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Books Set in the 1950s

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Are you ready for another month of the Decades Reading Challenge? During June, we’ll be reading books set in the 1950s.

You can read all about the challenge, download your free printable reading tracker, and find book lists for other decades here.

Covers of three books - mostly Meet Me in Monaco which is a glamorous woman in a green 50s dress against the ocean and cliff beach

As a reminder, you can choose any book you like that is set in the decade. To get you started, we’ve compiled a great list of books about the Fifties. These include historical fiction novels set around the globe, books about quintessential American life in the 1950s, stories about the divergent experiences of black and white Americas in the middle of the century and the growing racial tensions, and memoirs and non-fiction reads about the events and people of the day.

With the Great Depression just a memory, and the post-WWII economy strong, the 1950s began a time of rapid change in the United States. American families were growing fast, giving rise to the baby boomer generation. These families began flocking to new suburbs searching for an idyllic, “normal” life amid increasing fears of the atomic bomb brought on by the Cold War. As they grew up, the baby boomer generation would be at the forefront of social change, including greatly influencing the Civil Rights Movement and the conflict in Vietnam – both of which began in the 1950s.

Major World Events of the 1950s

  • The US birthrate rose throughout the 1950s, with the Baby Boom peaking in 1957.
  • The Korean War began when North Korea invaded South Korea in June of 1950.
  • Between 1950 and 1954, Senator Joseph McCarthy carried out a campaign against alleged communists, which came to be known as McCarthyism. Many of the accused lost their jobs or were blacklisted during the Red Scare, although it turned out that most did not actually belong to the Communist Party.
  • Elizabeth II became the Queen of England following her father’s death, and her coronation was celebrated one year later, in 1953.
  • In 1954, the Supreme Court deemed racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional in a unanimous decision in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. Despite the ruling, some southern states refused to comply.
  • The Vietnam War began in November 1955 and lasted for two decades.
  • The Disneyland theme park opened in California in 1955, the same year that “The Mickey Mouse Club” premiered on television.
  • In 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested in Alabama after bravely refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. This was one of many actions that sparked the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Following testing on HeLa cells in the early 1950s, the first polio vaccine became available to the public in 1955.
  • American Actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956.
  • In 1957, nine African-American students enrolled at Little Rock Central High School. They were met with protests and resistance, ultimately being escorted into the school by Federal military troops at the command of President Eisenhower.
  • The Soviets launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite launching the Space Age, in 1957. The following year, NASA – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – was formed.
  • In 1959, the Cuban revolution ended and Fidel Castro came into power, creating the first Communist nation in the West.
  • Alaska and Hawaii were admitted as the 49th and 50th states in the US.

Books Set in the 1950s

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We hope you enjoyed this list of amazing books set in the 1950s, whether you’re a part of our Decades Reading Challenge or were just looking for a stand-alone historical fiction book set in the 50s.
25 Books Set in the 1950s - Covers of Stationary Shop & Where the Crawdads Sing

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