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THE TIDES  |  Top Ten Books

Politics | Society | Culture | UK | US | World

'Nothing You Can Know That Isn't Known…' 


Books well worth the read if you want to know more about the political and societal waves of change that affected The Beatles, their music, and the youth culture of the time that celebrated the members of the band as enlightened leaders of the postwar 'Boomer' generation. (Polite Warning: Those people that saw 'The Sixties' as being the beginning of the end of civilized society are sometimes referred to…and not always satirically…just sayin'). 


The Sixties — Arthur Marwick

History professors are like wine. Some travel well. Some age well. Arthur Marwick does both. I first came across his work when doing research  for my historical-mystery series about a cat burglar in postwar London: The Smoke | Spectres In The Smoke | Shadows In The Smoke | Skylon In The Smoke (2016). Marwick's slim volume British Society Since 1945 caught and held me. And so by the time he published The Sixties, I was already well and truly hooked. At almost 1000 pages his book can appear daunting, but don't be put off. Even if only consulted selectively you'll find it becomes ever more definitive in your understanding of the decade.



1963 - Five Hundred Days — John Lawton

John Lawton just happens to be one of England's best mystery writers (His Detective Inspector Troy series is simply superb: Black Out | A Little White Death | Riptide et al ). Before that he was a journalist and TV producer of some considerable stature and that's when he wrote Five Hundred Days. Witty and wise and perceptive. A series of essays that form a compelling narrative of one of the more compelling years of the decade. 



Never Had It So Good 1956-63 A History of Britain From Suez To The Beatles    |   White Fire 1963-69 A History of Britain In The Swinging Sixties

— Dominic Sandbrook

Two volumes. Very engagingly written. Very readable. You'll learn much more about postwar Britain than you might originally have wanted to—and then go back for more…please sir…more.



Modernity Britain – Book Two: A Shake of the Dice 1959-62 — David Kynaston

David Kynaston's series of books on 'Modern Britain' are extraordinarily compelling. An ongoing series of commentaries culled from contemporary diaries, letters, journals, newspapers—it is matchless in revealing the true voice of the times with all its attendant hopes and dreams and fears. 



A History of Modern Britain — Andrew Marr

Andrew Marr is a staple on British TV. He's certainly one of the best political journalists / commentators of this generation. The book is the companion piece to the BBC TV series of the same name (As seen on PBS in US) that looks at Britain from the postwar years to the beginning of the new Millennium. His well-informed but seemingly effortless narrative style makes for compelling television and for a most enjoyable read.



All Dressed Up. The Sixties and the Counterculture 

— Jonathon Green

The Sixties. A comprehensive—engagingly perceptive—overview of cultural and political events in Britain. Nicely structured and loads of fun. Written with style and wit. (Green's Days In The Life—oral history of the Sixties 'counterculture'—written a decade earlier—also well worth a read.)



In The Sixties — Barry Miles

Miles was at the centre of so much that happened in London in The Sixties—in music, publishing, and the arts. He knew almost anyone who was anyone and probably many you or I have never heard of—but should have. As ever—Miles is exceedingly warm and generous with his memories as he covers the emerging counterculture on both sides of the Atlantic and on the West Coast. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with him—in all of his many books—whether he's talking about the rise and fall of London’s underground press…William Blake…Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac…Paul McCartney…or The Beatles.



Ready, Steady, Go! Swinging London and the Invention of Cool  - UK  | The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London - US — Shawn Levy

Like one long gossip column—filleting the London scene—from 1961 to 1969. His discerning eye is smart, knowing, insightful and often very funny. (And with Mr Levy being a Yank to boot—that's doubly funny.) He pins all the butterflies to the board—without breaking a single one of them on the wheel. A deft touch. And a delightfully wicked read.



The Portable Sixties Reader — Edited by Ann Charters

An anthology of essays from the great and good and Penguin Classics—a more US-focused balance to all the many British points of view assembled here. The final chapter—‘Elegies for the Sixties’—a tribute to ten individuals whose lives and deaths captured the spirit of the decade—very much worth the price of the book. 

    As it says: A literary time capsule from the decade that changed the world. From civil rights to free love, JFK to LSD, Woodstock to the Moonwalk, the Sixties was a time of change, political unrest and radical experiments in the arts, sexuality, and personality. A most turbulent decade, indeed.




A Great Silly Grin. The British Satire Boom of the 1960s — Humphrey Carpenter 

You might well need a laugh about now. Mr Carpenter uses everything in his bag of tools to make his book as funny, and as sharp and as pointed, as the very talented group of people (Come back Peter Cook…where are you when we need you?) who tried help shape 'the times'—for the better.



Run It Down The Flagpole. Britain in the Sixties

— Bernard Levin

One of the great British columnists and broadcasters in The Sixties—and for a number of decades afterwards. Always perceptive. Ever passionate. Often extraordinarily persuasive. The newspaper columns collected in this book provide a marvelous time machine—touching on the great and good and the not-so-good and the sometimes downright scurrilous. Levin never less than piercing in his observations. Ever witty. Scrupulously erudite. Always a delight to read—and re-read—whatever the decade.



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