reading challenge

Bestsellers of 1981 – A Reading Challenge

With 2021 comes the year that I will be turning 40!

Wow…even saying that seems odd and impossible to believe! Where exactly does the time go?!?

But anyway, as an avid reader and book lover, I thought it would be fun to spend the last year of my 30s reading some books that were popular the year I was born: 1981. I consulted a few lists, but largely based my selection according to Publisher’s Weekly and The New York Times Best Seller List for 1981.

Once I complete them, I’ll come back for a wrap up of my thoughts on them all.

So here are the books from 1981 that I will be reading throughout the year!

The week I was born, the bestselling book was John Irving’s The Hotel New Hampshire.

“The first of my father’s illusions was that bears could survive the life lived by human beings, and the second was that human beings could survive a life led in hotels.” So says John Berry, son of a hapless dreamer, brother to a cadre of eccentric siblings, and chronicler of the lives lived, the loves experienced, the deaths met, and the myriad strange and wonderful times encountered by the family Berry. Hoteliers, pet-bear owners, friends of Freud (the animal trainer and vaudevillian, that is), and playthings of mad fate, they “dream on” in a funny, sad, outrageous, and moving novel by the remarkable author of A Prayer for Owen Meany and Last Night in Twisted River.

Amazon | Goodreads


The next one was a n0-brainer: Cujo by Stephen King.

The story of a friendly Saint Bernard that is bitten by a bat. Get ready to meet the most hideous menace ever to terrorize the town of Castle Rock, Maine.

Amazon | Goodreads


The next ones were not previously known to me, but will be interesting to read in terms of their individual staying power and relevancy.

It begins with a triple murder in a Moscow amusement center: three corpses found frozen in the snow, faces and fingers missing. Chief homicide investigator Arkady Renko is brilliant, sensitive, honest, and cynical about everything except his profession. To identify the victims and uncover the truth, he must battle the KGB, FBI, and the New York City police as he pursues a rich, ruthless, and well-connected American fur dealer. Meanwhile, Renko is falling in love with a beautiful, headstrong dissident for whom he may risk everything.

A wonderfully textured, vivid look behind the Iron Curtain, Gorky Park is a tense, atmospheric, and memorable crime story.

Amazon | Goodreads


By day, she’s a middle-aged secretary no one would look at twice. But by night, dressed in a midnight-black wig, a skin-tight dress, and spike heels, she’s hard to miss. Inside her leather shoulder bag are keys, cash, mace, and a Swiss Army knife. She prowls smoky hotel bars for prey. The first victim—a convention guest at an upscale Manhattan hotel—is found with multiple stab wounds to the neck and genitals. By the time retired police detective chief Edward Delaney hears about the case from an old colleague, the Hotel Ripper has already struck twice. Unable to resist the puzzle, Delaney follows the clues and soon realizes he’s looking for a woman. As the grisly slayings continue, seizing the city in a chokehold of panic, Delaney must stop the madwoman before she kills again.

Amazon | Goodreads


With her keen instincts and rich sensuality, Tanya Pojarska survived the fires of World War II and gained control of a vast fortune. Her two daughters inherited her beauty, her passion, and a legacy of pain and ambition.

From a childhood of stark sexual terror, Janette rose to wealth and fame as a high-fashion goddess–while her half-sister Lauren plunged into a dazzling scene of international decadence that almost destroyed her.

Amazon | Goodreads


Sweeping from Russia to Jerusalem, from New York to Nazi-occupied Germany, and finally to Israel, this is the richly layered story of an extraordinary woman whose epic struggle mirrors the battle of an emerging nation to forge its own identity

Chavala Rabinsky is sixteen when her mother dies and she becomes the caretaker of her five siblings. Beautiful and wise beyond her years, Chavala catches the eye of Dovid Landau, a poor cobbler whose dreams transform her life when he marries her. But Odessa, Russia, is a dangerous place in 1905. The Landaus flee the pogroms of their homeland for Ottoman-ruled Palestine—until escalating violence forces the family to become wanderers again.

Amazon | Goodreads


I’m also going to throw in this last one simply because I already owned it, yet had not read it.

Davey has never felt so alone in her life. Her father is dead (shot in a holdup) and now her mother is moving the family to New Mexico to try to recover. Climbing in Los Alamos Canyons, Davey meets mysterous Wolf, who seems to understand the rage and fear she feels. Slowly, with Wolf’s help, Davey realizes that she must get on with her life. But when will she be ready to leave the past behind? Will she ever stop hurting?

Amazon | Goodreads


So those are the books that I’m challenging myself to read this year. Maybe I’ll discover some new favorites or some that should have remained in the past!

What year were you born? What are some books that were bestsellers from that time? Would you want to read them? Let me know in the comments!


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