The non-fiction books of the 1970s discussed everything from science to society to space. We have collected the best of the decade.
The non-fiction books of the 1970s reflected the preoccupations of the time: feminism, intersectionality, anxieties in the face of the decline of the modern era, fascination with space and science.
Over the decade, the wave of scientific and social advancement has been extremely impressive for the time, paving the way for many modern scientific and social structures that are considered normal in today’s society. To take it any further, look no further: we’ve put together a list of the best books of the 70s.
Sexual Politics – Kate Millett (1970)
Widely regarded as a classic of radical feminist literature, Sexual politics began as Kate Millett’s doctoral thesis and explores the subjugation of women in art and literature in the 20th century. Inspired by Simone De Beauvoir The second sex, the non-fiction book discusses the genre politics of prominent authors like DH Lawrence, Henry Miller, etc. and how they see sex in a “Patriarchal and sexist way”.
The Black Woman: An Anthology – edited by Toni Cade Bambara (1970)
Technically, The black woman contains elements of fiction with poetry and short stories included. However, the anthology also includes conversations and non-fiction essays written by now famous African American writers (such as Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, Audre Lorde) that deal with issues relating to gender, race, status. politics, work, intersectionality and education. The black woman was a groundbreaking work that paved the way for some of the most exciting and talented black voices of the late 20th century.
Zelda: a biography – Nancy Milford (1970)
Nancy Milford’s non-fiction biography is written about one of the 20th century’s most intriguing celebrities, Zelda Sayre – later known as the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. If the names are familiar to you, it’s probably because the couple were famous for their carefree hedonism in the 1920s, have become synonymous with the brilliance of the jazz era, and their turbulent relationship and lifestyle. inspired most of Fitzgerald’s writings (including Gatsby the magnificent).
Zelda: a biography details Zelda’s southern upbringing, her passionate relationship with Fitzgerald, and the tortuous tension between her immense gift for writing, art, and creativity, against the thrust of her husband’s burgeoning career.
Farewell to Manzanar – James D. Houston and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston (1973)
A memoir published in 1973 by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, Farewell to Manzanar details the devastating experiences of author Jeanne Wakatsuki and her family before, during, and after their move to Manzanar Concentration Camp, where the United States government forcibly displaced and incarcerated Japanese Americans during the Second World War. An episode in history that is notoriously overlooked.
Anarchy, State and Utopia – Robert Nozick (1974)
Considered one of the most influential books on political philosophy after WWII and winning the 1974 National Book Award, Anarchy, State and Utopia details a defense of minarchist libertarianism, discussions of rights theory, distributions of justice, morality, and the state, a framework for utopia, and more. The book emerged from a course taught at Harvard by author and fellow American political philosopher Michael Walzer, at Harvard University, titled “Capitalism and Socialism” – where Nozick represented the arguments of Anarchy, State and Utopia, and Walzer represented the side of “Complex equality”.
The Message in the Bottle: What is the queer man like, what is the queer language like, and what one has to do with the other – Walker Percy (1975)
The message in the bottle is a collection of non-fiction essays on semiotics that explore the dominant ideologies emerging from the late modern era: Judeo-Christian values and self-determination versus the rationalism of science. The collection of essays often weaves together linguistics, existentialism, theology, anthropology, and literary criticism, raising pertinent philosophical questions that will challenge the reader to question their own beliefs and values about how we operate in the world.
Another Day of Life – Ryszard Kapuściński (1976)
Originally from Poland, but famous for his extensive reporting across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Ryszard Kapuściński’s work is one of the most fascinating examples of cohesive and engaging war reporting in the 20th century. . Another day of life follows the journalist in Angola during the Angolan civil war, which began in 1975 from Angola’s independence from Portugal in 2002. The book details the fall of the capital Luanda and an exhibition on the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Portugal. Angola (MPLA) which presided over as the de facto government during the war.
Dragons of Eden – Carl Sagan (1977)
Renowned American astronomer Carl Sagan’s The Dragons of Eden is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, non-fictional book on the mechanisms of human intelligence evolution. Combining the fields of anthropology, evolutionary biology, psychology and computer science, the thesis of the book revolves around a statement made in a previous lecture by Sagan, “[wherein] the mind … [is] a consequence of its anatomy and physiology and nothing more.
The Good Things – Tom Wolfe (1979)
While he later found success in fiction with Bonfire of vanities, Tom Wolfe’s beginnings were in journalism – in particular, New Journalism: a style of writing that incorporated literary techniques. Good things emerged from Wolfe’s fascination with astronauts after being entrusted with the coverage of the launch of NASA’s last lunar mission, Apollo 17, in 1972. The non-fiction book follows the context of the ‘race to the sky’. ‘space’ and post-war American research with experimental rockets, high-speed aircraft, as well as to deepen the selection of the first Mercury project NASA astronauts.