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Get in the 1980s Vibe Before Stranger Things Returns with These 6 Books

Let me give you a quick lesson in media theory. There’s this idea of the thirty-year cycle, in which our pop culture minds tend to be obsessed with whatever decade is thrice-removed from our current one. For the 2010s, that decade is definitely the 1980s, a simpler time of massive scrunchies, classic arcade cabinets, and cheesy TV. And if you’re anything like me, you are chomping at the bit to get into the latest season of Stranger Things, which gets even more 1980s with malls, radical fashion, and nostalgic summer carnivals. So if you’re getting into that 1980s mood in time for the season’s premiere, here are six reads that’ll get the job done in style.

Tuesday Nights in 1980

Tuesday Nights in 1980

by Molly Prentiss

The 1980s weren’t just a time for teens and tweens to go on dark, death-defying adventures—there were also plenty of adults going through challenges of their own. Tuesday Nights in 1980 takes a look at the world of art in New York City, full of bright lights, big parties, and several decades worth of grime. It follows both James Bennett, a synesthetic art critic for the New York Times, and Raul Engales, an exiled Argentine painter, who find themselves at the intersection of revolution and tragedy. What brings the book, and the early days of the decade, to life are Molly Prentiss’s amazing descriptions, revealing to us a complex world of beauty on various levels. While this might not be the 1980s everyone is familiar with, it’s certainly one that you’ll never forget.

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It (Media Tie In)

It (Media Tie In)

by Stephen King

It: Chapter Two—soon to a major motion picture in 2019!

Stephen King’s terrifying, classic #1 New York Times bestseller, “a landmark in American literature” (Chicago Sun-Times)—about seven adults who return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they had first stumbled on as teenagers…an evil without a name: It.

Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.

Readers of Stephen King know that Derry, Maine, is a place with a deep, dark hold on the author. It reappears in many of his books, including Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, and 11/22/63. But it all starts with It.

“Stephen King’s most mature work” (St. Petersburg Times), “It will overwhelm you…to be read in a well-lit room only” (Los Angeles Times).

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Searching for John Hughes

Searching for John Hughes

by Jason Diamond

Sixteen Candles. Home Alone. The Breakfast Club. National Lampoon’s Vacation. The list of movies could go on and on, but the point is clear: if there was a filmmaker who defined popular cinema in the 1980s, it was John Hughes. One of his biggest fans was the author of this memoir, Jason Diamond, who uses Hughes’ movies as a way to escape the not-so-Pretty-in-Pink reality he was living. With pop culture of the 1980s as his reference point, Diamond looks at life as he lived it toward the end of the millennium,  when he used his obsession with Hughes and his movies as a way to distract himself from his feelings of inadequacy and doubt. While you might come for all the references and crazy stories (and there are some great ones), you’ll stay for the very real, and sometimes too relatable, narrative of trying to make it through life, even when you’re not living your 1980s dream.

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The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot

by Jeffrey Eugenides

We often think of the 1980s as this neon-bright time wherein kids still went out on amazing adventures and parents were swaddled in sepia-toned suburban homes, far from the problems of the city. But The Marriage Plot challenges that notion by presenting the life of three young adults trying to make their way through the world, figuring out what they want from their lives, and re-evaluating everything they learned in school. Each one deals with the big questions about God, love, death, and their own perceptions on the matter. In this deeply thoughtful novel, both nostalgic and current, and featuring a love triangle of nuanced, confused people on the verge of the rest of their lives, Eugenides will have you thinking about a lot of things in a whole new light.

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My Best Friend's Exorcism

My Best Friend's Exorcism

by Grady Hendrix

Nothing says 1980s as much as exorcisms and book covers that look like old VHS clamshells. Yes, the 1980s were big on horror, and Grady Hendrix digs into that decade to craft a spine-tingling, heartwarming story of two best friends who get embroiled in a brutal demonic possession. Abby watches as her best friend Gretchen gets taken over, going from sickly and solemn to spectacularly popular. This novel excels at getting you to feel Abby’s desperation to save her friend, creating the kind of bond between them that will have you aching to see her rescue Gretchen from hell, even if Gretchen seems to be better off socially than she was before. The author has a way of writing characters that makes you love them even when you hate their guts, and channels his love of pulpy 1980s horror into every page of the novel. A must read if you’ve been digging the friendship aspect of Stranger Things.

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Signal to Noise

Signal to Noise

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

So much of our 1980s nostalgia media is focused on life in the United States, but there is so much more to the decade than just what was happening in the fifty states. Case in point, Signal to Noise gives us a snapshot of live in Mexico City in 1988, through a fantastical perspective. Our main character, Meche, has a special gift: she can cast spells when listening to songs, which, of course, she uses on love. Alongside her best friends Sebastian and Daniela, she navigates the complex feelings of being a teen girl, all with a soundtrack provided by her DJ father. With characters that leave you heartbroken at every turn, and music that any classic-vinyl fan would love, this novel takes you back to that 1980s feeling that anything is possible, even if there are dark consequences left to account for.

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A reporter by trade, Sara Roncero-Menendez is a lover of horror, sci-fi, and all things pop culture. From indies to classics to even the strangest genre pieces, all movies, TV shows, and books are fair game for a binge-fest. Follow her on Twitter @sararomenen or at her website, www.sara-roncero-menendez.com