Books Set in the 1960s

Whether you are participating in our Decades Reading Challenge or found this list while researching books about the 60s and 70s – you’ve come to the right place! Below, you’ll find a list of the best books set in the 1960s, and we also have a comprehensive list of 1970s titles.

Our recommended reading list of books set in the Sixties includes historical fiction novels that examine social and racial issues and books that capture the flair of the Swinging 60s. The list also includes memoirs and nonfiction books about the 1960s that provide insights into the era. And finally, we’ve added some of the best books of the 1960s that were written during that decade.

The Swinging Sixties

The Sixties was a decade dominated by the Vietnam War and a strong anti-war sentiment among young people against the US involvement in the War. Civil Rights marches also defined the era and helped bring about positive changes, including the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

In the early 1960s, many Americans lived in fear of nuclear war as the Cold War escalated. Throughout the decade, the country mourned the losses of beloved leaders, including President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The 60s came to a close with a giant leap for mankind as the first astronauts stepped foot on the moon.

For additional historical context, check out the timeline of major world events included at the end of the post.

Highly-Rated Books About the 1960s

You are welcome to choose any book that you’d like to read for the challenge, but we hope that this list of books has given you a good starting point.

Sign Up for the Decades Challenge

Sign up for our email list below to receive a free printable tracker for the Decades Challenge. Our weekly email newsletter helps you stay on track with friendly reminders while still allowing you the flexibility to read at your own pace. Additionally, challenge participants have an opportunity to discuss the books on this list and to provide ratings and reviews via our book logs.

Bonus Content- Major World Events of the 1960s

We compiled this list of major events of the time period to provide some historical context for your reading. We hope you enjoy learning a bit more about this period in history.

  • The US deployed 3,500 American soldiers to Vietnam in 1960. After many years of conflict, the US officially went to war in Vietnam when it sent combat troops to defend the American airbase at Da Nang in 1965. Opposition grew in the US, and anti-Vietnam sentiment became more prevalent throughout the decade.
  • In 1960, John F. Kennedy became the youngest person elected President of the United States; three years later, JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963, while riding in a motorcade through Dallas, Texas, with his wife Jackie sitting by his side.
  • The development of “the Pill” in 1960 brings the topic of contraception “out of the bedroom and into the living room” as it becomes a common theme in magazine articles and books.
  • NASA launched its first astronaut into space for a suborbital flight on May 5, 1961, just weeks after the Soviet Union launched the first human into orbit. In the following year, NASA sent two more of its original Mercury 7 astronauts into space.
  • In the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution, at the height of the Cold War, a US-backed operation known as the Bay of Pigs invasion was unsuccessful in its attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro in 1961.
  • Beginning on August 13, 1961, the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) began constructing the Berlin Wall, which divided Germany – cutting off West Berlin from East Berlin – until 1989.
  • The world was on the brink of another World War in 1962 as the Cuban Missile Crisis escalated, and both the US and USSR came close to launching nuclear attacks.
  • The Beatles released their first single – “Love Me Do” – in the UK in 1962. When the Beatles first visited America two years later, in 1964, Beatlemania swept the nation and launched a music phenomenon known as “The British Invasion” that also included popular British bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Herman’s Hermits.
  • In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the Civil Rights March on Washington; the renowned civil rights later was later assassinated in 1968.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin – was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The following year, LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act into law, ending discrimination at the polls.
  • The first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health declares smoking “hazardous to your health.” This contradicted years of tobacco industry advertisements regarding the benefits of smoking.
  • 1967 is dubbed the “Summer of Love” when the “hippie movement” was in full swing in and around San Francisco, where thousands of young people flocked to Haight-Ashbury.
  • Senator Robert Kennedy, brother of JFK, was assassinated days after winning the California Presidential primary; Richard Nixon went on to win the US presidential election in 1968.
  • In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men on the Moon during NASA’s Apollo 11 mission.
  • The three-day Woodstock music festival in 1969 featured acts such as The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin.
  • In one of the most baffling and horrifying criminal cases of the century, cult leader Charles Manson murdered several young women in the summer and fall of 1969.


Comments on: Books Set in the 1960s

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  1. Stephanie Gomez says:

    The “Where the Crawdads Sing” has snatch another fan! I really enjoyed the book. Kya was a wonderful and colorful character. It was hard to put down. Thanks for turning me on to this book. Can’t wait to read the others you have suggested.

    1. Melissa George says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it Stephanie! I just finished reading The Great Alone and if you haven’t read it, we both highly recommend it.