Reading lists

20 books that defined the 1960s

The 1960s was one of the most tumultuous and culturally significant decades of the 20th century. So, in the spirit of free love, revolution, one very bad war, feminism and more, here are some books to relive it. 

Image: Ryan MacEachern/Penguin
Image: Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

If the Fifties were in black and white, the Sixties burst into colour – one of the most tumultuous, subversive and revolutionary decades of the 20th century. It was the decade of the pill, Black Power, the Stonewall riots, Vietnam, and Flower Power. It was the decade The Beatles got bigger than Jesus.

It was also the decade that launched second wave feminism, and the decade “pro-choice” found a voice. It was the decade that the “Silent Generation” gave way to the “Baby Boomer Generation” who unleashed a tidal wave of rebellion, self-confidence, and experimentation. It was a decade defined by a spate of major political assassinations, mass protests and (sometimes) bloody riots.

All of which is to say, the Sixties were a momentous, fascinating decade of massive social change. And, as usual, there was no shortage of writers with their typewriters at the ready, on hand to record it all. Or, in some cases, to change the world themselves.

Here – from Betty Friedan to Malcolm X, Anthony Burgess to Roald Dahl – are twenty books that helped shape the 1960s.

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