Twenty Years of Reading – 1989

I was married on January 2, 1989. I was reading A Perfect Spy by John Le Carre on our honeymoon. Arbitrarily I decided to keep track of everything I read. It has seemed silly at points but after more than 20 years I love that I know everything I’ve read since I’ve been married.

Looking over the list, I can see interests rise and fall; I can see authors discovered and their works exhausted; I can see those times I traveled more and the times I traveled less. Because reading has always been important to me it offers a good – if unintended – window into my life.

A few weeks ago I decided to look back and write about my reading. I pulled out the list (actually, a small journal) and went to work. I’ve read more than 450 books since I started and so the post quickly became unwieldy. For each year I was writing a brief overview of what I’d read, links to the books and then a few comments on selected titles. Trying to do that for 20-plus years in a single post was just too much.

Instead, I’ve decided to break it down year-by-year. This makes it much easier for me to write and will make it much easier for anyone to read. It also gives me more time and space to think and write about what I read. Looking through the list I realize that the further back I go the less I can recall but for what it’s worth, here’s the start.


1989 was the year I was married. It was also the year Wendy and I moved from Boston to San Francisco. There aren’t really any discernable patterns to what I read that year. Maybe the closest are the few books I read on JFK (I was working as a park ranger at his birthplace in Brookline when the year started) and a couple on the Cold War, which was an area of interest for me.

A Perfect Spy, John Le Carre

Leaving Home, Garrison Keillor

Remembering America, Richard Goodwin

The Serpent and the Rainbow, Wade Phillips

A Thousand Days, John Scheslenger Jr

The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
I loved these stories. I read it after seeing a few of the stories on television with Jeremy Brett. I’d read a story here or there as a kid and saw some of the Basil Rathbone movies but the Brett portrayal really brought Holmes alive for me.

And as often happens, once I was hooked I wanted to go back to read the original stories – all of them. Over the years I’ve read a few of Conan Doyle’s other stories (The Lost World was great – his boxing stuff not so much . . .) but none captured me like Holmes. Recently my son started to get interested in Holmes as well and I’m hoping he and I can read a few of the stories together.

War and Peace in the Nuclear Age, John Newhouse

Your Cheatin’ Heart, Chet Filippo
When I was in college I worked at Mississippi’s Restaurant in Kenmore Square in Boston. One of the things I loved about the place (and there were many) was that everyone would put together mix tapes to play during their shift. Bill Grant made a mix called “Hank and Frank” that combined the music of Hank Williams and Frank Sinatra. It was a fun mix and it introduced me to Hank Williams – for which I will be forever grateful to Bill.

As with Holmes, I went whole hog. I bought several tapes and LPs of Hank and played them to death. I also decided to find out more about his life and got Filippo’s biography. Williams had a troubled and tragic life. A lot of that comes through in his music. Much more of it came through in his story.

JFK – A History of an Image, Tom Brown

Death in Midsummer, Yukio Mishima

In the Western Lands, William Burroughs

Atomic Candy, Phyllis Burke

Libra, Don DiLilo

The Private Elvis, May Mann

Harry S Truman, Margaret Truman
I bought a copy of this book at Aardvark Books on Church Street in San Francisco. At the time I think I was working at the Guinness Book of World Records museum on Fisherman’s Wharf (I was only 23 and new the the city, what can I say . . .). One day I was waiting for the bus to work on the Embarcadero. Somehow – with only a hundred pages left – I left the book at the bus stop. As soon as I realized what I’d done I got off the bus and ran the many blocks to retrieve my book. Alas, by the time I arrived it was gone . . . :(.

I ended up taking it out of the library to finish. It was OK but not worth buying twice.

Shock Value, John Waters

Crackpot, John Waters

Danger and Survival, McGeorge Bundy

That’s all I have for 1989. I was my first year as a dedicated reader – free from the required reading of college and setting off on what has been a wonderful life of reading.