As he grew older, Malcolm X’s involvement in criminal activities led him to prison, where he discovered the Nation of Islam and embarked on a path of self-discovery and enlightenment.

The book vividly portrays the evolution of Malcolm X’s ideologies and beliefs – from his early advocacy for separatism and black nationalism to his later transformation towards a more inclusive and universal message of racial harmony. It delves deep into his experiences as a powerful orator, his encounters with prominent civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., and his eventual pilgrimage to Mecca, which profoundly reshaped his worldview.

Through its compelling narrative and profound reflections, The Autobiography of Malcolm X offers readers a thought-provoking exploration of not only the life of a remarkable individual but also the broader struggles and triumphs of the 60s counterculture. It is a book that challenges conventional wisdom, provokes critical thinking, and serves as a testament to the power of personal growth, resilience, and the pursuit of justice.

best books about 60s counterculture The Dharma Bums

The Dharma Bums

The Dharma Bums is an electrifying book on 60s counterculture that will transport you to a world of freedom, adventure, and self-discovery. Written by the legendary Jack Kerouac, this novel takes you on a wild journey through the Beat Generation, capturing the essence of a generation seeking liberation from the constraints of society.

best books about 60s counterculture One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

By ken kesey.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a mesmerizing novel that delves deep into the heart of 60s counterculture. Written by Ken Kesey, this book takes us on a wild journey through the chaotic world of a mental institution, challenging the norms and questioning authority at every turn.

best books about 60s counterculture The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye

By j.d. salinger.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is not your average book on 60s counterculture. This iconic novel takes readers on a wild journey through the mind of a disillusioned teenager named Holden Caulfield. Set in the 1950s, but still resonating with the spirit of the 60s counterculture, this coming-of-age story captures the essence of rebellion, alienation, and the search for authenticity.

best books about 60s counterculture The Joyous Cosmology

The Joyous Cosmology

By alan watts.

The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts is a mind-bending exploration into the psychedelic landscapes of the 1960s counterculture. This exhilarating book takes readers on a journey through the realms of expanded consciousness, offering a profound reflection on the nature of reality and the human experience. Watts delves into the mystical and transformative power of psychedelic substances, inviting readers to explore the depths of their own consciousness and challenge societal norms. With its vivid descriptions and philosophical insights, The Joyous Cosmology is a captivating and thought-provoking read that captures the essence of the 60s counterculture movement.

best books about 60s counterculture Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

By joan didion.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a captivating book on 60s counterculture written by Joan Didion. With her razor-sharp prose and keen observations, Didion takes readers on a journey through the tumultuous era of the 1960s, offering an intimate and insightful portrait of the societal upheaval and cultural transformation that defined the time. Through a collection of essays, she explores the essence of the 60s counterculture, delving into its hopes, dreams, and disillusionments.

best books about 60s counterculture The Making of a Counter Culture

The Making of a Counter Culture

By theodore roszak.

The Making of a Counter Culture by Theodore Roszak is a fascinating exploration of the counterculture movement that took place in the 1960s. This groundbreaking book offers a deep dive into the social and intellectual revolutions that shaped the era, providing a comprehensive analysis of the cultural shifts and ideological transformations that occurred during this tumultuous time.

Through his insightful and thought-provoking writing, Roszak takes readers on a journey into the heart of the counterculture movement, examining its origins, ideals, and impact on society. Drawing on a wide range of sources and personal experiences, he paints a vivid picture of the vibrant and revolutionary spirit that defined the era.

Unlike other books about the 60s counterculture, Roszak’s work goes beyond mere nostalgia or romanticization. He delves deep into the underlying philosophies and ideologies that drove the movement, exploring the ideas of personal freedom, social justice, and ecological awareness that were at its core.

With his engaging and accessible writing style, Roszak invites readers to reconsider their preconceptions about the 60s counterculture and its lasting legacy. He challenges conventional wisdom and offers fresh perspectives on the movement’s successes, failures, and enduring relevance.

Whether you are a history buff, a social commentator, or simply curious about the 60s counterculture, this book is a must-read. Roszak’s insightful analysis and thought-provoking ideas will leave you with a deeper understanding of this transformative period in history.

best books about 60s counterculture The Politics of Ecstasy

The Politics of Ecstasy

By timothy leary.

Are you ready to take a mind-bending journey back to the heart of the 60s counterculture? Look no further than The Politics of Ecstasy by Timothy Leary, a captivating book that delves deep into the psychedelic revolution of the era. This masterpiece of a 60s counterculture book is a mesmerizing exploration of Leary’s experiences and beliefs, as he passionately advocates for the use of psychedelic drugs as a means of expanding consciousness and challenging societal norms.

best books about 60s counterculture The Armies of the Night

The Armies of the Night

By norman mailer.

The Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer is a captivating book on 60s counterculture that takes readers on a thrilling literary journey through the heart of the anti-war movement. Set against the backdrop of the iconic March on the Pentagon in 1967, Mailer immerses readers in the turbulent world of the 60s counterculture, offering a firsthand account of the protests, clashes with police, and the vibrant spirit of a generation searching for meaning and justice.

best books about 60s counterculture The Electric Church

The Electric Church

By jeff somers.

The Electric Church by Jeff Somers is a mind-bending, electrifying thrill ride that transports readers into a dystopian world where technology and religion collide. This gripping tale is like a psychedelic journey through a 60s counterculture, where rebellion and underground movements are the order of the day.

best books about 60s counterculture The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage

The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage

By todd gitlin.

Looking for a mind-blowing journey into the heart of the 60s counterculture? The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage by Todd Gitlin is the ultimate guide to understanding the explosive era that shaped a generation. This book about 60s counterculture takes you on a wild ride through the tumultuous decade that gave birth to the hippie movement, anti-war protests, and a cultural revolution that still resonates today.

best books about 60s counterculture The Beatles: The Biography

The Beatles: The Biography

By bob spitz.

If you’re a fan of the Fab Four or just fascinated by the incredible era of flower power and rock ‘n’ roll, then The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz is a must-read for you! This captivating book dives deep into the lives and times of the legendary band, offering a mesmerizing glimpse into the heart of the 60s counterculture.

Spitz’s writing style is as groovy as the era itself, transporting you back to a time when music was a powerful force for change and rebellion. Through meticulous research and interviews with those closest to the band, he unravels the complex dynamics between John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, shedding light on the personal struggles and creative genius that shaped their music.

But The Beatles: The Biography goes beyond just the band’s story. It provides a vivid portrait of the 60s counterculture, exploring the political and social movements that ignited the spirit of an entire generation. From the British Invasion to the psychedelic revolution, this book showcases how the Beatles became the soundtrack to a revolutionary era.

With its engaging narrative and rich historical context, The Beatles: The Biography is not just a book about the Beatles; it’s a time machine that transports you back to the heart of 60s counterculture. So grab your bell-bottoms, put on some Sgt. Pepper, and get ready for a journey like no other!

best books about 60s counterculture The Revolution Was Televised

The Revolution Was Televised

By alan sepinwall.

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the electrifying world of television’s revolution. Alan Sepinwall’s groundbreaking book on 60s counterculture, ‘The Revolution Was Televised’, takes readers on a wild ride through the turbulent era that forever changed the small screen.

With his signature wit and impeccable research, Sepinwall delves deep into the heart of the television landscape, exploring the seismic shifts that occurred during this transformative period. From the birth of iconic shows like ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’ to the rise of antiheroes like Tony Soprano and Walter White, Sepinwall uncovers the secrets behind these groundbreaking series that captivated audiences and redefined the boundaries of storytelling.

Through interviews with the creative minds behind these shows, Sepinwall provides a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of the television industry during this golden age. He uncovers the struggles, triumphs, and conflicts that shaped the evolution of television, shedding light on the visionary showrunners who pushed the boundaries of what was possible.

This 60s counterculture book goes beyond mere analysis, offering a captivating narrative that transports readers back in time. Sepinwall’s engaging storytelling style brings the era to life, making readers feel as if they are witnessing the revolution firsthand.

Whether you’re a television enthusiast, a fan of the 60s counterculture, or simply someone looking for a captivating read, ‘The Revolution Was Televised’ is a must-read. Sepinwall’s deep knowledge and love for the subject shine through on every page, making this book an essential addition to any bookshelf.

best books about 60s counterculture The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974

The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974

By arthur marwick.

Looking for a captivating journey through the vibrant and transformative era of the 1960s counterculture? Look no further than Arthur Marwick’s groundbreaking book on ’60s counterculture. With meticulous research and an engaging narrative style, Marwick explores the cultural revolution that swept through Britain, France, Italy, and the United States from 1958 to 1974.

In this compelling exploration of the ’60s counterculture, Marwick delves into the political, social, and cultural movements that defined the era. From the civil rights movement and anti-war protests to the rise of feminism and the sexual revolution, this book about ’60s counterculture offers a comprehensive analysis of the major events and ideas that shaped the decade.

Marwick examines the impact of music, art, fashion, and literature on the counterculture, highlighting the influential figures who emerged during this transformative period. From the Beatles and Bob Dylan to Andy Warhol and Simone de Beauvoir, he paints a vivid picture of the creative forces that challenged societal norms and sparked a cultural revolution.

With its richly detailed descriptions and insightful analysis, this ’60s counterculture book takes readers on a journey through a time of immense change and rebellion. It offers a fresh perspective on the era, shedding light on the motivations and aspirations of those who sought to challenge the status quo.

Whether you’re a history buff, a fan of the ’60s counterculture, or simply curious about this influential period, Marwick’s book is a must-read. It captures the spirit of the era, immersing readers in the tumultuous events and inspiring ideas that continue to resonate today.

In conclusion, these 20 books about 60s counterculture offer a fascinating glimpse into a transformative era that shaped our society in profound ways. From the voices of activists and musicians to the stories of everyday people who challenged the status quo, these books provide a rich and diverse tapestry of the countercultural movement. Whether you lived through the 60s or are simply curious about this iconic period in history, these books are a must-read. So grab a copy, immerse yourself in the spirit of rebellion, and prepare to be inspired by the incredible stories that defined a generation.

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Hemingway's Books and Records

Hemingway's Books and Records

Books about 60S Counterculture: 2024’s Best Titles

Welcome to our curated list of the 20 best books on 60s counterculture! The 1960s was a revolutionary era, marked by social and political upheaval, artistic experimentation, and a rejection of mainstream values. These books capture the spirit of the counterculture movement, offering insight into the music, literature, politics, and lifestyle of the time. Whether you’re a history buff, a music lover, or simply curious about this transformative period, these books will transport you back to the vibrant and tumultuous 60s.

  • 1 20 Best Books About 60S Counterculture
  • 2 The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
  • 4 The Doors of Perception
  • 5 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • 6 On the Road
  • 7 The Feminine Mystique
  • 8 The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • 9 The Dharma Bums
  • 10 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • 11 The Catcher in the Rye
  • 12 The Joyous Cosmology
  • 13 Slouching Towards Bethlehem
  • 14 The Making of a Counter Culture
  • 15 The Politics of Ecstasy
  • 16 The Armies of the Night
  • 17 The Electric Church
  • 18 The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage
  • 19 The Beatles: The Biography
  • 20 The Revolution Was Televised
  • 21 The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974
  • 22 Conclusion

20 Best Books About 60S Counterculture

best books about 60S Counterculture The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

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The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

By tom wolfe.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe is a captivating book about 60s counterculture and the rise of the psychedelic movement. Wolfe takes readers on a wild journey with author Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters as they travel across the country in a colorful bus, experimenting with LSD and challenging societal norms. Through Wolfe’s vivid and immersive storytelling, readers are transported into the heart of the 60s counterculture, experiencing the radical and mind-expanding adventures of the Merry Pranksters. The book offers a fascinating insight into the era of hippies, drugs, and a rebellion against the status quo, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the vibrant and revolutionary spirit of the 1960s.

best books about 60S Counterculture Hippie

by Paulo Coelho

Hippie by Paulo Coelho is a captivating book on 60s counterculture that takes readers on a journey back to the 1960s, a time of rebellion, love, and self-discovery. The story follows the author’s own experiences as a young man traveling through South America, Europe, and eventually to the famous hippie trail in search of spiritual enlightenment. Coelho’s vivid descriptions and insightful reflections provide a glimpse into the free-spirited and transformative era of the 1960s, making this a must-read book about 60s counterculture. As the protagonist immerses himself in the vibrant and diverse communities of hippies, the reader is exposed to the ideals, challenges, and adventures of the 60s counterculture. Hippie is a thought-provoking and inspiring read that captures the essence of a generation that dared to challenge societal norms and embrace a life of freedom and love.

best books about 60S Counterculture The Doors of Perception

The Doors of Perception

By aldous huxley.

The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley is a thought-provoking exploration of consciousness and perception. Huxley takes readers on a mind-bending journey through his experiences with mescaline, a psychedelic substance. Through vivid descriptions and introspective musings, he delves into the nature of reality and the limitations of human perception. This influential work has become a cornerstone of the 60s counterculture movement, offering a unique perspective on altered states of consciousness and the quest for expanded awareness. Huxley’s insightful observations and philosophical reflections make this book a captivating and enlightening read for anyone interested in the exploration of consciousness and the mind. As a seminal book on 60s counterculture, The Doors of Perception continues to inspire readers to question the nature of reality and embrace new ways of experiencing the world.

best books about 60S Counterculture Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

By hunter s. thompson.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a wild ride through the drug-fueled world of the 60s counterculture. Written by Hunter S. Thompson, this iconic book is a psychedelic journey into the heart of the American Dream gone wrong. The story follows the drug-addled journalist Raoul Duke and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, as they embark on a drug-fueled road trip to Las Vegas. The book is a darkly humorous and satirical exploration of the disillusionment and excess of the 60s counterculture. Thompson’s unique writing style and unapologetic portrayal of the era’s drug culture make this a must-read for anyone interested in the chaotic and rebellious spirit of the 60s counterculture.

best books about 60S Counterculture On the Road

On the Road

By jack kerouac.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac is a quintessential book about 60s counterculture. The novel follows the travels of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty as they crisscross the United States, exploring the freedom and rebellion of the Beat Generation. Kerouac’s spontaneous prose captures the essence of the era, with its themes of self-discovery, non-conformity, and the pursuit of experience. The characters’ wild adventures and search for meaning reflect the spirit of the 60s counterculture movement, making this novel a timeless representation of the era. On the Road is a must-read for anyone interested in the beatnik movement and the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Its raw and unfiltered portrayal of life on the road continues to resonate with readers today, making it a classic of American literature.

best books about 60S Counterculture The Feminine Mystique

The Feminine Mystique

By betty friedan.

The Feminine Mystique, penned by Betty Friedan, is a groundbreaking book on 60s counterculture that sparked the second wave of feminism. Friedan’s work challenges the traditional roles of women in the 1950s and 60s, shedding light on the dissatisfaction and unfulfillment experienced by many housewives. Through extensive research and personal interviews, Friedan explores the societal expectations and pressures placed on women to find fulfillment solely through marriage and motherhood. She deconstructs the myth of the happy housewife, inspiring women to seek their own identities and pursue their passions outside of the domestic sphere. The Feminine Mystique ignited a national conversation and played a pivotal role in the feminist movement, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the social and cultural shifts of the 1960s.

best books about 60S Counterculture The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

By malcolm x and alex haley.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, co-written by Malcolm X and Alex Haley, is a compelling and deeply personal account of the life of one of the most influential figures of the 1960s counterculture. Malcolm X’s journey from a troubled youth to a leading voice in the civil rights movement is a powerful and eye-opening narrative that delves into the complexities of race, identity, and social justice. The book offers a raw and unapologetic perspective on the struggles and triumphs of a man who dedicated his life to fighting for equality and empowerment. With its vivid portrayal of the racial tensions and political upheaval of the era, this book about 60s counterculture is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the turbulent and transformative period of American history.

best books about 60S Counterculture The Dharma Bums

The Dharma Bums

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac is a classic novel that delves into the Beat Generation’s exploration of spirituality and personal freedom. Set in the 1950s, the novel follows the adventures of Ray Smith, a young writer, and his friend Japhy Ryder, a Zen Buddhist poet. The two embark on a journey of self-discovery, seeking enlightenment and a deeper understanding of life. The novel captures the essence of the Beat Generation, with its themes of non-conformity, spontaneity, and a thirst for new experiences. It is a captivating book about 60s counterculture that explores the pursuit of meaning and the rejection of societal norms. Through vivid prose and engaging characters, The Dharma Bums provides a glimpse into the 60s counterculture, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the era’s ethos of rebellion and self-expression.

best books about 60S Counterculture One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

By ken kesey.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a classic book on 60s counterculture by Ken Kesey, is a powerful novel that takes readers inside a mental institution where the patients rebel against the oppressive authority of Nurse Ratched. The story is narrated by Chief Bromden, a half-Native American patient who provides a unique perspective on the struggles of the inmates. The arrival of the rebellious and charismatic Randle McMurphy, who feigns mental illness to escape a prison sentence, sparks a revolution among the patients, challenging the rigid rules of the institution. Kesey’s vivid prose and vivid portrayal of the characters make this book about 60s counterculture a timeless exploration of individuality, freedom, and the human spirit.

best books about 60S Counterculture The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye

By j.d. salinger.

The Catcher in the Rye, written by J.D. Salinger, is a classic novel that delves into the complexities of adolescence and the search for identity. Set in the 1950s, the story follows the disillusioned and rebellious teenager, Holden Caulfield, as he navigates the challenges of growing up in New York City. Filled with themes of alienation, innocence, and the loss of childhood, the novel provides a poignant look at the struggles of youth in a society that often feels phony and superficial. The book on 60s counterculture has become a timeless coming-of-age tale that continues to resonate with readers of all ages. Salinger’s masterful storytelling and Holden’s unique voice make this 60s counterculture book a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the human experience.

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the 1960s counterculture books. books on the 1960s counterculture

The Joyous Cosmology

By alan watts.

The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts is a captivating exploration of the psychedelic experience and its profound impact on consciousness and spirituality. In this thought-provoking book on 60s counterculture, Watts takes readers on a journey through the mind-altering effects of psychedelic substances, offering insights into the nature of reality, ego, and the interconnectedness of all things. Through vivid descriptions and evocative prose, Watts delves into the transformative potential of these substances, inviting readers to consider new perspectives on existence and the human experience. This 60s counterculture book offers a fascinating glimpse into a pivotal era of cultural and spiritual exploration, providing a timeless reflection on the search for meaning and connection in the world.

best books about 60S Counterculture Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

By joan didion.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a captivating collection of essays by Joan Didion that offers a mesmerizing insight into the social and cultural landscapes of the 1960s. Through her poignant and evocative prose, Didion delves into the complexities and contradictions of the era, providing a thought-provoking exploration of the book on 60s counterculture. With piercing observations and a keen eye for detail, Didion captures the essence of the turbulent 60s counterculture, offering a compelling portrayal of the era’s societal shifts, political upheavals, and cultural revolutions. Her masterful storytelling and incisive analysis make this book about 60s counterculture a timeless and essential read for anyone seeking to understand the intricacies of the 60s counterculture movement.

best books about 60S Counterculture The Making of a Counter Culture

The Making of a Counter Culture

By theodore roszak.

The Making of a Counter Culture by Theodore Roszak is a fascinating exploration of the social and cultural upheaval that defined the 1960s. This influential book on 60s counterculture examines the rise of the ‘hippie’ movement, the rejection of mainstream values, and the emergence of alternative lifestyles and revolutionary ideas. Roszak delves into the political, artistic, and philosophical aspects of the 60s counterculture, offering a compelling analysis of the era’s key figures and their impact on society. With insightful commentary and thought-provoking observations, this book about 60s counterculture provides a comprehensive understanding of the radical shift in consciousness that characterized the period. Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious about the 60s counterculture, Roszak’s exploration is a must-read for anyone interested in this transformative era.

best books about 60S Counterculture The Politics of Ecstasy

The Politics of Ecstasy

By timothy leary.

The Politics of Ecstasy by Timothy Leary is a thought-provoking exploration of the 60s counterculture movement. Leary, a leading figure in the psychedelic movement, delves into the revolutionary ideas and experiences that defined the era. Through his personal anecdotes and philosophical insights, he examines the role of psychedelic drugs, consciousness expansion, and the quest for personal freedom in challenging societal norms. The book provides a captivating look into the mind of one of the most influential figures of the 60s counterculture, offering a unique perspective on the cultural and political upheavals of the time. The Politics of Ecstasy is a must-read for anyone interested in delving deep into the radical ideas and experiences that shaped the 60s counterculture. It’s a fascinating journey into a transformative period of history.

best books about 60S Counterculture The Armies of the Night

The Armies of the Night

By norman mailer.

The Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer is a gripping book on 60s counterculture that delves into the author’s experience at the 1967 March on the Pentagon. This groundbreaking work is part novel, part non-fiction, and part memoir, offering a unique perspective on the protest movement of the era. Mailer’s vivid and engaging writing style brings to life the tumultuous atmosphere of the 1960s, capturing the spirit of rebellion and activism that defined the 60s counterculture. Through his personal account, Mailer provides a thought-provoking exploration of the sociopolitical landscape of the time, making it a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of the era. The Armies of the Night is a compelling and insightful book about 60s counterculture that continues to resonate with readers today.

best books about 60S Counterculture The Electric Church

The Electric Church

By jeff somers.

The Electric Church by Jeff Somers is a gripping cyberpunk thriller set in a dystopian future where technology and religion collide. In this fast-paced novel, protagonist Avery Cates, a gunner for the System Security Force, gets embroiled in a deadly conspiracy involving a powerful and fanatical cult known as the Electric Church. As Cates delves deeper into the Church’s secrets, he uncovers a world of corruption, manipulation, and mind control. The novel explores themes of identity, technology, and the dangers of blind faith, making it a thought-provoking read for fans of cyberpunk fiction. With its intense action and intricate world-building, The Electric Church is a must-read for anyone looking for a thrilling and darkly imaginative take on the intersection of technology and spirituality.

best books about 60S Counterculture The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage

The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage

By todd gitlin.

The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage by Todd Gitlin is a captivating book about 60s counterculture that delves into the tumultuous and transformative decade. Gitlin, a prominent sociologist and former president of Students for a Democratic Society, provides a comprehensive overview of the various movements and events that defined the era, from the civil rights movement to the anti-war protests and the rise of feminism. Through vivid storytelling and insightful analysis, Gitlin paints a vivid picture of the 60s counterculture, capturing the optimism and idealism of the early years and the disillusionment and radicalism that followed. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the complex and influential period of the 1960s, offering a nuanced exploration of the hopes and struggles that defined the decade.

best books about 60S Counterculture The Beatles: The Biography

The Beatles: The Biography

By bob spitz.

The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz is a comprehensive and immersive journey into the world of the legendary band that revolutionized the music industry. This book delves into the lives of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, providing a detailed account of their rise to fame, their personal struggles, and the impact they had on the music scene and beyond. With vivid storytelling and in-depth research, Spitz captures the essence of the 60s counterculture and the Beatles’ role in shaping it. From their early days in Liverpool to their global superstardom, this biography offers a captivating look into the band’s dynamic and complex dynamics. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or simply curious about this pivotal era in music history, this book about 60s counterculture is a must-read for anyone interested in the cultural revolution of the 1960s.

best books about 60S Counterculture The Revolution Was Televised

The Revolution Was Televised

By alan sepinwall.

The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall is a captivating exploration of the golden age of television dramas, offering a deep dive into the groundbreaking shows that shaped the landscape of modern television. Sepinwall delves into iconic series such as The Sopranos, The Wire, and Breaking Bad, providing behind-the-scenes insights and interviews with key players in the industry. This book on 60s counterculture captures the spirit of a transformative era in television, highlighting the creative and revolutionary storytelling that redefined the medium. With its rich analysis and engaging storytelling, The Revolution Was Televised is a must-read for anyone interested in the evolution of television and the impact of these influential shows on popular culture.

best books about 60S Counterculture The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974

The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974

By arthur marwick.

The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974 by Arthur Marwick is a fascinating exploration of the tumultuous era of the 1960s. This book on 60s counterculture delves into the social, political, and cultural upheavals that took place in these four major Western countries during this period, offering a comprehensive overview of the era’s impact on society. Marwick provides a compelling analysis of the emergence of youth culture, the rise of feminism, the civil rights movement, and the influence of psychedelic music and art. The book about 60s counterculture also examines the political activism and anti-establishment sentiment that characterized the decade. Through a rich narrative, Marwick captures the essence of the 60s counterculture, making this a must-read for anyone interested in this pivotal period in history.

Exploring the vibrant and revolutionary era of the 60S Counterculture through literature is a captivating journey. The 20 best books about 60s counterculture offer an immersive experience into the social and political movements, music, art, and activism that defined this pivotal period in history. From memoirs to historical accounts and fiction, these books provide valuable insights and perspectives on the era that continue to resonate today.

Which 60S Counterculture book is best?

The best book on 60S Counterculture can vary with personal preference, but three widely recommended titles are:

  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe ,
  • Hippie by Paulo Coelho ,
  • The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley .

Each offers valuable insights and could be a great starting point.

What are the best books to learn about 60S Counterculture?

For those looking to learn about 60S Counterculture, there is a wealth of literature that can provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject. Some of the most highly recommended books include:

  • The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley ,
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson ,
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac ,
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan ,
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley ,
  • The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac ,
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey ,
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

These books offer a range of perspectives on 60S Counterculture, covering various aspects and approaches to the subject.

What are the best books on 60S Counterculture?

The best books on 60S Counterculture include:

  • The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts ,
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion ,
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan .

Each offers unique insights into the subject. While these books on the topic of 60S Counterculture are highly regarded, it’s important to note that any list of ‘best’ books is subjective and reflects a range of opinions.

What are the best 60S Counterculture books of all time?

Choosing the best 60S Counterculture books of all time can vary depending on who you ask, but seven titles that are often celebrated include

  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger ,
  • and The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts .

Each of these books has made a significant impact in the field of 60S Counterculture and continues to be influential today.

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26 Tantalizing Books About the 1960s

Explore the best books about the 1960s, a decade marked by the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, antiwar sentiment, and 60s counterculture.

When you think about the 1960s, you think of a world in upheaval. With the Civil Rights Movement sweeping through the United States and the growing antiwar sentiment to the Vietnam War, the decade saw a rise of the 60’s counterculture.

You see this divisiveness in books set in the 1960s with characters swept up in the desire for change that won’t come fast enough.

Today, I’ve put together a list of books about the 1960s. You’ll find something for everyone: fun 1960s historical fiction, nonfiction books about the 1960s, and even a few classic 1960s books worth a read.

Don’t Miss a Thing

Best Books About the 1960s

book cover Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Lessons in Chemistry

Bonnie garmus.

Elizabeth Zott has always defied stereotyping, especially as the only woman chemist at the Hastings Research Institute in the 1960s. After falling in love with another chemist who sees her for who she is, life throws her a curveball. Now as a single mom, she unexpectedly finds herself the host of a tv cooking show. When women who watch her begin to question the status quo in their own lives, Elizabeth becomes a target of those who find the change unwelcome. In one of the best books about the 1960s, Garmus presents an engrossing progressive historical fiction read with heartfelt depth and a searing look at sexual discrimination in the past (and today). 

Publication Date: 5 April 2022 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace

William kent krueger.

In the sleepy town of New Bremen, Minnesota, death will forever shape one young man. In 1961, Frank Drum is having a typical teenage summer with his family: his minister father, his doubting mother, his talented older sister, and his quiet younger brother who stutters. When deaths start accumulating by accident, nature, suicide, and murder, Frank’s ordinary life is rocked by the secrets and motives of an adult world he doesn’t fully understand. 

Publication Date: 26 March 2013 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover Deacon King Kong by James McBride

Deacon King Kong

James mcbride.

In 1969, a grouchy old deacon named Sportcoat walks into the courtyard of a housing project in Brooklyn and shoots the local drug dealer. Thus ensues the story of the lives impacted by the shooting: the victim and the cops, the minority residents and white neighbors, and the deacon and the church members. With a unique cast of characters (all with unique names), McBride showcases a character study of 1960s New York.

Publication Date: 3 March 2020 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

books about 60s counterculture

Kathryn Stockett

If you want a book about the 1960s that will make you laugh, look no further than Kathryn Stockett’s The Help . A few of the scenes were just so side-splittingly funny that even thinking about them now still makes me chuckle, which is amazing because The Help is not a humor piece. It’s a moving tale of the lives of women in the deep South in the 1960s. Between Aibileen and Minny, “the help” of the title, the women they work for, and Skeeter, a young 22-year-old writer who wants to tell their stories, you get a layered approach and character study of a tumultuous time in US history.

Publication Date: 10 February 2009 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees

Sue monk kidd.

At age 14, Lily Owens runs away from her father and moves with her nanny to Tiburon, South Carolina. There they are both taken in by the Calendar Sisters, a charming but eccentric trio of beekeepers. As the white Lily comes of age, she learns about womanhood and the Black Madonna from these four Black women she has come to consider her family. A heartwarming tale set amid the racial tensions of the 1960s, The Secret Life of Bees is a delightful coming-of-age 1960s story perfect for book club night.

Publication Date: 8 November 2001 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover Go Like Hell by A. J. Baime

Go Like Hell

A. j. baime.

In the 1960s, Henry Ford II teamed up with a young Lee Iacocca and former racing champion Carroll Shelby to bring glory back to the faltering Ford Motor Company. Their ambitious plan: design, build, and race a car that would beat Ferrari on the European racing circuit. Although Ford v. Ferrari, the film adaptation starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, is excellent, Baime’s nonfiction book is a must-read among the books about the 1960s.

Publication Date: 9 June 2009 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

Save for Later

Books about the 1960s

Book Club Books About 1960s

book cover All the Children Are Home by Patry Francis

All the Children are Home

Patry francis.

In a small town in Massachusetts in the 1960s, Dahlia and Louie Moscatell have finally found a rhythm as long-term foster parents. Then a social worker begs them to take on one more foster child – a six-year-old indigenous girl who will change their family dynamics forever. Patry Francis hits the emotions hard in this powerful story of love and family and the struggles of the foster care system. You’ll cry with their heartaches and rejoice in their victories, and I can emphatically declare this one of the best book club books about the 1960s.

Publication Date: 13 April 2021 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

In the Time of Butterflies

Julia alvarez.

In the last days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, three sisters are assassinated for working to overthrow the government. Alvarez mixes fact and fiction as she recounts the lives of the Mirabel sisters – outspoken Minerva, faithful Patria, sensitive Maria Teresa, and cautious Dede.

Publication Date: 1994 Amazon | Goodreads

book cover Keeping Lucy by T. Greenwood

Keeping Lucy

T. greenwood.

In 1969, Ginny Richardson gives birth to a beautiful baby girl named Lucy whom the nurse instantly whisks away. For Lucy has Down’s Syndrome, and her father immediately sends her to Willowridge, a school for the “feeble-minded.” Two years later, Ginny discovers Lucy abused and neglected, and she must fight to keep Lucy against all costs. Similar in scope to The Memory Keeper’s Daughter , the story serves as an awful reminder of how poorly people treated special needs children.

Publication Date: 6 August 2019 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Half of a Yellow Sun

Chimamanda ngozi adichie.

If you like stories that bring 1960s history to life, you’ll want to read Adichie’s book on Nigeria’s Biafran War. In the 60s, Biafra made an unsuccessful bid to establish an independent country leading to civil war. Shown through five characters: a revolutionary professor, his houseboy, his young mistress, her sister, and a shy Englishman, Half of a Yellow Sun is an unforgettable story that gives you a deep look at a tumultuous period of African history.

Publication Date: 12 September 2006 Amazon | Goodreads

book cover The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

The Dearly Beloved

If you enjoy books set in the 1960s, you don’t want to miss this Read with Jenna book club pick . When James and Charles become co-pastors of a New York City congregation, their families become tied together for decades. Instead of following his father’s footsteps as a Harvard professor, Charles turned to the ministry but still married Lily, a fiery intellectual who doesn’t believe in God. In contrast, James comes from a hard life in Chicago, but falling in love with Nan, the devout daughter of a minister, has helped him try to keep his doubts at bay. As the two couples try to navigate a turbulent decade, they must cope with their differing views on love, marriage, children, and faith.

Publication Date: 13 August 2019 Amazon | Goodreads

Bestseller Books on the 1960s

book cover Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Harlem Shuffle

Colson whitehead.

In 1960s Harlem, Ray Carney has a reputation as an upstanding used furniture salesman. Although Carney strives to live up to what he knows he can be, times aren’t like they used to be, and he occasionally supplements his income with a side gig fencing items for the underworld of Harlem. When Carney’s cousin ropes him into being the fence for a heist gone wrong, Carney finds himself caught up with shady cops and local gangsters.

Publication Date: 14 September 2021 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Stephen King

In 11/22/63 , English teacher Jake Epping discovers that his friend Al has a portal in his diner storeroom that leads back to 1958. As Jake emerges into the past, he starts by trying to change the life of one of his students and eventually concocts a plan to prevent President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, but playing with time always has unintended consequences as we see in this time travel book.

Publication Date: 8 November 2011 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover The Boys from Biloxi by John Grisham

The Boys from Biloxi

John grisham.

In the 1960s, Keith and Hugh were best friends and baseball all-stars. But as they grow older, their lives take different trajectories. Keith’s father becomes a legendary prosecutor determined to clean up Biloxi and Hugh’s dad works his way up to become the head of the local mob. As both boys follow in their father’s footsteps, they find themselves on opposite sides of the law in Grisham’s 1960s legal thriller.

Publication Date: 18 October 2022 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys

Set in Jim Crow-era Florida, one innocent mistake sends young Elwood Curtis to a juvenile reformatory school: The Nickel Academy. There Elwood and other black youths meet with horrid abuse, both physical and sexual. Based on actual Florida reform schools, The Nickel Boys reveals an awful part of US history, forcing you to acknowledge the horror of the past and ponder how it affects the present.

Publication Date: 16 July 2019 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

Utopia Avenue

David mitchell.

Literary giant David Mitchell tells the story of a fictional British band in the 1960s whose quick success burns out just as quickly. Jumping narratives between the three main performers – female lead singer Elf, down-on-his-luck bassist Dean, and manic guitarist Jasper – the story covers love, death, drugs, sex, and the consequences of fame. Longtime fans of David Mitchell will be pleased to find plenty of references to his other works.

Publication Date: 14 July 2020 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

More Books Set in the 1960s

book cover Margreete's Harbor by Eleanor Morse

Margreete’s Harbor

Eleanor morse.

When Margreete’s dementia becomes too bad to allow her to live alone, her daughter Liddie moves her family from Michigan to the coast of Maine. There they struggle with the changing family dynamics and the tumultuous events of the 1960s. Publication Date: 20 April 2021 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White

We Are All Good People Here

Susan rebecca white.

In 1962, wealthy Southern belle Eve Whalen meets her college roommate Daniella Gold and they quickly become best friends. Daniella begins to open Eve’s eyes to the injustices of the world which the well-meaning but naive Eve thinks she can change in an instance. Over time, Daniella works hard to change the world from within the current social system, while Eve becomes extremely radicalized.

book cover Songs in Ordinary Time by Mary McGarry Morris

Songs in Ordinary Time

Mary mcgarry morris.

Morris paints an intimate picture of 1960s Vermont in this Oprah Book Club pick . Single mom Marie Fermoyle is doing her best to raise her three children without any support from her alcoholic ex-husband. When Marie meets a new man, she instantly falls for his talk of opportunities and riches, but Marie’s youngest son learns a devastating secret that could spoil all her hopes and dreams.

Publication Date: August 1995 Amazon | Goodreads

book cover The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende

The Soul of a Woman

Isabel allende.

Bestselling author Isabel Allende meditates on what it means to be a woman and how feminism has shaped her throughout her life. After witnessing her mother struggle to raise three children alone, Allende swore she’d have the life her mother couldn’t. Throughout her life and her three marriages, Allende has witnessed the changes in the feminist movement, how much it has accomplished, and what is left to be done.

Publication Date: 2 March 2021 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline woodson.

Growing up as an African-American in both South Carolina and New York during the 1960-70s, Jacqueline Woodson never truly felt at home in either place. Caught between the highly urban New York and the Southern views of South Carolina, she learned to find a place in the world by balancing the best of each. Told in enchanting verse, the story of her childhood is poignant and moving.

Publication Date: 28 April 2014 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

Classic 1960s Books

book cover I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya angelou.

Poet Maya Angelou’s memoir of the early years of her life is touching and heartbreaking all at the same time. Growing up with her grandmother in a small Southern town, she details how affecting the segregation was as a young black girl, as well as the feeling of abandonment from her mother. Covering many hard topics – including her sexual assault at a young age – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is one of the best memoirs of all time .

Publication Date: 1969 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood

Truman capote.

Truman Capote was the founder of narrative nonfiction with his page-turning look at an unspeakable crime. On November 15, 1959, in the small farming town of Holcomb, Kansas, two men brutally murder the Clutter family in their home for no apparent reason. Through extensive interviews from the first days on the scene and following the events all the way to the execution of the murderers, Capote suspensefully unfolds the whole story of exactly what happened and more intriguing of all, why it happened.

Publication Date: 1965 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

In the Oregon state mental hospital, Nurse Ratched rules her ward with an iron fist, using medication and the threat of electroshock therapy to keep the patients in line. Yet her orderly routine is thrown into chaos by the newest patient, McMurphy, a fun-loving trickster using the mental ward to avoid prison. The epic battle of will between the antihero and the tyrannical nurse delves into the fine line between sanity and madness in one of my favorite classic page turners that is just as good, if not better, than the movie adaptation.

Publication Date: 1 February 1962 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X with Alex Haley

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Malcolm x with alex haley.

Malcolm X was one of the most influential persons in the 20th century, and you can read about his life as told to acclaimed author Alex Haley. Entering prison as Malcolm Little, he embraced Islam while inside and emerged as Malcolm X, a fierce advocate for Black empowerment, Black pride, and pan-Africanism.

Publication Date: 29 October 1965 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Joan didion.

In a series of essays, Joan Didion conveys the essence of life in the 1960s, mostly focusing on California. Placing herself at the center of each piece, Didion’s reporting describes the grim realities behind San Francisco’s perceived utopian 1960s counterculture in blunt terms. With essays on John Wayne and Howard Hughes and growing up in California, Didion’s collection is renowned for its distinct styling.

Publication Date: 1968 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

Which Books About the 1960s Are You Most Interested in Reading?

What do you think? Do you enjoy reading books about the 1960s counterculture? What 1960s books would you recommend? As always, let me know in the comments!

More Historical Fiction Reading Lists:

  • 33 Fascinating Books About the 1920s
  • 34 Brilliant Books About the 1930s
  • Top 10 World War 2 Books of All Time
  • Historical Fiction Books Based on True Stories
  • 31 Creative Historical Fantasy Books

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A Century of Reading: The 10 Books That Defined the 1960s

Apparently this was an important decade in american history.

Some books are flashes in the pan, read for entertainment and then left on a bus seat for the next lucky person to pick up and enjoy, forgotten by most after their season has passed. Others stick around, are read and re-read, are taught and discussed. sometimes due to great artistry, sometimes due to luck, and sometimes because they manage to recognize and capture some element of the culture of the time.

In the moment, you often can’t tell which books are which.  The Great Gatsby  wasn’t a bestseller upon its release, but we now see it as emblematic of a certain American sensibility in the 1920s. Of course, hindsight can also distort the senses; the canon looms and obscures. Still, over the next weeks, we’ll be publishing a list a day, each one attempting to define a discrete decade,  starting with the 1900s  (as you’ve no doubt guessed by now) and counting down until we get to the (nearly complete) 2010s.

Though the books on these lists need not be American in origin, I am looking for books that evoke some aspect of American life, actual or intellectual, in each decade—a global lens would require a much longer list. And of course, varied and complex as it is, there’s no list that could truly define American life over ten or any number of years, so I do not make any claim on exhaustiveness. I’ve simply selected books that, if read together, would give a fair picture of the landscape of literary culture for that decade—both as it was and as it is remembered. Finally, two process notes: I’ve limited myself to one book for author over the entire 12-part list, so you may see certain works skipped over in favor of others, even if both are important (for instance, I ignored  Dubliners  in the 1910s so I could include  Ulysses  in the 1920s), and in the case of translated work, I’ll be using the date of the English translation, for obvious reasons.

For our seventh installment, below you’ll find 10 books that defined the 1960s. (Head here for the  1910s ,  20s ,  30s , 40s , and 50s ).

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I probably don’t have to underscore the enduring importance and influence of this novel for you, but just as a reminder, it was an instant phenomenon when it was published in 1960, becoming a bestseller and winning the Pulitzer Prize the following year. According to Christopher Metress’s 2003 essay “The Rise and Fall of Atticus Finch,” it ultimately sold more than 30,000,000 copies worldwide, third bestselling American novel of the 20th century. In a 1991 “Survey of Lifetime Reading Habits” conduced by the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, it was mentioned second, after the Bible, as a book that made a difference in respondents’ lives—in part, no doubt, because of the culture-wide lionization of Atticus Finch.

Though it has suffered a bit with age (and with the release of the “sequel”), it has been widely assigned in schools for decades and is still firmly an American classic, in part because of its readability. “Sometimes novels are considered “important” in the way medicine is—they taste terrible and are difficult to get down your throat, but are good for you,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote in The Guardian   on the novel’s 50th anniversary. “The best novels are those that are important without being like medicine; they have something to say, are expansive and intelligent but never forget to be entertaining and to have character and emotion at their centre. Harper Lee’s triumph is one of those.”

Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

Heinlein’s classic was the first science fiction novel ever to become a New York Times  bestseller. “It didn’t just sell to science fiction readers, it sold widely to everyone, even people who didn’t normally read at all,” Jo Walton wrote . “People claim it was one of the things that founded the counter-culture of the sixties in the U.S. It’s Heinlein’s best known book and it has been in print continuously ever since first publication. Sitting reading it in the metro the other day, a total stranger assured me that it was a good book. It was a zeitgeist book that captured imaginations.” The book is certainly problematic by today’s standards, and I even thought it was pretty corny when I read it as a teenager, but there’s no denying its cultural influence. (This kind of observation has led at least one critic to call it the Catcher in the Rye  of SF.)  It got thousands of readers into science fiction, and was so famous that one of its essential invented terms—to “ grok “—made it into common usage and even the  OED . For another, it invented a religion— the “Church of All Worlds”—that was eventually actually founded by a guy named Tim Zell. It also probably made the waterbed happen. No big deal.

Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique

According to Friedan’s obituary in the New York Times , this book (can we call it “seminal?” I don’t know) “ignited the contemporary women’s movement in 1963 and as a result permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States and countries around the world.” It sold millions of copies and established Friedan as one of the chief architects of the women’s liberation and second-wave feminist movement—which, despite being rather passé now, made a monumental difference in American society. Social theorist Alvin Toffler described it as “the book that pulled the trigger on history.”

books about 60s counterculture

Highly inflammatory, highly influential, and highly political, Malcolm X himself was a major force in America in the 1960s—and he was only around for half of it, because in 1965, he was assassinated. His autobiography, as told to Alex Haley in the two years preceding his death, was published later the same year, and it is a truly inspirational, angry, and transformative text, working with incendiary ideas as well as postmodern literary techniques. It sold millions of copies and galvanized its readership—in Revolution in the Air , Max Elbaum calls it “without question the single most widely read and influential book among young people of all racial backgrounds who went to their first demonstration sometime between 1965 and 1968″—to protest, make art, and change minds. In his essay “Malcolm’s Mythmaking,” originally published in 1992, David Bradley writes:

“When I was a young college student in the early seventies, the book I read which revolutionized my thinking about race and politics was  The Autobiography of Malcolm X ,” wrote bell hooks in “Sitting at the Feet of the Messenger: Remembering Malcolm X.” She is not alone. Ask any middle-aged socially conscious intellectual to list the books that influenced his or her youthful thinking, and he or she will most likely mention  The Autobiography of Malcolm X . Some will do more than mention it. Some will say that, back in the sixties (by which they really mean the late sixties and early seventies), when they were young and earnest but callow, and oh, so confused, they picked it up—by accident, or maybe by assignment, or because a friend pressed it on them—and that they approached the reading of it without great expectations, but somehow that book . . . took hold of them. Got  inside  them. Altered their vision, their outlook, their insight. Changed their lives.

Fair enough.

books about 60s counterculture

It’s a little unfair to choose  Ariel , because it came out after Plath’s death. But it would be just as unfair to choose  The Bell Jar , which was only published just before, and while being very famous, is not really her best work, or  The Colossus , where she was holding back. So in order to represent Plath’s enormous influence on the literary landscape of the decade—and of the decades since—I will choose  Ariel , which includes most of Plath’s best and best-known poems, including “The Applicant” (always my personal favorite), “Lady Lazarus,” and “Daddy.” Plath won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1982, for her Collected Poems .

books about 60s counterculture

Originally published as a four-week serial in  The New Yorker , starting with the September 25 1965 issue, then published by Random House the following January, Capote’s “nonfiction novel” was among the first of its kind, and was also the first real blockbuster of the New Journalism movement, becoming a bestseller and rocketing him to fame. “I’ve been staggered by the letters I’ve received, their quality of sensibility, their articulateness, the compassion of their authors,” Capote told George Plimpton in 1966.

The letters are not fan letters. They’re from people deeply concerned about what it is I’ve written about. About 70 percent of the letters think of the book as a reflection on American life, this collision between the desperate, ruthless, wandering, savage part of American life, and the other, which is insular and safe, more or less. It has struck them because there is something so awfully inevitable about what is going to happen: the people in the book are completely beyond their own control.

“It is hard to think of any murder case involving six relatively unknown individuals that has captured so many imaginations,” wrote Ed Pilkington in The Guardian   50 years after the book’s release. “ In Cold Blood has sold millions of copies and been translated into 30 languages. It was made into a black-and-white film of the same name in 1967 and there was a colour remake in 1996.” He cites the precision of the prose and the depth of the research as possible reasons for its instant and ongoing cultural relevance. “There is also something monumental about the timing of the book,” he says.

America in 1959 was at a crossroads. It was still bathing in the victory of the second world war and ensuing economic boom. The country was confident and secure, and the body blows of Vietnam still lay ahead.

Nowhere was this sense of purpose more evident than in the US heartlands, with their hundreds of tight-knit communities, like Holcomb, scattered along railway lines across the Great Plains. Capote noted with satisfaction that Holcomb itself lies almost in the exact middle of the continental US.

If Holcomb was representative of that small-town rootedness that defined 1959 America, then the Clutters were representative of Holcomb. “Of all the people in all the world,” Capote quotes a local detective, “the Clutters were the least likely to be murdered.”

books about 60s counterculture

Even if Joan Didion wasn’t on a certain tote bag, this collection would hold its own as an essential text of the 1960s—one that defines and describes it, particularly if you live in California. In 1979, Michiko Kakutani wrote that Didion “has created, in her books, one of the most devastating and distinctive portraits of modern America to be found in fiction or nonfiction—a portrait of America where “disorder was its own point.” A gifted reporter with an eye for the telling detail-the frayed hem, the shaking hand-she is also a prescient witness, finding in her own experiences parallels of the times. The voice is always precise, the tone unsentimental, the view unabashedly subjective. She takes things personally.” She is still the foremost chronicler of the American 60s, and one of the most important living American writers.

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Angelou’s first book, a memoir of her childhood, became a bestseller upon its publication, “confounding the stereotype,” as her obituary in the New York Times   put it, “pervasive in the publishing world, that black women’s lives were rarely worthy of autobiography.” Her work was widely praised, widely assigned, widely read, and opened the door to many writers to follow her. “When I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings came out, in 1970, Angelou was hailed as a new kind of memoirist,” wrote Hilton Als in  The New Yorker . “Relegated to the margins of life, [black women] found it difficult to rewrite themselves as central characters. Only in private could they talk about their personal lives. But Angelou took those stories public. She wrote about blackness from the inside, without apology or defense.” But this wasn’t actually new territory, Als argues.

The success of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings , like that of many memoirs, had less to do with the originality of its writing than with its resonance in the prevailing Zeitgeist. By the time [it] was published, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X were dead, and the only hope for black politics, it seemed, lay in the voices that were just beginning to be heard: those of such strong-willed female politicians as Shirley Chisholm and Barbara Jordan, two of the first black women to serve in Congress. Chisholm and Jordan, products of the colonial West Indies and the Old South, respectively, pinned their speeches to the idea of a changing United States, and it was their brand of rhetoric—a fierce criticism of the past blended with a kind of survivor’s optimism, a belief in the future of the urban family—that cleared the way for Angelou’s narrative of damage, perseverance, and eventual triumph.

In addition to being widely assigned, Angelou’s memoir is also often challenged, and in fact it was the book that inspired Banned Books Week .

books about 60s counterculture

Despite its strangeness, mixing science fiction, historical fiction, autobiography, and satire with a strong postmodern hand, Vonnegut’s  Slaughterhouse-Five  achieved cult status after its publication, which landed smack in the middle of the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement, and the civil rights movement. The novel, wrote critic Jerome Klinkowitz , “so perfectly caught America’s transformative mood that its story and structure became best-selling metaphors for the new age.” The repeated phrase “so it goes” entered the lexicon as well, a response to death and destruction that, according to the  Times , “became a catchphrase for opponents of the Vietnam war.” But even outside of the context of Vietnam, this novel has become a touchstone for young readers, and despite its popularity, I’d still categorize it as a cult classic today—it remains a shibboleth for a certain kind of reader, at a certain age.

books about 60s counterculture

You know, the one where the kid diddles the slab of liver. It’s a literary classic! No really, it is—he may have won the National Book Award for Goodbye, Columbus , but  this is the book that made Roth an international celebrity. “For all its avowed literary seriousness, this “wild blue shocker” ( Life ), a novel in the guise of a confession, was an immediate bestseller,” wrote Robert McCrum in The Guardian . “Taken by hundreds of thousands of American readers as a confession in the guise of a novel, it placed its author inexorably centre stage in the minds of his audience. He’s been there ever since.”

“The scandalous content of the book drove up its sales,” Kyle Swenson wrote in the Washington Post .

Portnoy’s Complaint sold over 400,000 copies in its first year of printing. Critics were also largely supportive of the taboo-blasting work. In the New York Times, Josh Greenfeld called it “the very novel that every American-Jewish writer has been trying to write in one guise or another since the end of World War II.”

By marshaling vulgarity to illustrate a deeper point, Roth broke literary ground, proving even wisecracks about masturbation could lead readers to a profound place.

John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor (1960), John Updike, Rabbit, Run (1960), Lawrence Durrell,  The Alexandria Quartet (1960), Elie Wiesel,  Night (first English translation, 1960), Edna O’Brien, The Country Girls (1960), Walker Percy,  The Moviegoer (1961), Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (1961), Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (first US publication, 1961), V. S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas (1961), J. D. Salinger,  Franny and Zooey (1961), Tillie Olsen, Tell Me a Riddle (1961), Irving Stone, The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961), Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road (1961), Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (1962), Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962), Ezra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day (1962), Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962), J. G. Ballard, The Drowned World (1962), Helen Gurley Brown, Sex and the Single Girl (1962), Robert Frost, In the Clearing (1962), Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths (1962), Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time  (1962), Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962), Martin Heidegger, Being and Time (first English translation, 1962), Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), James Jones, The Thin Red Line (1962), Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook  (1962), Anne Sexton, All My Pretty Ones (1962), Vladimir Nabokov,  Pale Fire (1962), William Carlos Williams, Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems (1962), Sylvia Plath,  The Bell Jar  (1963), Mary McCarthy, The Group  (1963), LeRoi Jones, Blues People  (1963), Jean Genet, Our Lady of the Flowers (first English translation, 1963), John le Carré, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold  (1963), James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963), John Fowles, The Collector (1963), Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are (1963), Thomas Pynchon, V. (1963), Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle (1963), Saul Bellow,  Herzog (1964), Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964), Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy (1964), Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion (1964), Surgeon General’s Office, Smoking and Health (1964), Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait (1964), Christopher Isherwood,  A Single Man (1964), Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast (1964), Jean Merrill, The Pushcart War (1964), Kenzaburō Ōe, A Personal Matter  (1964), Hubert Selby Jr., Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964), Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree (1964), Frank Herbert,  Dune (1965), Lloyd Alexander, The Black Cauldron (1965), Ralph Nader, Unsafe at Any Speed (1965), John Williams,  Stoner (1965), Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird (1965), Julio Cortazar, Hopscotch (first English translation, 1966), Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anais Nin Vol. 1 (expurgated version) (1966), Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966), Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation (1966), Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966), Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (first English translation, 1966), Ira Levin, Rosemary’s Baby (1967), Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita (first English translation, 1967), William Styron, The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967), Anna Kavan,  Ice (1967), S. E. Hinton, The Outsiders (1967), Anne Sexton,  Live or Die  (1967), Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967), James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime (1967), Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman (1967), James D. Watson, The Double Helix (1968), Richard Brautigan, In Watermelon Sugar (1968), Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (1968), Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), Gore Vidal, Myra Breckinridge (1968), Valerie Solanas, SCUM Manifesto (1968),  The Complete Poems of Elizabeth Bishop (1969), Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain (1969), Shusaku Endo,  Silence (first English translation, 1969), Mario Puzo, The Godfather (1969), Philip K. Dick, Ubik (1969), Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

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Emily Temple

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Discover the Best 60S Counterculture Books in the 2024 Updated Edition

Are you looking for a trip down memory lane or wanting to learn more about the fascinating 60s counterculture? Look no further! We’ve compiled a list of the 20 best books on 60s counterculture that will transport you back to that era of rebellion, free love, and social change. From memoirs to historical accounts, these books delve into the music, art, politics, and societal shifts that defined the decade. Whether you lived through it or are simply curious about this influential period, these 60s counterculture books are sure to captivate and enlighten you.

  • 1 The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
  • 3 The Doors of Perception
  • 4 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • 5 On the Road
  • 6 The Feminine Mystique
  • 7 The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • 8 The Dharma Bums
  • 9 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • 10 The Catcher in the Rye
  • 11 The Joyous Cosmology
  • 12 Slouching Towards Bethlehem
  • 13 The Making of a Counter Culture
  • 14 The Politics of Ecstasy
  • 15 The Armies of the Night
  • 16 The Electric Church
  • 17 The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage
  • 18 The Beatles: The Biography
  • 19 The Revolution Was Televised
  • 20 The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974
  • 21 Conclusion

best books about 60s counterculture The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

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The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

By tom wolfe.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe is a captivating book on 60s counterculture that follows author Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters as they travel across the United States in a colorful bus, indulging in psychedelic drugs and spreading their message of peace and love. Wolfe’s immersive writing style takes readers on a wild journey through the heart of the 1960s, capturing the spirit of the era and the vibrant characters who defined it. Through Kesey’s infamous Acid Tests and the group’s electrifying escapades, the book offers a fascinating insight into the 60s counterculture movement, shedding light on the era’s experimentation, rebellion, and the search for a new way of living. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a must-read for anyone interested in a firsthand account of this transformative period in American history.

best books about 60s counterculture Hippie

by Paulo Coelho

Hippie is a captivating book about 60s counterculture, written by Paulo Coelho. The story follows the author’s experiences as a young man who embarks on a journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening. Set in the backdrop of the 1960s, the book takes readers on a mesmerizing adventure through Europe and Asia, where the protagonist encounters a diverse cast of characters and experiences a myriad of life-changing events. Coelho’s vivid storytelling and poetic prose bring to life the essence of the 60s counterculture, capturing the era’s free-spirited ethos and the quest for meaning and truth. Hippie is a profound and enlightening exploration of love, freedom, and the pursuit of a higher purpose, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the transformative power of self-discovery and the 60s counterculture.

best books about 60s counterculture The Doors of Perception

The Doors of Perception

By aldous huxley.

The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley is a thought-provoking exploration of the author’s experiences with mescaline, a psychoactive substance derived from the peyote cactus. Huxley’s vivid descriptions and philosophical reflections offer a unique perspective on altered states of consciousness, perception, and the nature of reality. The book delves into the realms of psychedelic experience and the potential for spiritual enlightenment through the use of hallucinogenic substances, making it a significant work in the realm of 60s counterculture. The Doors of Perception is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the exploration of consciousness and the influence of mind-altering substances, providing valuable insights into the cultural and philosophical landscape of the 1960s.

best books about 60s counterculture Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

By hunter s. thompson.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a cult classic book on 60s counterculture that follows the drug-fueled journey of journalist Raoul Duke and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, as they embark on a trip to Las Vegas. Written by Hunter S. Thompson, the book is a wild and chaotic ride through the psychedelic and hedonistic landscape of the 1960s. With its vivid and frenzied prose, the book about 60s counterculture captures the madness and disillusionment of the era, offering a darkly humorous commentary on the American Dream and the decline of the counterculture movement. Thompson’s unique writing style and unapologetic portrayal of drug use and societal upheaval make Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas a quintessential 60s counterculture book that continues to resonate with readers today.

best books about 60s counterculture On the Road

On the Road

By jack kerouac.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac is a quintessential novel of the Beat Generation, a book on 60s counterculture that follows the adventures of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty as they crisscross the United States in search of meaning, freedom, and experience. The novel is a seminal work of American literature and a defining book about 60s counterculture, capturing the restlessness and yearning for authenticity that characterized the era. Kerouac’s writing style mirrors the frenetic energy of his characters, creating a sense of urgency and spontaneity that reflects the spirit of 60s counterculture. On the Road is a vivid and unapologetic portrayal of the Beat Generation’s rejection of mainstream society and their relentless pursuit of personal and spiritual fulfillment.

best books about 60s counterculture The Feminine Mystique

The Feminine Mystique

By betty friedan.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan is a groundbreaking book on 60s counterculture that challenged the traditional roles of women in post-World War II America. Friedan’s book sparked the second-wave feminist movement by exploring the dissatisfaction and unfulfillment experienced by women who were expected to find fulfillment solely in their roles as wives and mothers. She coined the term “the feminine mystique” to describe the societal pressure for women to conform to a narrow set of roles and expectations. The book sparked widespread discussions about gender equality and the role of women in society, and it remains a seminal work in the history of feminism and 60s counterculture.

best books about 60s counterculture The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

By malcolm x and alex haley.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a seminal book about the 1960s counterculture, co-written by Malcolm X and Alex Haley. This powerful memoir traces the life of Malcolm X from his tumultuous childhood to his evolution as a prominent civil rights leader. The book delves into Malcolm X’s experiences with racism, his time in prison, and his transformation into an influential figure in the fight for racial equality. Through his passionate and thought-provoking narrative, Malcolm X challenges societal norms and sheds light on the struggles faced by African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. The Autobiography of Malcolm X provides a gripping account of one man’s journey to self-discovery and empowerment, making it an essential read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of the 1960s counterculture.

best books about 60s counterculture The Dharma Bums

The Dharma Bums

The Dharma Bums is a classic novel by Jack Kerouac that takes readers on a journey through the Beat Generation, a literary movement that emerged in the 1950s. The story follows the protagonist, Ray Smith, as he embarks on a series of adventures with his friend Japhy Ryder, a free-spirited poet. Together, they explore the American West, embracing nature, Buddhism, and a bohemian lifestyle. The novel captures the spirit of the 1950s counterculture, with its themes of non-conformity, spiritual exploration, and a rejection of materialism. The Dharma Bums is a captivating and thought-provoking book about 60s counterculture that continues to resonate with readers today.

best books about 60s counterculture One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

By ken kesey.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey is a captivating novel that delves into the world of mental illness and the power struggle between the patients and the oppressive Nurse Ratched in a psychiatric hospital. Set in the 1960s, this book on 60s counterculture explores themes of rebellion, freedom, and individuality, making it a thought-provoking read for anyone interested in the societal norms and constraints of the era. The story is narrated by Chief Bromden, a Native American patient who provides a unique perspective on the events unfolding in the hospital. As the charismatic and rebellious Randle McMurphy enters the ward, the dynamics shift, leading to a powerful and unforgettable exploration of the human spirit and the fight against conformity. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a must-read for those seeking a compelling and insightful book about 60s counterculture.

best books about 60s counterculture The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye

By j.d. salinger.

The Catcher in the Rye, written by J.D. Salinger, is a classic novel that explores the struggles of a young man named Holden Caulfield as he navigates the complexities of growing up in 1950s America. The book delves into themes of alienation, identity, and the search for meaning, making it a timeless coming-of-age story that resonates with readers of all ages. Holden’s rebellious and nonconformist nature has made the book a symbol of teenage angst and disillusionment, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the book about 60s counterculture. Salinger’s iconic novel is a poignant and thought-provoking exploration of the challenges of youth, making it a seminal work in the genre of 60s counterculture literature.

best books about 60s counterculture The Joyous Cosmology

The Joyous Cosmology

By alan watts.

The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts is a captivating exploration of the psychedelic experience and its profound impact on human consciousness. Written during the 1960s counterculture movement, this book delves into the mystical and spiritual dimensions of psychedelic drugs, offering a unique perspective on the expansion of consciousness and the interconnectedness of all life. Watts’s vivid and poetic descriptions of his own experiences with psychedelics, combined with his deep understanding of Eastern philosophy and spirituality, make this book a fascinating and thought-provoking read. The Joyous Cosmology invites readers to reconsider their perceptions of reality and offers a glimpse into the transformative potential of altered states of consciousness. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the exploration of consciousness and the mind-expanding potential of psychedelics.

best books about 60s counterculture Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

By joan didion.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion is a captivating collection of essays that captures the essence of the 60s counterculture. Through her sharp and insightful writing, Didion explores the complexities and contradictions of the era, delving into topics such as drugs, music, and the social upheaval of the time. With a keen eye for detail and a unique voice, Didion’s essays offer a thought-provoking and intimate look at the cultural and political landscape of the 1960s. Whether she’s dissecting the hippie movement or examining the effects of the Vietnam War, Didion’s writing is both evocative and deeply insightful. Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of the 60s counterculture.

best books about 60s counterculture The Making of a Counter Culture

The Making of a Counter Culture

By theodore roszak.

The Making of a Counter Culture by Theodore Roszak is a seminal book on 60s counterculture that delves into the societal shifts and cultural revolutions of the era. Roszak provides a detailed analysis of the youth movement, alternative lifestyles, and the rejection of mainstream values that defined the 60s counterculture. He explores the influence of Eastern mysticism, environmentalism, and psychedelic drugs on the movement, and examines the impact of the counterculture on art, music, and literature. With a blend of historical insight and social commentary, the book about 60s counterculture offers a fascinating exploration of the radical ideas and transformative spirit that shaped a generation. The Making of a Counter Culture is an essential read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities and contradictions of the 60s counterculture.

best books about 60s counterculture The Politics of Ecstasy

The Politics of Ecstasy

By timothy leary.

The Politics of Ecstasy by Timothy Leary is a captivating book about 60s counterculture that delves into the psychedelic movement of the 1960s. Leary, a prominent figure in the era, provides a thought-provoking exploration of the cultural and political implications of mind-altering substances, such as LSD, and the impact they had on society. Through his personal experiences and research, Leary offers a unique perspective on the 60s counterculture book, discussing the potential for expanded consciousness and the role of psychedelics in challenging traditional power structures. This book on 60s counterculture is a must-read for anyone interested in the social and cultural upheaval of the 1960s and the influence of psychedelics on the era.

best books about 60s counterculture The Armies of the Night

The Armies of the Night

By norman mailer.

The Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer is a captivating account of the author’s experience at the 1967 March on the Pentagon, a pivotal event in the anti-Vietnam War movement. This nonfiction novel provides a unique and immersive perspective on the protests and the larger social and political climate of the time. Mailer’s writing style combines elements of journalism, autobiography, and historical analysis, creating a dynamic and engaging narrative that captures the spirit of the 60s counterculture. The book offers a firsthand look at the activism, dissent, and cultural upheaval of the era, making it an essential read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of the 60s counterculture and its impact on American society.

best books about 60s counterculture The Electric Church

The Electric Church

By jeff somers.

The Electric Church by Jeff Somers is a gripping cyberpunk novel that delves into a dystopian future where technology and religion collide. The story follows Avery Cates, a former assassin who finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy involving a powerful and dangerous cult known as the Electric Church. Set in a world filled with corruption and greed, Cates must navigate through a gritty and dangerous landscape while facing off against the cult’s fanatical followers and their technological advancements. With its fast-paced action and thought-provoking exploration of power and control, The Electric Church is a must-read for fans of cyberpunk and dystopian fiction. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the themes of rebellion and subversion, making it a perfect choice for readers looking for a thrilling and thought-provoking adventure.

best books about 60s counterculture The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage

The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage

By todd gitlin.

The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage by Todd Gitlin is a captivating book on 60s counterculture that delves into the tumultuous era of the 1960s. Gitlin provides a rich and detailed account of the political and social movements that defined this transformative decade, from the civil rights movement to the anti-war protests. Through vivid storytelling and insightful analysis, the author captures the spirit of rebellion and the fervent desire for change that characterized the 60s counterculture. The book offers a compelling exploration of the various factions and ideologies that shaped the era, shedding light on the hopes, dreams, and ultimately, the disillusionment that marked this pivotal period in history. Gitlin’s work is an essential read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities and contradictions of the 60s counterculture.

best books about 60s counterculture The Beatles: The Biography

The Beatles: The Biography

By bob spitz.

The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz is an in-depth exploration of the iconic band that defined an era. This book delves into the lives of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, offering a comprehensive look at their rise to fame, their music, and the impact they had on the music industry and popular culture. The book also provides insight into the band’s influence on the 60s counterculture, offering a fascinating glimpse into the social and cultural upheaval of the time. With detailed research and engaging storytelling, Spitz brings the Beatles’ story to life, capturing the essence of the 60s counterculture in a way that is both informative and entertaining. Whether you’re a die-hard Beatles fan or simply interested in the 60s counterculture, this book is a must-read for anyone fascinated by this transformative era in music and society.

best books about 60s counterculture The Revolution Was Televised

The Revolution Was Televised

By alan sepinwall.

The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall is a captivating book that explores the transformation of television in the 21st century. Sepinwall takes readers on a journey through some of the most groundbreaking and influential TV shows of the past few decades, from The Sopranos to Breaking Bad. Through in-depth interviews with show creators and behind-the-scenes insights, the book provides a fascinating look at how these shows revolutionized the medium and shaped the cultural landscape. Sepinwall’s engaging writing style and deep knowledge of the subject make this book a must-read for anyone interested in the evolution of television and its impact on society. Whether you’re a TV enthusiast or just curious about the power of storytelling through the small screen, The Revolution Was Televised offers a compelling and insightful exploration of the TV revolution.

best books about 60s counterculture The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974

The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974

By arthur marwick.

The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974 by Arthur Marwick is a captivating exploration of the tumultuous era of the 1960s. This book delves into the social, political, and cultural upheavals that defined the decade, offering a comprehensive analysis of the countercultural movements that swept across these four countries. Marwick provides a vivid portrayal of the era, examining the impact of music, fashion, art, and activism on society at large. With meticulous research and engaging prose, the author captures the spirit of rebellion and revolution that defined the 1960s counterculture. From the Beat Generation to the anti-war protests, this book offers a fascinating insight into a transformative period in history. If you’re looking for a thought-provoking and comprehensive exploration of the 60s counterculture, this book is a must-read.

In conclusion, these 20 best books about 60s counterculture offer a fascinating insight into the social and cultural movements that defined a generation. Whether you’re a history buff, a music fan, or simply curious about this pivotal era, there’s a book on this list that’s sure to captivate and enlighten you. Dive into the pages of these books and immerse yourself in the spirit of rebellion, creativity, and change that characterized the 1960s.

Which 60s counterculture book is best?

The best book on 60s counterculture can vary with personal preference, but three widely recommended titles are:

  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe ,
  • Hippie by Paulo Coelho ,
  • The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley .

Each offers valuable insights and could be a great starting point.

What are the best books to learn about 60s counterculture?

For those looking to learn about 60s counterculture, there is a wealth of literature that can provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject. Some of the most highly recommended books include:

  • The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley ,
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson ,
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac ,
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan ,
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley ,
  • The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac ,
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey ,
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

These books offer a range of perspectives on 60s counterculture, covering various aspects and approaches to the subject.

What are the best books on 60s counterculture?

The best books on 60s counterculture include:

  • The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts ,
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion ,
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan .

Each offers unique insights into the subject. While these books on the topic of 60s counterculture are highly regarded, it’s important to note that any list of ‘best’ books is subjective and reflects a range of opinions.

What are the best 60s counterculture books of all time?

Choosing the best 60s counterculture books of all time can vary depending on who you ask, but seven titles that are often celebrated include

  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger ,
  • and The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts .

Each of these books has made a significant impact in the field of 60s counterculture and continues to be influential today.

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Lucy Sante Is the Same Writer She Has Always Been

In her memoir “I Heard Her Call My Name,” the author reflects on her life and embarking on a gender transition in her late 60s.

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Lucy Sante poses for a portrait in the basement office of her home in Kingston, N.Y. She’s surrounded by shelves packed with books. There’s an open laptop on her desk.

By María Sánchez Díez

Reporting from Kingston, N.Y.

It took a lifetime.

After carrying a secret “the size of a house” for decades, Lucy Sante, the writer and author of, among others, “Low Life,” a cult book about the grittier side of New York City, began transitioning in 2021, at the age of 66.

All the subterfuges she had built to conceal her identity finally crumbled thanks to a small experiment during the pandemic. She downloaded FaceApp, an application that allows users to see how they would look if they swapped genders. She uploaded one photo, and then another until an alternative timeline of her life as a woman emerged. She was irreversibly gripped by what she saw: the person that she had most avoided and yearned for all her life.

This epiphany starts Sante’s new book, “ I Heard Her Call My Name: A Memoir of Transition ,” in which she jumps between past and present, narrating her transition process while revisiting her life from a new vantage point.

The book intertwines these two timelines — “a cheap technique from suspense novels,” as Sante puts it.

The past is the official tale: Her working-class family’s migration from Belgium to the suburbs of New Jersey in the ’60s. Her beginnings as a writer working for Barbara Epstein at The New York Review of Books. Her adventures working at the Strand bookstore and wandering around New York City’s counterculture scene in the ’70s alongside figures like Elizabeth Hardwick, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Nan Goldin, whose company Sante at one point avoided, afraid of Goldin’s proximity to trans people.

Then there is the transition, with its ambivalence and complexity: The irrevocability and exhilaration of it — “All I could do was emote,” Sante said of that time. The construction of a new person. The starts and stops. The quest for a version of femininity that would suit her. The breakup with her longtime partner. The fear of being romantically shunned by women.

Sante, who will turn 70 this year, says she is finally living as her true self, and she does not care if this sounds like a cliché. From her house in Kingston, N.Y., she talked about what it means to transition later in life, about trans rights in the United States and about the changes she has been through. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What connections do you see between your gender transition and any changes in your voice as a writer?

I’ve wondered about that a lot, and I don’t think there’s that much difference. One of the under-arguments of the book is that I was never really a man at all. I’m still the same person. I’m just outwardly manifesting what was inwardly there. But there is one major difference, which is that I was carrying around the secret for 60 years. And now, having gotten rid of that secret, I have nothing left to hide.

You have mentioned that your ambition as a writer was one thing that kept you from transitioning earlier. You were scared of becoming “the trans writer.”

I never want to have one subject, ever. After I wrote “Low Life” there was a pressure on me to write more New York books, and I just didn’t want to do that. When I’m doing my work, the subject matter is of central importance, but it’s not as important for me as the writing. It’s like I’m a painter. I can paint the ballet, I can paint a war scene, and I can paint the flowers in my backyard. It’s really all about the brushstrokes. That’s the way I am about my writing.

As an author, you are borderline obsessed with photography: how we portray ourselves, how we portray others. It seems fitting that the thing that finally pushed you through was photography.

It was visual evidence. Once I put through a recent photograph through FaceApp, I was amazed by the results. My first impulse was to see what I would have looked like 50 years ago. I started rounding up all the photographs that I have of me. There aren’t that many, but they’re scattered all over the house, from the basement to the attic. It became a project. It took for at least 4 or 5 days for me to dig up all these photographs.

I had known all my life — that’s why I didn’t cross-dress or anything — I knew if I did that there was no turning back. I finally got to that point after all those years.

What do you think about the copies of your books that sit in shelves or in bookstores and that have your dead name on them?

I made my peace with that very early. I hope that my dead name never dies, because we have to get rid of the back inventory (laughs).

You point to the growing tolerance in society toward trans people as one factor that allowed you to come out, but the political climate has changed a lot in the last couple years, with a flurry of bills seeking to restrict transgender rights introduced in at least 25 states. How have you experienced this wave?

It makes me very sad. I don’t feel in danger because I’m too old. Nobody cares about me as a sex object. There’s been violence against trans women, especially trans women who have to do sex work, and guys whose sense of shame is expressed by violence toward their partner. Now it’s joined by these people who are terrified their children are going to be trans. They want to control how their children think. It’s a convenient cultural scapegoat.

Why? Do you think the challenge to the binary scares people?

People are afraid of instability, they’re afraid of ambiguity, they’re afraid of anything that’s not clearly designated, black-and-white. Because we are relatively few — probably many more than anybody suspects when you come down to the closeted cases — many people, especially out in the middle of the country, have never met a trans person. They don’t know what they’re like, so they can just rely on some cartoon version in their head.

Movies have been very bad. Trans people have been used as comic figures or creepy villains. That awful Brian De Palma movie called “Dressed to Kill” or “The Silence of the Lambs,” movies where the murderer is a trans person and they’re murdering, because they’re weird and trans.

Your book is not political, but it exists in the particular context we are discussing. How do you think it will fit the conversation about trans people in the United States?

I hope that it will humanize. This is not the first trans memoir that’s been written. There are dozens, but because I’m a writer known for a number of other books, this might attract a readership that would not ordinarily be reading a trans memoir, and it will help to explain how it works, how it’s serious, how it’ll last a lifetime. I didn’t want to make it a polemic, I wanted it to be a personal story. I think that’s more powerful than being a polemic, because polemic results in dead prose. It’s just rhetoric. It passes through you like air. I wanted something that would stick in the mind.

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Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

Even in countries where homophobia is pervasive and same-sex relationships are illegal, queer African writers are pushing boundaries , finding an audience and winning awards.

In Lucy Sante’s new memoir, “I Heard Her Call My Name,” the author reflects on her life and embarking on a gender transition  in her late 60s.

For people of all ages in Pasadena, Calif., Vroman’s Bookstore, founded in 1894, has been a mainstay in a world of rapid change. Now, its longtime owner says he’s ready to turn over the reins .

Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

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Book Reviews

Move over, senior center — these 5 books center seniors.

Heller McAlpin

Covers of five books with over-50 female protagonists.

I have always loved the company of spunky older women, whether in books, movies or in person. What they have to say about their lives and times, their passions, and mortality strikes me as far more interesting than worries about finding the perfect job, husband — or handbag. (My master's thesis, written in my early 20s, was a collection of stories titled Old Ladies and Other Philosophers. )

Now that I'm older myself, I have become increasingly aware of a growing body of fiction about women of a certain age — and there's nothing limp or lame about any of it. Many of the writers I've been reading for decades have turned their attention to the so-called golden years.

The books below all concern women, ages 60 to over 90, who fully intend to seize the day and enjoy life while they can. These are characters who refuse to go gentle into that good night. They're still sharp and ready to surprise.

Leaving by Roxana Robinson

Leaving

In Leaving, out on Feb. 13, Roxana Robinson explores the moral ramifications of jumping at the chance of long-deferred happiness — even if it's at the expense of others.

When Sarah Watson, a museum curator, and Warren Jennings, the college boyfriend she dropped suddenly nearly four decades earlier, run into each other in New York at the opera, their old flame is rekindled. She's long divorced from the man for whom she left Warren, and content with the life she has made for herself on a beautiful property in northern Westchester. He's a successful architect practicing out of Boston who has struggled in a marriage to a woman he finds shallow and uninteresting.

Leaving, which chronicles the couple's evolving feelings during months of hotel trysts, is poised to fuel many a book group discussion. Sarah is at first ashamed that she is seeing a married man and worried that she is betraying "the sisterhood." But as their relationship blossoms, her "moral landscape" shifts and she reasons that "it's not her responsibility to protect Warren's marriage."

As for Warren, after reconnecting with Sarah, his marriage feels increasingly like a prison. He believes that happiness is a right, and that it is his right to leave his marriage. He also feels that it is not too late for him and Sarah.

His wife and daughter vehemently disagree. They find his behavior "morally unacceptable" and "unspeakably cruel." His daughter threatens him: "If you divorce Mom, I'll divorce you...utterly...You will never see your grandchildren...I will never forgive you."

What starts as a story about rekindled, mature love — his chest hair turning as white as her roots — becomes an operatic tragedy about passion and honor. Frequent allusions to Verdi's "Tosca" — the opera at which Warren and Sarah ran into each other — somewhat heavy-handedly foreshadow the devastating consequences of this affair.

Ana Turns by Lisa Gornick

Ana Turns

Lisa Gornick's latest novel, Ana Turns, paints a vivid portrait of a stressed New Yorker on her 60th birthday. In the course of a single hectic day, Ana Koehl awakens to a poisonous email from her mother, joins her beloved nieces in a yoga class, meets her transitioning son to discuss the timing and funding of his bottom surgery, trysts with her lover, meets with a client in crisis, and has a long overdue heart-to-heart with her husband. All this before sitting down for a dinner celebration with her extended family.

Gornick's character is a "manuscript therapist," a sort of book doula who helps blocked writers overcome road-bumps in their literary projects, usually due to unresolved personal issues. She is also a devotee of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, an increasingly overused inspirational template for novelists seeking to capture the essence of a woman's life during the course a single day leading up to a party.

Ana's own life has no shortage of unresolved issues, including her relationships with her bitter mother and her sweet husband, an anesthesiologist whose self-treatment for a chronic back injury has sucked the life out of their marriage. But by the time she hears her family's toasts over dinner, Ana has come to some important realizations about her life.

Sixty is the new 50, right? Still plenty of time to right the ship. The takeaway in this briskly engaging novel is that it's important to focus on what really matters, and it's never too late to make changes

Mrs. Quinn's Rise to Fame by Olivia Ford

Mrs. Quinn's Rise to Fame

Olivia Ford's debut novel, Mrs. Quinn's Rise to Fame, is a sweet confection — a bit sticky with sentiment in parts, but worth the calories. It's a feel-good, "coming-of-old-age" tale about 77-year-old Jennifer Quinn, who decides to apply for a spot on the hit television show, "Britain Bakes." Thinking her chances are slim, she doesn't tell her husband; it's the second secret she's ever kept from him in their 59 years of marriage.

Jenny's bakes are closely tied to her memories, including unhappy ones she's suppressed for six decades. She's partial to old family recipes, which "contain little pieces of history, of nostalgia, and of people." But they also cause long buried feelings to bubble up, sometimes inconveniently.

Ford's tear-jerker takes us behind the scenes of the bake-off and tantalizes readers with mouth-watering treats like choux buns filled with coffee cream, and blackcurrant jam doughnuts dusted with elderflower sugar. Jenny quickly bonds with a fellow contestant, a gay architecture student named Azeez Patel whose recipes — mango cream and yuzu doughnuts and choux filled with smoked salmon and horseradish mousse — are as newfangled as hers are old-fashioned. Though the show's format is somewhat tweaked, classic lines and moments from The Great British Baking Show are sprinkled throughout, including one judge's deliberately teasing verdict: "I don't like them...I love them!"

The novel is liberally seasoned with moving, sometimes soggy-bottomed remarks about what makes a happy marriage (kindness!), as well as tart observations about ageism. Asked why she applied to the show, Jenny says, "It's sometimes easy to feel left behind at my age, as if the world has a future and you have no place in it...but I hope to discover that there is meaning and adventure still to be found."

Readers are sure to eat up this delicious paean to pursuing one's dreams at every age.

Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark

Fellowship Point

In Alice Elliott Dark's beautifully written Fellowship Point, now available in paperback, two women, lifelong friends recently turned 80, tussle over the future of the Maine vacation property that their great-grandfathers, along with some Quaker friends from Pennsylvania, established more than 125 years earlier. Fellowship Point includes a treasured 35-acre wildlife sanctuary on what is discovered to be the site of an Abenaki campground. A local developer has hatched plans to build a resort on this hallowed land, which he hopes to lure shareholders to sell with the promise of an economic windfall.

Although the two women share privileged backgrounds, their values have diverged. Agnes Lee is a stridently independent writer who has never married. Under her own name, she has authored a series of popular children's adventures about a plucky 9-year old girl. But she published her acclaimed adult novels under a pseudonym, which enabled her to write critically about women from her tony social set — including her friend Polly Wister. In Agnes' opinion, Polly has sold herself short by becoming a dutiful wife and mother who defers to her self-important husband and money-hungry eldest son on every subject, including the issue of developing Fellowship Point.

With a mystery at its core, Fellowship Point is filled with absorbing plot twists along with reflections on friendship, stewardship, aging, independence, and responsibility. It takes on big subjects, such as caring for the people and places we love, but also letting down one's guard and opening oneself up to different ways of interacting with the world. Like many of these novels featuring older heroines, it is a lovely affirmation that change and growth are possible at any age.

Ladies' Lunch: and Other Stories by Lore Segal

Ladies' Lunch

In Lore Segal's sharp-witted Ladies' Lunch stories, many of which first appeared in The New Yorker , a group of old friends continue their decades' long tradition of meeting around each other's tables every month or so to discuss what's on their minds, be it King Lear or memory lapses.

These longtime New Yorkers originally hail from Tehran, Vienna, County Mayo, California, and the Bronx. Ruth is a retired lawyer, Farah a retired doctor. Bridget is an author who still writes every morning. Ilka, like Segal, was a Kindertransport child whose evacuation from Vienna to escape the Nazis still haunts her. Bessie often has to miss lunch because her husband is increasingly unwell. Bessie's friends try to be sympathetic, but they "had little use for the one husband still alive, a man of large property and the wrong politics."

As they approach and pass 90, the ladies still try to maintain the Twenty Minute Rule, which limits talk about physical woes — hips, knees, eyes, teeth, balance, appetite. But with time, "the old problem of shuffling off this mortal coil" and "how to prevent the inevitable," by which they mean "any of the scenarios we would rather die than live in," come to dominate their conversation. So, too, do schemes to rescue, or at least visit, their poor friend Lotte, whose well-meaning sons, in their determination to keep their mother safe, have moved her upstate into a "nice" assisted living place. Lotte, furious, reports scathingly on the banality of conversations with her new table-mates, which are mainly limited to the names and ages of grandchildren.

Segal, born in 1928, captures the insults of old age with wry humor. Wakes, funerals, and shivahs are deemed "the cocktail parties of the old." Over a Zoom lunch during the pandemic, Bessie offers this advice about dealing with memory problems: "The trick will be to not embark on a sentence one hasn't the vocabulary to get to the end of."

And more ...

If you're looking for other vivacious older heroines, you can't go wrong with Elizabeth Strout's Olive, Again , about acerbic-tongued Olive Kitteridge, or her recent novels about widowed Lucy Barton, Oh William! and Lucy By the Sea . Sigrid Nunez 's latest novel, The Vulnerables, and Shelby Van Pelt's Remarkably Bright Creatures offer very different views of older women living on their own — with the morale-boosting assists of animal friends. In her charming novels, They May Not Mean To, But They Do and Künstlers in Paradise , Cathleen Schine demonstrates that she has her finger firmly planted on the still-vital pulse of widows determined to maintain their independence in the face of their adult children's worries. And in her recent collection, Roman Stories, Jhumpa Lahiri paints moving portraits of several women who consider how they came to the transcontinental, solitary lives they're leading.

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Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

Our Verdict

A CALIFORNIA STORY

by Namit Arora ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 20, 2019

A cleverly written tale with a social conscience featuring themes of family, inclusiveness, racial divides, and the...

A young man contemplates West Coast life and his technology career in Silicon Valley while family and interpersonal tensions simmer. 

This novel by an author, essayist, travel photographer, and former computer engineer follows India-born Ved, a disillusioned, soft-skilled marketing manager. Ved works at the multinational computer networking behemoth Omnicon. At 36, considered “late middle age in Silicon Valley terms,” he has become restless and anxious to venture elsewhere. His three-year tenure with the tech firm is already stale. Mostly unattached throughout his 15 years in America, he begins dating Liz, whom he met on an online matchmaking site. She’s a spiritually conscious woman who is the polar opposite of Sasha, a 28-year-old Russian escort who satisfies Ved’s carnal needs until real romance can break through the monotony of singledom. More dates with Liz open up their personalities further and explore their differing opinions on contentious issues alongside an amusingly silly intimate moment involving a scene-stealing moth. Still, Ved’s own internal concerns over death, aging, and whether or not he will grow old alone make the narrative relatable. Meanwhile, he contemplates his future while reuniting with his graduation buddies from India who perceive his life to be more exciting and provocative than it really is, callously calling him “too much of a California liberal, with too many un-Indian tastes and manners.” After several chapters of interoffice melodrama that threaten to dampen the novel’s pace, Arora ( The Lottery of Birth , 2017) ratchets up the intensity with a plot twist involving a visit from Ved’s parents. Obsessed with their son’s health and happiness, they share updates on the state of modern India and impart their wisdom and opinions on American culture, which contort and challenge Ved’s ever eroding resolve about remaining in the United States. A vicious hate crime assault happens while Ved and his parents venture out together. This strikes terror in their hearts, and his parents draw their own conclusions as Ved’s overall impression of his safety in California is called into question. Light on plot but engrossing nevertheless, the book keeps the momentum flowing as Ved tries to enjoy working for a sinking company he doesn’t particularly support or like while processing the abundant emotions linked to suffering an attack for being an Indian immigrant in America. Arora’s narrative is structurally sound and capably written, with a protagonist who is endearing. Ved will give pop fiction readers someone to cheer for as he navigates the precarious world of online dating, job dissatisfaction, and, perhaps most socially significant and politically relevant, the rampant discrimination and violent racism coursing through the streets of America. Indian culture is knowledgeably and effectively personified through Ved’s character as the story explores the nature of the immigrant journey in the United States: how it shapes lives and can make or break both personal and professional experiences.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-950437-83-2

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Adelaide Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Review Program: Kirkus Indie

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A LITTLE LIFE

Kirkus Reviews' Best Books Of 2015

Kirkus Prize

Kirkus Prize winner

National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara ( The People in the Trees , 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

More by Hanya Yanagihara

TO PARADISE

BOOK REVIEW

by Hanya Yanagihara

THE PEOPLE IN THE TREES

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The Year in Fiction

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

by J.D. Salinger ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 15, 1951

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen ) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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RAISE HIGH THE ROOF BEAM, CARPENTERS AND SEYMOUR

by J.D. Salinger

Salinger Focus of NYPL Exhibit

SEEN & HEARD

NYC Mayoral Candidates Name Favorite Gotham Books

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books about 60s counterculture

Vintage Photos Show Bars and Nightlife Scene from the 1950s to 1970s

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

The history of bars in the USA during the 1950s to 1970s was marked by significant changes in trends, culture, fashion, and drinks.

This era saw the emergence of various bar styles, including the tiki bars and cocktail lounges of the 1950s, the counterculture bars of the 1960s, and the disco bars of the 1970s.

The 1950s was a period of post-war prosperity, and the bar culture of the time reflected this. Tiki bars and cocktail lounges were the popular bar styles of the era, and they attracted a well-dressed, sophisticated crowd.

Tiki bars were inspired by the Polynesian lifestyle, and they featured tropical decor, live music, and rum-based cocktails such as the Mai Tai and Pina Colada.

Cocktail lounges, on the other hand, were more upscale and catered to a more mature clientele. Patrons would often dress in their finest clothes and sip on classic cocktails such as the Martini and Manhattan.

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Arizona. Royal Road’s Victorian Room, Cocktail Bar, Nogales

One of the most famous bars of the era was the Copacabana nightclub in New York City. The Copacabana was a glamorous nightclub that was known for its live music, celebrity sightings, and high-class clientele.

It was also one of the few establishments of the time that allowed black and Latino patrons, making it a popular spot for civil rights activists.

As the 1960s dawned, the counterculture movement began to take hold, and bars and nightclubs began to reflect this shift.

The Whisky a Go-Go in Los Angeles and The Fillmore in San Francisco became famous for hosting some of the most influential musicians of the time, including Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

These bars had a more relaxed atmosphere and attracted a younger, more bohemian crowd. Patrons would often dress in casual, comfortable clothing such as tie-dye shirts and bell-bottom jeans.

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Arizona. Superstition Inn, Apache Junction

The 1970s saw the emergence of disco culture, and bars and nightclubs embraced this trend with open arms. Disco clubs like Studio 54 in New York City and The Loft in Chicago became legendary for their flamboyant fashion, pulsing music, and non-stop party atmosphere.

The fashion of the disco era was all about glitz and glam, with sequined dresses, platform shoes, and bell-bottom pants becoming the norm.

Drinks during this era often featured bright colors and were designed to be sipped while dancing. Cocktails such as the Tequila Sunrise, Blue Hawaii, and Sex on the Beach were popular, and many establishments offered drink specials during happy hour.

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Arizona. Wahweap Lodge, Page

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

California. Brookdale Lodge Burl Room Rustic Cocktail Lounge, Santa Cruz County

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

California. Cirque Room Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

California. Crown Room Cocktail Lounge, Fairmont Hotel and Towers, San Francisco

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

California. El Cortez Hotel Starlite Roof, San Diego

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

California. Mermaid Room Cocktail Lounge, Fresno Hacienda

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

California. Sierra Room, Nicely’s Restaurant, Lee Vining

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

California. Tonga at the Fairmont, San Francisco

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Florida. Blue Horizon Cocktail Lounge and Restaurant on the ocean at 89th Street, Miami Beach

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Florida. Bob Darch Bonanza Room, Escape Hotel, Ft Lauderdale

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Florida. Castaways Wreck Bar on the ocean at 163rd Street, Miami Beach

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Florida. Club Wally Musical Bar and Night Club, Miami

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Florida. Gold Room Ridgewood Hotel, Daytona Beach

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Florida. Kon Tiki Bar in Harris’ Imperial Lounge, Pompano Beach

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Florida. Rum House, Galt Ocean Mile Hotel, Fort Lauderdale

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Florida. Starlight Room, Belleview-Biltmore, Belleair

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Florida. Sun Castle Club and Motor Hotel, Pompano Beach

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Florida. The Everglades Roof 18 stories above Miami

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Illinois. Coq d’Or Cocktail Lounge, Drake Hotel, Chicago

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Illinois. Stouffer’s Top of the Rock Prudential Building, Chicago

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Maine. Eastland Motor Hotel, Portland

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Massachusetts. Avaloch Five Reasons Steak and Ale House, Lenox

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Massachusetts. Harborside Inn, Martha’s Vineyard

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Massachusetts. Merry-Go-Round Lounge, Sheraton-Plaza Hotel, Boston

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Michigan. Devon Gables Starlit Cocktail Lounge, Bloomfield

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Nevada. Top O’ The Strip, Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

New Hampshire. Eastern Slope Inn, North Conway

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

New York. Nevele Country Club Mardi Gras at the Safari Lounge, Ellenville

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

New York. Purple Tree Lounge, Manager Hotel, Rochester

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

New York. Purple Tree Manger Vanderbilt Hotel

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Pennsylvania. Gaslight Lounge Fernwood in the Pocono Mountains, Bushkill

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Pennsylvania. Mount Airy Lodge, Club Suzanne, Mount Pocono

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Pennsylvania. Rock Lodge, Bavarian Room, Lake Harmony

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Washington DC. Manager Annapolis Hotel

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Washington DC. Manger Hamilton Hotel Cocktail Lounge

Old Photos Nightclubs Bars of 1950s 1960s

Wyoming. Stockade Room, Jackson Lake Lodge, Teton National Park, Moran

(Photo credit: Pinterest / Flickr).

Updated on: April 19, 2023

Any factual error or typo?  Let us know.

Freedom Summer of ... 2024? Election official hopes 60-year-old fight will inspire voters

books about 60s counterculture

WASHINGTON ‒ Shirley Weber plans to take a page from the history books this summer.

To promote the importance of voting in California, Weber, the secretary of state, plans to launch a get-out-the-vote campaign . The effort will commemorate the 60 th anniversary of Freedom Summer , a pivotal movement that spurred civil rights activism in Mississippi and across the country.

Weber and get-out-the-vote activists hope this new project will do the same.

“We want to get up and down California, as large as it is, and help people understand in different areas why people worked so hard to vote,’’ Weber said. "There just seems like there's a disconnect between folks who struggled so hard to get the right to vote and others who have no concept at all.’’

Daphne Chamberlain, a Mississippi civil rights historian, said she supports any effort to commemorate Freedom Summer and educate people about the importance of voting in local and national elections. During that summer of 1964, thousands of people, many of them college students, joined Mississippi locals to help register Blacks citizens to vote.

Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide

“Freedom Summer needs to happen every year,'' Chamberlain said. "This is a crucial election year.”

Events commemorating Freedom Summer also are planned across Mississippi this summer, hosted by universities and civic engagement groups. Many are aimed at high school and college students.

MacArthur Cotton, a civil rights veteran who lives in Kosciusko, Mississippi, welcomes the commemorations.

“I had no illusions that freedom was going to be something instant. I expected there would be work to do as long as I lived,’’ said Cotton, 81, a veteran of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. “I did hope that we would by now have resolved the voting question.”

Remembering the fight for voting rights

Much like civil rights activists did in Mississippi decades ago, Weber’s office plans to fan out across the state registering voters, hosting lectures and education series in churches and other venues. It will also turn to social media, which didn't exist back then, to reach younger people.

“It's much about civic engagement but (also) motivating them to understand how powerful this motivation is and the fact that it's not ‘Just oh, you should vote because you're a citizen,' ’’ said Weber, who called the initiative Freedom Summer 2. “It's your responsibility, and that doesn't somehow register to young people or anybody.”

In California, whose population is closing in on 40 million, nearly 22 million were registered to vote in 2022, and about half of those registered cast ballots that year , according to the Secretary of State's office .

Historically, California has had some of the largest gaps in voter turnout between white voters and voters of color, often ranking near the bottom among states, said Mindy Romero, director of the University of Southern California's Center for Inclusive Democracy.

In 2022, 31% of eligible Black Californians cast ballots, compared with 30% of Asian American and Pacific Islanders, 26% of Latinos and 58% of white voters, according to a recent report released by the center .

“There's still a legacy in the state, a historic legacy that shows up in our voter turnout,’’ said Romero, adding that for decades community groups have conducted get-out-the-vote campaigns. “We still have significant disparities, consistently entrenched disparities in turnout by race and ethnicity that have real impact on representation and outcomes.’’

Some factors for those disparities include lower registration rates and a disconnect from the political process, Romero said. Obstacles to voting may not be overt in California, she said, but some voters of color still face hurdles such as targeted misinformation and lack of access to language assistance.

“California often is overlooked when we think about our nation's terrible history of voter suppression efforts, particularly violent voter suppression efforts,’’ Romero said. “But there isn't a lot of recognition about what has happened historically out here in California for voters of color period, but particularly for the Latino community.’’

Over the years, the state has taken steps to improve access, including expanding early voting and increasing polling centers.

“Still, you’re begging people to come to vote,’’ Weber said.

As part of its Freedom Summer 2 project, the office plans to invite veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, many whom are in their 80s and 90s, to share their experiences.

“We want to make it a little bit more real for people to understand this power that they have, that they don't use,” she said. “Most of us don't know why we vote. We also don't know what happens when we don't vote. But the older folks, they knew what happens when you don't have a voice, when you can't participate in the political system.’’

'Clarion call' to continue the fight for voting rights

Black Mississippians had long been organizing around the fight for voting rights . In 1964 the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) formed the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to counter the all-white state party. The MFDP held a convention , drawing thousands.

“It was wonderful to see all those people across the state coming to finally mobilize to the point that we got hundreds of people who were saying, ‘OK, we’re ready to move,’’ said Cotton, noting that a year earlier Medgar Evers, the state NAACP field secretary , had been assassinated.

Cotton said civil rights activists had launched summer projects in the past but knew that if more white middle class activists got involved it would garner more attention. It did. Until then, he said, their efforts went mostly unnoticed by national media.

Freedom Summer also drew national media after the murder of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in June that year. Goodman and Schwerner were white.

Later that summer, delegates from the MFDP went to the national Democratic Party convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. At the convention, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer gave her impassioned speech about the struggle for voting rights for Black Mississippians.

“Everything that happened after that changed the complexion of politics in this state,’’ Chamberlain said. “That's when you see this shift in having more African American elected officials sitting in these positions of local authority all the way up to state positions of power.’’

Americans stood up to racism in 1961 and changed history. This is their fight, in their words.

Mississippi, where the population is nearly 40% Black, is now among the states with the highest number of Black elected officials.

It was after attending the unveiling of a statute of Hamer in Atlantic City last fall that Weber started plans to launch the Freedom Summer project in California.

"You start realizing the tremendous amount of sacrifice that people made just to register to vote, whether it's women, whether it's African Americans,'' Weber said.

Chamberlain , the Mississippi historian, called the commemoration efforts a “clarion call’’ for others to teach younger people about that history and how they can contribute today.

“We do need to acknowledge it as important and also being the inspiration to why we continue to do the work that we do.’’

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