Standalone Novels In Publication Order
- Run River (1963)
- Play It As It Lays (1970)
- A Book of Common Prayer (1977)
- Democracy (1984)
- The Last Thing He Wanted (1996)
Collections In Publication Order
- Vintage Didion (2004)
- The 1960s & 70s (2019)
Non-Fiction Books In Publication Order
- Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)
- The White Album (1979)
- Salvador (1983)
- Miami (1987)
- Some Women (With: Robert Mapplethorpe) (1990)
- After Henry (1992)
- Sentimental Journeys (1993)
- Perspectives on the Individual (1998)
- Political Fictions (2001)
- Fixed Ideas (2003)
- Where I Was From (2003)
- Live and Learn (2005)
- The Year of Magical Thinking (2005)
- We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live (2006)
- Blue Nights (2011)
- Insider Baseball (2016)
- South and West (2017)
- Collected Essays (2018)
- Let Me Tell You What I Mean (2021)
Standalone Novels Book Covers
Collections Book Covers
Non-Fiction Book Covers
Joan Didion Books Overview
Joan Didion’s electrifying first novel is a haunting portrait of a marriage whose wrong turns and betrayals are at once absolutely idiosyncratic and a razor sharp commentary on the history of California. Everett McClellan and his wife, Lily, are the great grandchildren of pioneers, and what happens to them is a tragic epilogue to the pioneer experience, a story of murder and betrayal that only Didion could tell with such nuance, sympathy, and suspense.
A ruthless dissection of American life in the late 1960s, from the author of The Last Thing He Wanted and A Book of Common Prayer. Somewhere out beyond Hollywood, resting actress Maria Wyeth drifts along the freeway in perpetual motion, anaesthetized to pain and pleasure, seemingly untainted by her personal history. She finds herself, in her early thirties, radically divorced from husband, lovers, friends, her own past and her own future. Play It As It Lays is set in a place beyond good and evil, literally in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and the barren wastes of the Mojave, but figuratively in the landscape of the arid soul. Capturing the mood of an entire generation, Didion chose Hollywood to serve as her microcosm of contemporary society and exposed a culture characterized by emptiness and ennui. Two decades after its original publication, it remains a profoundly disturbing novel, an immaculately wrought portrait of a world California on the cusp of the 70s where too much freedom made a lot of people ill.
Writing with the telegraphic swiftness and microscopic sensitivity that have made her one of our most distinguished journalists, Joan Didion creates a shimmering novel of innocence and evil.A Book of Common Prayer is the story of two American women in the derelict Central American nation of Boca Grande. Grace Strasser Mendana controls much of the country’s wealth and knows virtually all of its secrets; Charlotte Douglas knows far too little. ‘Immaculate of history, innocent of politics,’ she has come to Boca Grande vaguely and vainly hoping to be reunited with her fugitive daughter. As imagined by Didion, her fate is at once utterly particular and fearfully emblematic of an age of conscienceless authority and unfathomable violence.
Inez Victor knows that the major casualty of the political life is memory. But the people around Inez have made careers out of losing track. Her senator husband wants to forget the failure of his last bid for the presidency. Her husband’s handler would like the press to forget that Inez’s father is a murderer. And, in 1975, the year in which much of this bitterly funny novel is set, America is doing its best to lose track of its one time client, the lethally hemorrhaging republic of South Vietnam. As conceived by Joan Didion, these personages and events constitute the terminal fallout of Democracy, a fallout that also includes fact finding junkets, senatorial groupies, the international arms market, and the Orwellian newspeak of the political class. Moving deftly from Honolulu to Jakarta, between romance, farce, and tragedy, Democracy is a tour de force from a writer who can dissect an entire society with a single phrase.
This intricate, fast paced story, whose many scenes and details fit together like so many pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, is Didion’s incisive and chilling look at a modern world where things are not working as they should and where the oblique and official language is as sinister as the events it is covering up. The narrator introduces Elena McMahon, estranged from a life of celebrity fundraisers and from her powerful West Coast husband, Wynn Janklow, whom she has left, taking Catherine, her daughter, to become a reporter for The Washington Post. Suddenly walking off the 1984 campaign, she finds herself boarding a plane for Florida to see her father, Dick McMahon. She becomes embroiled in her Dick’s business though ‘she had trained herself since childhood not to have any interest in what he was doing.’ It is from this moment that she is caught up in something much larger than she could have imagined, something that includes Ambassador at Large Treat Austin Morrison and Alexander Brokaw, the ambassador to an unnamed Caribbean island. Into this startling vision of conspiracies, arms dealing, and assassinations, Didion makes connections among Dallas, Iran Contra, and Castro, and points up how ‘spectral companies with high concept names tended to interlock.’ As this book builds to its terrifying finish, we see the underpinnings of a dark historical underbelly. This is our system, the one ‘trying to create a context for democracy and getting its hands a little dirty in the process.’
Vintage Readers are a perfect introduction to some of the greatest modern writers presented in attractive, accessible paperback editions. Didion has the instincts of an exceptional reporter and the focus of a historian…
a novelist’s appreciation of the surreal. Los Angeles Times Book ReviewWhether she s writing about civil war in Central America, political scurrility in Washington, or the tightl braided myths and realities of her native California, Joan Didion expresses an unblinking vision of the truth. Vintage Didion includes three chapters from Miami; an excerpt from Salvador; and three separate essays from After Henry that cover topics from Ronald Reagan to the Central Park jogger case. Also included is Clinton Agonistes from Political Fictions, and Fixed Opinions, or the Hinge of History, a scathing analysis of the ongoing war on terror.
Upon its publication in 1968, Slouching Towards Bethlehem confirmed Joan Didion as one of the most prominent writers on the literary scene. Her unblinking vision and deadpan tone have influenced subsequent generations of reporters and essayists, changing our expectations of style, voice, and the artistic possibilities of nonfiction. ‘In her portraits of people,’ The New York Times Book Review wrote, ‘Didion is not out to expose but to understand, and she shows us actors and millionaires, doomed brides and na ve acid trippers, left wing ideologues and snobs of the Hawaiian aristocracy in a way that makes them neither villainous nor glamorous, but alive and botched and often mournfully beautiful…
. A rare display of some of the best prose written today in this country.’ In essay after essay, Didion captures the dislocation of the 1960s, the disorientation of a country shredding itself apart with social change. Her essays not only describe the subject at hand the murderous housewife, the little girl trailing the rock group, the millionaire bunkered in his mansion but also offer a broader vision of America, one that is both terrifying and tender, ominous and uniquely her own. Joyce Carol Oates has written, ‘Joan Didion is one of the very few writers of our time who approaches her terrible subject with absolute seriousness, with fear and humility and awe. Her powerful irony is often sorrowful rather than clever…
. She has been an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time, a memorable voice, partly eulogistic, partly despairing; always in control.’
First published in 1979, The White Album is a mosaic of the late sixties and seventies. It includes, among other bizarre artifacts and personalities, the dark journeys and impulses of the Manson family, a Balck Panther Party press conference, the story of John Paul Getty’s museum, the romance of water in an arid landscape, and the swirl and confusion of the sixties. With commanding sureness of mood and language, Joan Didion exposes the realities and dreams of that age of self discovery whose spiritual center was California.
‘Terror is the given of the place.’ The place is El Salvador in 1982, at the ghastly height of its civil war. The writer is Joan Didion, who delivers an anatomy of that country’s particular brand of terror its mechanisms, rationales, and intimate relation to United States foreign policy. As ash travels from battlefields to body dumps, interviews a puppet president, and considers the distinctly Salvadoran grammar of the verb ‘to disappear,’ Didion gives us a book that is germane to any country in which bloodshed has become a standard tool of politics.
It is where Fidel Castro raised money to overthrow Batista and where two generations of Castro’s enemies have raised armies to overthrow him, so far without success. It is where the bitter opera of Cuban exile intersects with the cynicism of U.S. foreign policy. It is a city whose skyrocketing murder rate is fueled by the cocaine trade, racial discontent, and an undeclared war on the island ninety miles to the south. As Didion follows Miami‘s drift into a Third World capital, she also locates its position in the secret history of the Cold War, from the Bay of Pigs to the Reagan doctrine and from the Kennedy assassination to the Watergate break in. Miami is not just a portrait of a city, but a masterly study of immigration and exile, passion, hypocrisy, and political violence.
In her latest forays into the American scene, Joan Didion covers ground from Washington to Los Angeles, from a TV producer’s gargantuan ‘manor’ to the racial battlefields of New York’s criminal courts. At each stop she uncovers the mythic narratives that elude other observers: Didion tells us about the fantasies the media construct around crime victims and presidential candidates; she gives us new interpretations of the stories of Nancy Reagan and Patty Hearst; she charts America’s rollercoaster ride through evanescent booms and hard times that won’t go away. A bracing amalgam of skepticism and sympathy, After Henry is further proof of Joan Didion’s infallible radar for the true spirit of our age.
In 1988, Joan Didion began looking at the American political process for The New York Review of Books. What she found was not a mechanism that offered the nation’s citizens a voice in its affairs but one designed by and for that handful of insiders who invent, year in and year out, the narrative of public life. The eight pieces collected here from The New York Review build, one on the other, to a stunning whole, a portrait of the American political landscape that tells us, devastatingly, how we got where we are today. In Political Fictions, tracing the dreamwork that was already clear at the time of the first Bush ascendance in 1988, Didion covers the ways in which the continuing and polarizing nostalgia for an imagined America led to the entrenchment of a small percentage of the electorate as the nation s deciding political force, the ways in which the two major political parties have worked to narrow the electorate to this manageable element, the readiness with which the media collaborated in this process, and, finally and at length, how this mindset led inexorably over the past dozen years to the crisis that was the 2000 election. In this book Didion cuts to the core of the deceptions and deflections to explain and illuminate what came to be called the disconnect and to reveal a political class increasingly intolerant of the nation that sustains it. Joan Didion s profound understanding of America s political and cultural terrain, her sense of historical irony, and the play of her imagination make Political Fictions a disturbing and brilliant tour de force.
In Fixed Ideas Joan Didion describes how, since September 11, 2001, there has been a determined effort by the administration to promote an imperial America a ‘New Unilateralism’ and how, in many parts of America, there is now a ‘disconnect’ between the government and citizens.’ Americans recognized even then immediately after 9/11 , with flames still visible in lower Manhattan, that the words ‘bipartisanship’ and ‘national unity’ had come to mean acquiescence to the administration’s preexisting agenda for example the imperative for further tax cuts, the necessity for Arctic drilling, the systematic elimination of regulatory and union protections, even the funding for the missile shield.’Frank Rich in his preface notes: ‘The reassuring point of the Fixed Ideas was to suppress other ideas that might prompt questions or fears about either the logic or hidden political agendas of those conducting what CNN branded as ‘America’s New War.”He adds, ‘This White House is famously secretive and on message, but its skills go beyond that. It knows the power of narrative, especially a single narrative with clear cut heroes and evildoers, and it knows how to drown out any distracting subplots before they undermine the main story.’Book and cover design by Milton Glaser, Inc.
In this moving and unexpected book, Joan Didion reas*sesses parts of her life, her work, her history, and ours. Where I Was From, in Didion’s words, represents an exploration into my own confusions about the place and the way in which I grew up, confusions as much about America as about California, misapprehensions and misunderstandings so much a part of who I became that I can still to this day confront them only obliquely. The book is a haunting narrative of how her own family moved west with the frontier from the birth of her great great great great great grandmother in Virginia in 1766 to the death of her mother on the edge of the Pacific in 2001; of how the wagon train stories of hardship and abandonment and endurance created a culture in which survival would seem the sole virtue. In Where I Was From, Didion turns what John Leonard has called her sonar ear, her radar eye onto her own work, as well as that of such California writers as Frank Norris and Jack London and Henry George, to examine how the folly and recklessness in the very grain of the California settlement led to the California we know today a state mortgaged first to the railroad, then to the aerospace industry, and overwhelmingly to the federal government, a dependent colony of those political and corporate owners who fly in for the annual encampment of the Bohemian Club. Here is the one writer we always want to read on California showing us the startling contradictions in its and in America s core values. Joan Didion s unerring sense of America and its spirit, her acute interpretation of its institutions and literature, and her incisive questioning of the stories it tells itself make this fiercely intelligent book a provocative and important tour de force from one of our greatest writers.
Starred Review. Many will greet this taut, clear eyed memoir of grief as a long awaited return to the terrain of Didion’s venerated, increasingly rare personal essays. The author of Slouching Towards Bethlehem and 11 other works chronicles the year following the death of her husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne, from a massive heart attack on December 30, 2003, while the couple’s only daughter, Quintana, lay unconscious in a nearby hospital suffering from pneumonia and septic shock. Dunne and Didion had lived and worked side by side for nearly 40 years, and Dunne’s death propelled Didion into a state she calls ‘magical thinking.’ ‘We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss,’ she writes. ‘We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes.’ Didion’s mourning follows a traditional arc she describes just how precisely it cleaves to the medical descriptions of grief but her elegant rendition of its stages leads to hard won insight, particularly into the aftereffects of marriage. ‘Marriage is not only time: it is also, paradoxically, the denial of time. For forty years I saw myself through John’s eyes. I did not age.’ In a sense, all of Didion’s fiction, with its themes of loss and bereavement, served as preparation for the writing of this memoir, and there is occasionally a curious hint of repetition, despite the immediacy and intimacy of the subject matter. Still, this is an indispensable addition to Didion’s body of work and a lyrical, disciplined entry in the annals of mourning literature. Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Book Jacket Status: JacketedJoan Didion’s incomparable and distinctive essays and journalism are admired for their acute, incisive observations and their spare, elegant style. Now the seven books of nonfiction that appeared between 1968 and 2003 have been brought together into one thrilling collection. Slouching Towards Bethlehem captures the counterculture of the sixties, its mood and lifestyle, as symbolized by California, Joan Baez, Haight Ashbury. The White Album covers the revolutionary politics and the contemporary wasteland of the late sixties and early seventies, in pieces on the Manson family, the Black Panthers, and Hollywood. Salvador is a riveting look at the social and political landscape of civil war. Miami exposes the secret role this largely Latin city played in the Cold War, from the Bay of Pigs through Watergate. In After Henry Didion reports on the Reagans, Patty Hearst, and the Central Park jogger case. The eight essays in Political Fictions on censorship in the media, Gingrich, Clinton, Starr, and compassionate conservatism, among others show us how we got to the political scene of today. And in Where I Was From Didion shows that California was never the land of the golden dream.
From one of our most powerful writers, a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter. Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old. Blue Nights opens on July 26, 2010, as Didion thinks back to Quintana’s wedding in New York seven years before. Today would be her wedding anniversary. This fact triggers vivid snapshots of Quintana s childhood in Malibu, in Brentwood, at school in Holmby Hills. Reflecting on her daughter but also on her role as a parent, Didion asks the candid questions any parent might about how she feels she failed either because cues were not taken or perhaps displaced. How could I have missed what was clearly there to be seen? Finally, perhaps we all remain unknown to each other. Seamlessly woven in are incidents Didion sees as underscoring her own age, something she finds hard to acknowledge, much less accept. Blue Nights the long, light evening hours that signal the summer solstice, the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but also its warning like The Year of Magical Thinking before it, is an iconic book of incisive and electric honesty, haunting and profoundly moving. From the Hardcover edition.