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Library Notes: Fire up the DeLorean: We’re going back to the 1980s

By Paul Birkhead
Rowan Public Library

What comes to mind when you think of the 1980s? Is it shoulder pads, leg warmers or Members Only jackets? Perhaps it’s visions of bright neon colors, Atari video games, or Max Headroom. Do you forget your passwords but instantly recall lyrics from popular songs by Whitney Houston, the Police or Phil Collins? Do you enjoy watching reruns of Knight Rider, Magnum P.I. or Cheers? The 1980s were an iconic decade. If you’d like to learn more about that time period or want to just wax nostalgic, come to Rowan Public Library and we can help transport you back in time.

If you’re interested in the 1980’s, the library has several books that take a look back at that decade. From examining politics, music, comedy acts, movies and TV shows, you can learn or remember quite a bit from the past. “The Times of the Eighties,” from the editors of the New York Times, is a collection of articles about the decade. Reading through those news events is fascinating, but also sobering. For as fun as the ’80s seemed, there were quite a few headlines that dampened that revelry.

Politics in the 1980’s were dominated by three major figures: Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher. Biographies of each of these world leaders are available at the library. As the world seemed to get smaller, problems such as genocide, famine, terrorism, the AIDS epidemic and potential nuclear war grew larger and weighed heavy on everyone’s mind. Not surprisingly, people would often lose themselves in music and comedy. “Nothin’ but a Good Time” by Tom Beaujour covers the rise of the hard rock, hair band era. “Playing Back the Eighties” by Jim Beviglia gives a good overview of some of the greatest hits of the decade with interviews of artists and composers that played a role in them. “Wild and Crazy Guys” by Nick de Semlyen gives readers behind the scenes information on the lives and careers of comedic legends of the ’80s.

In the years before the internet, TVs and movie screens carried the bulk of the visual entertainment and culture-forming duties. Love “Top Gun,” “The Goonies,” and “The Princess Bride”? Are you a fan of “Full House,” “MacGyver,” and “Simon & Simon”? The library has at least a few seasons of each on DVD. For those wanting to read more about these shows or the actors from this time, try “Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to ’80s Teen Movies,” “Films of Endearment: A Mother, a Son and the ’80s Films That Defined Us,” and “Life Moves Pretty Fast: the Lessons we Learned from Eighties Movies.”

Of course, you can’t reminisce about the 1980s without thinking about food and drink from that era. “Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?” by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper showcases both food and toys from that time that are no longer produced. A Crystal Pepsi, New Coke, a Reggie! bar, or a bowl of Mr. T. cereal would sure taste good about now. If you like to cook and want to try your hand at 80’s food, check out “The Goldbergs Cookbook” and “The Golden Girls Cookbook.”

Finally, who doesn’t have fond memories of their childhood toys? If you grew up in the ’80s, there’s a good chance you have a box of G.I. Joe or Star Wars action figures or Barbie dolls sitting in your garage or attic. The library has books about vintage toys and some collector price guides. Spoiler alert: don’t expect to retire early.

For a quick trip back to the ’80s, who you gonna call? Rowan Public Library, totally!

Paul Birkhead is a librarian at the Rowan Public Library.

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