Book to the Future: the 1960s

Pick up your South West Reading Passport 2016: Book to the Future from your local library, read through the decades and win prizes from now until March 2017. Find out more on our  Book to the Future blog post.

There are more suggestions in your passport, but we’ve gathered a selection of books to get you started, either set in, or published in, the 1960s. You can also download a reading list here: 1960s

achebeChinua Achebe, Arrow of God. Final part of Achebe’s African Trilogy. Two cultures confront their differences in early twentieth century Nigeria. The British impose their power on traditional African culture resulting in the loss of the Igbo cultural identity.

Maya Angelou,  I know why the caged bird sings. Maya Angelou’s classic first volume of her autobiography is a coming of age story as she transforms from a victim of racism with an inferiority complex into a self-possessed, dignified young woman capable of responding to prejudice.

burgessAnthony Burgess, A clockwork orange. The story of Alex, a Beethoven-mad thug and leader of his gang of “droogs”. After a brutal opening with Alex and the droogs on the rampage the novel settles into Alex’s incarceration and subsequent mind-altering therapy inflicted upon him.  Probably more famous for the 1971 film by Kubrick, the book is a stunningly original novel that paved the way for the work of subsequent British writers.

Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A space odyssey. Based on a number of his short stories (notably The Sentinel, published in 1951) Clarke wrote the novel concurrently with Stanley Kubrick’s film version.  From ape-man to star-child, the novel follows the growth of human civilisation and charts Man’s exploration of the solar system following the discovery of an alien artefact on the Moon.

Frederick Forsyth, The day of the Jackal. Frederick Forsyth’s first novel influenced a generation of thriller writers. A lone hitman is setting out to kill General de Gaulle.  His meticulous planning is mirrored by the work of detective Claude Lebel as he works to uncover the Jackal’s identity.

goldingWilliam Golding,The Spire. Dean Jocelin has a vision that God has chosen him to create a great spire on his cathedral. The masons advise against it as the cathedral’s foundations are non-existent, but Jocelin persists in this impressively powerful portrait of one man’s obsession and the towering folly he creates.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22. A novel on the insanity of military life that gave the English language a phrase that sums up a concept that seems to have been around for ever. The bizarre cast of characters add to the absurdity of the situations, using satire, black humour and faultless logic the book argues that war, the military and probably modern life are all insane.

Sue Monk Kidd, The secret life of bees. In this internationally acclaimed novel Lily has grown up thinking she was the cause of her mother’s death, and she yearns for forgiveness.  When racial tension explodes in her town Lily runs off with her one friend, Rosaleen, a black servant, and she begins a journey about her understanding of life and the search for the truth about her mother.

king3Stephen King, 11/22/63.A meticulously researched work of historical/science fiction from the master of horror.  Jake Epping goes back in time to the early 1960s to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy. He is fighting against Time, in more ways than one. A brilliant evocation of the period.

Harper Lee, To kill a mockingbird. Pulitzer Prize winning modern classic, loosely based on the author’s observation of family and neighbours, and an event that occurred near her home town in 1936.  Atticus Finch has served as a moral hero for many readers and as a model of integrity for lawyers, as he battles to defend a black man accused of raping a young white woman.

Laurie Lee, As I walked out one midsummer morning. Laurie Lee’s memoir of 1930’s England and Spain. Lee walked from his Gloucestershire home to London for work and then went to Spain, as he knew the Spanish for “please may I have a glass of water”. He spends a year walking through Spain until the Spanish Civil War put an end to his extraordinary journey.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One hundred years of solitude. Nobel Prize winning author Garcia Marquez’s novel is considered one of the most significant works in the Spanish literary canon. The story of several generations of family in the village of Macondo. It weaves fantasy and reality into a story that echoes the history of Colombia. Written in the style of magical realism where supernatural things happen and are considered mundane.

moyesJojo Moyes, The last letter from your lover. The story of Ellie from the present day and Jennifer in 1960 whose lives are joined by a letter written by a man asking a woman to leave her husband.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich. Nobel Prizewinner Solzhenitsyn’s harrowing novel of life in the Stalinist Gulags after the second world war. It was published in 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine “Novy Mir” (New World) and was an extraordinary event in Soviet literary history, as it was the first account of Stalinist repression to be openly distributed.