For much of modern U.S. history, the whole country has been obsessed with one part: California. It’s where Americans went to get rich on gold and fame. It’s where, for a period, all the weirdos and idealists seemed to collect, because after they rolled aimlessly west, there was simply nowhere else to go but straight into the sea. Few have written about that period — the early- to mid-1960s — as well as Joan Didion did in the essays in Slouching Toward Bethlehem, a selection of previously published magazine work. Arriving one year after the Summer of Love, the book, and its title essay, firmly punctured the pervasive myths about the counterculture, showing it (at least in its Haight-Ashbury manifestation) to be nothing more than a collection of feckless dreamers. Though that essay is the center that holds everything together, it is the complementary sketches — Didion’s stories of Californian crooks, stars and charlatans — that continue to make this one of the most compelling books about ’60s America.
Autobiography / Memoir
Self-Help / Instructional