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10 Notable Books Turning 50 This Year

How Many Have You Read?

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • January 06, 2022

The popular books of an era often say much about the character of the time they inhabit. Today, we're revisiting some of the most notable reads, for all ages, from half a century ago. Some of these 1972 titles tapped into the cultural zeitgeist of that moment in history. Others offer something universal that speaks to us all. Whatever the reason, they still have a place on our bookshelves.

The Stepford Wives

At a time when feminism was gaining traction, Ira Levin's saucy, satirical horror novel about a town where men were systematically replacing their free-thinking wives with submissive robots hit a collective nerve. The bestseller spawned several adaptations, including this 2004 film starring Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, and Matthew Broderick.

Watership Down

A group of rabbits runs for their lives after one has a vision of the destruction of their warren. The tale has been seen as an allegory for many things like Christianity, communism, and environmental destruction, but author Richard Adams always insisted it was "just a story about rabbits." This 1974 animated adaptation remains one of our favorites.

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

A bestselling P. D. James novel, featuring a young private detective, Cordelia Gray, who inherits her former partner's agency after his death by suicide. For her first case she is hired by a woman whose son, a university student, died under suspicious circumstances. It was adapted into a 1982 film starring Billie Whitelaw and Pippa Guard.

My Name is Asher Lev

This is the story of an artistically gifted boy growing up in a cloistered Hasidic community in postwar Brooklyn and the way in which his art causes conflicts with his family and religious community. As a devout member of his own Orthodox Jewish community, author Chaim Potok was likely drawing from his own struggles between art and religion.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The beloved picture book by Judith Viorst offers a highly relatable situation for people of all ages. Alexander wakes up with gum in his hair and things just continue to snowball from there. This idea may strike some as a negative topic for a children's book, but many of us recall being comforted by the message that everyone has such days. And every bad day eventually ends.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

This roman à clef draws from two real-life trips that author Hunter S. Thompson took to Las Vegas with attorney and Chicano activist Oscar Zeta Acosta in March and April 1971. The novel introduced the concept of gonzo journalism, a highly subjective blend of fact and fiction. The 1998 movie, directed by Terry Gilliam, stars Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro.

Nate the Great

The first in a series, this middle-grade mystery features a boy detective often described as a "child version of Sam Spade," the protagonist of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. The character of Nate was inspired by author Marjorie W. Sharmat's father. Nate is joined in his sleuthing activities by his faithful dog Sludge.

The Odessa File

This thriller by Frederick Forsyth traces the turbulent path of a young German reporter attempting to discover the location of a former Nazi leader. The novel asserts that ODESSA was a real-life international organization established before the defeat of Nazi Germany for the purpose of protecting former SS members of after the war. A 1974 adaptation stars Jon Voight.

The Summer Book

Known largely for her children's books, Swedish author Tove Jansson wowed the literary world with this quietly beautiful novel about an elderly woman spending a summer on a tiny secluded island with her six-year-old granddaughter, after the death of the child's mother. With themes of nature, mortality, and love, the story is constructed as a series of gleaming moments in time.

The Honorary Consul

Graham Greene has named this thriller as a favorite among his novels. It is the story of Eduardo Plarr, a doctor of English descent living in an unnamed city in northern Argentina. Unmarried, the doctor's life becomes complicated when he begins an affair with the young wife of the British honorary consul, an alcoholic who abuses his position for gain.

Whether these books are new to you or favorites from your past, join us in celebrating their continued relevance and resonance after fifty years! How many have you read? As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts.

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