What We Read: Social Change & Upheaval in 1969

Donation further expands Sacramento Room's reading trend records
By Amanda DeWilde
January 9, 2019
Reading trends offer a fun window into Sacramento’s tastes over the decades, and in October, the Elk Grove Book Club further expanded the Sacramento Room’s reading trend records by donating its meeting minutes and reading lists dating back to 1937. Together with annual reading reports from the Sacramento Public Library archives, these records provide insight into the recreational interests and social concerns of the times.

In 1969, social change and upheaval were reflected in reading trends, which varied widely throughout the Sacramento area. At the main library, patrons showed interest in “‘SEX’ in any way, shape or form,” according to the circulation department’s annual report, and borrowers also requested many romance-suspense novels, mysteries and movie-related fiction like The Godfather and Rosemary’s Baby. The Mabel Gillis Library, located in Oak Park, supplied reading for local youths, who were asking for self-help novels, books on psychic phenomena and witchcraft, and works on social problems and unrest written by black authors like Eldridge Cleaver and H. Rap Brown. The Elk Grove Book Club, comprised of 22 women at the time, presented books on historical subjects and political topics, especially those touching on Cold War-era concerns — like Herbert Matthew’s Fidel Castro and Robert McNamara’s The Essence of Security.

For those interested in exploring social history through the reading trends of any decade, the Sacramento Public Library archives and collections like the Elk Grove Book Club are treasure troves of information and ready for viewing in the Sacramento Room.

This article featured in the January 2019 issue of History in the Making. Subscribe.