Twice each year, somewhere around the beginning and middle of the calendar, I like to take a look back at books published long ago.
This is not simply a nostalgic exercise. If you never consider what came before, authors and publishers can delude themselves into believing they are first ever to explore some new literary territory.
But when you look at the past, you discover creativity has always been the cornerstone of book publishing and not every great book was published in the last six months.
It’s always about the writing. If you capture the heart and mind of a reader, you win.
So, as we look back fifty years to early 1967, maybe you can draw some conclusions about society and publishing.
We were deep into the 60’s and everything good and bad about them. Viet Nam was tearing apart America. There had yet to be the first Super Bowl and later this month, in 1967, three U.S. astronauts were killed in a fire in their Apollo spacecraft.
Society was going every possible direction at once, but books were still being written for readers to read.
The January 8, 1967 New York Times Best-seller list looked like this:
- THE SECRET OF SANTA VITTORIA, by Robert Crichton. (1969 movie starring Anthony Quinn. Author no relation to Michael Crichton)
- CAPABLE OF HONOR, by Allen Drury. (A sequel to Advise and Consent which was awarded Pulitzer Prize in 1960)
- VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, by Jacqueline Susann (Best selling novel of 1966 has sold 30 million copies in last fifty years. One movie, two television series)
- THE BIRDS FALL DOWN, by Rebecca West (Prolific British writer who was first published in 1918 at the age of 26 and still active into the 1980’s)
- THE MASK OF APOLLO, by Mary Renault (British novelist who wrote historical fiction, mainly about Greek history)
- TAI-PAN, by James Clavell (Author and screen-writer best known for novels, The Great Escape in 1963 and To Sir, With Love in 1967)
- THE FIXER, by Bernard Malamud (Pulitzer Prize winner in 1967)
- A DREAM OF KINGS, by Harry Mark Petrakis (Author first published in 1959 and at this writing was still alive and writing at age 93)
- ALL IN THE FAMILY, by Edwin O’Connor (Author died suddenly in 1968 at age 49, won the Pulitzer for fiction in 1962)
- THE ADVENTURERS, by Harold Robbins (made into a 1970 film, all but one of the author’s first dozen novels were adapted for television or film)
- EVERYTHING BUT MONEY, by Sam Levenson (Humorous quotes from television personality and comedian)
- RUSH TO JUDGMENT, by Mark Lane (Critique of the Warren Commission investigation of the assassination of President John Kennedy)
- GAMES PEOPLE PLAY, by Eric Berne (Classic 1964 work on human relationships)
- HOW TO AVOID PROBATE, by Norman F. Dacey (Helpful book? Exciting?)
- PAPER LION, by George Plimpton (Author joined the Detroit Lions professional football team for training camp and wrote about it. Alan Alda starred in film)
- WINSTON S. CHURCHILL, by Randolph S. Churchill (Son of Winston Churchill)
- THE JURY RETURNS, by Louis Nizer (Prominent trial lawyer. Wrote the foreword to the Warren Commission report on the Kennedy assassination. Guinness Book of World Records listed him for many years as a the highest paid lawyer in the world)
- WITH KENNEDY, by Pierre Salinger (White House press secretary memoir)
- THE RANDOM HOUSE DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE (Believe it or not, dictionaries used to be in print and sell well)
- THE BOSTON STRANGLER, by Gerald Frank (story of Albert DeSalvo who murdered thirteen women in the Boston area in the early 60’s)
Other Notes of Interest
Authors Truman Capote, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury were active in 1966-67.
Silence by Shusaku Endo was first published in 1966
Christy, by Catherine Marshall would release early 1967
God’s Smuggler, by Brother Andrew and John Sherrill would release in the summer of 1967
To Understand Each Other, by Paul Tournier…English translation in 1967
Another Hand on Mine, by William J. Petersen, the story of Carl Becker of African Inland Mission was released in 1967 by McGraw Hill (Can’t imagine a general trade publisher doing a missionary story today)
In late 1966, Christian publisher, Tyndale House Publishers released their first book, Spirit-Controlled Temperament by Tim LaHaye
Honorable Mention: In the summer of 1967, Joni Eareckson after diving into Chesapeake Bay, sustained life-altering injuries. Her ministry, spirit and writing have been unparalleled
Very intriguing topic. As writers I think we forget that storytelling is a craft and readers all want a good story. I’d love to compare this list to a recent bestseller list. It would be interesting (or disheartening?) to see the changes in readers’ interests.
Thanks for taking the time to compile this interesting list. It’s enlightening to look back and see who was in the Top Ten in those days.
Sheri Dean Parmelee
Dan, thanks for the roll call of books! I used to love reading Allen Drury in high school, many years after the 1960s, but don’t remember most of the books you mentioned.
I read Drury’s Advise and Consent when I was in high school. It deserved a Pulitzer. His Preserve and Protect held me spellbound, too. Maybe it’s time to reread them. There are 2014 editions of many of the Advise and Consent series listed at Amazon. I wonder if they sold well this time around when so many readers don’t want any omniscience.