The major events that happened during the 1950s and 1960s greatly shaped the literature of the period. The 1950s was the first decade after World War II, while the 60s sowed the seeds of counter-culture in America. Authors during these decades became popular because of their unique and intellectual approach to literature, most of them still revered today because of their contributions.
The Beat Generation
During the 1950s, a group of authors dubbed as the "Beat Generation" popularised unconventional literary works that tackled concepts about drugs, eastern philosophy, sexuality and alternative forms of living, such as non-materialism and self-expression.
Several major writers rose above the group: Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. Kerouac's "On the Road" became the Beat Generation's bible, while Ginsberg's poem "Howl" greatly depicted the group's view on how society "kills" the essence of being human. Burroughs's "Naked Lunch," published in 1959, depicts the adventures of a drug addict travelling in different places.
Science Fiction Authors
Science fiction authors also flourished during the 50s and the 60s. As the United States and the Russian government raced on who could send the first man in outer space, science fiction authors released novels and short stories in several science fiction magazines popular in the United States. Authors, such as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and Arthur Clarke flourished during this period. Asimov's "I, Robot," a collection of short stories, came out in 1950.
Established writers, such as Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck of the "Lost Generation" also released major works of fiction during the 50s and 60s. Hemingway's "Old Man and the Sea" and Steinbeck's "East of Eden" came out in 1952. J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye," a very provocative book about a disturbed teenager, released in 1951.
Fiction and non-fiction authors both flourished during the 50s and 60s. In the United States, the 60s was filled with major political and social movements, and authors such as Harper Lee, Maya Angelou, Margaret Walker Alexander, and Ken Kesey questioned the current social status quo and the plight of women in society.
Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960, delved into issues, such as racial inequality and violence to women. Maya Angelou, an African-American author and activist during the Civil Rights Movement, published "I know Why the Caged Bird Sings" in 1969 -- an autobiographical book detailing the first 17 years of her life.