Category Archives: 1960-1969

Year 73

1960: To Kill a Mockingbird

Author/Editor: Harper Lee

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Harper Lee’s only published work, To Kill a Mockingbird, has won numerous literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. Addressing issues of race, social class, and prejudice, Lee tells the story of a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman in the Deep South and the resulting court case. Narrated through a child’s eyes, the story illustrates lessons of morality and social conscience – standing up for what you believe is right, even in the face of adversity.

Published just as the American Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum, To Kill a Mockingbird is notable for its condemnation of racial inequality and for its sophisticated narrative style. Despite the moral lessons therein, this book has often been on banned book lists because of the use of racial epithets.

Year 74

1961: Catch-22

Author: Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 is a scathing critique of the bureaucracy of war published at a time when America was still reveling in the success and glory of World War II. It was embraced by disillusioned young people and veterans of the Vietnam War, which took place a few years after publication. The literary style of multiple narrators and non-chronological storyline is recognized as one of the finest pieces of writing of the twentieth century.

The term Catch-22, a military policy in the book that the protagonist is constantly coming up against and unable to resolve, has become a common expression of a circular “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

Year 75

1962: A Clockwork Orange & Silent Spring

A Clockwork Orange

Author: Anthony Burgess

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This book is no stranger to controversy.  In 1973 a book seller in Orem, Utah was arrested for selling the novel!  This book has been removed from high school libraries across the country due to objectionable language!  Like a Handmaid’s Tale (1985), this book also offers a glimpse into the future.  A future where criminals take over.  The book is told by the central character Alex.  The state undertakes to reform Alex, but at what cost.  Anthony Burgess provides insight in his introductory comments, titled, A Clockwork Orange Resucked in which he discusses that the original edition released in the United States did not include the controversial twenty-first chapter.  1971, a film adaption was released to critical acclaim written and directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Silent Spring

Author: Rachel Carson

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Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was, for many, a first alert to chemical pollution and a launching point for the environmental movement.

Carson clearly and dramatically documents the effects of DDT on people and organisms when applied thoughtlessly. She brought the problem of bioaccumulation, inadvertent harms, and the idea of biocontrol to the attention of the public at large.

Even before Silent Spring was published, Carson was decried as radical, unhinged and (that perennial favorite) hysterical. Still, her book was widely read and while she is sometimes now accused of being the cause of malaria deaths in developing nations by causing a reaction against DDT, much evidence indicates that DDT spraying declined in these areas because, as Carson herself notes, mosquitoes very rapidly become resistant to DDT.

The controversy generated forced us to confront the question of how much humans can control the environment, and where boundaries should and can be drawn—a question we continue to struggle with.

Year 76

1963: Where the Wild Things Are

Author/Editor: Maurice Sendak

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The beloved children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, was initially banned by many school libraries, but was soon found to be very popular among both children and their parents. The engaging illustrations of this wild land represent a child’s imagination, but also his anger at having been sent to bed without supper. After having essentially conquered these “wild things” and by extension, his own wild side, he calms down and returns home to find that his supper is “still hot”.

This tale of a child overcoming his feelings in a way that only a child can – through his imagination – is timeless and has been enjoyed by several generations of children and their families.

Year 77

1964: Why We Can’t Wait

Author/Editor: Martin Luther King, Jr.

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This is King’s powerful treatise on why African Americans could not wait for freedom and his strategy of non-violence as a course of action for achieving equality. Included is King’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” a response, in part, to a group of white clergymen, who argued that civil rights leaders ought to fight their battles in the courts.

Year 78

1965: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Author/Editor: Malcolm X, Alex Haley

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The Library of Congress says it all:

“When The Autobiography of Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little) was published, the New York Times called it a “brilliant, painful, important book,” and it has become a classic American autobiography. Written in collaboration with Alex Haley (author of Roots), the book expressed for many African Americans what the mainstream civil rights movement did not: their anger and frustration with the intractability of racial injustice. In 1998, Time magazine listed The Autobiography of Malcolm X as one of ten “required reading” nonfiction books.”

Year 79

1966: In Cold Blood

Author/Editor: Truman Capote

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Another book selected by the Library of Congress as one of the books that shaped America, In Cold Blood is a nonfiction novel inspired by a story

“…about a murder that led Truman Capote to travel with his childhood friend Harper Lee ( author of A Kill a Mockingbird)  to Holcomb, Kansas, to research his nonfiction novel, which is considered one of the greatest true crime books ever written. Capote said the novel was an attempt to establish a serious new literary form, the “nonfiction novel,” a narrative form that employed all the techniques of fictional art but was nevertheless entirely factual. The book was an instant success and was made into a film.”

A portrait of Capote as a young man by Carl Van Vechten courtesy of the American Memory Project.

Year 80

1967: Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung

Author/Editor: Zedong Mao

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“The Little Red Book”, as it was known, is one of the most printed books in history. It is a collection of the Chinese Cultural Revolution’s ideas and philosophies regarding the corruption of capitalism and the promotion of communism. During the 1960s, it was essentially required for every Chinese citizen to own and study this work and images from the time frequently depict people waving the distinctive red book in the air or clutching it under their arms.

This particular edition was translated into English by the Foreign Languages Press in Peking and features a preface by Lin Piao, Mao’s chosen successor. However, after Paio died during a suspected coup to overthrow Mao, he was posthumously declared a traitor and his preface was ripped out of existing editions.

Year 81

1968: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Author: Tom Wolfe

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A journalistic rendering of the adventures of the adventures of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, as they crossed the United States in Further, a psychedelic school bus figuratively fueled by LSD. Upon their return to California the group participated in the ‘acid tests,’ where hundreds of individuals are introduced to LSD and the Grateful Dead. The cultural consequences of this congregation of freaks continues in the manifestation of raves, Rainbow Gatherings, and Burning Man Festivals.

This book documents some of the seminal events and individuals inextricably linked to mid-60s psychedelia in a fast-paced and accessible style.

Year 82

1969: The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Slaughterhouse-Five

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Author/Editor: Eric Carle

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A children’s picture book designed, illustrated and written by Eric Carle which is now considered a classic for children of all ages!  Cited by the New York Times as one of the best picture books of 1969, this book has gone on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide.   Carle’s web site provides a plethora of information about him as well as lots of creative inspiration.  In his own words, he reflects upon his writing! Carle says:

“With many of my books I attempt to bridge the gap between the home and school. To me home represents, or should represent; warmth, security, toys, holding hands, being held. School is a strange and new place for a child. Will it be a happy place? There are new people, a teacher, classmates—will they be friendly?

I believe the passage from home to school is the second biggest trauma of childhood; the first is, of course, being born. Indeed, in both cases we leave a place of warmth and protection for one that is unknown. The unknown often brings fear with it. In my books I try to counteract this fear, to replace it with a positive message. I believe that children are naturally creative and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun.”

The book is so popular there is even a salad named in its honor!

Very Hungry Caterpillar Fruit Salad

1 Apple
2 Pears
3 Plums
4 Strawberries
5 Oranges
Bunch of Mint Leaves

Peel, pare, seed, hull and section each fruit. Cut into bite-sized pieces. Then put them all together in a big bowl and chill. Garnish each serving with a sprig of mint. Serve to a small group of friends, after reading a good book. You’ll enjoy every bit of it. ( retrieved from the Eric Carle web site:


Author/Editor: Kurt Vonnegut

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Slaughterhouse 5, or The Children’s Crusade was one of the first books to take a fantastical, anti-realist approach to World War Two. Vonnegut’s novel refrained from showing WWII as the Good War, and from showing it as an uncomplicated loss of innocence. Instead, he fragmented the story and added fantastical elements that destabilized what had come to be a well-known realist narrative.

Published in 1969, too, when the ethos of ‘trust no one over 30’ was strong and the Vietnam War was raging, the book took a childlike protagonist and put him in strange and hellish situations.

It was also in a way a documentary—recounting the firebombing of Dresden, which had been little known in the United States and which still generates controversy over whether it was a justified military target or an immoral act. As Billy Pilgrim said: “I just want you to know: I was there.”

Vonnegut himself recalled writing the book and experiencing the bombing like this:

“The Dresden atrocity, tremendously expensive and meticulously planned, was so meaningless, finally, that only one person on the entire planet got any benefit from it. I am that person. I wrote this book, which earned a lot of money for me and made my reputation, such as it is. One way or another, I got two or three dollars for every person killed. Some business I’m in.”

-Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday, Dial Press, 2011 page 275.