Awaken your inner flower child with these 10 must-read books about hippies. Get ready to board Ken Kesey’s bus with the “Merry Pranksters” and discover (or relive) counterculture, Woodstock, Haight-Ashbury, and free love that began in the 1960s and 1970s with these books about hippies.
1. Schooled by Gordon Korman
“Capricorn Anderson had never watched a television show before. He’d never tasted a pizza. He had never even heard of a wedgie. And he had never, in his wildest dreams, thought of living anywhere but Garland Farm commune with his hippie caretaker, Rain.
“Capricorn (Cap for short) lived every day of his life on Garland Farm growing fruits and vegetables. He was homeschooled by Rain, the only person he knew in the world. Life was simple for Cap. But when Rain falls out of a tree while picking plums and is hospital-ridden, he has to attend the local middle school and live with his new guidance counselor and her irritable daughter. While Cap knew a lot about Zen Buddhism, no amount of formal education could ready him for the trials and tribulations of public middle school.
“Cap doesn’t exactly fit in at Claverage Middle School (dubbed C Average by the kids). He has long, ungroomed hair, wears hemp clothes, and practices Tai Chi out on the lawn. His weirdness basically makes him the biggest nerd in school. This is great news for Zach Powers, big man on campus. He can’t wait to instate the age-old tradition in C-Average School: The biggest nerd is nominated for class president — and wins. So when Cap becomes president, he is more puzzled than ever. But as Cap begins to take on his duties, the joke starts to turn on Zach.
“Will Cap turn out to be the greatest President in the history of C-Average School? Or the biggest punchline?”
2. The Girls by Emma Cline
“Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.”
3. Uncle Joe’s Muse by Micah Thorp
“The members of Uncle Joe’s Band have spent years playing any venue that will pay for their unintelligible metal band performances while their rock and roll lifestyle has left them with bad livers, multiple divorces, and living in a squalid house in Vallejo, California.
“Then one morning everything changes when an assertive twelve-year-old girl named Allison appears on their front porch and announces that she has been sent to stay with her father for the summer.
“Meanwhile, years ago, the band’s namesake and inspiration, Uncle Joe, takes a long strange trip as a vagabond hippie through the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s that includes brushes with Ken Kesey’s bus, Watergate, the Pet Rock, Iran Contra, and Jerry Garcia.
“Inspired by their experience with Allison and their budding paternal instincts, recollections of Uncle Joe, and a well-played Stratocaster with the initials “JG”, the members of Uncle Joe’s Band begin to play a new tune in a major key.”
4. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
“This is the seminal work on the hippie culture, a report on what it was like to follow along with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters as they launched the “Transcontinental Bus Tour” from the West Coast to New York, all while introducing acid (then legal) to hundreds of like-minded folks, staging impromptu jam sessions, dodging the Feds, and meeting some of the most revolutionary figures of the day.”
5. Hippie by Paulo Coelho
“Drawing on the rich experience of his own life, bestselling author Paulo Coelho takes us back in time to relive the dreams of a generation that longed for peace. In Hippie, he tells the story of Paulo, a young, skinny Brazilian man with a goatee and long, flowing hair, who dreams of becoming a writer, and Karla, a Dutch woman in her twenties who has been waiting to find a companion to accompany her on the fabled hippie trail to Nepal.
“After meeting each other in Amsterdam, she convinces Paulo to join her on a trip aboard the Magic Bus that travels from Amsterdam to Istanbul and across Central Asia to Kathmandu. As they embark on this journey together, Paulo and Karla explore a love affair that awakens them on every level and leads to choices and decisions that will set the course for their lives thereafter.”
6. Arcadia by Lauren Groff
“In the fields of western New York State in the 1970s, a few dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding a commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this romantic utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday. Arcadia’s inhabitants include Handy, the charismatic leader; his wife, Astrid, a midwife; Abe, a master carpenter; Hannah, a baker and historian; and Abe and Hannah’s only child, Bit. While Arcadia rises and falls, Bit, too, ages and changes. He falls in love with Helle, Handy’s lovely, troubled daughter. And eventually he must face the world beyond Arcadia.”
7. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
“Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.
“Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.
“Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.
“The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.”
8. Farm City by Novella Carpenter
“When Novella Carpenter—captivated by the idea of backyard self-sufficiency as the daughter of two back-to-the-earth hippies—moves to a ramshackle house in inner-city Oakland and discovers a weed-choked, garbage-strewn abandoned lot next door, she closes her eyes and pictures heirloom tomatoes, a beehive, and a chicken coop.
“What starts out as a few egg-laying chickens leads to turkeys, geese, and ducks. And not long after, along came two 300-pound pigs. And no, these charming and eccentric animals aren’t pets. Novella is raising these animals for dinner.
“An unforgettably charming memoir, full of hilarious moments, fascinating farmer’s tips, and a great deal of heart, Farm City offers a beautiful mediation on what we give up to live the way we do today.”
9. Drop City by TC Boyle
“It is 1970, and a down-at-the-heels California commune devoted to peace, free love, and the simple life has decided to relocate to the last frontier—the unforgiving landscape of interior Alaska—in the ultimate expression of going back to the land. Armed with the spirit of adventure and naïve optimism, the inhabitants of ‘Drop City’ arrive in the wilderness of Alaska only to find their utopia already populated by other young homesteaders. When the two communities collide, unexpected friendships and dangerous enmities are born as everyone struggles with the bare essentials of life: love, nourishment, and a roof over one’s head. Rich, allusive, and unsentimental, T.C. Boyle’s ninth novel is a tour de force infused with the lyricism and take-no-prisoners storytelling for which he is justly famous.”
10. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
“More than perhaps any other book, this collection by one of the most distinctive prose stylists of our era captures the unique time and place of Joan Didion’s focus, exploring subjects such as John Wayne and Howard Hughes, growing up in California and the nature of good and evil in a Death Valley motel room, and, especially, the essence of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, the heart of the counterculture.”
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