The pages for free-spirited – 7 books to familiarise yourself with the Boho life!


You must have come across the words boho, hippie or free spirits online. It is well-known by now that a literal style of fashion has been developed around these words. However, these are mere fashion lingo but words of history dating back to the 1960s-70s. Boho is short for Bohemian, which is used to refer to a particular section of people, with a very unorthodox way of living.

Boho people adapt to different mindsets or styles, as described by Laren Stover in Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge, namely, Beat, Dandy, Gypsy, Nouveau and Zen. Even though there are different nuances in these lifestyles that set them apart from each other, the base values remain the same. You see these people passionately taking up creative pursuits, all the while rejecting societal norms, dressing up in loose-fitting, relaxed clothing, travelling around constantly and expressing political dissent.

Keeping in mind the most important part of Boho culture –creative pursuits – it doesn’t come across as a surprise to see its influence in literature. A lot of them took part in writing masterpieces, which helped shape one of the most revolutionary literary countercultures. Being a hippie, these days, isn’t a difficult thing – in fact, adapting this carefree yet beautiful lifestyle has somewhat become a trend. And a great way to do that is by reading the novels revolving around the wanderers.

If you want to become one yourself – or at least experience the way they live – these novels will provide the best base to start with.

  1. 1984 – George Orwell:

1984 is one of the classic novels of English literature, filled with all-too-realistic consequences of repressive government and totalitarianism. The protagonist, Winston Smith, works for the Ministry of Truth but is actually a ‘thought criminal’ because he ‘thinks’ of exposing the manipulative practices of the state. He tries to stay incognito with his feelings towards the state but is caught by the Thought Police Agents. And even though he is brainwashed by the end of the novel and forced to be ‘happy’ with the system, it more or less reads as a cautionary sign against such a world. Rather, Orwell wants the world to be the exact opposite of this – free and peaceful, open and unconventional!

  1. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley:

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World might be popular as a dystopian novel, with its futuristic themes, intelligence-induced hierarchies and scientific advancements. However, the structure of this brave and new world seems as cowardly and old as the present world, where the technologically advanced state controls its people, especially those who try to break out of this indirect oppression. Many aspects resonate with the free-spirited, including the copious use of the happiness-producing fictional drug, i.e. Soma, the unconstrained attitude towards sex and the ever-present motif of alienation. The book warns about the ill effects of technology, while subtly painting the hippie life in a happy light.

  1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll:

Almost everyone knows Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a novel seemingly written for children. Little Alice falls down the rabbit hole, finding her world fully distorted, filled with weird creatures and absolutely ridiculous notions. Even though she manages to escape by the end of the novel – where her sister thinks it was nothing but a weird dream – the events in the alternate time are starkly unusual yet appealing. There are many interpretations of this text, but the popular one is perceived by the 60s-70s hippie culture. Travelling to a new world, meeting all sorts of not normal people and watching one of them smoke hookah – well, Alice was living her best life, it seems!

  1. Steppenwolf – Herman Hesse:

Herman Hesse’s works came to the masses’ notice because of the hippie movement in the United States. The community, in his beautiful works, apparently found characters that resonated with them, with the way they lived, especially with Harry Haller, the protagonist of Steppenwolf. This book casts Harry, a middle-aged man, who constantly feels he’s the unfitting piece in society’s puzzle, as the protagonist. Through a series of very unusual events, he stumbles across some equally unique people, who help him find his place in the world and experience all of his fantasies and desires, with the help of the Magic Theatre. It is a very refreshing read and is sure to give you a different perspective on everything.

  1. The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka:

Kafka, one of the celebrated writers, knows how to blend realism with fiction, one of them being The Metamorphosis. The protagonist, Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman, suddenly metamorphoses into a beetle-like creature and immediately sees everyone around him avoiding and rejecting him. It’s a complex work, with many interpretations; but one of those seems quite logical – given the fact that Kafka was a Bohemian novelist. There are tell-tale signs of the free-spirited, such as starkly different appearance, rejecting the societal conventions and possible drug use, which can be seen through Gregor’s character. Strengthening this observation is also the fact that Gregor used to work a travelling job before his transformation!

  1. Hippie – Paulo Coelho:

Paulo Coelho’s Hippie is a love story between the two characters, Paulo and Karla. Now you’d think why should you pick this novel up, amidst all the thousands of love stories out there? But in classic Coelho’s way, it focuses on the protagonist’s self-realisation, gathering valuable nuggets on love, travel, companionship, spirituality and philosophy in the meantime. It is Coelho’s most autobiographical work out of all–a realistic rendition of what the hippie life would entail if one finally decides to be on the road. It might not be consistent with your preferred genres, but hopping on that ‘Magic Bus’ like Paulo and Karla could be exciting!

  1. On the Road – Jack Kerouac:

One can clearly see the recurring theme in these books, i.e. the narrative revolving around some kind of travel. On the Road is no different – as if the name isn’t indicative enough –where the readers meet Jack Kerouac’s fictionalised version of his and his friend’s travels across the States. The books are divided into five parts, all of them focusing on the narrator, Sal Paradise and his friend, Dean Moriarty’s travels. Their narrative is laced with poetry, jazz, the Beat movement and drug use. In fact, many have claimed that Kerouac made them quit their current life and embrace the hippie lifestyle!

All of these novels are beautiful in their own way – raw, effective and incredible. But what makes them even better are the undertones that point towards one and the same thing, i.e. the flawed yet beautiful life of the free-spirited, which provides something that will appeal to the uninhibited minds.

By Pranjali Wakde

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