Pick your boy band and lace up your Jordans: The ’90s are back! It’s often called a boring decade, but much of what we are experiencing today, from our politics to our pop culture, is a direct result of those 10 years. Here are 9 essential reads that put the period in a nutshell—and on your bookshelf.
Bop It, Pull It, Read It: 9 Essential Books on the ‘90s
There have been many books about the Clinton presidency, but this one might just be the defining and most balanced account, having received accolades from both sides of the political spectrum. Detailed, dramatic, and presenting all angles of the administration, John F. Harris’s bestseller also benefits from hindsight and perspective, having been published half a decade after Bill Clinton left office.
Before there were Gigi, Kendall, Cara, and Karlie, there were Kate, Linda, Naomi, and Cindy. The ’90s were the supermodel decade, and Maureen Callahan perfectly captures the moment fashion changed forever, when three people hit the runway: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, and Alexander McQueen. Drawing from interviews and behind-the-scenes stories, Callahan documents their spectacular rises and falls, and how they influenced the fashion industry.
Every decade experiences a tragedy, and, unfortunately, the ’90s were no different. But, when gunshots rang out at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, it left a violent and indelible stamp on the American psyche that has reemerged in the wake of similar events at Newtown, Aurora, and Virginia Tech. What really happened that day? Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on the scene at Columbine, and spent a decade researching and re-investigating the event to create this raw, redemptive, and definitive account.
In this masterwork of reporting, Dave Cullen takes us back to the event that shocked the nation and arguably began the modern age of gun violence: the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, police files, and tapes, Cullen presents a close-up portrait of the killers, but also of the community and country that they forever changed. Sadly, this is still so relevant today.
Some of the most beloved and iconic shows in television history came out of the ’90s, from Cheers and ER to Friends and Law & Order, and for that you can thank Warren Littlefield. As the president of entertainment, he created the must-see TV phenomenon and helped NBC reach new, spectacular heights. With insights from the people who were there—the actors, writers, producers, and executives—and behind-the-scenes history and stories from Littlefield himself, it’s the ultimate binge watcher’s companion.
When this book was first published in 1992, it shocked the world, and changed the perception of the British monarchy. What elevated it from gossip, however, was the true skill and respect with which the material was treated, and now we know why: much of the information was coming from Diana herself. Now, 25 years later, Andrew Morton has returned to his original book and provided new insight and information into the people’s princess, and the legacy she left behind after her death.
This memoir of depression and drugs is now considered by many to be the Generation X equivalent of THE BELL JAR—the story of a young woman growing up in the age of punk, economic and domestic instability, AIDS, and more. Elizabeth Wurtzel gained notoriety not only for her incredibly powerful depiction of her own experience but also for her ability to explore the cultural implications and effects of those things on the larger population.
With his trademark wit and insight, Michael Lewis takes us on a journey into the world of geeks and billionaires, focusing specifically on James Clark, the founder of several Silicon Valley companies, and the culture that dominated the region during the Internet boom of the 1990s. From pitching new ventures to watching the battle rage between Netscape and Microsoft, this is an essential book for anyone hoping to understand the rise of technology at the dawn of the new millennium.
Just as technology blossomed during this decade, so too did a radical feminist punk uprising called the Riot Grrrl movement. Sara Marcus, a former front-liner, explores the group that forever altered America’s gender landscape through a mix of research, interviews, and firsthand experience, bringing together music and politics with bands such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Heavens to Betsy, and their effect on the dialogue.
They say that everything old is new again, and this year proved that with the resurgence of the O. J. Simpson trial in popular culture, with an Oscar-winning documentary and a blockbuster FX series based on Jeffrey Toobin’s riveting narrative. Toobin was a legal writer for the New Yorker when he was assigned to the Simpson case, and went on to be one of the cornerstone journalists as the trial went on for more than a year, breaking the story that the suspect’s legal team was planning on a race-based defense. This book reads like a novel from start to finish, introducing the characters, drama, evidence, and cultural impact of the proceedings.