12 Books To Bring Out Your Super-Groovy Inner Flower Child This Summer
Hold on to your daisy chains and macrobiotic granola, because July is here, and if you haven’t awakened your inner flower child yet this summer... well, quite frankly, I really don’t know what you’re waiting for. Sure, the year 1967 may be long gone, but all that rip-city radness of the earth-lovin' hippie chick is still relevant as ever, and there’s no better time than summer to set her free (and turn her on to some awesome, Summer of Love-inspired literature, too.)
Don’t believe me yet? Just think of her as your earthier, less-virginal inner goddess: one with a little less lip-biting and a lot more patchouli oil. And once you read a few of these titles, all you’ll need are some slick threads, a flower crown or two, and some groovy tunes, before you’ll be totally ready to fire up the old VW and make tracks on your own magical mystery trip. Starting to catch my drift? Great! Because from the unparalleled poetry of Allen Ginsberg to unbelievable antics of Tom Wolfe, these writers will take you on some wild rides.
Don’t let your summer turn into a bum trip. Check out these 12 books that will awaken your inner flower child, and inspire you to turn these dog days into the ultimate Summer of Love revival.
Howl by Allen Ginsberg
One of the most iconic books of the Beat Generation, Howl is about artists and musicians, political radicals and psychiatric patients. This inflammatory collection of socially conscious poetry caused the book’s publisher and City Lights Bookstore’s then-manager to be arrested for producing and distributing “obscene literature.” But this didn’t stop James Franco from reading it aloud to us in 2010: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”
Drop City by T.C. Boyle
When a Cali-based commune decides to move their free-loving mission to the outer reaches of Alaska (who really thought that was a good idea?) they find that their idealized landscape is already occupied by some less-peaceful folks, struggling to live off the land in their own ways. Drop City is the story of a clash of cultures, and some unlikely friendships as well. Although being able to "love thine enemy" is the mark of a true hippie, it’s not always easy. Especially when you’re freezing off your sunflower-loving butt.
On The Road by Jack Kerouac
This largely autobiographical tale follows Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac) and Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) as they meander around the United States in true Beat Generation-fashion (fictionalized characters representing Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs make cameo appearances, too.) Searching for love, adventure, and the meaning of life, the boys of On The Road travel from San Francisco to New York City, and everywhere in between.
Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins
You might have pulled over to see the world’s biggest ball of yarn before, or maybe even for the largest thumbtack collection in North America, but I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like Captain Kendrick's Memorial Hot Dog Wildlife Preserve. Just Another Roadside Attraction , the preserve serves as the bizarre fusion of hot dog stand and zoo, nestled along a highway in upstate Washington. Founded by lovable Earth-momma Amanda Ziller, the roadside attraction brings together every 1960s-reminiscent character you can think of, and a whole lot more.
Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman
Author Abbie Hoffman wants you to steal this book, which reads as a hippie’s guide to surviving the less-rose-colored moments of the 1960s and 1970s. Divided into three sections, titled “Survive,” “Fight,” and “Liberate,” Steal This Book is a call to action for all aspiring revolutionaries, protesters and counterculturists, no matter what decade you’re fighting the good fight in.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
This title alone kind of says it all. Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test follows author Ken Kesey (of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest ) and his so-called band of Merry Pranksters, as they roamed the United States in their psychedelic VW “Further” bus, looking for LSD-inspired trouble. This book encompasses all that was beautiful and terrifying about America’s era of hippiedom.
Divine Right’s Trip by Gurney Norman
Divine Right (yup, that’s is name) is on a road trip to Kentucky with his gal Estelle, but that’s not the only trip this hippie stoner is taking. His subconscious is larger than the VW bus this couple is traveling in, and it takes him on one hard to follow, but utterly fascinating journey of the mind and spirit. Accompanied by “helpers” — you know, those non-corporeal creatures of the imagination that assist you in sorting out your life — like "The Greek" and "The Native," Divine Right’s story ends harmoniously.
It Was Twenty Years Ago Today by Derek Taylor
Author Derek Taylor was the press agent for The Beatles (seriously, what a gig) and compiled this collection of photographs and testimony, based on a 1987 documentary about Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Taking readers from the 1960s London poetry scene through the Summer of Love, and covering everything Beatles-mania, this book celebrates all the psychedelic greatness of that unforgettable era.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a perplexing, wise, sad and beautiful book, telling the story of a father and son motorcycle trip across the American northwest. This book will definitely not make your feel more zen, but it will make you think about the way you live. The juxtaposition between the natural, unencumbered setting of being on the road and the rigid, painful setting of urban-academia will make you glad you read this book over your summer break.
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
True to the moves-with-the-wind nature of the Beat Generation, you can read the chapters of Naked Lunch in any order. Narrator William Lee is a drug addict who travels across the U.S. and Mexico, to Tangier, and then deeply into what I can only assume is a section of his subconscious, eerily known as the Interzone. The disjointed scenes of Naked Lunch are inspired directly from author William S. Burroughs life, and will take you on a sometimes grotesque, hilarious, and imaginative adventure.
Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud
No Summer of Love-inspired collection is complete without a nod to the expat flower children who relocated to North African and Eurasia, via the Hippie Trail. Hideous Kinky is one such tale. This autobiographical novel tells the story of Julia, a hippie momma, repressed by her English upbringing and culture, and her two straighter-laced children, Bea and Lucy, who all move to Morocco in search of personal liberation. Julie studies Sufism, while her daughters do their best to recreate the English life they miss… and if you’re wondering, yes, author Esther Freud is the great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud.
The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton
If you’ve ever been to Venice Beach, California, you know that there’s no place in the world quite like it. Lawrence Lipton’s The Holy Barbarians , takes readers back to the boardwalk’s heyday, celebrating the art, music, free love, and draft-dodging beatniks that have come to represent so much of the 1960s.
Image: Abbey Hambright/Flickr