Slouching Towards Bethlehem

By Joan Didion,

Book cover of Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays

Book description

Joan Didion's savage masterpiece, which, since first publication in 1968, has been acknowledged as an unparalleled report on the state of America during the upheaval of the Sixties Revolution.

We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike,…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked Slouching Towards Bethlehem as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I’ll end with a book that started it all for me!

I still remember, in the year 2010, reaching the end of the essay "Goodbye to All That" where the date of publication is noted—1967—and how startled I was to realize something that feels so contemporary and alive had been written decades earlier. As in so much of her work, in this collection Didion offers vivid details from her life and brings her extraordinary powers of analysis to understanding their meaning.

As she once put it herself—in another essay, "Why I Write"—"Had I been blessed with even limited access to…

Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a master class in how to write a personal essay. Every essay Didion writes in any of her books is beautifully rendered—she doesn’t waste a word—as well as emotionally engaging and well reported and researched. Whatever she’s writing about—politics, California, rock musicians—you are there with her, on the scene. The book’s preface explains how and why Didion did what she did and contains this nugget of truth: Writers are always selling somebody out. And the title essay is simply the best piece of writing I’ve ever read about Haight-Ashbury and the 1960s.

I’ve lived in California and feel that this is the most eloquent book that describes the Golden State from the perspective of a transplanted New Yorker. Though written in the 1960s, many of her observations are still cogent and on the mark, yet, at the same time, they are also revealing about the author. In her essay, “Goodbye to All That,” she wrote, “For a lot of the time I was in New York, I used a perfume called Fleurs de Rocaille, and then L’Air du Temps, and not the trace of either can short-circuit my connections for the rest…

From Julia's list on what drives an artist.

Simply put, the death knell of the sixties clearly explained. My favorite turbulent decade as described by my all-time favorite author. Didion’s style is incisive and brilliant, and she manages to find the exact moments in the demise of the hippie movement that define both its idealism and cynicism. The children in her essay, the titular Slouching Towards Bethlehem made me want to write about the impact this social movement had on children born into it. She chooses her defining moments so well! Didion’s essays made me understand how both non-fiction and essay could move me, emotionally, in the same…

Joan Didion is one of my all-time favorite writers. Ever. Full stop. Choosing one book by this remarkable journalist and author was difficult, but this collection of essays—centered mainly on Didion’s experiences reporting on life during the late ‘60s in California—showcases not only her talents as a storyteller, but also her uncanny ability to at once inhabit and observe events. I have read it multiple times and find something new to admire with every visit to her prose.

From Denise's list on on or by maverick women.

Just because it’s journalism doesn’t mean the writing has to be boring. Just read Joan Didion:

“This is the California where it is easy to Dial-A-Devotion, but hard to buy a book. This is the country in which a belief in the literal interpretation of Genesis has slipped imperceptibly into a belief in the literal interpretation of Double Indemnity, the country of the teased hair and the Capris and the girls for whom all life’s promise comes down to a waltz-length white wedding dress and the birth of a Kimberly or a Sherry or a Debbi and a Tijuana divorce…

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