Lots of books get published yearly, but unlike other forms of media that get pumped out, eaten up by fancy algorithms, and disappear to never be seen again, books are different. They’re like time capsules, works that you can put on a shelf and pull out ten, twenty, thirty years later to enjoy over and over. If you’ve ever looked up what celebrity or event shares your birthday, then you’ll definitely want to know what your popular birthday book buddy is. Good thing you’re reading this because we here at Bookstr have put together all the popular books by year.
If you were born in the ’60s, we already have an article out for you here. This list, however, is all about highlighting the most popular books of the ’70s. Depending on when you’re reading this, you ’80s and ’90s kids out there might be able to find your respective articles on my author page here. If not, refer to the lovely graphic above for a teaser of what’s to come!
All of the star ratings and shelvings below are as taken from Goodreads as of the publishing of this article. With that out of the way, here are the most popular books from each year of the ’70s!
1970: The Bluest Eye
Normally, I like to start with something positive, but chronological order has dictated that’s not happening. The Bluest Eye is a powerfully sorrowful work by Toni Morrison about a young black girl who wishes to feel as beautiful and loved as the white girls her age. It communicates a powerful message about racism in America, as well as other very real tragedies that befall people. However, due to its raw and potentially triggering nature, it’s definitely not a story for everyone. It has 4.11 stars and 431,000 shelvings on Goodreads.
In stark contrast to our previous entry, we have Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. Although the book apparently discusses politics and the American dream, its primary draw seems to be the wacky adventures that come from consistent drug use. It has 4.07 stars and 541,000 shelvings on Goodreads. Also, its movie adaptation came out in 1998, and a graphic novel in 2015.
1972: Watership Down
Watership Down by Richard Adams is a story about rabbits adventuring across the English countryside. With 759,000 shelvings and 4.08 stars on Goodreads, what was once a car ride story for his daughters has turned into much more. Furthermore, it had a film adaption in 1979, a television series in 1999, and a more recent four-episode special on BBC and Netflix in 2018.
1973: The Princess Bride
William Goldman’s The Princess Bride prides itself on presenting all the action, adventure, and intrigue of a fairytale without dwelling on the boring bits. With two million shelvings and 4.26 stars on Goodreads, it’s clear it worked. The Princess Bride was released as a movie in 1987 and was adapted into numerous card and board games. But the most interesting thing about this book is the myth surrounding it. While it presents itself as a rewrite of S. Morgenstern’s The Princess Bride, the truth is S. Morgenstern doesn’t exist. William Goldman, the real author, made the man up in order to bicker about legalities with him.
1974: Where the Sidewalk Ends
If you’ve read our article on the ’60s, you might recognize this author. Shel Silverstein, the author of The Giving Tree, published another hit, Where the Sidewalk Ends, ten years later. It’s a collection of imaginative poetry about a world that throws normal out the window. The poems are accompanied by illustrations, and while it’s aimed at kids, anyone of any age can enjoy them. In contrast to that, it might be interesting to know this book has also been banned in some schools and libraries. It has two million shelvings and 4.33 stars on Goodreads.
1975: ‘Salem’s Lot
With 623,000 shelvings and 4.05 stars, ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King has a lot to offer… Jokes aside, this horror novel is all about the secret terrors behind a small town. And we aren’t just talking about the vampire. It has a few adaptions, featuring multiple TV series over the years and a film in 1987.
Unlike ‘Salem’s Lot, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice presents vampires hiding as normal people in society. That doesn’t stop the novel from being dark, though, as immortality comes with its own set of problems. The novel has 842,000 shelvings and 4.01 stars on Goodreads, as well as its own list of adaptations. The most interesting of these to me is the recent television series by AMC, which takes the queer subtext of the original and brings it to the forefront.
1977: The Shining
Is Stephen King appearing a second time on the same list? The popularity of his work is nothing to be underestimated, especially with The Shining. With two million shelvings and 4.26 stars on Goodreads, its film adaption was released in 1980. Its miniseries came out in 1997, as well as an opera in 2016. It’s a classic haunted house horror story, and regarded by some as one of his best in the genre. I’m not even a fan of horror, but I’ve heard the title more than once growing up.
1978: The Stand
Do you know who wrote The Stand? No? Well, it was Stephen King, back at it again. The Stand is a story about how a pandemic causes the apocalypse. Yeah, I know, everyone the world over is tired of even seeing the word “pandemic.” But between its one million shelvings, 4.34 stars, and the good handful of reviewers who picked up the book during the midst of the pandemic, it’s clearly still holding up. Its two miniseries adaptions aired in 1994 and 2020, and even cooler, Marvel adapted the story to a series of comics from 2008-2012.
I can’t imagine what I would do if people planned to destroy Earth for the sake of a galactic freeway, but that’s only the start of this adventure. Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy revolves around the comically strange adventures of a guy and his friend traveling the universe. The book has one million shelvings, 4.23 stars, and more adaptions than I can reasonably describe. Between multiple TV series, a film, stage shows, a video game, and a comic book, there’s a reason this book’s title is so well known. In conclusion, I’d say it’s a plenty good way to wrap up the decade.
If you liked this, check out the Most Popular books of the ’60s here!