Library exhibits novels that recall tumultuous 60′s


Library exhibits, created with care and experience by anonymous staff and volunteers eager to share the shelves of treasures with a passing public, are the tip of the literary iceberg – and a trigger to the reader of a title long forgotten or the hottest off the presses.  They often guide the visitor to untapped resources such as public programs – or that dusty novel languishing in the closed stacks.  Most of all, exhibits are well worth taking a few minutes to pause and peruse as regular library visitors are more than likely to do.

For ages I’ve intended to write about the excellent exhibits at the Minneapolis Central Library, a place I visit on a regular basis.  When I take the time to spend some time with those great exhibits, I’m always rewarded.

The 1968 exhibit at the Minnesota History Center has inclined many of us to think more about just what was happening during the decade of the 60’s.   Regular exhibit creator, Ruthann Ovenshire, a lifelong librarian and volunteer, has seized the opportunity to dig deep into her own voracious reading past.   Ruthann is responsible for the fiction exhibits on the first floor of the Central Library.  ( Exhibits on floors two through four are non-fiction oriented selections that reflect the collections located on those floors.)

As she always does, Ruthann has carefully recorded her selections from the library’s collection.  Now, with some prodding, she has complemented the collection of books on display with a digital reading list that reflects her selections.  I found the list such a grand reminder of a literary era, that I begged a copy for posting on my blog.  In her usual generous way, Ruthann has shared her list for others who may have read these books in their youth and, more perhaps, for younger bibliophiles who missed these treasures the first time around.

Ruthann’s list, designed for browsing, suggests some 1960’s fiction well suited to combing the dusty shelves – at home or at the library – to find just the right read for a snowy evening.  Note that the categories noted here reflect the Minnesota Central Library system where books are organized by genre – different libraries and bookstores will use different systems.

General fiction

  • The last unicorn / Peter S. Beagle.
  • Herzog / Saul Bellow
  • The clown / Heinrich Boll
  • The little girls / Elizabeth Bowen,
  • Something wicked this way comes / Ray Bradbury.
  • Richard Brautigan’s  trout fishing in America / Richard Brautigan
  • The master and Margarita / Mikhail Bulgakov
  • 2001, a space odyssey /  Arthur C. Clarke
  • Ubik / Philip K. Dick.
  • The reivers : a reminiscence / William Faulkner.
  • The magus : a revised version / John Fowles
  • One hundred years of solitude / Gabriel García Márquez
  • In the heart of the heart of the country, and other stories / William H. Gass
  • Catch-22 / Joseph Heller.
  • Dune / Frank Herbert
  • We have always lived in the castle / Shirley Jackson
  • Up the down staircase / , Bel Kaufman
  • One flew over the cuckoo’s nest / Ken Kesey
  • Sometimes a great notion / Ken Kesey
  • Flowers for Algernon, / by Daniel Keyes.
  • The spy who came in from the cold / John Le Carré
  • To kill a mockingbird / Harper Lee
  • The golden notebook / Doris Lessing
  • Rosemary’s baby / Ira Levin
  • The fortunes of war : the Balkan trilogy / Olivia Manning
  • The last picture show / Larry McMurtry
  • Ada; or, Ardor: a family chronicle / Vladimir Nabokov
  • Pale fire / Vladimir Nabokov
  • A house for Mr. Biswas / V.S. Naipaul.
  • The third policeman : a novel / Flann O’Brien
  • Everything that rises must converge /Flannery O’Connor
  • The bell jar / Sylvia Plath
  • Ship of fools / Katherine Anne Porter,
  • The chosen / Chaim Potok.
  • The godfather / Mario Puzo
  • The bull from the sea / Mary Renault.
  • Wide Sargasso Sea / Jean Rhys
  • Portnoy’s complaint / Philip Roth
  • Franny and Zooey / J.D. Salinger
  • Raise high the roof beam, carpenters : and Seymour / J. D. Salinger.
  • The jewel in the crown; a novel / Paul Scott
  • Last exit to Brooklyn / Hubert Selby, Jr.
  • One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich / Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  • The girls of slender means / Muriel Spark
  • The only problem / Muriel Spark
  • The prime of Miss Jean Brodie / Muriel Spark
  • The winter of our discontent / John Steinbeck
  • The confessions of Nat Turner / William Styron
  • Valley of the dolls : a novel /  Jacqueline Susann
  • Rabbit, run / John Updike.
  • Cat’s cradle / Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
  • Slaughterhouse-five, or, The children’s crusade / Kurt Vonnegut.
  • The graduate / Charles Webb.
  • Riders in the chariot / Patrick White

Science fiction

  • The drowned world / J.G. Ballard
  • The Andromeda strain / Michael Crichton
  • Stranger in a strange land / Robert A. Heinlein.
  • The left hand of darkness / Ursula K. Le Guin
  • A canticle for Leibowitz / Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  • Lord of light / Roger Zelazny 1979.


  • Call for the dead / John le Carré


  • The moon is a harsh mistress / Robert A. Heinlein.
  • Good times/bad times; a novel / James Kirkwood
  • A jest of God /  , Margaret Laurence
  • The nice and the good / Iris Murdoch
  • The lonely girl / Edna O’Brien
  • The group / Mary McCarthy
  • Joy in the morning / Betty  Smith
  • The interpreters / Wole Soyinka
  • The driver’s seat / Muriel Spark

If this is not enough to whet your literary appetite Ruthann also suggests some of the resources she has found that helped her scan the 60’s fiction that may be gone from the Hennepin County Library stacks but that live on through other sources.

Ruthann’s lists are these:

  • The Modern Library – the 200 best novels in English since 1950 – Clare County Library
  • Best books of the Decade, 1960’s