So what were the bestselling books of 1970? Well number one will be familiar to anyone who has read my 1970 at the Movies article – Love Story by Erich Segal. It must be one hell of a good story to make it to number one in books and the movies! Other books in the top 10 include:
The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles (no. 2)
Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway (no. 3)
Travels with my Aunt by Graham Green (no. 8)
It’s not all about bestsellers however (plus this is taken from the US bestsellers, as that’s all I could find), what other good books were published in 1970? Well for that I turned to Goodreads, which helpfully does a ‘most popular books published in 1970’ according to its members. You can find the list here, but here’s a selection of books that I picked out:
Ringworld by Larry Niven
This is one of those big concept sci-fi novels that I love. An alien artifact is discovered in a distant, unexplored corner of the galaxy, and a motley team of aliens and humans are assembled to go and explore, and seek out the artifact’s creators. The Ringworld of the title is a huge ribbon like structure that encircles a star, providing a vast amount of living space.
I read this a long time ago and remember enjoying it. Ringworld is the first in a series of books by prolific science fiction author Larry Niven and rightly takes its place in the science fiction hall of fame. I was surprised it was written as long ago as 1970, but then I think that far future science fiction ages surprisingly well, certainly when compared to near future science fiction which quicky becomes very dated. Worth a read.
Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl has been a favourite author for several generations of children now, I was no exception and now my daughter really enjoys his books. This one though was always one of my favourites but I don’t think it is one of his best known books. Maybe because the main characters are a family of foxes, and the bad guys are three farmers – Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Mr Fox is always taking their food to feed his family, so the three farmers hatch a plan to shoot and kill him. They trap in him in his underground home and wait for him to be so desperate that he tries to come out. They hadn’t reckoned on him coming up with a cunning plan however.
Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
This is a history of the American West, told from the perspective of the Native Americans. It tells a story of inexorable expansion of the USA into the American West, and the devastating effect it had on the native peoples. This is an important book, as it was the first really popular book to show the history of the West from the other side. It chronicles the dealings of the American government, and the wars that were effectively to try and eradicate American Indians from the Great Plains. It was a very popular book, received critical acclaim, and has remained in print ever since.
There are plenty more great books published in 1970, including a few classic science fiction novels.
Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny – the first book in the author’s Amber Chronicles that stretch to 10 books. I’ve read the first, which is a short, easy read and am looking forward to reading more.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Dale Wasserman
The White Mountains by John Christopher – first book of his Tripods series.
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer – International bestseller that became an important text in the feminist movement.
Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie – Yep, she was still around and writing in 1970
A Clubbable Woman by Reginald Hill – The first book in his popular Dalziel & Pascoe series that later was turned into a popular TV series starring Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan.