Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The ten books that defined the 1970s

At LitHub Emily Temple tagged the ten books that defined the 1970s, including:
Alex Haley, Roots (1976)

I’m bending the rule on not repeating authors for Alex Haley, because The Autobiography of Malcolm X, while being told to and reported by him, wasn’t really his story. Roots: The Saga of an American Family was based on his own family’s history (though the authenticity of the book and even the originality of Haley’s work has been called into question), and it quickly became a cultural sensation. It sold more than six million copies by 1977, and was on the New York Times bestseller list for forty-six weeks, twenty-two of them at number one. Though Saul Bellow won the Pultizer for fiction in 1976, Haley was awarded a special citation the next year—which, incidentally, was the year the miniseries hit American televisions and truly exploded this book into the mainstream. Haley was a huge celebrity; Historian Willie Lee Rose called it “the most astounding cultural event of the American Bicentennial.” According to Haley’s 1992 obituary in the New York Times, the book and miniseries “spurred an interest in genealogy among Americans of many ethnic heritages,” and at least at that time, the show was still counted “among the 100 highest-rated programs. According to Nielsen Media Research, its eight episodes reached average audiences that ranged from 28.8 million households to 36.3 million households.” In a 1992 interview, Haley said, “To this day, people, particularly African-American people but white people as well, will just totally, unexpectedly walk up and not say a word, just walk up and hug you and then say “Thank you.””
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue