Reading is, admittedly, not a particularly visual pastime. But occasionally, a character in a novel just jumps off the page and embeds itself in pop culture. What often makes these characters so indelible is their memorable fashion sense. After all, British writer Virginia Woolf once declared that clothes have “more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” That rings true for fictional characters, too. Below are several of my favorite novels with highly stylish characters who have influenced readers’ own closets.
Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist, and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander team up to investigate the 40 year disappearance of Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families. Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.
In the novel that introduced James Bond to the world, Ian Fleming’s agent 007 is dispatched to a French casino in Royale-les-Eaux. His mission? Bankrupt a ruthless Russian agent who’s been on a bad luck streak at the baccarat table.
Lauren Weisberger’s bestselling novel was a higher-profile literary work than Bushnell’s Sex and the City, and the movie version a closer adaptation. But what an adaptation it is: the book set the bar high, it was smart and fun, but the movie was a romp that brought romantic comedy to new heights. Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, and Stanley Tucci all created unforgettable characters, but Meryl Streep’s performance as the Prada-wearing devil herself, Miranda Priestly, is one for the ages.
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games," a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.
Call them unreliable, odd, or downright nuts: there’s nothing more addictive than being behind the wheel with a protagonist who’s not entirely there. You might not want to be their friend, but these eight books feature narrators who you’d be crazy to miss.
Wendy’s Fictional Dinner Party Guest: Atticus Finch
Perhaps it’s a cliché to want to have dinner with Atticus Finch—lawyer, father, all-around good man. Atticus is known for his conscience, grace, compassion, and morality. I suspect that his words would be full of insight and wisdom, and challenge me to sit straighter in my chair.
Ani FaNelli is the epitome of young, modern women. And that’s not a good thing. Image-obsessed, cruel, and deceptive, Ani isn’t crazy so much as extraordinarily damaged from two traumatic high school events that are expertly revealed, piece by piece, in this masterful debut. I loved the anger in this political, well-observed novel, made more powerful by the reveal that Knoll’s own sexual assault contributed to its creation. Contemporary and timely: believe the hype.
Crazy like: Carrie Bradshaw with a cleaver.
Best crazy moment: Ani’s choice of porn. (Ouch.)
For fans of “Stranger Things”
Teeming with the best kind of ‘80s nostalgia, the perfect follow-up read to this summer’s Netflix hit “Stranger Things” is Stephen King’s classic thriller IT. Seven adults are forced to revisit the horrors they once experienced when they were teens, battling an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. With the town’s terrible history repeating, they must once again face the evil monster.