ENGLEWOOD — I was looking at the Penguin Random House website recently and they were featuring some of the best books of decades past, even though I know this column is what’s NEW in reading, I thought those older books might be NEW to you. I’ll start with the 1960’s, where social inhibitions and protests against the Vietnam War made this a turbulent and unforgettable decade. Here are six of the top twenty best sellers published in the 60’s.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (espionage mystery): I wrote about John le Carre’s latest book in my December column, but this was the book that made him a legendary writer of spycraft. The book unfolds as Alec Leamas, a British agent, is being sent to Cold War East Germany as a defector to sow disinformation about a powerful communist intelligence officer. The book portrays Western espionage methods as morally inconsistent with democracy values. Time Magazine wrote, “Written with pitiless, elegant clarity…a first rate thriller and more.”
The Godfather (crime mystery): This is Mario Puzo’s brilliant and brutal portrayal of the Corleone family and the mob war they fight with four other families in New York. This is a tale of family and society, law and order, obedience and rebellion that reveals the dark side of human nature. The Saturday Review said, “A staggering triumph…the definitive novel about a sinister fraternity of crime.
The Outsiders (fiction classic): Here we have S. E. Hinton’s landmark coming-of-age novel that continues to resonate today. In the world there are two types of people: there are the Socs, rich society kids who get away with anything, and the Greasers who aren’t so lucky. Hinton was 15 when she started writing this novel and finished it when she was a junior in high school. The Chicago Tribune wrote, “Taut with tension, filled with drama.”
The Andromeda Strain (suspense thriller): Michael Crichton’s classic about four scientists racing to prevent a biological disaster after a space probe landing goes sideways. The probe was sent to collect extraterrestrial organisms from the atmosphere when it crashes in a desert town in Arizona. It leaves a striking discovery — the streets are littered with dead bodies as if they dropped dead in their tracks. The NY Times wrote, “A reading windfall — compelling, memorable, superbly executed and achieves something important.”
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (literary fiction) Ken Kesey has written an insightful novel about the meaning of madness and the value of self-reliance. The hero is a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who enters a psychiatric hospital and takes over. He fakes insanity so he wouldn’t have to go to a prison work farm. He promotes gambling, smuggles wine and women in his attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them imprisoned. NY Times Book Review called it, “What Kesey has done in his unusual novel is to transform the plight of a ward of inmates in a mental hospital into a glittering parable of good and evil.”
Hawaii (historical fiction): Aloha! James A. Michener brings Hawaii’s epic history to life in a classic saga that starts when the volcanic islands erupt from the ocean floor. The land remains untouched for a thousand years until Polynesian seafarers make a perilous journey across the Pacific Ocean. Then, in the early 19th century, American missionaries arrive bringing a new way of life. Hawaii is the story of many different people struggling to keep their identity, live in harmony and ultimately join together. The Chicago Tribune remarked, “One novel you must not miss. A tremendous work from every point of view — thrilling, exciting, lusty, vivid, stupendous.”
I wish I could cover all twenty of these 1960 best sellers but space prohibits. If you would like a list of all twenty of these books contact New & Olde Pages Book Shoppe at 832-3022. If you have read these books you might want to read them again. If you haven’t, you just might want to put them on your “want to read” list. In the spirit of the islands Hau’oli makahiki hou (how-oh-lee mah-kah-hee-kee ho)! That’s Hawaiian for Happy New Year and happy reading, everyone!