Books in the 1970s
CNN is following up their successful series on the 1960s with one on the 1970s:
Tom Hanks is an Executive Producer.
The existence of this series is kind of funny to me. I did a comedy bit years ago on our community access TV show (Freedom from Fear) called “In Search of the Seventies”. I treated it as a mystery as to whether or not the Seventies even (culturally) existed. I asked if they were really just “…the end of the Sixties and the start of the Eighties”.
I think that’s because I was too close to it. I was really engaging in pop culture in the Seventies…well, often culture that wasn’t so popular, but you know what I mean. 😉 I didn’t have the distance from it and maturity to recognize what was special about it.
Certainly, I thought the 1960s had a unique culture…with the Beatles in part driving the bus.
As to the 1980s, well, New Wave music seemed to stand out to me.
The 1970s? At that time, I wasn’t seeing what made it special.
Now I do. 🙂
People can certainly now recognize something as being styled as though it was in the 1970s…after all, there was even a very popular show called That ’70s Show…about a decade and a half ago.
I’m doing a post in another blog of mine, The Measured Circle, about the geek culture of the 1970s (and modern geek culture was arguably born then…Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, the first Star Trek convention…), but that one may be more of a listing covering various topics (update: here is that post: The Geeky Seventies). I thought I’d do a fuller post here on books in the 1970s, and not limiting it to geek-friendly books. 🙂
In the 1960s, the concepts of censorship and creative freedom changed in the United States. This was being reflected in all media. 1968 saw the introduction of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) movie ratings system, for example. While you might think that would be a sign of more restrictiveness, it actually meant that “X-rated” movies had a legitimate place. Movie theatres could avoid accusations of contributing to the delinquency of minors by having rules which (putatively, at least), kept them out of those showings.
Themes of sex and violence were much more accepted, again, riding a wave from the 1960s. We were also ready for more openness on “non-traditional” roles in our characters.
Watergate brought both a distrust in the institutions, and an interest in non-fiction.
Perhaps related to that was a trend for self-help books. That trend had arguably started before the rising tide in 1973 of belief that the highest levels of government had been involved in a 1972 break-in for political purposes, but books that had to do with independence (self-help, health) really took off in 1972 and continued through the decade.
Genre books went mainstream, notably the arrival of Stephen King.
In fact, I’d say that is a trend with some some of the others as well. The 1960s cracked open the old institutions…the 1970s commercialized the counter culture.
In book selling (I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager), the democratization of books continued with the opening of the first Crown Books (1977): the idea of discounting all books was controversial…some people see that (and cheap e-books) as devaluing literature, while others see it as making them more available to more people. The 1970s were when Barnes & Noble really became a national chain, with Leonard Riggio buying it in 1971 and it expanding through the decade (including advertising on TV, a breakthrough).
It’s also worth noting that the first e-book was made available by Michael S. Hart (Project Gutenberg) in 1971…although the market didn’t really take off until the introduction of the Kindle in 2007.
Now, let’s take a look at it year by year:
- The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman (first of the Leaphorn and Chee books)
- Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
- Ball Four by Jim Boulton
- Deliverance by James Dickey
- The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight by Jimmy Breslin
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
- Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
- Ringworld by Larry Niven
- Love Story by Erich Segal
- The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart (first of the author’s Arthurian series)
- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
- Future Shock by Alvin Toffler
- Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer
- 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
- Papillon by Henri Charrière
- Time and Again by Jack Finney
- The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
- The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
- The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
- The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman by Ernest J. Gaines
- Grendel by John Gardner
- Being There by Jerzy Kosinski
- The Betsy by Harold Robbins
- Honor Thy Father by Gay Talese
- The Other by Tom Tryon
- The New Centurions by Joseph Wambaugh
- The Winds of War by Herman Wouk
- A Separate Reality by Carlos Castaneda
- The Happy Hooker by Xaviera Hollander
- The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
- To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip José Farmer (first of the Riverworld books)
- Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
- The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
- The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton
- Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (the sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) by Roald Dahl
- The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth
- All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
- Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins
- The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith by Thomas Keneally
- The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
- The Word by David Wallace
- Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
- Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock
- The Princess Bride by William Goldman
- The Honorary Consul by Graham Greene
- Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
- Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
- Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
- Once Is Not Enough by Jacqueline Susann
- Burr by Gore Vidal
- Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
- Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
- Carrie by Stephen King (first published novel)
- Jaws by Peter Benchley
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré
- The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
- Centennial by James A. Michener
- Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick
- Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
- The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
- The Other Side of Midnight by Sydney Sheldon
- Working by Studs Terkel
- All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
- Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
- Alive by Piers Paul Read
- The Onion Field by Joseph Wambaugh
- The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
- Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
- The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
- Shogun by James Clavell
- Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case by Agatha Christie
- The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins
- ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
- Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
- Looking for Mr. Goodbar by Judith Rossner
- Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
- Blubber by Judy Blume
- Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
- The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck
- Ordinary People by Judith Guest
- Roots by Alex Hailey
- Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
- Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig
- A Spell for Chameleon (Xanth #1) by Piers Anthony
- The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
- The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
- Coma by Robin Cook
- A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion
- The Shining by Stephen King
- The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
- Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurtry
- Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
- The Complete Book of Running by Jim Fixx
- Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson
- The World According to Garp by John Irving
- The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye
- The Stand by Stephen King
- Scruples by Judith Krantz
- Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford
- Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
- The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck
- Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
- The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
- Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
- Ghost Story by Peter Straub
- Life on Earth by David Attenborough
- Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter
- Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
- The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer
- Bunnicula by James Howe
That’s a pretty good start. 🙂 I feel like I could have included more mystery series, like Dick Francis, that didn’t begin in the Seventies, but were still popular. Speaking of still popular, Agatha Christie was big. UFO/paranormal books were definitely a trend.
What do you think? What were your favorite books of the 1970s? What would you say defines the 1970s (books and otherwise)? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.
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