Books of 1968

Read FeedShaw/Watha T. Daniel Library

Books of 1968

1968 was one of the most eventful and tumultuous years of the 20th century. Here are a few books of lasting relevance that were published that year.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
Joan Didion’s first non-fiction book, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, is a collection of essays, mostly focused on California life. The title essay is a fascinating piece in the New Journalism style and describes the counterculture scene in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district in 1967. Didion had me from the first sentence: “The center was not holding….”

Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver
Before he became a leader in the civil rights movement and spokesperson for the Black Panther Party, Eldridge Cleaver spent over eight years in prison for various criminal activities, some petty and some violent. While serving time, he converted to Islam, became a follower of Malcolm X and wrote the essays in Soul on Ice. Topics include prison life, race relations, gender politics and love.

The Boys in the Band by Mart Crowley

In this play, Michael hosts a small party in his Manhattan apartment to celebrate his friend Harold’s 32nd birthday. As the night goes on, things turn brutally ugly when Michael suggests a parlor game in an attempt to “out” an unexpected guest. In 1968, The Boys in the Band was a groundbreaker for its inside depiction of contemporary gay life.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
This nonfiction book follows Ken Kesey (author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and his group of friends, known as the Merry Pranksters, on a cross-country bus trip.  For the participants, the trip was both a “group adventure and a personal exploration”, fueled by large quantities of LSD and other psychedelic drugs. Tom Wolfe reports the events in a novelistic way in his signature New Journalism style. 

True Grit by Charles Portis
In the classic western True Grit, precocious fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross is on a quest to avenge the murder of her father. She hires hard-drinking US Marshall Rooster Cogburn, a man of “true grit’.  Together they team up with a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf and head into Indian Territory to pursue the murderer Tom Chaney. Mattie narrates the story many decades later. I loved this character and her droll voice.