The Most Popular Book the Year You Were Born
So many books, so little time—find your birth year’s bestselling title based on Publishers Weekly’s list for a suggestion of what to read next.
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1960: Advise and Consent, by Allen Drury
Known commonly as the “Washington novel,” Advise and Consent begins with Senate confirmation hearings for a liberal Secretary of State. Debate and controversy lead to a political crisis for the president, resulting in a battle of morals. Full of intrigue, including a smear campaign, jealousy, and martyrdom—this read sheds light on the stormy nature of politics. “His mid-20th-century senators certainly speak better than those serving today, most of whom, during debate, could scarcely pronounce, let alone deploy, its orotund courtesies and barbs,” wrote the New York Times in 2009.
1961: The Agony and the Ecstasy, by Irving Stone
The artist and the man are brought to life in this biographical novel about Michelangelo, esteemed creator of the David, painter of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and architect of the dome of St. Peter’s. This tome gives insight into his fury and brilliance. One Goodreads reviewer calls The Agony and the Ecstasy a feast for art lovers. Stone also wrote biographies of lawyer Clarence Darrow of the famed Scopes “Monkey” trial and the Chief Justice to the United States, Earl Warren.
1962: Ship of Fools, by Katherine Anne Porter
This story is set in the summer of 1931, aboard a cruise ship bound for Germany. The melting pot of characters includes a Spanish noblewoman, a drunken German lawyer, an American divorcee, and a pair of Mexican Catholic priests. Ship of Fools is considered iconic for its various themes, including cultural and ethnic pride, nationalism, and human frailty. Porter worked as a newspaperwoman in Chicago and in Denver before leaving for Mexico in 1920. Ship of Fools is the first entry to this list written by a woman—here are 10 more of the best books written by female authors every woman should read.
1963: The Shoes of the Fisherman, by Morris L. West
Cardinals gather from around the world to choose the pope’s successor. Surprisingly, he is the youngest of them all and a bearded Ukrainian. Kiril Lakota steps up with reluctance to lead the Catholic Church—battling his haunted past and the issues facing the contemporary world. “A powerful and challenging book overrides its transparent weaknesses,” reports Kirkus Review.
1964: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, by John Le Carré
Known for his suspense fiction, Le Carré’s third novel earned him international acclaim. A British agent, Alec Leamas, plans to end his career but decides to take on one last assignment before he goes. When the last agent under his command is killed, he decides to call it quits. But his spymaster has other plans—bringing on an intense plot twist. But I won’t give too much away here. “Its tone, if anything, is dourly 1950s, its colours grey, its weather depressing,” reports the Guardian. The Spy Who Came in from The Cold made our list of best thriller books of all time.
1965: The Source, by James A. Michener
Tracing the profound history of the Jewish people, Michener takes the reader back through time. Seen through the predecessors of four modern men and women, the reader experiences the history of the Jews. Included in this history is the impact of Christianity, the Crusades, and the Spanish Inquisition. The Source concludes around the conflict between modern-day Israel and the Middle-East. Michener, a prolific author, wrote more than 40 books of fiction and nonfiction.
1966: Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann
Three women: Anne, Neely, and Jennifer become best friends when they are young and struggling in New York City. Eventually, they reach the top of the ladder inside the entertainment industry, where they realize there’s no place to go but down. Vodka and pills fill the pages, so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But one Goodreads reviewer says Valley of the Dolls is one of the most entertaining books she has read in her life. Susann became the first novelist to have three consecutive #1 books on the New York Times Best Seller list.
1967: The Arrangement, by Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan was a three-time Academy Award winner, a five-time Tony Award winner, and a four-time Golden Globes winner, so it’s no surprise The Arrangement was received so well among readers. It’s a story about Eddie Anderson, the guy who’s got it all—the nice house, the beautiful wife, and success. But he wants more, so he ends up with a mistress named Gwen. The plot thickens when she wants to change the arrangement. Food for thought: some readers hypothesize that Gwen resembles Marilyn Monroe.
1968: Airport, by Arthur Hailey
Suspense is high when a blizzard threatens thousands of lives around Lincoln International Airport outside Chicago. Stuck in the air, one plane struggles to reach its destination. Over the course of seven hours, a brilliant airport manager, an arrogant pilot, a tough maintenance guy, and a beautiful stewardess all try to figure out a way to land the plane safely. Some critics say Hailey’s novels are formulaic, where an ordinary character always gets involved in a crisis; however, Hailey researched extensively.
1969: Portnoy’s Complaint, by Philip Roth
Portnoy’s Complaint is the novel that put Philip Roth on the literary map. The male protagonist is Jewish bachelor, Alexander Portnoy, who struggles with unappeasable sexuality, held back by the iron grip of his childhood. Considered funny, intimate, and candid, the story is told in an ongoing monologue from patient to psychoanalyst. A popular quote reads, “You can no more make someone tell the truth than you can force someone to love you.”