I find so many “best of” reading lists disappointing and highly forgettable. Good old AARP has come through again with two list for the Baby Boomers who are beginning to flood the rank of the retired. What book do you think an old geezer like me will fawn over and perhaps even enshrine in my (non-existent) trophy case? Did you say Catcher In the Rye? Of course, it’s so obvious and so very wrong. In fact, I hated Catcher In the Rye when I was a dashing young man and hadn’t even read Ulysses once.
So what do you make of these two lists: the first is the Readers’ Picks: 10 Books Boomers Love and the second is the Ten Essential Boomer Books as selected by Erica Jong.
- The Catcher In the Rype — J. D. Salinger
- Catch-22 — Joseph Heller
- Roots — Alex Haley
- In Cold Blood — Truman Capote
- Lord of the Flies — William Golding
- Fahrenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury
- Slaughterhouse-Five — Kurt Vonnegut
- The Color Purple — Alice Walker
- The Joy of Sex — Alex Comfort, ed.
- The World According to Garp — John Irving
I look back over that first list and, with the possible exception of The Joy of Sex, these books suggest that the Boomers never exceeded a Junior High approach to literature. If these are the top ten books Boomers revere, then it’s no wonder an idiot like George W. Bush became President. But Erica will perhaps save the day with her selections.
- The Catcher In the Rye — J. D. Salinger
- Catch-22 — Joseph Heller
- The Fire Next Time — James Baldwin
- The Group — Mary McCarthy
- Couples — John Updike
- The Last Whole Earth Catalog
- Portnoy’s Complaint — Philip Roth
- Sisterhood Is Powerful — Robin Morgan, ed.
- The Female Eunuch — Germaine Greer
- Diet For a Small Planet — Frances Moore Lappé
- Fear of Flying — Erica Jong (Honorable Mention)
A little more adult and a little more interesting but these are the most important books of the entire Baby Boomer generation?
I am either an early boomer or maybe I showed up just before the boomer generation and I certainly have my own likes, dislikes, and prejudices when it comes to books, especially literature, but both of these lists just make me sad. My reasons are many but the one that has me shaking my head the most is the complete absence of anything not-written-in-this-country. I know it is AARP but it still suggests a completely undeserved nod to American exceptionalism.
Alan Arkin must be wondering why his movie didn’t win the Best Boomer Movie Award (oh, Oliver Stone selected the ten boomer movies: Reds, Kramer vs. Kramer, Apocalypse Now, Annie Hall, All the President’s Men, Jaws, The Godfather (Parts I and II), A Clockwork Orange, Easy Rider, The Graduate).