Best Books Written In The 80s

When you want to revisit a certain era in time, it might be easiest to look up some TV shows or movies from that decade or year. If you’re more of a bookworm, however, picking up some of the best books from that era is a better idea.

Some books might not be popular beyond a certain season; others might not be popular until several years have passed. There are also those books that just seem to be there forever. They are read again and again, discussed on several platforms, published in virtual bookshelf, and made into movies or television series (or both).  Not surprisingly, there are some must-read books that were penned during the 80s as well. If you’re a fan of the 80s and love reading books, the following should be on your to-be-read list if you haven’t experienced them already: 

1. Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981)

Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981)

Raymond Carver is said to be among the most influential and iconic American short story writers. He’s one of the top writers of the 80s as well, so this collection of short stories ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ is a must read. The title has been rescued and even parodied quite a bit in pop culture, so we can imagine how well-known his work is. 

These stories are especially a must if you like a bit of sensationalism, sentimentality, but a bit of meaning underneath it all. He’s preoccupied with ordinary lives and their issues, all with some conceptual beauty within them. 

Carver’s work was quite popular at the time it was published, or as popular as short stories could be. Today, we can still find them being taught in universities and postgraduate courses. 

2. Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)

Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)

This is still the most famous novel penned by Walker, though she has several others to his name. It was a critical hit when first released, and won both the Pulitzer as well as the National Book Award. Incidentally, this book made Walker the first black woman to ever win a Pulitzer. 

Not only was ‘The Color Purple’ a groundbreaking book, but it also did a lot for African American literature in general. This book is not for the faint-hearted, though, as it frankly portrayed the plight of poor black women. The book starts with rape, incest, and domestic abuse, so steel yourself before starting. 

The book has also seen a lot of hate and controversy, with some even called it a Nazi conspiracy to besmirch black men. However, it’s evident the story is about how black women overcome all sorts of abuse, whether by black men or someone else. 

3. William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

If you enjoy science fiction and are always looking for the best sci-fi books to read, ‘Neuromancer’ should be next on your list. When it was first published, Gibson’s first novel was considered very radical. Reviews would call it violent but also admit that it was visionary as well. 

This book is proof that science fiction is not meant to be just an enjoyable way to pass time. In fact, it’s an important tool by which we can try to understand how technology can change and shape us. 

The story itself is said to be a vivid allegory of the 1980s world. This was the time when the world took the first steps towards major wealth disparity on a global level. A few decades later, we might be able to see traces of our current world in the stylish, romanticized Gibson future. We may not have faceless salarymen, but we do have schools and hospitals being treated as businesses for the most part. 

In fact, this is the work that predicted a consensual hallucination (the internet today) and also popularized ‘cyberspace’ as a term. You might also find the invention of the cyberpunk system in these pages. Since this novel was the first to win the trio of science fiction awards–the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award–it’s probably still worth a read today. 

4. Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (1984)

Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (1984)

This book is one of the high school and middle school staples, but it can also be read on its own for learning and enjoyment. It’s a classic with several elements: coming of age, the American dream, the American-Mexican experience, family life, and so on. ‘The House on Mango Street’ has sold millions of copies to date, and still remains one of the cornerstones of Latina literature. Overall, one might safely say that it’s one of the best books written in and about the 80s

5. Don DeLillo, White Noise (1985)

Don DeLillo, White Noise (1985)

This book is among the most important works from the 1980s. It was an acclaimed work back then as well, winning the National Book Award at the time. However, it’s also essential reading if you want to get at the gist of 80s American culture. 

The narrative includes the expressway traffic sound, talks of television as a primal force in most American homes, and all the other formulas that made up the America of that era. Fast food, cinemas, and the religious side of consumerism all blend together to show us a postmodern country with all its flaws. 

One might say that this novel has some nightmarish scenes and narration. However, the most scary thing about it is how well it seems to predict the future we’re living in today. 


The 1980s was a very interesting time indeed; it was a somewhat hopeful, optimistic phase; at least for those in America. The books penned during that decade tell their own different tales, and their reviews do promise an enjoyable yet eye-opening experience. If you’re more into the music of the 80s, though, there are some great music books from that era as well.