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AARP Bulletin

Power of 50

50 Years of Sizzling Summer Reads

Quiz yourself: How many of these notable titles have you read?

There's nothing like a good book on a steamy July or August day — preferably by the pool or ocean, with a cold drink in hand. We assembled a list of notable titles from 1964 onward that were on best-seller lists during each summer season and found we were compiling a cultural time line as well as a literary nostalgia trip. See how many of the 50 books you've read over the years. And keep in mind that some may have been published previous to the summer they were hot.

Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

"Rosemary's Baby" by Ira Levin

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1964: The Group by Mary McCarthy

1965: Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman

1966: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

1967: Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin — How's this for a horror story? You discover that your unborn child is the Antichrist, thanks to the Satanists next door. The blockbuster novel was made into the chilling movie starring Mia Farrow, and NBC recently aired a miniseries adaptation with Zoe Saldana as the unfortunate mother-to-be.

1968: Couples by John Updike

1969: The Godfather by Mario Puzo

1970: Love Story by Erich Segal

1971: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

"The Thorn Birds" by Colleen McCullough

1972: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

1973: The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort

1974: Jaws by Peter Benchley

1975: Looking for Mr. Goodbar by Judith Rossner

1976: Passages by Gail Sheehy

1977: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough — The epic family saga features young Meggie Cleary, who falls in love with Mr. Very Wrong (the local priest), though the sweeping story also encompasses decades of the Cleary family’s struggles in the Australian outback. The beloved novel was made into a wildly popular miniseries that was must-see TV when it aired in 1983.

1978: The World According to Garp by John Irving

1979: Sophie's Choice by William Styron

Next page: Summer's best reads from the 1980s and 1990s. »

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