Two lists of books that you might have missed that are worth a glance (two articles)

Best Books to Take You Back to the ’80s When You’re Feeling Nostalgic

The 1980’s was a decade built, in many ways, on contradictions. It was a decade defined by excess, unrest, moral outrage, and the rising tide of a new brand of political conservatism. It was “morning in America,” but also the waning days of the Cold War. There was rising wealth right alongside skyrocketing poverty. The soaring rhetoric of the Reagan Administration was sometimes at a sharp contrast to the lives of everyday citizens. This all, of course, left its mark on the literary world. The best books of the 1980’s ranged from disturbingly prescient dystopian horrors to heartrending sagas, escapist yarns, and everything in between. Here are few of our picks for the best books to take you back to the 1980’s.

  • The cover of the book The Handmaid's Tale

    The Handmaid’s Tale

    Margaret Atwood

    Following the overwhelming success of Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s iconic piece of dystopian fiction has once again proved its timelessness and unfortunate relevance. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches.

  • The cover of the book It


    Stephen King

    The late 70’s to the mid-80’s were the golden age of Stephen King novels and while I was tempted to put Different Seasons in this spot (I’ll settle for sneaking in a mention), for my money, It will always be Stephen King at his very best. The novel has it all – the epic scope, the nostalgia, the carefully drawn characters, and plenty of scares.

  • The cover of the book The Color Purple

    The Color Purple

    Alice Walker

    This 1983 Pulitzer Prize winner is an American classic. It is also a heartrending tale of pain, loss, and redemption. It is a difficult and emotionally exhausting read, but this decades-spanning saga is well worth the experience.

  • The cover of the book A Confederacy of Dunces

    A Confederacy of Dunces

    John Kennedy Toole

    A Confederacy of Dunces was published eleven years after the suicide of John Kennedy Toole and earned the author a posthumous Pulitzer Prize. The farcical adventures of Ignatius J. Reilly climbed from cult classic to American classic for a reason.

  • The cover of the book The Joy Luck Club

    The Joy Luck Club

    A Novel (Penguin Orange Collection)

    Amy Tan

    Amy Tan’s moving exploration of cultural divides and familial bonds is as powerful today as when it was published in 1989 – perhaps more so. The Joy Luck Club is not only a moving examination of the immigrant experience, but also the bond, and inescapable tensions, between mothers and daughters.

  • The cover of the book Blood Meridian

    Blood Meridian

    Or the Evening Redness in the West

    Cormac McCarthy

    Picking any single novel to call Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece is a tall order, and Blood Meridian is most certainly in the conversation. It’s stunning not simply for its brutality, but also for McCarthy’s startlingly simplistic yet evocative prose. Blood Meridian is, in many ways, a pure synthesis of McCarthy’s inimitable style.

  • The cover of the book Geek Love

    Geek Love

    A Novel

    Katherine Dunn

    It’s hard to characterize Geek Love. It’s hard to even tell a reader what they’re in for when they crack it’s pages. Geek Love is, at base, a story of sideshow freaks – ones who have been bred by a married couple for their traveling carnival. But that is just the admittedly off-kilter framework for the story. Geek Love is really an audacious, imaginative, sometimes horrifying examination of the concepts of normalcy, beauty, and family. It’s also heartbreaking tour-de-force.

  • The cover of the book Rabbit Is Rich

    Rabbit Is Rich

    John Updike

    The saga of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom is arguably John Updike’s masterpiece – a sprawling, humorous, and tragic examination of life in the latter half of the 20th century told with Updike’s stunning prose precision and disarming, at times disturbing insight. Rabbit is Rich, the third in the series, is perhaps the best.

  • The cover of the book Lonesome Dove

    Lonesome Dove

    Larry McMurtry

    Lonesome Dove is arguably one of the finest western novels ever written. It is a brilliantly realized epic that became a cultural event following its miniseries adaptation in 1989. Set against the backdrop of the American Frontier giving way to progress, it is a fascinating examination of cultural shifts, friendship, and death.

  • The cover of the book Beloved


    Toni Morrison

    Toni Morrison’s Beloved took home a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 and remains as startling, powerful, and haunting today as it was on its initial publication. The tale of a former slave unable to escape the ghosts of her past represents Toni Morrison at the height of her considerable skill, and is one of the finest novels in American literature.

  • The cover of the book Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

    Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

    Douglas Adams

    Douglas Adams is best known as the mind behind The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – in all its many, many forms – but there’s a lot to be said for the misadventures of Dirk Gently, he of the Holistic Detective Agency. It’s a subversive, silly, and deliriously witty read lifted by the crisp and absurd prose of Adams.

  • The cover of the book Love in the Time of Cholera

    Love in the Time of Cholera

    Gabriel García Márquez

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez is not only one of the pre-eminent voices of Latin American literature, but one of the most important authors of the twentieth century. With Love in the Time of Cholera, the Nobel Laureate crafted a deeply nuanced portrait of love, death, aging, and the power of memory.

[Followup article with misleading title]

If you’re aching for the ‘80s you can always revisit these classic books, but hindsight can be 20/20, and there is something fun about journeying back through a more contemporary read. Here are a few newer titles that will satisfy your nostalgia needs.

  • The cover of the book Heartbreaker


    A Novel

    Claudia Dey

    Every so often an author blows your mind with how creative they are. Dey’s novel, Heartbreaker, is going to do that. A story about a mother and daughter and their involvement with a cult in 1985, it’s told from varying points of view (that are better left a surprise) that will have you poring over the pages trying to solve the slew of mysteries the daughter, Pony, is working through. Dey has reinvented the coming of age story with this vivid, dark, and often times funny sci-fi journey.

  • The cover of the book Ready Player One

    Ready Player One

    A Novel

    Ernest Cline

    Maybe you’ve already seen Steven Spielberg’s filmic representation of Cline’s novel, but that’s no reason not to try the source material. The bestseller is fantastically clever in that it simultaneously provides a glimpse of our potential future (highly dependent on and escapist through technology) while clinging to the past. Its hero, young Wade Watts, is a gamer, and when he begins to play the game of his life — where the consequences are literally life and death — his masterful knowledge of ’80s trivia comes in more than handy. You may find yourself looking up a reference or two here and there, but generally Cline does a great job working everything in in a way that keeps the plot moving but allows you to pause and marvel over (and miss) what video games, music, and film used to be.

  • The cover of the book Eleanor & Park

    Eleanor & Park

    Rainbow Rowell

    Rowell’s novel may be YA, but its subject matter and setting make it just as amazing for an older audience. Eleanor is a red-headed girl dealing with puberty while growing up with a difficult family life. Park, a biracial sixteen-year-old, rides the line of “popular” in his school, but oftentimes feels misunderstood. He isn’t sure he really wants to be a part of that crowd. When you’re a teenager, you’re suddenly aware of adult issues and feelings you may have never understood before, but are still told you’re a child. It can lead you to find sanctuary in the most surprising places. Rowell’s depiction of two high school outsiders bonding (and falling in love) over The Smiths, comics, and riding the bus is so on point it will have you poring over old mix tapes and handwritten notes for days after you finish the last page.

  • The cover of the book The Impossible Fortress

    The Impossible Fortress

    Jason Rekulak

    This is a lighter read compared to many of the other books on this list, but we shouldn’t forget that the ’80s were filled with a lot of fun, color, (just look at the aerobics wear!) and antics. Billy Marvin and his friends, all under the age of 18, are determined to steal a Playboy Magazine that features Wheel of Fortune’s Vanna White. (That in and of itself is a very ’80s problem, since today these boys would just find what they want on the internet.) They set their sights on bamboozling the convenience store owner’s daughter, but Billy discovers a good plan can be easily foiled when a real connection rears its head. Rekulak tosses in lots of great references, and the fast-moving plot and young protagonist make this an easy read for when you’re craving a little ’80s high jinx.

  • The cover of the book Tuesday Nights in 1980

    Tuesday Nights in 1980

    Molly Prentiss

    New York is a city where decades matter: It morphs to fit and represent each one in a way few other places can. Prentiss’s first novel immerses its readers into the 1980s art world, following a young woman who has just moved to SoHo and a critic with synesthesia (essentially he can taste color). The story of dreamers coming to New York is nothing new, but Prentiss offers a gritty, but loving, portrayal of a time when squalid living added to your authenticity, and art was full of adventure and choices.

  • The cover of the book Tell the Wolves I’m Home

    Tell the Wolves I’m Home

    A Novel

    Carol Rifka Brunt

    AIDS, the fear around it, and the loss of so many, was an undeniably huge part of the ’80s. And while this debut novel, set in 1987, may not have you feeling nostalgic in the same way other titles on this list will, it’s still not to be missed. When June, a fourteen-year-old girl, loses her uncle, she strikes up an unlikely friendship with a man, also feeling tremendous loss, at his funeral. Brunt explores so many challenging topics with an honesty that will move you.

  • The cover of the book Call Me by Your Name

    Call Me by Your Name

    André Aciman

    It might be fair to say that summer romance has taken a bit of a nosedive since cellphones. Perhaps that’s just speculation, but Aciman’s compelling, and at times breathtaking read set in 1980s Italy will remind you what it meant to just sit in the presence of your crush with no distractions; and after they’re gone having no means of truly keeping in touch. No social media stalking, no sending texts out into the void, a summer romance had an expiration date, which meant passion and life lessons came in six-week spans that you’d remember for a lifetime. The award-winning film should also be added to your list, but Aciman’s novel is even more daring at times, and reading certain passages can feel a little like those old summer flings — a little secret only you knew even when surrounded by others.

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