“The Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger (1951): Slang-slinging Holden Caulfield is the original alienated teen in this masterpiece foreshadowing the youthquake of the 1960s.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (1960): In a Depression-era Alabama town ripped apart by racism during a rape trial, 8-year-old Scout Finch watches her attorney father, Atticus, stand up for what’s right.
“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller (1961): Parallel insanities — battle and bureaucracy — dovetail in this antiwar jeremiad, which also gave us the ultimate no-win phrase. (The book’s original title was Catch-18; can you imagine?)
“The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan (1963): This landmark work awakened millions of housewives to “the problem that has no name,” a nagging sense of incompletion.
“The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley” (1964): A searing narrative filled with pain and resolve, this bestseller opened the eyes of white readers to the black experience in America.
“Valley of the Dolls” by Jacqueline Susann (1966): Three young women rise to the top of the brutal entertainment biz, only to find themselves seduced by pills (“dolls”) and abused by men.
“The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe (1969): The white-suited crown prince of the New Journalism created this unforgettable portrait of Ken Kesey, his Merry Pranksters and some long, strange trips of the 1960s.
“The Godfather” by Mario Puzo (1969): This tale of family love and loyalty among mafiosi hooked the readers of a nation riven by social and cultural change.
“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach (1970): Slim allegory about selfless seagull takes flight, becomes international sensation.
“Love Story” by Erich Segal (1970): A rich Harvard jock falls hard for a working-class Radcliffe pianist in a tear-jerking tragedy with a catchy takeaway: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
Deirdre Donahue, AARP Media