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Happy Birthday, Dear Books! Notable Books Turning 50 This Year

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • June 03, 2020

A Milestone Birthday

These twelve books withstand the test of time. After fifty years, they still resonate. Hopefully there are some titles here that you remember fondly. Maybe there are some classics you've never read. And the list includes several kids' books to introduce to younger generations.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

Our twelve-year-old protagonist is dealing with a lot in this groundbreaking young adult novel: a new school, new friends, and a changing body. Introducing frank discussions about the burgeoning sexuality of young adolescence, Judy Blume chartered new territory for young adult fiction.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Richard Bach's allegory about an individualistic seagull longing to break free from the flock struck a timely note in an era of social change and political upheaval. The illustrated novella, which was originally published as a series of short stories in Flying Magazine, is an ode to self-determination.

The Bluest Eye

Heralded for its rich prose and bold vision, Toni Morrison's first novel tells the story of a black girl who prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be beautiful. Taking on tough issues like racism, incest, and child sexual abuse, the book addresses the harm caused by society's narrow scope of what constitutes beauty.

Frog and Toad Are Friends

The first in the beloved series by Arnold Lobel, this book celebrates the unadorned beauty of friendship. With simple stories about writing letters, going swimming, or caring for an ailing friend, this Caldecott-winner is as fresh as ever.

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

Dee Brown's bestselling history presents a forceful, bracing account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century. The New York Times called the book "Original, remarkable, and finally heartbreaking...Impossible to put down."

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Someone's been stealing from the three meanest farmers around, and they've joined forces to catch him. But nobody can outfox the fantastic Mr. Fox! It's easy to get behind Roald Dahl's clever, mischevious protagonist in this children's fantasy, which was adapted into a charming 2009 film.

Play It As It Lays

A ruthless dissection of American life in the late 1960s, Joan Didion's novel captures the mindset of a generation, the ennui of contemporary society reflected in her blistering spare prose. The woman at the center of the story struggles to find her identity in a patriarchal society.

The Crystal Cave

Mary Stewart's medieval fantasy, part of a series, offers a lush, richly imagined rendition of Arthurian legend told from the perspective of Merlin, an illegitimate boy gifted with "the sight." Against a backdrop of wars and conquest, the young wizard emerges into manhood and accepts his role in the coming of a new age.

The Trumpet of the Swan

The last of E. B. White's award-winning children's novel tells the story of Louis, a trumpeter swan born with no voice. Despairing for his son's future with the lady birds, Louis's father steals a brass trumpet for his son. Will the instrument help Louis to win Serena, the swan of his dreams?

The Blessing Way

The first in Tony Hillerman's bestselling Leaphorn and Chee series, this crime fiction novel introduces Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn. After a disturbing murder—the victim is found with a mouth full of sand, at a crime scene seemingly devoid of clues—Leaphorn follows a chilling trail that winds perilously between mysticism and murder.

In The Night Kitchen

From the acclaimed author-artist Maurice Sendak this Caldecott-winner portrays a fantastical dream world. As the cooks of the Night Kitchen prepare the morning cake, a boy falls into the batter and embarks on an otherworldly adventure. It's a celebration of the primal, sensory world of childhood.

Ringworld

Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Larry Niven's science fiction classic tells the tale of Louis Wu and his motley crew of humans and aliens on a fraught mission to Ringworld. The alien-constructed rotating wheel space station is massive, with a radius of 90 million miles.

Wow! It's hard to believe that some of these books, edgy and groundbreaking in any time, are already fifty years old. While others on the list feel as immortal as fairy tales. Are there volumes here that give you a good dose of nostalgia? Or maybe you're eyeing a few titles here that you've never come across before. In any case, we hope you find something that tickles your fancy.

Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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