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A 28 Year Long Reading List Kept By Karen O’Donnell, The Year 1989

by Karen O'Donnell

After a raft of emotions triggered by moving to a new city, the new year of 1989 brought a more positive attitude – mainly involving getting a new job and making new friends.


I missed my mum dreadfully, and in all honesty I probably still do, so a new start in a new city was difficult. I did have my new boyfriend beside me and I was in a wonderful and vibrant city, which I’m happy to say Liverpool still is (bit of a plug for the scouse tourist board there) so maybe this new approach would show in my reading….

One woman’s reading list with a few reflections thrown in along the way.


Karen O'Donnell, 1985, Notebook page 2



Totto-chan                                             Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

A beautiful and unusual children’s book, written by an actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, sent to me by a Japanese pen-pal that I had for a short time.

The book is about a little girl expelled from a public school and her mother looking for a place where she can show some freedom of expression. A truly beautiful and touching story.

The Cardinals Snuff Box
The White Heart
Barry Manilow
Henry Harland
Nancy Springer
Tony Jasper


Er yeah, that Barry Manilow. Honestly, with this, Jeffrey Archer and Jackie Collins in my reading list to date I am so NOT going to look cool.

So in an attempt to neutralise that mention of Mr Manilow, here’s a collection of the best selling singles of 1989 – the overacting in the videos! The big hair! And that’s only Mick Hucknell….


Although possibly the highlight of this montage is French and Saunders in the Help! Charity single with Banarama. Oh, and I had The Twelve Commandments of Dance by The London Boys on tape. Classic. And didn’t Craig Charles look like the one from Fine Young Cannibals?

The Soper & Other Stories
Edgar Wallace
Ben Elton


A birthday gift from the boyfriend – who queued for hours to get Ben Elton to sign it. As with a lot of the books bought by him, my kids and friends, I still have it. It was a rather funny book too.

I, Vampire
Dear Cats
Phipps Annual
Planet Dweller
Man of Laws Tale
The Coming of the King
The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy
Jody Scott
Russell Ash
Jane Palmer
Geoffrey Chaucer
Nickoly Tolstoy
Douglas Adams


This was another one of those WOW books. So sharp, so witty and so charming, although I didn’t realise at the time what a cult book it was! Once I started with Adams….

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Life, the Universe & Everything
So Long & Thanks for all the Fish
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass
Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams
Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll



This year I decided that the list was getting too big to keep re-writing in new notebooks so I settled with one book.

It is actually the book I still use today (this is the first time THE LIST has been produced electronically). This book is the first in a line of minor annoyances in the book as it’s spelt incorrectly and it annoys the heck out of me when I see it! But I am so NOT re-writing it.

The Hunting of the Snark
Of Mice & Men
Zoo Vet
Where Angels Fear to Tread
Dog Stories
Short Stories of Today Various – Short stories
Right Ho, Jeeves
Lewis Carroll
Terry Pratchett
Lewis Carroll
John Steinbeck
David Taylor
E M Forster
Various – Short stories
Various – Short stories
P G Wodehouse



My very first Wodehouse and I am smiling as I type!

Wodehouse has been subject of a “sub-list”, as have a few authors with such a vast back-catalogue. This means I have a list of all his books and I’ve been working my way through them as he makes me smile relentlessly from the first paragraph. I cross each one off the sub-list as I read it of course.

Carry on, Jeeves
Double Standards
A Twist in the Tale
Long Distances
Poetry of the Thirties
P G Wodehouse
Ariva Hellman
Jeffrey Archer
Fabienne Marsh


This taught me one thing – I’m not a fan of poetry. I’m also not really a fan of short stories. I’ve realised over the years that I like something I can get in to, sometimes the longer the book the better. Despite the fact I can’t get as many into that year’s list if I read big books!

As I Walked Out one Midsummer Morning
Piccadilly Jim
A Town Like Alice
Mr Beluncle
Lord of the Flies
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Laurie Lee
P G Wodehouse
Neville Shute
V S Pritchett
William Golding
Thomas Hardy


My second Thomas Hardy and still one of my favourite books. I’m not sure if every reader experiences that one character that they identify with more than anyone else.

I know I certainly felt that Tess was the first literary character I’d come across that I truly believed in. I had always felt a fish out of water. I had been bullied at school and only had a short two year window before the end of school and moving to a new city and starting a new life somewhere that definitely wasn’t “home”.

Although I’ve never been in any hurry to prostate myself in Stonehenge one misty morning, I do identify with Tess and the line “she was in love with her own ruin” is possibly reflective of my unerring ability to do the wrong thing.

Selected Poems
Picture of Dorian Gray
Down All Our Days
T S Elliot
Oscar Wilde
Christie Brown


Yes, the Christie Brown of My Left Foot fame. My Left Foot had been one of the major films of 1989 featuring the brilliant Daniel Day Lewis playing the artist, writer, poet and all around brilliant Christie Brown. Of course Lewis would go on to win an Oscar in 1990 for the role.

Legend of Ta Tina
Richard Adams
Peter Carey


My first experience of reading Booker Shortlisted novels – another minor obsession that would develop over coming years! I have read quite a few Booker winners and this was the one that got me started. Of course Carey won the Prize for Oscar and Lucinda in 1988, but I hadn’t discovered The Booker Prize then.

Deaths & Entrances
What Masie Knew
The Wheels of Chance
Prize Writing
Dylan Thomas
Henry James
H G Wells
Terry Pratchett
Various – Short stories


After my constant gassing about how much I loved Illywacker and wanted to discover the Booker Prize, the boy bought me this for Christmas, a collection of short stories by Booker winners. It would fuel the Booker fire!

The Devil’s Church
Animal Farm
Machado de Assis
George Orwell

Right Hojeeves-1-0


There, exactly 50 books this year! The move away from home and having to find work somewhere new possibly reflected in a more mature and more independent reading list this year.

There was nothing from random TV shows or films (possibly Christie Brown was a tenuous link to the My Left Foot film), but there was more self-discovered books, like finding The Booker Prize, P G Wodehouse and Douglas Adams.

I also went back to read Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm and Of Mice and Men after having read them at school and feeling I hadn’t experienced them properly. I was possibly finding my feet as a book lover in the way that writers find their own voice, I was finding my own eyes? Ears?

Maybe I should have thought more about that analogy!

I can only but look forward to 1990!

If you would like to see how this started please click here

1986 can found here: A reading List Kept by Karen O’Donnell, 1986

1987 can be found here: A 28 Year Long Reading List Kept By Karen O’Donnell, 1987

1988 can be found here: A 28 Year Long Reading List Kept By Karen O’Donnell, The Year 1988

Karen O’Donnell is an overgrown child, enthusiastic mother, avid reader, listaholic and reluctant Chartered Secretary.

Karen is on Twitter: @mrs_kittyo

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