The Portable Sixties Reader


From civil rights to free love, JFK to LSD, Woodstock to the Moonwalk, the Sixties was a time of change, political unrest, and radical experiments in the arts, sexuality, and personal identity. In this anthology of more than one hundred selections of essays, poetry, and fiction by some of America’s most gifted writers, Ann Charters sketches the unfolding of this most turbulent decade.

The Portable Sixties Reader is organized into thematic chapters, from the Civil Rights ...

See more details below
$15.81 price
(Save 24%)$21.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (30) from $4.78   
  • New (12) from $11.97   
  • Used (18) from $4.78   
Sending request ...


From civil rights to free love, JFK to LSD, Woodstock to the Moonwalk, the Sixties was a time of change, political unrest, and radical experiments in the arts, sexuality, and personal identity. In this anthology of more than one hundred selections of essays, poetry, and fiction by some of America’s most gifted writers, Ann Charters sketches the unfolding of this most turbulent decade.

The Portable Sixties Reader is organized into thematic chapters, from the Civil Rights movement to the Anti-Vietnam movement, the Free Speech movement, the Counterculture movement, drugs and the movement into Inner Space, the Beats and other fringe literary movements, the Black Arts movement, the Women’s movement, and the Environmental movement. The concluding chapter, “Elegies for the Sixties,” offers tributes to ten figures whose lives—and deaths—captured the spirit of the decade.

Contributors include:

Edward Abbey, Sherman Alexie, James Baldwin, Richard Brautigan, Lenny Bruce, Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Jim Carroll, Rachel Carson, Carlos Castenada, Bob Dylan, Betty Friedan, Nikki Giovanni, Michael Herr, Abbie Hoffman, Robert Hunter, Ken Kesey, Martin Luther King, Jr., Timothy Leary, Denise Levertov, Norman Mailer, Malcolm X, Country Joe McDonald, Kate Millet, Tim O’Brien, Sylvia Plath, Susan Sontag, Gloria Steinem, Hunter S. Thompson, Calvin Trillin, Alice Walker, Eudora Welty and more.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle
A compulsively readable collection.
Seattle Times
Absorbing...a collection to be read...seething with emotion and urgency...
Kirkus Reviews
Kerouac biographer and veteran anthologist Charters (The Portable Beat Reader, not reviewed, etc.) successfully conveys the atmosphere of the 1960s for those who lived through it, and those who did not. The four-page preface clearly explains her choices. Charters, who came of age during the 1960s, concedes that some of the pieces are very personal, meant to reflect her intense emotional and intellectual experiences. The selections and omissions are determined to some extent by the ten topical sections: civil rights, war resistance, free speech, the counterculture (largely in music as rendered here), mind-altering drugs, Beat literature, African-American arts, the women's movement (especially the sexual revolution), environmental protection, and "elegies" (portraits of ten people who died during the decade). Charters (English/Univ. of Connecticut) gives short shrift to innovative pieces of narrative journalism--Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Joan Didion, Truman Capote are all excluded--but otherwise her choices seem unarguable. The introductions to each selection provide pertinent context, which is especially important because many of the selections are excerpts from books. A 25-page chronology of the decade will prove useful for those born after 1960, as well as offering forgotten tidbits for middle-aged and elderly readers.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142001943
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/17/2002
  • Series: Penguin Classics Series
  • Pages: 672
  • Sales rank: 287,642
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.72 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Charters

Ann Charters is the editor of The Portable Sixties Reader, The Portable Jack Kerouac, two volumes of Jack Kerouac's Selected Letters, and Beat Down to Your Soul. She teaches at the University of Connecticut.


It's nearly impossible to come across a significant study of Jack Kerouac without encountering the name Ann Charters. A foremost Beat scholar, she wrote the first biography of the On the Road author and has studied his milieu for over 20 years. Charters also has a personal connection to back up her scholarly interest in the Beats: When she was a junior at University of California, Berkeley, her roommate set her up on a date with Peter Orlovsky. Charters was actually in love with her professor, Sam Charters, whom she later married; as for Orlovsky, he was Allen Ginsberg's boyfriend. Charters said in a magazine interview, "My roommate...said to me, 'I'll fix you up with a wonderful boy who's your own age.' This was Peter Orlovsky, before he was living with Allen, and who considered 'Howl' to be the greatest poem since Whitman's Leaves of Grass."

Though the romance didn't pan out, Charters' love of the Beats endured, and she became the genre's anthologist of note. After completing biographies of Kerouac and the futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, Charters assembled the now-classic The Story and Its Writer, a collection of exemplary short stories and commentary by and about authors such as Raymond Carver and Anton Chekhov. In addition to her taste and eye for good literature, one of Charters' strengths is her ability to incorporate the author's voice. She got Kerouac's cooperation on her biography of him and included the authors' own analyses of their work in The Story and Its Writer.

This acumen probably reached its apotheosis when Charters edited a collection of Kerouac's letters. By that time, a second Kerouac biography, Memory Babe by Gerald Nicosia, had been released, and as Charters told the Alsop Review, "my book was, I thought, in comparison, woefully inadequate." She continued, "That's why I took on the editing, because I saw with the letters that it could be a way of giving a biography through my selection, which emphasizes Jack's life as a writer.... If I were to write a biography -- and I will not rewrite my first biography -- well, I've done that with this two-volume set."

Though she has focused on Kerouac in her work, Charters has also done a lot to improve the understanding of Beat literature in general, not only by editing well-known anthologies such as The Portable Beat Reader but also by writing introductions and essays in editions of major works. For a British anthology called The Penguin Book of the Beats (which follows the structure of The Portable Beat Reader), she explained her approach in a publisher's interview: "I decided I wouldn't just alphabetically arrange my favorite Beat writers or put them in big sections, like Poetry, Fiction, Essays. I would organize it historically, so that someone who didn't know much about Beat writing could come in and use the book as an introduction to the whole field and have some guidelines."

Charters is appealing as an editor and anthologist because she embraces, rather than trying to distance herself from, her personal connection to the era she covers. With The Portable Sixties Reader, her most expansive collection yet, she continues to illuminate a crucial literary era.

Good To Know

Charters has taught at Brown University, Columbia University, and the University of Connecticut, where she has been a professor of English since 1974.

Charters on Kerouac's detractors: "Most people are, at heart, good people, but fairly conservative. They really like to think that there's a tried-and-true way of writing, and you sit and write 13 revisions. And when they hear that he's bragging that he's written it in one draft they kind of get their hackles up." (online zine interview)

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 10, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bridgeport, Connecticut
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 1957; M.A., Columbia University, 1959; Ph.D., 1965

Table of Contents

The Portable Sixties Reader - Edited with an Introduction by Ann Charters Preface
The Sixties: A Chronology
Part One: Struggling to Be Free: The Civil Rights Movement
JAMES BALDWIN - "The Dangerous Road Before Martin Luther King"
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. - "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"
ROSA PARKS - from Rosa Parks: My Story
ANNE MOODY - from Coming of Age in Mississippi
EUDORA WELTY - "Where Is the Voice Coming From?"
BOB DYLAN - "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll"
DUDLEY RANDALL - "Ballad of Birmingham"
ROBERT LOWELL - "For the Union Dead"
MALCOLM X - "The Ballot or the Bullet"
ALICE WALKER - "The Civil Rights Movement: What Good Was It?"
CHARLES JOHNSON - from Dreamer
Part Two: End It! And End It Now!: The Anti-Vietnam Movement
THOMAS MERTON - "Original Child Bomb"
SUSAN SONTAG - "What's Happening in America (1966)"
"Overheard over S. E. Asia"
ROBERT BLY - "The Teeth Mother Naked at Last"
DAVID LANCE GOINES - "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie"
ANN CHARTERS - "How to Maintain a Peaceful Demonstration"
NORMAN MAILER - from The Armies of the Night: "A Confrontation by the River"
ROBERT CHATAIN - from "On the Perimeter"
MICHAEL HERR - from Dispatches
TIM O'BRIEN - "The Man I Killed"
RON KOVIC - from Born on the Fourth of July
JANICE MIRIKITANI - "Attack the Water"
"Hanoi Hannah"
"'You and I Are Disappearing'"
"2527th Birthday of the Buddha"
"Nude Interrogation"
"Facing It"
Part Three: Why Can We Not Begin Anew? The Free Speech Movement and Beyond
DAVE MANDEL - "Battle of Berkeley Talking Blues"
LEE FELSENSTEIN - "Put My Name Down"
RICHARD KAMPF - "Hey Mr. Newsman"
DAN PAIK - "There's a Man Taking Names"
DAVID LANCE GOINES - from The Free Speech Movement
"The Rules of the Game... When You're Busted"
"Wanted: Hip Cops"
ALLEN GINSBERG - "Demonstration or Spectacle as Example, as Communication - or How to Make a March/Spectacle"
HUNTER THOMPSON - from Hell's Angels: "The Dope Cabala and a Wall of Fire"
KAY BOYLE - "Testament for My Students, 1968-1969"
ANDREW GORDON - "Smoking Dope with Thomas Pynchon: A Sixties Memoir"
DONALD BARTHELME - "The Police Band"
ABBIE HOFFMAN - "Che's Last Letter"
WILLAM S. BURROUGHS - "The Coming of the Purple Better One"
EDWARD SANDERS - "Yeats in the Gas"
Part Four: "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die": The Counterculture Movement
COUNTRY JOE MCDONALD - "I Feel Like I'm Fixin'-to-Die Rag"
"Talking Non-Violence"
EMMETT GROGAN - from Ringolevio
R. G. DAVIS - "A Minstrel Show or: Civil Rights in a Cracker Barrel"
SALLY TOMLINSON - "Psychedelic Rock Posters: History, Ideas, and Art"
MICHAEL LYDON - "The Rolling Stones - At Play in the Apocalypse"
ROBERT HUNTER - "New Speedway Boogie"
SHERMAN ALEXIE - "Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at Woodstock"
Part Five: Adrift in the Age of Aquarius: Drugs and the Movement into Inner Space
TIMOTHY LEARY - "Turning On the World"
DIANE DI PRIMA - "The Holidays at Millbrook - 1966"
CARLOS CASTANEDA - from The Teachings of Don Juan
N. SCOTT MOMADAY - from House Made of Dawn
KEN KESEY - "Letters from Mexico"
LENNY BRUCE - "Pills and Shit: The Drug Scene"
JIM CARROLL - from The Basketball Diaries
Part Six: Living in the Revolution: The Beats and Some Other Literary Movements at the Edge
CHARLES OLSON - "The Hustings"
LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI - Letters to Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Peter Orlovsky, 1961-1962
ALLEN GINSBERG - "Kral Majales"
DIANE DI PRIMA - "Revolutionary Letters #1, 3, 5, 8"
GARY SNYDER - "Poke Hole Fishing After the March"
MICHAEL MCCLURE - from Ghost Tantras
BOB KAUFMAN - "Grandfather Was Queer, Too"
JOHN CLELLON HOLMES - "Visitor: Jack Kerouac in Old Saybrook"
RICHARD BRAUTIGAN - "The Cleveland Wrecking Yard"
CHARLES BUKOWSKI - from Notes of a Dirty Old Man
Part Seven: Out of the Fire: The Black Arts Movement and the Reshaping of Black Consciousness
LARRY NEAL - "The Black Arts Movement"
DON L. LEE - from Think Black 1965-1967
HAKI R. MADHUBUTI - "Malcolm Spoke/who listened?"
ETHERIDGE KNIGHT - "The Idea of Ancestry"
AL YOUNG - "Conjugal Visits"
"A Dance for Ma Rainey"
AMIRI BARAKA - "Numbers, Letters"
ISHMAEL REED - "Eldridge Cleaver - Writer"
"Why They Are in Europe?"
["We Knew Our Loneliness and Told It"]
Part Eight: With Our Arms Upraised: The Women's Movement and the Sexual Revolution
BETTY FRIEDAN - from The Feminine Mystique
KATE MILLETT - from Sexual Politics
SYLVIA PLATH - "Lady Lazarus"
ANNE SEXTON - "The Abortion"
"The Addict"
"The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator"
DENISE LEVERTOV - "About Marriage"
"The Mutes"
DIANE WAKOSKI - "Belly Dancer"
HETTIE JONES- from How I Became Hettie Jones
GLORIA STEINEM - "A New Egalitarian Life Style"
Part Nine: In Defense of the Earth: The Environmental Movement
RACHEL CARSON - from Silent Spring
PETER MATTHIESSEN - from Wildlife in America
DIANE DI PRIMA - "Revolutionary Letter #16"
GARY SNYDER - "What You Should Know to Be a Poet"
"Revolution in the Revolution in the Revolution"
"Smokey the Bear Sutra"
LEW WELCH - "Preface to Hermit Poems, The Bath"
["I Know a Man's Supposed to Have His Hair Cut Short"]
["Apparently Wasps"]
["I Burn Up the Deer in My Body"]
["Step Out onto the Planet"]
"The Song Mt. Tamalpais Sings"
WENDELL BERRY - "To the Unseeable Animal"
EDWARD ABBEY - "The Serpents of Paradise"
N. SCOTT MOMADAY - from The Way to Rainy Mountain
Part Ten: Ten Elegies for the Sixties
for Ernest Hemingway: ARCHIBALD MACLEISH - "Hemingway"
for Marilyn Monroe: MICHAEL MCCLURE - from Ghost Tantras, #39
for John F. Kennedy: ERIC VON SCHMIDT - "Kennedy Blues"
for Sylvia Plath: JOHN BERRYMAN - from The Dream Songs, #172
for Malcolm X: ETHERIDGE KNIGHT - "The Sun Came"
for Martin Luther King, Jr.: DON L. LEE - "Assassination"
for Robert F. Kennedy: LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI - "Assassination Raga"
for Neal Cassady: ALLEN GINSBERG - "On Neal's Ashes"
for Janis Joplin: MARILYN HACKER - "Elegy"
for Jack Kerouac: The Harvard Crimson - "Kerouac, 1922-1969"
Selected Bibliography
Alphabetical List of Authors and Titles

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)