The year 1889 in literature involved some significant literary events and new works.
- February 12 - Henrik Ibsen's symbolic drama The Lady from the Sea (1888) receives its first performances simultaneously in Oslo (in Norwegian) and Weimar (in German).
- April 24 - The Garrick Theatre in London, financed by playwright W. S. Gilbert, opens with a performance of Pinero's The Profligate.
- May 30 - English publisher Henry Vizetelly is prosecuted for obscenity for the second time in London; he is again fined and imprisoned for his English translations of Émile Zola's works.
- June - Algernon Methuen begins publishing books in England, the origin of Methuen Publishing.
- September 3 - Jerome K. Jerome's comic fictional English travelogue set on the River Thames, Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), is published in Bristol.
- November - Leo Tolstoy's novella The Kreutzer Sonata is circulated in clandestine copies; in December the Russian authorities confirm that trade publication will not be permitted.
- December 12 - English poet Robert Browning dies at Ca' Rezzonico in Venice on the same day his book Asolando; Fancies and facts is published; he is buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.
- Theodore Roosevelt publishes the first of four volumes of The Winning of the West in the United States, with three more by 1896.
- August Strindberg's naturalistic drama Miss Julie (1888) receives its first performance, by the Scandinavian Experimental Theatre at the University of Copenhagen with his wife Siri von Essen in the title rôle.
- Anton Manwel Caruana's Ineż Farruġ is the first novel originated in the Maltese language.
- Eline Vere Louis Couperus
- Three Men in a Boat Jerome k. Jerome
- The Kreutzer Sonata Leo Tolstoy
- The Portrait of Mr. W. H. Oscar Wilde
Anton Chekhov - A Marriage Proposal Maurice Maeterlinck - Princess Maleine Leo Tolstoy - The Fruits of Enlightenment
Herman Gorter - Mei ("May") William Butler Yeats - The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (including "Down by the Salley Gardens")
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky - The Voice of the Silence T. H. Huxley - Agnosticism Friedrich Nietzsche - Götzen-Dämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert ("Twilight of the Idols, or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer") William Mackintire Salter - Ethical Religion Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk - Positive Theory of Capital Oscar Wilde - The Decay of Lying Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th edition (completed in 24 main volumes)
March 1 - Kanoko Okamoto, Japanese novelist and poet (died 1939) April 7 - Gabriela Mistral, Chilean poet, Nobel Prize laureate (died 1957) June 23 - Anna Akhmatova, Russian poet (died 1966) July 5 - Jean Cocteau, French writer (died 1963) July 17 - Erle Stanley Gardner, American author (died 1970) August 5 - Conrad Aiken, American novelist and poet (died 1973) September 15 - Claude McKay, Jamaican American writer (died 1948) September 23 - Walter Lippmann, American writer (died 1974) September 25 - C. K. Scott-Moncrieff, Scottish writer and translator (died 1930) September 26 - Martin Heidegger, German philosopher (died 1976) October 18 - Fannie Hurst, American novelist (died 1968) November 12 - DeWitt Wallace, American magazine publisher (Reader's Digest) (died 1981)
January 3 - James Halliwell-Phillipps, English bibliophile (born 1820) January 17 - Juan Montalvo, Ecuadorian writer (born 1832) April 23 - Jules Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly, French novelist (born 1808) June 8 - Gerard Manley Hopkins, English poet (born 1844) June 15 - Mihai Eminescu, Romanian poet (born 1850) August 5 - Fanny Lewald, German novelist (born 1811) August 19 - Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, French Symbolist writer (born 1838) September 20 - Amy Levy, English feminist poet and novelist (born 1861) (suicide) September 23 - Wilkie Collins, English novelist (born 1824) October 25 - Émile Augier, French dramatist (born 1820) November 18 - William Allingham, Irish poet (born 1824) December 10 - Ludwig Anzengruber, Austrian poet (born 1839) December 12 - Robert Browning, English poet (born 1812)
Gaisford Prize - Harold Trevor Baker