17 Fantastic Books Set in the 70s to Devour Now
Between flare jeans and clogs, and the rise of movies like Daisy Jones & the Six, it’s fair to say that the 1970s are back in style. So obviously we had to make a list of books set in the 70s too!
There has been a rise in recent books published about this time frame focusing on both domestic and international events of cultural significance.
The Cold War, the end of the Vietnam war, and the emergence of punk are just some of the topics in the 70s books below.
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Family Drama Books Set in the 70s
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Another Kristin Hannah story, another NYT best seller – and for good reason! I liked this story about the Alaskan wilderness.
This book is so haunting. I could not get it out of my head. Kristin Hannah is an amazing writer with wonderful characters. Her stories feel realistic almost to a fault. They are heartbreaking and heartwarming and utterly unforgettable. I did not think that I would like a book about Alaska but, I could not put it down.
Ernt Allbright has come home from the Vietnam War traumatized and as his mental state deteriorates, his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, must learn to navigate the Alaskan wilderness on their own. If you love family drama books set in the 70s, this one is not to be missed.
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
The Prince of Tides is the story of Tom and his troubled twin sister Savannah. As we follow Tom’s journey to understand and help his sister, he must confront his past and his family.
Something about Tom delving into the deepest family secrets had me sobbing. This is one of the books set in the 70s worth reading.
Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen is back with this incredible 70s book about a pastor and his family as they navigate who they are in the midst of the tumultuous of the era.
As each character questions their relationship with their family, with god, and with their community at large, they also turn inward and try to remain true to themselves.
The depth of the characters is meticulous, the plot had me flipping the pages (which at 500 or so is saying something.) I can’t recommend this story enough. It’s truly wonderful. If you love 70s historical fiction, this is a perfect pick from our list of books like Daisy Jones and the Six.
Music Books Set in the 70s
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
March 2019 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
This best book of 2019 pick needs to be listened to, not read. Seriously, I think this might be one of the best audiobooks of all time.
I expect it to sweep the Audies this year for sure because full cast audiobooks can really take the story to the next level. The book is laid out in chronological order about the making of a band in the 70s, but the story is told in interview style from a dozen sources.
The audio version has a different narrator for each character and the performances the actors give are stupendous. I was overcome with emotion numerous times while I was listening. The story itself about the rise and fall of one of the hottest bands was so utterly fabulous – it’s pure sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll in all the best ways. This is one of the novels about music that isn’t for the faint of heart and is a feel-good book you will not want to miss.
The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton
This is the closest of the books like Daisy Jones and The Six. It’s told in an interview format and is about a band from the 70s. The comparison makes sense… and yet…
This 70s book is wonderful in its own right! No comparison is needed. It looks at sexism and racism in the music industry during this time period and is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. It is a total must-read. This is one of the full-cast audiobooks that we included in our Ultimate List of Feel-Good Books to Brighten your Day
Celebrity Book Club Books set in the 70s
Where the Crawdads Sing Deluxe Edition by Dehlia Owens
September 2018 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
I will admit when I saw the description of this book, I was not sold. A trusted individual, who has never steered me wrong in the past, gave me an advanced copy so, I took the leap. And wow, am I glad I did. I read this book and then recommended it to everyone I knew.
This 70s book has that spark, that special something that makes it extra. It is no surprise that we chose this as our favorite of 2018.
We have an entire post dedicated to this book and how to host a book club around it which makes it a perfect book for book clubs! If you love this book, check out our list of 13 books like Where the Crawdads Sing.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
June 2020 GMA Book Club Pick
I adored Bennett’s debut book The Mothers so I was nervous to read her sophomore novel. Sometimes the next novel doesn’t live up to the first, but The Vanishing Half totally does.
The premise of this book set in the 70s is so unique. Two black sisters who are so pale they can pass for white. One embraces her black heritage and her hometown, the other disappears into white suburbia.
When they meet up again 20 years later through their own daughters, the result is a stunning portrayal of the ties that tether us to our families. This is one of the must-read books about sisters and family drama books! It is also an amazing book for book clubs because there is so much to discuss.
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
April 2021 Read with Jenna Book Club Pick
I don’t want to say I loved this book, because the subject matter is gritty and dark, and yet I found myself enjoying it deeply. I loved the unconventional friendships and the stark look at racist double standards in equal measure.
When 14-year-old, Hispanic, Gloria is raped by an older white man, the town of Odessa reacts strongly. Many people take one side, few take the other. This story is dark but filled with hope. I connected to many of the characters and their struggles. It’s a book set in 70s, but quite honestly it reads very true today.
Thriller Books Set in the 70s
Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James
The Lady Killer murders have haunted Clare Lake Oregon since 1977 when two men with no connection to each other were murdered. They had no enemies, were murdered with the same gun, and the only witness saw a woman’s hair under the cloak. Beth Greer seemed to fit the bill- rich and beautiful- but she was acquitted.
Years later, Shea Collins, a survivor of an attempted abduction as a child spends her days as a receptionist and her nights running a website called the Book of Cold Cases. When she meets Beth and asks for an interview, everything changes.
There is so much to this story- it is unexpected, scary and unputdownable. What is it about lake books being perfect thrillers?
The Shining by Steven King
Steven King has a way of finding just the right blend of reality to add to his books to make them truly terrifying. The Shining is no exception. I don’t think there is anyone who has read this book who can think of an isolated cabin as a relaxing retreat ever again.
Jack Torrence is a recovering alcoholic with anger issues. He accepts a job as a winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel in the hopes of writing his first novel. He brings his wife and son with him in the hopes of reconnecting with them. Obviously, things go terribly wrong. This 70s book is one of the scariest thriller horror novels I’ve ever read and its perfect for our list of winter books!
International Books Set in the 70s
Winterland: A Novel by Rae Meadows
I’ve always been a firm lover of the Olympics, so I was eager to read this historical fiction book set in the 70s and 80s Soviet Union about an Olympic gymnast.
Having read a few books about gymnasts in the past, I was prepared for Anya’s ill-treatment at the hands of her coaches and trainers. I found the added elements of Russian communist life to be fascinating and helpful in creating a reason for her drive to be a legend. It’s on our list of books set in winter too!
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
This book set in the 70s in Afghanistan is one of the most emotional books I’ve ever read. I sobbed for a full 30 minutes after the last chapter. The story of the friendship between a wealthy boy and his servant is one filled with betrayal, tragedy, and heartbreak.
Told against the background of Afganistan’s destruction and the war, this sweeping tale is a must-read if you are looking for books that will emotionally wreck you.
The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
November 2021 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
I was so excited to read Reese Witherspoon’s latest book pick because it sounded so different – a fig tree as a narrator? I wasn’t sure it would work, but Elif Shafak pulled it off with aplomb.
After the recent death of her mother, Ada’s aunt shows up for the winter holiday and Ada begins to learn the story of how her parents fell in love in Cyprus in this book set in the 70s. Since one was a Turk and one a Greek, their love had a forbidden element that reminded me of Romeo and Juliet….and the Fig tree, now growing in Ada’s backyard, witnessed it all.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
A Fine Balance is an epic and heartbreaking saga of life in India. It’s a story of love and friendship in an unnamed city in 1975.
Lovers come together and are ripped apart in this memorable book about poverty and its impact. I read this book years before it was an Oprah Book Club pick but it is not a book that is easy to forget. It is heart-wrenching in every way and a literary feat. If you are looking for books that will emotionally wreck you, this one is not to be missed.
Middle-Grade Books Set in the 70s
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The book that got me into mysteries as a child is great as an audiobook as well! When Mr. Westing dies, he leaves the residents of Sunset Towers named in his will.
But they need to solve the mystery of his death in order to win control of his company and his vast fortune. Your family will love trying to work out what happened! This classic 70s book is still a must-read today!
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Brian Selznick creates novels, unlike any other author. He uses a mixture of writing and detailed pictures to tell the story of his protagonists. Wonderstruck is the latest of his gorgeous works. This book set in the 70s is actually a dual-timeline story with two main characters.
Ben’s story, set in the 70s, is told in words, while Rose’s story, set in the 20s, is told through pictures. After the death of his mother, Ben is looking for answers about his father. Rose is deaf and isolated by her family until she sneaks away to NYC. The way their stories intertwine is lovely.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia.
One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief. This 70s book is an award winner for a reason.