Fun books that our parents read as young adults

And we read at the library as teens…

I wonder if our kids could do the same or if they’re long gone?  Ah, the glorious 60s.

Richard Armour wrote a series of brilliant hilariously funny lite-history books, with titles starting, “It all started with…”  It All Started With Eve, It All Started with Columbus, It All Started With Europa: Being an Undigested History of Europe from Prehistoric Man to the Present, Proving That We Remember Best Whatever Is Least Important, and so on.  I devoured these in the non-fiction adult’s section.   Twisted Tales From Shakespeare was another fun one.

Peg Bracken wrote a brilliant cookbook called The I Hate to Cook Book.  I recently purchased another copy and read through it, marveling at how nice it is that women are no longer responsible for 100% of the cooking.  And how many of the recipes in there were already familiar to me– things I know how to make from memory because my mother and everybody else’s mother made them too.

Jean Kerr wrote a series of books collecting delightful essays together.  She was in the humor section.  (Please Don’t Eat the Daisies was made into a movie.)  I remember most her essay about why she writes– because she has children and she wants to sleep in and therefore must make enough money to hire a nanny.  Sleep is an excellent reason/way to choose a career.

Erma Bombeck was not quite as good as Jean Kerr, but still good to read.

I suppose James Thurber will still be around and not forgotten… his stuff probably qualifies as classics.

What are your favorite books from the 50s, 60s, and 70s?

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14 Responses to “Fun books that our parents read as young adults”

  1. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    *chirp chirp*
    Gee, #2, I guess nobody reads these kinds of books.

    Let’s go back another decade or two.
    How about Penrod? Anybody like Penrod? Seventeen? (Sure, some people like Booth Tarkington for his adult novels, but his children’s classics are the best.)

    Perry Mason? Any Perry Mason lovers?

    Boxcar children? Bobbsey twins?

  2. hush Says:

    “Go Ask Alice” (1971), “The Bell Jar” (1963), “Love Story” (late 1960s?), “The Exorcist” – I bummed those off my parents’ bookshelves and read those at about age 9-12. Um, not super age-appropriate but oh well. My parents did not do much reading in their childhoods (but my dad is a wonderful guitar player because that’s what he spent all his free time doing as a kid).

  3. Flavia Says:

    Oh, I read a lot of humor books as a young teen! Erma Bombeck for sure, and Dave Barry, and so forth. I also read a lot of “grown-up” comics, like endless Doonesbury anthologies. I think everything I know about the Nixon administration I learned from Doonesbury (read in the late 80s or very early 90s).

    I also read a lot of mediocre espionage fiction (think: Robert Ludlum) around ages 13-14. My theory is that I was old enough to want to read stories about adults, but really not mature enough to deal with psychological or emotional complexity. (I also read some historical romance-type sagas — you know, a 600-page novel set on an Irish plantation in the nineteenth century or whatever — probably for the same reason, but those were more problematic. I loved the historical part, but was really troubled and confused by the inevitable love triangles, sadistic husbands, affairs with gardeners, and generally tormented interpersonal relationships.)

  4. Dana Says:

    I remember Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry fondly, but none of the other books strike a chord. I did love the Bobbsey twins and boxcar children. Also remember Encyclopedia Brown, the Three Investigators, Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew but not sure those are quite of the era you are referring to. Read lots of dad’s science fiction in that junior high age too.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      If you like Erma Bombeck, you’ll love Jean Kerr.

      Encyclopedia Brown totally counts! (I got him at the university library’s children section, where they didn’t weed much.) Scholastic has recently reprinted them, so DC1 is enjoying him as well. I don’t know if they’ve reprinted the dated vaguely sexist parts (like how Sally knows about gender-based etiquette proving that the “woman” was actually a man). Hadn’t heard of the three investigators.

      The Hardy boys are actually from the early 19th century, but they were rewritten in the 50s and 60s to remove the racist parts. Nancy Drew, of course, is legendary.

  5. chacha1 Says:

    I have no idea if my adolescent reading tracked my parents’ at all, except to the extent that they passed on a few of their saved books – very few!! I started reading their books at about 10 (mysteries, mostly) but I kept reading my own favorite juvenilia. Still have some of it.

    Our local newspaper when I was growing up carried Jean Kerr and Erma Bombeck, so I read them that way. I am not a big humor reader generally, but I have Dave Barry’s first two mysteries. The only Thurber I have read to this day is “The Thirteen Clocks.”

  6. Rosa Says:

    I was a kid in the ’70s, and my mom’s a big reader, so I read a lot of Bombeck. I still love her. I give Thurber picture books as gifts – i’m really fond of Many Moons and my son LOVES the one about the country with no Os. (Miss Masham’s repose I can take or leave, though).

    I was given several copies of the I Hate To Cook Book when I got married, all by women in my mom’s circle who spent those decades drudging through daily cooking, often on very tight budgets (also some hideous toddler-weaning cookbook that featured a lot of veal.) All of them raved about it. I only cook if it seems like fun, but it turns out a lot of my childhood favorites that make good fast kid-friendly meals were straight from there – meat & gravy on toast is one for sure.

    I loved the Bobbsey Twins as a kid, but on rereading they have really unfortunate dialect-speaking black servants. And upon rereading Encyclopedia Brown is very, very boring (but the child LOVES them) and Boxcar Children is the horrifying story of a company town where the paterfamilias basically owns everyone and his own child ran away from his power to get married for love.

    Henry Huggins and Ribsy stand up to rereading even though they’re from the ’50s, though. And we just put Homer Price and Centerburg Tales on reserve a little bit ago, because I remember thinking they were hilarious and the pictures are still wonderful.


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