The Long Good-bye by Raymond Chandler
The Long Good-bye
by Raymond Chandler (1953)

For many collectors, the 1950s represent a golden age of literature full of rich pickings. The decade is famous for producing books that have had a huge impact on readers and society in general.

The Chronicles of Narnia series began in 1950. The Catcher in the Rye was issued in 1951 and people are still carrying around battered copies of J.D. Salinger's novel. Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man came out a year later. Ian Fleming published Casino Royale in 1953 and that spy franchise is still going strong. William Golding's Lord of the Flies was published in 1954 and illustrated the frail nature of civilization. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, Jack Kerouac's On the Road and The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss were printed in 1957 – and all three have been tremendously influential in different ways. And as the decade ended, William Burroughs gave us Naked Lunch and ensured literary boundaries were being pushed further than ever before.

The 1950s also saw massive growth in certain bookish genres. The world was changing fast thanks to a series of new technologies but readers were relishing science fiction – a genre that would never look back.  Fantasy authors also enjoyed similar success. International travel was becoming affordable to more people and travel memoirs were in high demand. Crime and historical adventure were also snapped up by legions of enthusiasts.

One of the key aspects to collecting first editions from this era is the condition of the dust jacket. There are countless wonderful dust wrapper designs from the 1950s but always check condition.

True first editions of famous books like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe or Atlas Shrugged are very expensive, but this selection of first editions - by famous and forgotten writers - from the 1950s showcases a broad variety of titles at varying prices. A first edition of a 55-year-old book does not have to be costly.

First Editions from the 1950s

They Came To Baghdad by Agatha Christie (1951)
They Came To Baghdad
by Agatha Christie (1951)

A spy drama from Christie based on her own experiences in Baghdad.

Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse (1959)
Billy Liar
by Keith Waterhouse (1959)

William Belcher designed the jacket of this famous novel about a day-dreamer.

The Flight from the Enchanter by Iris Murdoch (1956)
The Flight from the Enchanter
by Iris Murdoch (1956)

Edward Bawden designed the jacket. Murdoch's second novel.

Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell (1957)
Bitter Lemons
by Lawrence Durrell (1957)

Durrell's third travel memoir.

Voodoo in Haiti by Alfred Metraux (1959)
Voodoo in Haiti
by Alfred Metraux (1959)

A comprehensive but readable study - rituals, celebrations, exorcisms etc.

Command the Morning by Pearl S. Buck (1959)
Command the Morning
by Pearl S. Buck (1959)

Historical fiction from Buck.  Jacket by Robert Haberstock

The City of the Living by Wallace Stegner (1956)
The City of the Living
by Wallace Stegner (1956)

Collection of eight short stories. Jacket illustrated by Edward Sweet.

Mission to the Moon by Lester del Rey (1956)
Mission to the Moon
by Lester del Rey (1956)

Part of the Winston juvenile series – introduced many youngster to sci-fi.

Homebodies by Charles Addams (1954)
Homebodies
by Charles Addams (1954)

Ninety full-page cartoons of macabre humor.

A Death in the Family by James Agee (1957)
A Death in the Family
by James Agee (1957)

Posthumously published novel - won the 1958 Pulitzer Prize for literature.

The Grey Seas Under by Farley Mowat (1958)
The Grey Seas Under
by Farley Mowat (1958)

A 15-year history of a salvage tug operating off the coast of Newfoundland & Nova Scotia.

High-Speed Computing Devices by Engineering Research Associates (1950)
High-Speed Computing Devices
by Engineering Research Associates (1950)

A book about how to build computers - edited by W.W. Stifler.

The Comforters by Muriel Spark (1957)
The Comforters
by Muriel Spark (1957)

Spark's first book – scarce to find one with its dust jacket intact.

A Little Stone by Paul Bowles (1950)
A Little Stone
by Paul Bowles (1950)

Twelve short stories – dust jacket designed by Keith Vaughan.

The Abandoned by Paul Gallico (1950)
The Abandoned
by Paul Gallico (1950)

A boy tries to save a kitten and is hit by a truck. He returns as a cat.

The Angry Hills by Leon Uris (1955)
The Angry Hills
by Leon Uris (1955)

An adventure novel from the writer best known for Exodus and Trinity.

The Prisoner in the Mask by Dennis Wheatley (1957)
The Prisoner in the Mask
by Dennis Wheatley (1957)

A 'Duke de Richleau' historical thriller. Wheatley's also famous for his horror.

Buffalo Soldiers by John Prebble (1959)
Buffalo Soldiers
by John Prebble (1959)

Fiction – an Irish cavalryman leads freed slaves and Comanches on a buffalo hunt.

Thurberís Dogs by James Thurber (1955)
Thurber's Dogs
by James Thurber (1955)

Dog stories, written and illustrated by Thurber.

Madeline and the Gypsies by Ludwig Bemelmans (1959)
Madeline and the Gypsies
by Ludwig Bemelmans (1959)

Many first editions from the beloved Madeline series are available at a variety of prices.

Star Gate by Andre Norton (1958)
Star Gate
by Andre Norton (1958)

Jacket by Richard Powers. Influential sci-fi novel about parallel time.

The Lost World of the Kalahari by Laurens van der Post (1958)
The Lost World of the Kalahari
by Laurens van der Post (1958)

Van der Post immigrated to England over apartheid. Forgotten travel classic.

A Soldierís Story by Omar Bradley (1951)
A Soldier's Story
by Omar Bradley (1951)

A five-star general's account of World War II, including photos, maps and charts.

Clean Break by Lionel White (1955)
Clean Break
by Lionel White (1955)

Basis for Stanley Kubrick's break-through film noir, The Killing.

Thirty Years of Championship Golf by Gene Sarazen (1950)
Thirty Years of Championship Golf
by Gene Sarazen (1950)

Golf memoir by the inventor of the modern sand wedge and one of the gameís all-time greatest players.

What would you call the best book published in the 1950s?


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