What Were We Reading 30 Years Ago? 1984′s 10 Bestselling Books

In the United States in 1984 a gallon of gas cost $1.10 and the average house price was $86,730. Beverly Hills Cop was the highest grossing movie and Amadeus won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. In the world of books Ironweed by William Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner took out the Man Booker Prize. Neither of these titles topped America’s popular bestseller lists though where family sagas and crime thrillers were the order of the day.

10. Lincoln by Gore Vidal Lincoln by Gore Vidal

Lincoln is the second sequential book in Gore Vidal’s Narratives of Empire series that was released between 1967 and 2000 (though Lincoln was actually published fourth). The series interweaves the lives of fictional characters with significant historical figures. This volume was adapted for television in 1988 and starred Sam Waterston as Abraham Lincoln and Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Todd Lincoln.

9. The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abromowitz by Joan Rivers

The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abromowitz Joan Rivers

With chapter titles including ‘Baby Bimbo’, ‘The Broad Abroad’ and ‘Hooker Housewife’,  The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abromowitz is a humorous fictional biography for Rivers’ comedy character. This book, described by one reviewer as ‘good-natured, dirty fun’, spent 18 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list.

8. Full Circle by Danielle Steel

Full Circle Danielle Steel

Renowned for writing several books a year, Danielle Steel had books on the top 10 bestselling novels list every year between 1983 and 2000. Full Circle fits the mould that made Steel an international success: ‘Tana Roberts comes of age in this turbulent decade (the sixties), and begins a journey that will lead her from New York to the South during the heat of racial unrest.  A thoroughly modern young woman, she yearns for a career and is willing to sacrifice everything to get it.  And it’s only much later that Tana discovers that she can have it all. Career. Love. And peace of mind.  As she comes of age, at last, and comes full circle.’

7. The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth

The Fourth Protocal Frederick Forsyth

Frederick Forsyth is an English author, journalist and commentator. He is best known for writing thrillers including the seminal assassination novel The Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File, which was a bestseller in 1973. In The Fourth Protocol, Forsyth’s fifth novel, the general secretary of the Soviet Union and British defector Kim Philby have a dangerous and wicked plan that not even the KGB know about. The task falls to MI5 Officer John Preston to save the day.The Fourth Protocol was adapted into a computer game for Commodore 64 (where the player’s goals included maintaining a filing cabinet and reading memos).

6. And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer

And Ladies of the Club Helen Hooven Santmyer

Helen Hooven Santmyer was born in Cincinnati in 1895. She was 88 when And Ladies of the Club was published which had apparently taken her close to 50 years to write. And Ladies of the Club only sold a few hundred copies when it was first published in 1982 by Ohio State University Press, but in 1984 it was selected for the Book-of-the-Month Club with a first print run of 150,000 copies. The novel charts the story of the women involved in a study club in Waynesboro, Ohio, that goes on to play a significant role in the local community.

5. The Butter Battle Book by Dr Seuss

The Butter Battle Book Dr Seuss

This timely fable about an arms race was released in January 1984, the same year Dr Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) won a special Pulitzer Prize for his contribution the education and enjoyment of America’s children and their parents. The Butter Battle Book was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and an animated version of the story was produced for television in 1989 by Ralph Bakshi.

4.  Love and War by John Jakes

Love and War John Jakes

This 1019-page tome is the second book in John Jakes’ North and South Trilogy which sold over 55 million copies in total. Set during the American Civil War, it charts the friendship of two men who meet while attending West Point Military Academy but then find themselves on opposites sides of the conflict. Jakes began writing fiction as an evening hobby to earn extra income, spending his days working in advertising as a copy writer and creative director. He went on to write almost 200 short stories and more than 60 books.

3. The Sicilian by Mario Puzo

The Sicilian Mario Puzo

The Sicilian is Puzo’s sequel to the highly successful The Godfather. The novel features the real-life bandit/Robin Hood figure Salvatore Giuliano but is centred around fictional events. It also focuses heavily on the Corleone family, charting the time between Michael Corleone’s exile to Sicily in 1950 and his return to the United States. Puzo’s novel was adapted for the screen in 1987 but due to copyright issues this version excluded the Corleones.

2. The Aquitaine Progression by Robert Ludlum

The Aquitaine Progression Robert Ludlum

Robert Ludlum (1927–2001) was the author of 27 thriller novels and is widely considered to be a master of the genre – ‘don’t ever begin a Ludlum novel if you have to go to work the next day’ wrote one reviewer.  His first novel, The Scarlatti Inheritance, was originally rejected by thirteen different publishers; today an uncorrected proof of the first edition is on sale for US$3500. In The Aquitaine Progression lawyer Joel Converse is given a message by a man he hasn’t seen in twenty years. He finds himself running for his life, unravelling a global conspiracy of coordinated violence.

1. The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

The Talisman Stephen King Peter Straub

Stephen King and Peter Straub, both masters of the horror genre, decided in the late 1970s to collaborate on this, a fantasy novel. King and Straub met and worked together to write the beginning and ending. For the middle, each worked on a section for a few weeks before sending it the other. The Talisman is a classic quest story: 12 year old Jack Sawyer must travel through America and a parallel universe called ‘the territories’ in an attempt to save his mother who is dying from cancer. The original hardbound edition of The Talisman was the number one book on the New York Times Bestseller list for 12 weeks and sold over 880,000 copies in 1984 alone. A graphic novel adaptation of the book was published in 2010.

* Data Source: Publishers Weekly, bestselling novels in the United States 1984

Related post: 1983’s Bestselling Books


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2 Comments

  1. Vinay Zende
    9 June 2014 / 11:18 pm

    I read The Aquitaine Progression by Robert Ludlum then… Gosh… was that like 30 years ago. Time sure files. Thank you for a trip down the memory lane. Cheers

  2. bjrjames
    10 June 2014 / 2:42 am

    In 1984 I had sons aged 16 and 14, worked two full time jobs, took one college course per quarter working toward a degree – paid my own tuition so I would have no debt when I finished. But, the world certainly passed me by. I never saw any of the movies nor read any of the books mentioned in this article.

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