A few months ago, I looked back on my reading life and listed a few titles which I felt had defined me as a person; books that had such an influence on me that I changed my habits and thinking from the moment I read the last page. So I was very interested to see a recent article in which AARP (not that I am old enough to read their publication, mind you) had put together a list of books which defined, not just one person’s life, but an entire generation: The Boomer era.
Technically, a Boomer is a person who was born between 1946 and 1955, and who came of age during the Vietnam War. Below is AARP’s list: if you are a Boomer, would you agree? Did they forget a title that you think defined your generation?
“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger (1951) introduced readers to Holden Caulfield, the original alienated teenager. It also led the way for literature to open the eyes of the reader, and expose those parts of life we as a society were unwilling to acknowledge before. The other titles followed suit:
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (1960) set in Depression-era Alabama town showcases racism and a sensational rape trial. This is one of the few books whose movie adaptation might just be more compelling than the novel. Gregory Peck will always be Atticus Finch in my mind.
“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller (1961) is still a relevant look at the “parallel insanities of battle and bureaucracy,” an anti-war novel that gave us the great no-win phrase, Catch-22.
“The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan (1963) gave voice to the housewives across America who felt incomplete, unfulfilled and disenfranchised.
“The Autobiography of Malcolm X: as told to Alex Haley” (1964) is a stirring look at the black man’s experience in America, a best-selling examination of race and civil rights.
“Valley of the Dolls” by Jacqueline Susann (1966) reveals the dark side of the entertainment business and the rise of addiction; “dolls” are pills in the novel.
“The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe (1969) is about Ken Kesey (author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”), his Merry Pranksters, and the psychedelic world of the late 60s.
“The Godfather” by Mario Puzo (1969) is a novel that exposed us all to the Mafia. A tale of brutality, family and loyalty, it too was made into a wonderful film that is still riveting today.
“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach (1970) is the tale of a seagull who strives for self-improvement, even perfection, and gave readers a spiritual lift at a time of great conflict in America.
“Love Story” by Erich Segal (1970) also gave us a great phrase: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” This tragic tear-jerker about two seemingly mismatched college students who fall in love only to confront loss and death captivated readers and became the top-selling work of fiction for 1970. It’s been translated into more than 20 languages.