As technology advances, of course, literature does too. But what does this mean for the 80s, an age that set the precedent for what our technology’s become today? Like old computers and televisions, have books from this decade become obsolete? Considering popular works from the 80s are still getting reviews today, I would say not. While facets of stories can become dated, time has transformed these works into the classics they are today. That’s why we here at Bookstr are bringing you the top 10 most popular works from the decade, as listed on Goodreads.
If you were born in the 60s and 70s, we have your respective articles out here and here. And for all of you fellow 90s kids out there, keep an eye on my author page here. If your article’s not up already, it will be soon. Of course, even if you weren’t born in any of these decades, you should still definitely check them out. The awesome infographic above showcases all the books I’ll be covering plus some, so consider it a little teaser.
All of the star ratings and shelvings below are taken from Goodreads as of the publishing of this article. Now with all that said and done, here are the most popular books from each year of the ’80s!
I know politics can get pretty heated, so if you don’t want to deal with that, you might want to skip this one. But A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn is a book portraying American history from the perspective that the United States has been built on taking advantage of people for the benefit of the few… I think. I’ll be honest; history is not my strong suit. But from what I can tell, and from the 623,000 shelvings and 4.03 stars on Goodreads, it’s worth a try.
1981: A Light in the Attic
If you’ve been reading the rest of this article series, you’ll know this isn’t the first time Shel Silverstein has popped up. A Light in the Attic is just one of his children’s books featuring a collection of his very interesting and adventurous poetry. It has 651,000 shelvings and 4.35 stars on Goodreads. While it’s marketed towards children, people of all ages enjoy reading his whimsical work.
1982: The Color Purple
With 863,000 shelvings and 4.26 stars on Goodreads, The Color Purple by Alice Walker is a book about two Black sisters and their longstanding bond despite the divide between them. It’s the sort of story that’s not always fun to read, but it’s eye-opening and powerful. The film adaptation was released in 1985, and the musical in 2005. As of the publishing of this article, there’s supposed to be a second film coming out in December of 2023, which will be based on the musical. The book covers topics such as sexual, physical, and verbal abuse, so it might not be a suitable read for everyone.
1983: The Witches
The Witches is a story about, well, witches. More specifically, it’s a children’s story by Roald Dahl about a boy and his grandmother taking on the witches of the world together. It spawned several adaptions, including two films, a graphic novel, a radio drama, and for the stage, a play, musical, and opera. Another interesting tidbit is that there’s been controversy as recently as 2023. Penguin Books, a British publishing house, decided to rewrite sections of the book with the help of sensitivity readers. It has 572,000 shelvings and 4.17 stars on Goodreads.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera is definitely a ride. The premise of the story surrounds a woman in love with a man who, as she finds out, is cheating on her. Its film adaptation was released not long after, in 1988. I’ll be honest, I probably wouldn’t read this myself, but I’m sure the 715,000 shelvings and 4.11 stars on Goodreads mean something.
1985: The Handmaid’s Tale
With 4.13 stars and a whopping three million shelvings on Goodreads, The Handmaids Tale is undoubtedly popular. The book is a science fiction dystopia about a world where the last of women’s rights have been taken away. Women can hardly leave home, they cannot read, cannot be with those they desire, and their only use is to bare children. It’s gotten a variety of adaptions, including a film in 1990. But the most interesting thing is that there’s a sequel. The author, Margaret Atwood, published The Testaments in 2019, which takes place fifteen years after The Handmaids Tale.
I’m not sure if Stephen King meant to make a whole generation scared of clowns, but if he did, he succeeded. It is a horror novel about a group of kids who escaped a terrifying sight in childhood. However, they’ve come face to face with the terrifying creature as adults. The book spawned a two-part film adaption, with the first coming out in 2017 and the second in 2019. It also has one million shelvings on Goodreads as well as 4.25 stars.
Have you ever gotten tired of writing? Maybe you’ve thought of killing off your main character just so you could finish and move on? In this case, Misery suggests that might not be the best idea. Stephen King’s back again with a horror novel about an author whose legs have been shattered. And his savior? She’s holding him captive, trying to force him to rewrite the end of the book he wanted to leave behind. The film was released in 1990, and there have also been television, stage, and radio adaptations. And let’s not forget the 4.21 stars and one million shelvings on Goodreads.
1988: The Alchemist
I couldn’t really understand what this book was about by des63++++++++++.
33333cription. That is until I discovered that it’s a self-help book. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a story about a boy who wants something bigger and his life. By believing in himself and his dream, he creates his own self-fulfilling prophecy, and the world spurs him to the success he could have never imagined. While the book is popular, more jaded folks seeking edgier content should probably steer clear. Its comic adaption came out in 2010, as well as into music in 1997 and 2006, and a theatrical version in 2002. In addition, the book has three million shelvings and 3.9 stars on Goodreads
1989: The Pillars of the Earth
Last but not least, we have Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. With one million shelvings and 4.33 stars of Goodreads, it’s honestly a little hard for me to believe that this is a story about building a church. And it’s not — it’s about that and more. Romance, drama, and a thorough plot have made this the success it is today. Again, there were multiple and varying adaptions of the book. But the most interesting thing is that this came out as a game on multiple occasions, with one winning prizes across multiple countries.
Want more? Check out the popular books of the 70s here!