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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 you’ll find lots of 1970s titles here.
If you are participating in the reading challenge, you can choose any book you like that is set in the decade. To help get you started, we compiled a great list of books about the Sixties. Our recommended reading list includes historical fiction books that examine social and racial issues, novels that capture the flair of swinging 60s, and memoirs and nonfiction books about the 1960s that provide insights into the era, as well as important books from the 1960s that were written during that decade.
You can read all about the Decades Reading Challenge, download your free printable reading tracker, and find book lists for other decades here.
The Swinging Sixties
The Sixties were 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 Cuban Missile Crisis 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.
Major Events in the 1960s
Before choosing a book, it’s helpful to have some context. We’ve put together a timeline of 1960s historical events that have come to define the decade. If you’d prefer, you can skip straight to our list of the best 60s books.
- 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 Seven 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 attempted, unsuccessfully, 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 American 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,” contradicting 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
The Best Books About the 1960s
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Throughout the list, we noted the books currently available as part of Kindle Unlimited Subscriptions.