Remember Woodstock and the moon landing 53 years ago? How about when Jaws opened in theaters and the Captain & Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” topped the charts in 1975? What were you reading when those milestones occurred? These 17 romantic, sexy or otherwise totally absorbing best sellers from 1969 onward were (and still are) perfect books for the beach. They’re also great reminders of summers past.
1969: The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The 1972 movie version of Puzo's novel was a megahit, but the book is a classic in its own right. It was the first in the trilogy that introduced readers to the Corleone family and gave the public an inside look at the loyalties — and brutality — at the heart of the mafia during its midcentury heyday.
1970: Love Story by Erich Segal
Adored by readers (though not so much by critics), Segal’s love story is a real heartbreaker: Oliver is a Harvard jock and the heir to a fortune; Jenny is a baker’s daughter and Radcliffe music major. The two fall for each other despite the odds, but their happily-ever-after ends with a tragedy neither could predict. The film version, starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw, came out that same year.
1975: Looking for Mr. Goodbar by Judith Rossner
Fan of true crime? Try this bone-chilling classic. Inspired by real events, Rossner's account of a young schoolteacher's sexual liaisons and subsequent murder spent 36 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. “A complex and chilling portrait of a woman's descent into hell,” a Times reviewer noted, “uncommonly well-written and well-constructed."
1978: The World According to Garp by John Irving
The titular Garp just wants to be the “real thing” — a writer whose success rivals that of his mother, a nurse turned author and accidental feminist icon. A National Book Award winner, Irving's most famous novel traces the personal and professional mayhem of Garp's life, introducing a cast of unforgettable supporting characters along the way.
1980: Thy Neighbor's Wife by Gay Talese
This eyebrow-raising exploration of American sexual culture sent out shock waves when it was published — and almost permanently derailed Talese's marriage and journalism career. He spent nearly a decade doing firsthand research for the all-encompassing odyssey, which covers everything from California nudist colonies to Supreme Court battles over obscenity.