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Beat Literature Research Guide

A guide to resources on the literature of the Beat generation.


A lot of excellent criticism is often published in books, both on the Beats and on other writers.

Subject Searching

Your search for books might start in one of two places...

In both of these resources, you can use a Subject Search. This is very useful in literary research because it allows you to find all the books on an author, and only the books on that author. 

For more information on subject searching, please see the general guide to literature research. 

Subject Headings

Authors are usually subjects in the catalog. When you search for authors, remember, you are using a subject search to find books about the author, NOT an author search, which would find books by the author. So, you can do searches like this:

  • Burroughs, William S., 1914–
  • Kerouac, Jack, 1922–1969
  • Ginsberg, Allen, 1926–1997

Remember to put the last name first!

You will also see headings that refer to particular types of works pertaining to these authors, such as Correspondence, Criticism and Interpretation, Interviewsand so on.

There are other subject headings you may also find of interest, such as:

  • Beat generation
  • Bohemianism--United States
  • Buddhism--United States
  • Counterculture--United States--History--20th century
  • Greenwich Village (New York, N.Y.)--Intellectual life--20th century
  • Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892--Influence

Remember to browse, as some of these are further broken down into more specific subjects. For instance, in addition to Beat generation, you may also see headings like Beat generation--Biography and Beat generation in literature.

Although all of these are real subject headings and you should feel free to use them, there are also many more. This is just a list of examples to help you get started and give you some idea what kinds of searches are possible.


You can use these call numbers to find books about the Beat authors which are grouped near each other in the library. Because the Beat movement consisted of a group of American authors, most books on them are in the PS ranges. Of particular interest are the following call ranges:

  • PS 228 .B6             Beat Generation
  • PS 536                   Collections of American literature, 1950s
  • PS 3500 - 3549        American Authors, 1900–1960

Since books on the same author or topic are grouped together on the shelf, it is often a good idea to visit a particular call range and see what we have on the shelves.

Some Recent Books on the Beats

Reference Books