Friday 14 October 2011

Pieces of Eighties

When I compiled my suggestions for A Century of Books (here), Thomas rightly pointed out that I'd pretty much cheated for the 1980s.  Six of my ten suggestions for that decade really relate to different periods - because they're biographies or lit crit or whatever.  Although I think titles like A Confederacy of Dunces and The Bean Trees earn their right to be there, it's fair to say that my knowledge of 1980s literature is pretty lacking.  I didn't read my first proper book until 1991, after all.

For some reason, when I think of the 1980s all I think of is Bonnie Tyler, looking a bit like this:

So, although I won't be compiling a list for my challenge, I would still like some suggestions to get me in the right mindset for the 1980s next year.  Which books would you recommend from the 1980s, fiction or non-fiction?  You can suggest any, but I'd especially appreciate it if they were in some way 'zeitgeisty'...

I know you'll do me proud!  Over to you...


  1. Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities is very "zeitgeisty". I haven't read it since then, so I don't know if it holds up, but I really, really loved it at the time. I haven't read either, but Brett Eason Ellis' Less than Zero and Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City come to mind for being indicative of an era.

  2. I just browsed through the books I have tagged in my LibraryThing library as being published in the 80s and came up with a few possibilities (out of the 64 I have tagged). The first two are not especially Zeitgeisty, although both were critically acclaimed, and I think you'd like them. The Allende touches on South American politics of the time, and the Ephron speaks to the increasing prevalence of divorce (but in a light, comic way).

    Godric by Frederick Buechner.
    Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
    House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
    Heartburn by Nora Ephron

  3. I agree with the other commentors so far. I would maybe add Margaret Atwood - possibly The Handmaid's Tale?

  4. Definitely 'Bonfire of the Vanities' (1987). How about 'The Name of the Rose' (1983), The Satanic Verses (1989), Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), Perfume(1985), The Colour Purple (1982), - there were so many great books in the 1980's!

  5. Hmm, thinking of who you might like, there's Anita Brookner, the tail end of Madeleine L'Engle, Lisa St Aubin de Teran, Rose Tremain. You might like Raymond Carver's short stories. But if all else fails you can break out the Judith Krantz or Jackie Collines for a real 80s moment!

  6. You could start by looking at Booker prize winners for the decade (or any decade) here
    There are some crackers for the 1980s:
    1989 The Remains of the Day
    1988 Oscar and Lucinda (wonderful novel)
    1981 Midnights Children (must read)
    1987 Moon Tiger (which I didn't like but many do)
    1984 Hotel du Lac (ditto)
    etc etc.
    Have fun!

  7. I love making lists, haha, and so this is my contribution. Here are books I've read and loved, sent out into the world in the 1980s:

    For short stories, try Raymond Carver? His What We Talk About When We Talk About Love was published in 1981, although I am partial [okay, fine, it's a mad favorite] to Cathedral, published 1983.

    I have a soft spot for Wish Her Safe at Home, so please keep that, hahaha. I'd love to know what you think.

    For 1984, a favorite book filched from my mother's shelf when I was a wee girl: Jitterbug Perfume this surreal novel by Tom Robbins which involves, among others, Pan [the satyr], Einstein, and, yes, a lot of perfume. [Oh my, I'm going to have to reread this soon.]

    And Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson's semi-autobiographical novel was published in 1985.

    Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy was published as a completed compilation in 1987.

    For 1989, there's Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, which is sprawling and luscious. And not just about Gothic architecture, haha.

    Mmmm, choices!

  8. You have some good suggestions already, especially the Winterton suggested by Sasha. I may suggest some poetry as well as novels/autobiography etc. I'll add these to your ever growing list:

    Haruki Muramaki Norwegian Wood

    Patrick Leigh Fermor Between the Woods and the Water

    Marge Piercy Stone, Paper, Knife

    David Lodge Nice Work

    Maragaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale

  9. How about:

    Isabel Colegate, The Shooting Party (1980)
    Barbara Trapido, Brother of the More Famous Jack (1982)
    Fay Weldon, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1983)
    Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot (1984)
    Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus (also 1984)

    and definitely Moon Tiger for 1987. I loved that, but didn't get on with Bonfire of the Vanities.

  10. I agree with Penny - so many great books in the '80s. I can also vouch for Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus, and for anything by Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid's Tale is very good, but I have a feeling that you might enjoy her next, Cat's Eye, better.

    Also, I believe you'd love Margaret Drabble. Her trilogy began in 1987 with The Radiant Way. And there is also, of course, her sister and my beloved (haha), AS Byatt, who published two works of fiction in the 80s. There's Sugar, which is short stories, and Still Life, a novel which is the second in her quartet. Oh! And how can I forget Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (1981). Many people dislike that book and Rushdie in general, but I think that, overall, he's a great writer.

    I got a bit carried away...I just love lists! :)

  11. You've had some great suggestions, I especially liked Harriet's. Moon Tiger was a title that Paperback Reader suggested I buy when we were at Waterstones so another recommendation for that one.

  12. I'd definitely recommend The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.

  13. I too recommend The Remains of the Day, The Name of the Rose and Norwegian Wood, all brilliant books. I'm trying to remember what I used to read but I think I was obsessively reading Agatha Christies then and get flashes of Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper (which I don't really think is your thing!)

  14. Apart from the books already mentioned, Patrick O'Brian, James Herriot and Ellis Peters were all 80s best sellers. Barbara Pym's Crampton Hodnet was published in 1985, although it was written in the 1930s. If you have not yet read 'The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole', you should do so - an '80s rival to the Provincial Lady! I predict this will become a classic.

  15. Oooh such good suggestions! Also perhaps two of Jeanette Winterson's early novels, 'The Passion'(1987) and 'Sexing the Cherry' (1989). I'm not sure you'd like Martin Amis, but he was zeitgeisty (Money, 1984; London Fields, 1989). Also early Ian McEwan, much better than his more recent novels... (shame 'Black Dogs' is 1991).

  16. I enjoyed the cartoon, though I think she looks more like Joan Collins - also very 1980s!

    Based on reputation rather than actual reading experience, Martin Amis is probably the first name that springs to my mind when asked to think of novelists whose work in the 1980s was most in touch with the mood of those times. This is despite the fact I have never found him a very likeable type(based on a few of his controversial press statements) and could not get beyond the first few pages of "Money" (book 1984, film 2010) when I tried it a couple of years ago.

    Like others, I think that "The Remains of the Day" will be your kind of book, but then it is set in the 1930s.

    Like Dark Puss, I was also going to recommend David Lodge, but I was going to highlight "How Far Can You Go?" from 1980. It is not particularly of the zeitgeist, but might offer some light relief from tales of Mammon and industrial decline. It's a comedy about the love lives of a group of Catholics who meet at university in the late 50s (or early 60s, can't quite remember), following their progress through the subsequent decades. I found it almost as sad as it is funny.

  17. Nice drawing! It instantly made me think of the "literal version" of the Total Eclipse of the Heart music video, which if you haven't ever seen and know the song is worth a few chuckles. (I'll even give you a link. ;) )
    Books in the 80's...I'm afraid in those days I was reading lots of "bestsellers" - Tom Clancy, Stephen King, maybe a few Danielle Steele/Jackie Collins, although those weren't really my thing. There were tons of political bio's as person after person left the Reagan White House, and I remember reading a lot of those. Also, there was the controversial Closing of the American Mind. I cannot imagine that ANY of the above would appeal to you, though. There was also a southern comic writer named Lewis Grizzard in the 80's that wrote such "classics" as "Don't Bend Over in the Garden, Granny, You Know Them Taters Got Eyes" and "Elvis is Dead and I Don't Feel So Good Myself." :)

    Looking back into my reading records (ah, yes, I have them that far back), it appears I read a lot of Agatha Christie and Dickens in the 80's as well. With the above titles, I clearly needed some balance. :) And, I apparently didn't think much of The Bonfire of the Vanities. I was also attending University at the time, so there were a few text books thrown in for me in those days. Since I can't contribute much read-worthy material, I'll give you a link to the video - with the warning that it is a little crass in places (but its crassness is also "zeitgeisty").

  18. Hi, I agree with David Nolan's second David Lodge suggestion too, but Nice Work is one of his best novels in my opinion and also one that hasn't dated. Here are a few more suggestions:

    John Updike Rabbit is Rich - rather assumes you read the previous two volumes of course !

    Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being

    Speigelman's fist part of Maus, which I alread recommended to you in an earlier post

  19. I'm a bit stuck on the 1980s, too, so can you please share some of the recommendations you get? Thanks!

  20. Not written in the 80s by over a decade, but wonderful for the Zeitgeist, Black Swan Green by David Mitchell.

  21. I will echo suggestions of Nights at the Circus, Midnight's Children and Moon Tiger, all quality fiction.

    I think you will enjoy Wish Her Safe at Home; it's a curious book but one I think you will wholeheartedly adore.

  22. Oops, misunderstood the other list and see you have read Wish Her Safe at Home already, which I really should have known.


  24. You can also google "top novels of 10th century" to 'thumb through' - to look for possibilities.


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