The 1960s were a time of mass civil resistance and free love. To recap the era, we’ve rounded up the best non-fiction books of the decade.
The best non-fiction books of the 1960s were informed by the historical events of the decade. The civil rights movement, the beginnings of second wave feminism (which would explode later in the 1970s), and more. All of these major socio-political events led to the 1960s being marked as one of the most controversial and revolutionary decades in history.
Considering the fact that the ’60s were over half a century ago, we’ve made it easy for you to get up to speed with the major cultural touchstones of the era by putting together the best non-fiction books of the decade, below .
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – William L. Shirer (1960)
Chronicle of the rise and fall of Nazism, the book is based on captured Nazi documents, the diaries of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, General Franz Halder and Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano, evidence from the trials of Nuremberg, reports from the British Foreign Office, and William Shirer’s own recollection of his six years in Germany as a journalist covering the rise of Nazi Germany. Winner of the National Book Award for 1961, the book received critical acclaim in America, while receiving mixed reviews abroad for its interpretation of Hitler’s rise to power.
Australian Ugly – Robin Boyd (1960)
Written by Australian architect Robin Boyd, Australian ugliness is a critique of the visual pollution of Australian architectural aesthetics of the time. Although described as unpatriotic by mainstream Australian media when it was published, Boyd’s non-fiction book became one of the most important books in the history of Australian architectural landscape and facilitated the debate in Australia on the design, architecture and town planning.
The Female Mystic – Betty Friedan (1963)
Described by the New York Times as “One of the most influential non-fiction books of the 20th century” The feminine mystique was a book that revolutionized the way audiences viewed female gender roles and domesticity.
He discusses “the problem that has no name“- the term coined by Betty Frieden to describe the widespread malaise of women in the 1950s and early 1960s. Divided into fourteen chapters, it shows how domesticity and traditional gender roles can lead to the erasure of the identity of women. He has been credited with facilitating the birth of second wave feminism, particularly attracting many middle-class white women to the feminist cause.
A Moving Feast – Ernest Hemingway (1964)
When you think of Ernest Hemingway, “struggling writer” isn’t usually the expression that comes to mind. But even great artists had to start somewhere, and posthumous publications A mobile party tells the story of Hemingway in this exact position.
The non-fiction book details his years as an expatriate journalist and writer in Paris in the 1920s, his first marriage to Hadley Richardson, and his associations with other notable cultural figures of the time (e.g. Sylvia Beach, John Dos Passos, F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Pascin, Ezra Pound, and many more).
The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Alex Haley and Malcolm X (1965)
A collaboration between human rights activist Malcolm X and journalist Alex Haley, The autobiography of Malcolm X is a non-fiction book that details Malcolm X’s philosophies on black pride, black nationalism, and Pan-Africanism, which informed his political ideology. Largely responsible for galvanizing much of the young audience who witnessed civil rights protests in the late 1960s, The autobiography of Malcolm X is one of the most prolific and influential non-fiction books about a man who changed the course of history.
Anaïs Nin’s Journal Vol. 1 – Anaïs Nin (1966)
Anaïs Nin was a Franco-Cuban-American columnist, novelist and writer of short stories and erotic fiction. at the time of publication, her diaries have become bestsellers among young women and established her as a feminist literary icon in the Americas. She began to write diary entries at the age of eleven in 1914 during a trip from Europe to New York with her mother and two brothers, they would continue to keep her company until her death in 1977. Published in 1966, the first volume details life in Louveciennes with her first husband, as well as her introduction and subsequent affair with Henry Miller.
The order of things: an archeology of the human sciences – Michel Foucault (1966)
As described by French researcher Michel de Certeau, “The Order of Things sold out less than a month after it first appeared – at least that’s what the ad legend says. The work is one of those trappings of culture that the discerning eye should find prominently in every private library. Have you read it? The social and intellectual status of a person depends on the answer. . . Foucault is bright (a little too bright). His writing sparkles with incisive formulations. He’s funny. Stimulating. Dazzling. His erudition confuses us; his skill compels assent; his art seduces… ”
The non-fiction book is known to propose that periods in human history are characterized by epistems – ways of thinking about the world and concluding truth, also a term which is synonymous with the Greek root epistēmē (“knowledge “) – and goes into great detail to determine the structures of knowledge that scientists apply to their subjects.
The Double Helix – James D. Watson (1968)
An autobiographical account of one of the most important biological discoveries of the modern era – the double helix structure of DNA – The double helix details the journey of scientist James D. Watson in the discovery of biological structure with co-scientist Frances Crick. Although the non-fiction book won the Nobel Prize for Literature, it has not been free from controversy or criticism – there has been a lot of debate in the scientific and literary communities over the sexist omission of its colleague. scientist Rosalind Franklin, and her significant contributions to the discovery of the structure.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem – Joan Didion (1968)
In a New York Times Book Review, Joan Didion’s non-fiction book has been described as “[bringing] together some of the best magazine articles published by anyone in this country in recent years. Now that Truman Capote has stated that such work can attain the stature of an “art”, it is perhaps possible that this collection will be recognized as it should be: but as a rich exhibition of some of the best prose. written today in this country. ”
slumped towards Bethlehem follows the author’s life while living as a writer in California, and is a collection of earlier columns written for Vogue, The Saturday Post, and various other publications, and upon publication, was widely acclaimed by criticism for his discussions of social fragmentation and the realities of the counter-culture movement.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (1969)
Happy, but heartbreaking, I know why the caged bird is singing is an autobiographical account of the early childhood and adolescence of Maya Angelou in Arkansas. It functions both as a love letter to the power of literature to overcome social trauma, as well as an indictment against racism and a celebration of black femininity.
The non-fiction book was born out of a challenge by mentor James Baldwin, as well as publisher Robert Loomis, who challenged the established civil rights activist to write an autobiography as a piece of literature. One of the most enduring examples of African American literature, I know why the caged bird is singing is an astonishing account of a woman’s struggle for black identity in the early 20th century.