Book Of The Week #1: The White Album by Joan Didion

Words: Ali Iannattone

In remembrance of Joan Didion, who passed just last month at age 87, our first book of the week is ‘The White Album’.

Californian-born Didion’s career first took off after winning an essay contest sponsored by Vogue in the mid 50s, her work then gained popularity because of her focus on the counterculture of the 60s and the reality of Hollywood throughout the 60s and the 70s. She was later honoured by President Barack Obama, receiving the National Medal Of Arts in 2013.

What really makes Joan Didion’s writing one of a kind is her ability to avoid the glamorisation of the topics she discusses; a riveting aspect of her writing which is also seen in her 5th book ‘The White Album’.

From the very first sentence, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live”, Didion takes us on a journey through politics, memoirs, criticism and journalism with a focus on cultural events of the 1960s and her involvement in them.

A collection of essays and journalism first published in 1979, ‘The White Album’ is Didion’s recount of the 60s America but mostly of 1960s California.

She describes some of the most relevant cultural moments that she was able to document; from her conversations with Black Panther members to long afternoon spent in the studio with Jim Morrison and even her involvement with the Manson Family Murders Trial.

Never eccentric, always fair and compassionate, Didion tells these stories in a way that reflects her journalistic expertise. She reports all these events in a greatly detailed mosaic of words, and her personal tone of storytelling draws us in her writing in an almost addicting way.

If you’re looking for a book that will offer you a perfect balance between a deep dive into the 1960s and the changes they brought to American culture and playful recounts of parties and eccentric LA figures, then ‘The White Album’ is the book for you.

Joan Didion’s The White Album

Buy a copy here.