The Way Back Machine – Best Sellers 1981

Brr… it’s a little cold out there – let’s warm up with a spin in the Way Back Machine. We’ll take a ride back to 1981, a year known for the release of the U.S. hostages in Iran shortly after the inauguration of Reagan. Of course, you might also remember 1981 for:

  • The flight of Columbia in April – which was the first of the Space Shuttle launches, and the first “reusable” spacecraft.
  • The video game Donkey Kong – it was released in July, providing hours of entertainment for Gen X at the arcade.
  • Sandra Day O’Connor – she became the first female Supreme Court Justice in September.

What were we reading 36 years ago? Here are the New York Times best sellers from the week of Dec. 13, 1981.



1. Indecent Obsession by Colleen McCullough

2. The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

3. Cujo by Stephen King

4. No Time for Tears by Cynthia Freeman

5. Noble House by James Clavell

6. Remembrance by Danielle Steel

7. The Legacy by Howard Fast

8. Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord

9. Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike

10. The Cardinal Sins by Andrew M. Greeley

11. Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

12. The Last Days of America by Paul Erdman

13. Masquerade by Kit Williams

14. Bread Upon the Waters by Irwin Shaw

15. The Third Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders



1. Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

2. The Lord God Made Them All by James Herriot

3. Never-Say-Diet Book by Richard Simmons

4. Cosmos by Carl Sagan

5. Pathfinders by Gail Sheehy

6. From Bauhaus to Our House by Tom Wolfe

7. How to Make Love to a Man by Alexandra Penney

8. The Best of Dear Abby by Abigail Van Buren

9. Elizabeth Taylor: The Last Star by Kitty Kelley

10. Elvis by Albert Goldman

11. The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder

12. A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney by Andrew A. Rooney

13. Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life by Miss Piggy (as told to Henry Beard)

14. The Cinderella Complex by Colette Dowling

15. The Beverly Hills Diet by Judy Mazel

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