The roaring sixties was a turbulent period of changes which brought about the cultural revolution, and with it new perspectives on numerous social issues which weren’t widely acknowledged until then. While part of the afore-mentioned revolution did carry over into the following decade, its power was waning in the realm of literature at the start of the 1970s.
While certain key topics such as racism remained at the forefront of people’s minds, they were less and less receptive to the heavy social criticism bestsellers of the previous decade painted all fronts of society with. With the concurrent rise of the cheaper paperback medium as well as the popularity of “genre fiction”, a new wave rose to the surface.
Particularly, non-fiction crime books really began to draw the interest the people, and we even saw the emergence of the horror genre, the popularity of which requires no elaboration in the present day. Evidently, people found themselves drawn to learn about the darker side of human nature, perhaps a consequence of last decade’s literature.
Some of the bestsellers of the 70s include Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut, Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, The Shining by Stephen King, Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré and Scruples by Judith Krantz.
Thomas Pynchon might not be a very prolific author, but his books have often had a powerful impact when they were published, with the most prominent of the lot arguably being his 1973 classic bestseller, Gravity’s Rainbow. It’s an unusual kaleidoscope of a novel, taking place against the backdrop of the Second World War, exploring through a large number of characters the madness and all-consuming paranoia it gave birth to.
Stephen King has added nearly innumerable chapters to his legacy over the past few decades, but I still firmly believe none of his new works can hold a candle to the classics which defined him, such as The Shining. Having defined the horror genre in its time, the novel tells the story of a caretaker and his family stuck in a haunted hotel, slowly driven insane by its paranormal inhabitants.
Richard Bach is one of the few authors whose works continue to stand the test of time, with his classic Jonathan Livingston Seagull still being as current as back when it was written. A tale of inspiration, it follows the titular seagull as he learns the art of flight and finds his own way through life, despite his peers’ lack of approval.
Robert Maynard Pirsig was recognized numerous times as a unique and exceptional author for the depth of reflection found in his unusual books. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was arguably his greatest work, telling a largely autobiographical story of a road trip he took with his son, learning quite a bit about life in the process.
Frederick Forsyth might have very well written one of the absolute best criminal espionage novels when he published The Day of the Jackal back in 1971. Following a nameless English hitman known only as The Jackal, the story focuses on his methodical preparation to carry out what might be the most ambitious assassination of all time: killing Charles de Gaulle.
E.L. Doctorow is revered as one of the greatest and most influential authors of the 20th century, and I think anyone who picks up his works, whether they like them or not, can understand why.
Ragtime was considered one of his best works and a true classic, presenting a relatively disjointed narrative following many characters, some real and others imagined, across their trials and tribulations in a snapshot of early 1900s New York City.
It’s hard to believe it has already been over forty years since Robin Cook introduced the concept of medical thrillers to the world in true style, by penning his classic novel Coma which still holds up to this very day. Following a third-year medical student, we follow her investigation into the Boston Memorial Hospital, where people seem to be dropping into comas on the operating table at a suspiciously higher rate than usual.