Can You Name All of These Essential Baby Boomer Books?



By: Gavin Thagard

7 Min Quiz

Image: Brentwood Productions/Pakula-Mulligan

About This Quiz

Born between 1946 and 1964, baby boomers lived through a unique time in cultural history, mainly when it came to literature. For centuries prior, literature was viewed as a pleasure for the upper classes. Still, there was a massive shift in the 20th century as education increased, which became even more prevalent after WWII. That means baby boomers had opportunities that previous generations didn't, and when it came to books, there were plenty of opportunities to be had.

Literature during this time was heavily influenced by a variety of factors, including WWII, the counterculture movement, race relations, environmental struggles and suburban life. New concepts formed as well, which added a twist to genres like romance fiction, non-fiction and even children's fiction. For these reasons, literary scholars could argue that baby boomers have enjoyed the most dynamic fiction of all time.

Did you grow up during this era in history, or are you a fan of literature that came out during the baby boom years? From novels about setting out on adventures across the country to horror tales based on real events, can you name them all?  If you're a bookworm, then this quiz on the essential baby boomer books will be right up your alley. So get started and show everyone you're a true literature buff.

What's the title of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee describing life in a small Southern town?

"To Kill a Mockingbird" was the first and only novel published by Harper Lee until "Go Set a Watchman" was published in 2015, a year before her death. This new novel was actually an early draft of her 1960 classic.


Can you identify the dystopian novel written by George Orwell and turned into a movie starring John Hurt and Richard Burton?

George Orwell was ill with tuberculosis when he undertook the task of writing "1984," which he completed and published in 1949. The novel would be his last, as he lost his life to tuberculosis in 1950 at the age of 46.


Most fantasy epic series take tips from which book written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in 1954?

"The Lord of the Rings" trilogy finally hit the big screen when the first book, "The Fellowship of the Ring," was turned into a movie in 2001. The movie starred Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, the hobbit who comes in possession of the ring.


Which book, written by J.D. Salinger, captured post-WWII America through the eyes of a teenager in NYC?

The main character of "The Catcher in the Rye," Holden Caulfield, has been one of the most controversial protagonists in literature. Often viewed as the quintessential representation of teenage angst, he has also been interpreted as a spoiled brat unable to deal with growing up.


How well do you know this children's book written by Margaret Wise Brown that tells the story of a bunny about to go to bed?

Having no children, Margaret Wise Brown left the royalties from "Goodnight Moon" to a young boy named Albert Clarke, who she met through his mother. The money didn't fare well in Clarke's hands, as it often funded his criminal behavior throughout his life.


Can you identify the book that describes a dystopian society where books are outlawed?

Ray Bradbury got the idea for "Fahrenheit 451" from an action taken by Adolph Hitler. Seeking to subdue opposing views against Nazism, Hitler ordered the burning of books throughout Germany and Austria that were deemed to be against his ideology.


Will you be able to name the book where boys get stranded on a deserted island?

As is the case with the first novel for most writers, William Golding struggled to find a publisher for "Lord of the Flies." It was eventually picked up by Faber and Faber, though it still took a while for the novel to find any fanfare as it sold less than 5,000 copies the first year.


What's the name of the novel that tells the story of Humbert Humbert and his obsession with Dolores Haze?

"Lolita" was inspired by the 1948 kidnapping of Florence "Sally" Horner by Frank La Salle. Unlike Dolores Haze from the book, Horner's story didn't end on a positive note, as she was killed in a car crash two years after she was returned home.


Baby boomers will recognize that the satire runs strong in which WWII novel written from the perspective of three characters with a plot that doesn't follow a linear path?

Nearly 40 years after Joseph Heller published "Catch-22," accusations arose that he plagiarized the story from a book titled "Face of a Hero." Heller and his editor rejected the accusations, and ultimately, nothing came of them.


Are you familiar with the Jack Kerouac book that defined the Beat Generation?

Jack Kerouac completely immersed himself in the task of writing "On the Road." Prior to writing the novel, Kerouac traveled across the United States several times, keeping a journal of his travels to later include in the story.


Written by Ayn Rand, how well do you know the novel that captures a depressed United States that Dagny Taggart tries to help by fixing a railroad?

"Atlas Shrugged" served as an example of Ayn Rand's philosophy of objectivism. In the book, she defined her philosophy as "the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."


If you're a later baby boomer, your parents probably read you which book by Dr. Seuss published in 1957?

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was challenged to write a children's book that kids couldn't put down. Given a list of words that the kids needed to learn, Dr. Seuss used 236 of the words to create "The Cat in the Hat."


Have you had the chance to read this famous horror novel written by Shirley Jackson?

It would be easy to dive into "The Haunting of Hill House," thinking it was a story about ghosts. However, it's a story about how a house can haunt someone, changing their fragile psyche as it does with Eleanor in the story.


Can you identify the novel that Alfred Hitchcock famously turned into a classic psychological horror film in 1960?

"Psycho" was written by the popular crime novel writer Robert Bloch, who was awarded numerous awards for his writing. He even won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story when he published "That Hellbound Train" the same year as "Psycho."


Are you familiar with the non-fiction book that details the murders of the Herbert Clutter family?

Though "In Cold Blood" was written under the guise of non-fiction, some elements of the book have come under question in recent years. Much of the controversy surrounds Alvin Dewey, the lead investigator, who was written as someone much more on top of the case than he actually was.


Which book follows a man from New York City to Italy, where he murders another man and takes his identity?

"The Talented Mr. Ripley" was the first of five novels written by Patricia Highsmith about Tom Ripley. The final book, "Ripley Under Water," wasn't finished until 1991, 36 years after the first novel came out.


Do you know the children's book written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein?

Since Shel Silverstein was a relatively new writer of children's books, his publisher did not have much faith in "The Giving Tree," printing very few copies as a first edition. Those concerns were quickly put to rest, and today, the book is one of the most successful children's stories of all time.


From the writer of "The Hundred and One Dalmatians," do you know the book that tells the story of a poor teenager named Cassandra?

Cassandra Mortmain, the protagonist of "I Capture the Castle," also serves as the first-person narrator. She spends most of her time developing her literary talent in her journal, which she finally puts aside after developing a hopeful romance at the end.


Written at the start of the baby boomer era, what's the first book in the "Gormenghast" series?

Castle Gormenghast is the primary setting for two of the three novels in the "Gormenghast" series, "Titus Groan" and "Gormenghast." The third novel, "Titus Alone," follows Titus as he travels to an unexpected land that makes him question his past.


Are you familiar with the novel based on a Mexican folk tale that follows a poor diver named Kino?

It didn't take long for the film industry to take an interest in "The Pearl," as a movie was made based on the book the same year it was published. The film was well-received after its initial release, and later, it was added to the U.S. National Film Registry.


Baby boomers probably read which Swedish book written by Tove Jansson and published in 1948?

When Tove Jansson first developed the Moomin characters, it wasn't for a children's book, which it became in "Finn Family Moomintroll." Instead, these characters served as satire in an anti-Hitler cartoon published in 1938.


Did you read enough fiction to name the novel by Ralph Ellison that won the 1953 National Book Award?

After WWII came to a close, Ralph Ellison, who served as a cook in the war, went to Vermont to visit a friend. It was there that he wrote the first line to the novel: "I am an invisible man." At the time, he had no idea what it would turn into.


Can you identify the non-fiction book that puts together 10 essays written by James Baldwin?

James Baldwin included a short autobiography at the beginning of "Notes of a Native Son." In this section, he discussed his disconnect with his father, who wanted him to be a preacher, and his decision to move to Paris to separate himself from being merely an African-American writer.


Do you know which book written in 1958 discusses the founding of Israel?

"Exodus" is titled after the second book in the Bible as well as the name of a transport ship that attempted to carry Jewish Holocaust survivors to Palestine. The novel discusses the transport briefly at the start, though many of the details are changed around.


Can you name the book that defined artificial intelligence for baby boomers with three simple laws?

"I, Robot" started as a series of short stories published in magazines like "Super Science Stories" and "Astounding Science Fiction," beginning in 1940. He finally formulated the stories into a novel and published it in 1950.


Select the book that follows a teenager through Harlem in 1935.

James Baldwin used parts of his own biography to tell the fictional account of John Grimes growing up in Harlem in his novel "Go Tell It on the Mountain." The story depicts the relationship between the African-American community and the Pentecostal Church, showing both the positive and negative aspects of such a relationship.


Oskar Matzerath decides he will forever remain a child in which famous German novel translated to English in 1961?

"The Tin Drum" utilizes an unreliable narrator in Oskar Matzerath, who has paranoiac tendencies, to tell its story. These tendencies eventually land Oskar in a mental hospital, from which place the story is being told.


Will you be able to pick out the book that tells the story of the real life folk hero Gregorio Cortez Lira?

Known as a border ballad, "With His Pistol in His Hand" captures the disparity between Mexicans and their Texas neighbors at the beginning of the 20th century. For these two groups, the laws were very different, and it became even more evident when Gregorio Cortez Lira shot a Texas sheriff.


What's the name of the autobiographical novel written by Gerald Durrell about his time living on the island of Corfu?

Most of Gerald Durrell's books focused on his life as an animal collector who traveled around the world in search of different creatures. "My Family and Other Animals" describes his first experiences with collecting animals on the island of Corfu as a child.


Once banned in the country where the story takes place, Ireland, do you know the 1955 novel written by J.P. Donleavy?

J.P. Donleavy had difficulty finding a publisher for his book, "The Ginger Man," due to its illicit content. Eventually, a Paris based publisher called Olympia Press agreed to publish the novel, but it was published as pornographic fiction.


D.H. Lawrence wrote which controversial romance novel that describes an intimate relationship between a lower class man and upper-class woman?

When "Lady Chatterley's Lover" was finally published in English in 1960, the publisher, Penguin Books, faced an obscenity trial against some of the content. The publisher won the case and actually benefited from the publicity, selling over 2 million copies within two years.


One of the most important science fiction novels of its time, what book follows a young man as he journeys from Mars to Earth for the first time?

Though Robert A. Heinlein decided on the title "Stranger in a Strange Land," a reference to a Bible verse, it wasn't the working title throughout most of the process. Instead, Heinlein thought about calling it "The Heretic" until it got closer to being finished.


Name the 1960 novel by John Updike about a man in a broken marriage who works a menial sales job.

"Rabbit, Run" was the first in a series of four novels that follow the character Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom. The final novel based around Angstrom was "Rabbit at Rest," which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1991.


Can you name the science fiction novel published in 1962 that shows a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by global warming?

Forty-eight years after its release, Time magazine named "The Drowned World" one of the most influential post-apocalyptic novels ever. There's a good reason for it, too, as the novel has influenced an entire genre known as climate fiction.


Parents of baby boomers basically raised their kids using what book written by Benjamin Spock?

"The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care" differed greatly from previous books relating to raising a child. Prior books emphasized a more repressive approach, while "Baby and Child Care" taught parents to trust themselves and be humane with their children.


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