It’s been many weeks since I’ve been a Weekly Geek, but this week’s theme from Wendy appealed to me:
(This week’s) Weekly Geeks is about examining a book (or books) which were published in your birth decade. Tell us about a book that came out in the decade you were born which you either loved or hated. Is is relevant to today? Is it a classic, or could it be? Give us a mini-review, or start a discussion about the book or books.
I was born in 1964, approximately seven weeks after The Beatles arrived in the USA (and within 20 miles of where they landed). I’m much more aware of music and popular culture produced during my birth decade than I am of books, I’m sorry to say. I’m certain that I’ve read books written in the 1960’s, but I don’t necessarily associate them with the 1960’s, so they don’t immediately pop into my head as “books from my birth decade.” For example, To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960 (and to some extent it foreshadows the decade’s civil-rights struggles), but it’s set in the 1930’s; therefore, it doesn’t say “book from the ’60’s” to me. However, it absolutely says “classic.”
The books that I most readily associate with the 1960’s are books I actually read then, or not long after – kids’ books. I started kindergarten in 1969, but was already reading on my own by then. One of the books that I’d read before I started school – and read again with my son when he was young – was “born” in the same year I was: Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. (Well, OK, it was actually published a year earlier, but it won the Caldecott Medal in 1964, so I’m counting it.) Also “born” in 1964: The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. Both of these children’s books have become classics, but they’ve both been known to be polarizing as well. I loved Where the Wild Things Are; I’ve actively avoided The Giving Tree.
Still, The Giving Tree is the most popular book published in 1964 listed on Goodreads, and four of the top five listed are children’s books. Two of them are books I liked even more than Where the Wild Things Are: Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh, and Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which doesn’t have the songs from the movie it inspired, but at least you don’t have to look at those nightmare-causing Oompa-Loompas). I hadn’t realized that Harriet, Charlie, and I all made our debuts in
the very same year!
While consulting a list of Newbery and Caldecott award-winners from the 1960’s, I was a bit surprised to find that From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg was 1968’s Newbery winner; I read it during elementary school (1973 or so, I think) and hadn’t realized it was so relatively new at the time. And while I know I didn’t read it for the first – of many – times until I was twelve (1976), I was quite aware that Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time won the 1963 Newbery. Even though it was less than 20 years old at the time, my first copy of the book declared it “The Newbery Award-Winning Classic”; I agree that it was then, and I think it still is now. L’Engle was one of the first to show me that faith and science didn’t have to be mutually exclusive, and gave me a protagonist I could totally relate to in Meg Murry.
Do you have any favorite books from your birth year or decade, regardless of when you read them?