The decade of acid wash jeans, exaggerated shoulder pads, and hair that would make one a foot taller (looking at you, Steve Harrington) will never truly die. Shows like Stranger Things and films like It are determined to keep us in a constant state of 80s nostalgia. To feed this insatiable 80s binge (we’ve thankfully tracked down a pair of Moon Shoes), we’re adding some books to the mix. Some set in the 80s, some transporting us back to that time, these righteous novels are a must for those who lived through the best decade in history and for those who’ve longed to experience it.
12 Totally Rad Reads That Will Stoke Your 80s Nostalgia
Want to take a trip back to the 1980s art scene in New York City? Molly Prentiss’s novel is a supernostalgic read for fans of A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD and THE INTERESTINGS. In TUESDAY NIGHTS IN 1980 the lives of an art critic, a mysterious orphan, an exiled Argentinean painter, and his muse are forever entwined after a tragic event. Teeming with fond memories of the 80s and art, this novel is a must-read for the nostalgic and art lovers alike.
Welcome to SoHo at the onset of the eighties: a haven—and heaven—for artists and writers looking to make it big. Among them is James Bennett, an art critic for The New York Times who has synesthesia, a condition that enables him to see and describe things in incredible ways. When he meets Raul Englaes, an exiled Argentinian painter, both of their lives change.
If you’ve ever glanced down the science-fiction aisle of your favorite bookstore or library, chances are you’ve seen the name Philip K. Dick. You might recognize some of his books even if you haven’t read them, such as THE MINORITY REPORT, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, and of course, DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? You might recognize the last book by its popular 80s movie title, Blade Runner. The film is full of 80s nostalgia in a disturbing futuristic sense that quickly gained a cult following. DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? tells the same story of Deckard as he hunts down and “retires” any androids he finds. Of course, that’s not so simple when the androids look like humans. Like many of my favorite science-fiction books, Philip K. Dick calls into question what it really means to be human and how far one would go in order to survive.
After the World War destroyed most life on earth and most humans have emigrated to Mars, companies begin building incredibly human-like artificial intelligence. It’s so realistic that most people can’t even tell the difference between a “real” human and a “fake.” The relationships and loves that ensue are sure to please fans of science fiction and romance alike.
In the vein of the film Lady Bird and perfect for fans of Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s big-hearted debut THE NEST, LAURA & EMMA follows Laura as she raises her daughter, Emma, as a single mother in 1980s New York City. Born into old money, Laura is awarded many privileges but burdened with many expectations. Featuring a cast of quirky and effervescent characters, LAURA & EMMA takes on topics like class, single motherhood, and privilege.
“Masterly deftness, funny sentence by funny sentence...a moving and intricately braided story of two mothers.”—JONATHAN FRANZEN, The Guardian
This “beguiling, addictive read” (People, Book of the Week) and Belletrist Book Club pick about a blue-blooded single mother raising her daughter in rarefied New York City is a “carefully observed family story [that] rings true to life” (The New York Times Book Review).
Laura hails from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, born into old money, drifting aimlessly into her early thirties. One weekend in 1981 she meets a man. The two sleep together. He vanishes. And Laura realizes she’s pregnant.
“Unputdownable” (Library Journal) and “wryly observed” (Vogue), Laura & Emma follows Laura as she raises Emma in New York City over the next fifteen years. With wit and compassion, Kate Greathead explores the many flaws and quirks that make us human. Laura’s story hosts a cast of effervescent and original characters, including her eccentric mother, who informs her society friends and Emma herself that she was fathered by a Swedish sperm donor; her brother, whose childhood stutter reappears in the presence of their forbidding father; an exceptionally kind male pediatrician; and her overbearing best friend, whose life has followed the Park Avenue script in every way except for childbearing.
“Kate Greathead’s debut novel gamely takes on class conflict, single motherhood, and the discreet pretension of the 1980s Upper East Side” (New York magazine) and is a “layered story about mothers and daughters and identity” (Entertainment Weekly). Told in vignettes whose every “restrained and understated sentence has been polished to glittering brightness” (Vox), Laura & Emma is “an incisive comedy of manners about class divides and the ‘burdens’ of being born privileged” (Esquire) and “a thoughtful novel of trying to find oneself despite an assigned place in the world” (Publishers Weekly).
A decade rife with coming-of-age stories, Luiza Sauma's debut is just one of the many that paints a portrait of restless growing pains against the backdrop of the 1980s. FLESH AND BONE AND WATER begins in 1985 Rio de Janeiro with 16 year old André’s who has lost his mother in a car accident. Living in a new city and his father working to support the family, André befriends Luana, the beautiful daughter of the family's maid. When André unexpectedly receives a letter from Luana decades later, a different side of the story reveals itself—filled with desire, meditations on race and class, and power.
Do you ever have those days where you wish you could go back to simpler times and spend hours trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube or watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off while playing hooky from school? If so, then you need to pick up a copy of READY PLAYER ONE. This is a fun, nostalgia-packed book for all those self-proclaimed video game and pop-culture nerds of the day. And the best part is, it’s set in the future where everyone does everything in a virtual reality world called the OASIS. This story follows Wade Watts on his quest to solve the greatest puzzle within the OASIS in hopes of winning and saving the world’s virtual safe haven from the power hungry IOI corporation. At its heart, this book is a treasure hunt sure to take readers on an epic quest reminiscent of their favorite 80s video games
This one screams 80s nostalgia in a similar way as Stranger Things, including the story and everything! Charlie is not your average kid. As a result of a government experiment, she has the gift of pyrokinesis (she can start fires with her freaking mind). She finds herself running from the people who gifted her these powers, using her gift to keep her alive. If this isn’t the hottest 80s read out there, then we don’t know what is.
Master storyteller Stephen King presents the classic #1 New York Times bestseller—soon to be a major motion picture!
Andy McGee and Vicky Tomlinson were once college students looking to make some extra cash, volunteering as test subjects for an experiment orchestrated by the clandestine government organization known as The Shop. But the outcome unlocked exceptional latent psychic talents for the two of them—manifesting in even more terrifying ways when they fell in love and had a child. Their daughter, Charlie, has been gifted with the most extraordinary and uncontrollable power ever seen—pyrokinesis, the ability to create fire with her mind. Now the merciless agents of The Shop are in hot pursuit to apprehend this unexpected genetic anomaly for their own diabolical ends by any means necessary...including violent actions that may well ignite the entire world around them as Charlie retaliates with a fury of her own...
If you’re obsessed with the 1988 cult-classic film The Princess Bride, it is 100 percent worth reading the book, which is just sweet and funny. Do you remember the first time you watched the movie and felt the joy that accompanied it? Well, reading the book was like experiencing the story for the first time all over again, and there are few things as wonderful as experiencing the new and the old together. Reading the book gives the phrase “As You Wish” even more magical power than just watching the movie.
If Your Favorite Character is Dustin Henderson
In the mind of “Toothless,” his best friend didn’t almost die. His comrade was captured by a monster, thus his band of merry adventurers went on a quest to rescue him. For more eccentric goofballs in perilous situations, try the book that preceded the classic movie “The Princess Bride.”
The premise of Tayari Jones’s SILVER SPARROW is like something out of your favorite 80s soap opera—but delivered with Jones’s trademark language and authenticity. In a story that will leave you devastated and turning page after page, two teenage girls form a friendship in 80s Atlanta. But only one of the girls knows their bond runs blood-deep as the girls are caught in the middle of their bigamist father’s sins. With a secret family and the sins of the previous generations roiling beneath the surface, it’s only a matter of time before their lives are irreversibly changed.
In this incredibly heartfelt story, two misfit teens find first love amid the backdrop of Omaha, Nebraska, in the mid-80s. Living in poverty with an abusive stepfather, Eleanor finds even more abuse at school from relentless bullies. Then she meets Park, a sweet teen from a good family, and the two find escape within each other, entering into a romantic relationship that they fight against all odds to keep. Unflinching, gorgeously written, and with characters who are so vibrant and complex, it’s pretty much impossible not to get emotionally invested. Plus the 80s vibes are alive and well throughout this story. We’re talking comics. We’re talking mix tapes. It’s all there and it’s all fantastic! Rainbow Rowell taps into something raw and relentless about first love and it’s easily one of the best YA books out today.
If your favorite character is Mike Wheeler
This young adult novel is also set in the 1980s and deals with first love between two outsiders. Except in Rainbow Rowell’s book, the kids are older and the monster isn’t a tulip-headed child-eater but an abusive stepfather.
It is 1980s New York City, and twenty-two-year-old Phoebe Hayes is in search of a new adventure. The recent death of her father is the catalyst behind her life-changing move to the Big Apple, where she can finally confront Ivan, the older man who has traumatically wronged her. Arm in arm with her best friend, Carmen, Phoebe sinks into the haunted artists’ underworld of the East Village. After a combination of sex, drugs, and self-destruction leads to some bad decisions, Carmen disappears, and Phoebe descends further into the darkness. The only way to save herself, and her best friend, is to confront the shadows Phoebe’s been running from.
Read more of Book Club Picks: 9 Irresistible Books I Flew Through This Spring
This “vivid portrait of a seedy, edgy, artsy, and seething New York City that will never exist again” (Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author)—the glittering, decadent downtown club scene of the 1980s—follows a smart, vulnerable young woman as she takes a deep dive into her dark side. Essential reading for fans of Sweetbitter, Fleabag, and books by Patti Smith.
New York, 1984: Twenty-two-year-old Phoebe Hayes is a young woman in search of excitement and adventure. But the recent death of her father has so devastated her that her mother wants her to remain home in Baltimore to recover. Phoebe wants to return to New York, not only to chase the glamorous life she so desperately craves but also to confront Ivan, the older man who wronged her.
With her best friend Carmen, she escapes to the East Village, disappearing into an underworld haunted by artists, It Girls, and lost souls trying to party their pain away. Carmen juggles her junkie-poet boyfriend and a sexy painter while, as Astrid the Star Girl, Phoebe tells fortunes in a nightclub and plots her revenge on Ivan. When the intoxicating brew of sex, drugs, and self-destruction leads Phoebe to betray her friend, Carmen disappears, and Phoebe begins an unstoppable descent into darkness.
“A new wave coming-of-age story, Astrid Sees All is a blast from the past” (Stewart O’Nan, author of The Speed Queen) about female friendship, sex, romance, and what it’s like to be a young woman searching for an identity.
If you were raised on Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink, love throwback music marathons, or just started binge-watching Stranger Things, this novel’s for you. Set in small-town New Jersey in 1987, THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS is a funny and sweet coming-of-age tale starring Billy Marvin, a 14-year-old boy who spends his time biking around town with his friends, watching a ton of television, and planning a top-secret mission to obtain the newest issue of Playboy magazine, featuring Vanna White as the centerfold. Then he meets Mary Zelinsky, and everything changes.
A love letter to the 1980s and to nerds everywhere—The Impossible Fortress will make you remember what it feels like to love someone—or something—for the first time.
Billy Marvin’s first love was his computer.
Then he met Mary Zelinsky.
Do you remember your first love?
It’s May 1987. Fourteen-year-old Billy Marvin of Wetbridge, New Jersey, is a nerd, but a decidedly happy nerd. Afternoons are spent with his buddies, watching copious amounts of television, gorging on Pop-Tarts, debating who would win in a brawl (Rocky Balboa or Freddy Krueger? Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel? Magnum P.I. or T.J. Hooker?), and programming video games on his Commodore 64 late into the night. Then Playboy magazine publishes photos of their idol, Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White, Billy meets expert computer programmer Mary Zelinsky, and everything changes.
“A sweet and surprising story about young love” (A.V. Club), and a “quirky, endearing, full embrace of the late eighties” (USA TODAY), The Impossible Fortress will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you remember in exquisite detail what it feels like to love for the very first time. Heralded as one of the most anticipated novels of 2017 by Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, and InStyle.com, The Impossible Fortress is a surefire “unexpected retro delight” (Booklist, starred review).
This absorbing graphic adventure is like Stranger Things meets Back to the Future, starring four spunky, strong, smart paper girls! Mac, Tiffany, KJ, and Erin are out in the wee hours of the morning delivering newspapers on Halloween when they spot three strange-looking figures, discover something that looks like a spaceship, and are pulled into an adventure that will send them careening through time. The girls are from the 80s and the series is full of nostalgic references and elements. Walkie-talkies! Walkmans! Old-school video game consoles!
For “Stranger Things” binge-watcher
In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four twelve-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.