Each year for the past three years we’ve taken a trip in a bookish time machine to take a look back what readers were devouring 30 years ago (see the bestseller lists from 1983, 1984 and 1985). In 1986, while Mikhail Gorbachev was introducing Perestroika and Glasnost. and the world was being shown a special version of “Australian culture” courtesy of Crocodile Dundee, these were the novels that American readers were enjoying.

 

10. A Perfect Spy by John le Carré

A Perfect Spy by John le Carre 1986

David John Moore Cornwell published his first novel, Call for the Dead in 1961 under the pen name John le Carré. Cromwell served in the Security Service and the Secret Intelligence Service (AKA MI5 and MI6) in the 1950s and 1960s and the author admits that this is his most autobiographical novel, with a large part of the story being a thinly disguised account of his own early life. In A Perfect Spy British Intelligence Officer Magnus Pym mysteriously disappears after attending his father’s funeral. His colleagues soon discover that Pym was a double agent, working as a spy for the Czechoslovak secret service (though this wasn’t a personal experience that the author and Pym shared). le Carré reflected that “writing A Perfect Spy is probably what a very wise shrink would have advised”. Philip Roth described A Perfect Spy as “the best English novel since the war.”
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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 View Post

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