When I’m nostalgic for the 80’s and 90’s I read these books

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The Goonies. Adventures in babysitting. Playing either a Pogo Bal or Skip-It, choosing my trapper keeper for the term, plastering my walls with posters from Kirk Cameron (hey, it was the 80s, I didn’t know what was going to happen) and the Coreys (Haim and Feldman ) and listening to Menudo, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and NKOTB. Ah, the 80s.

I love the 90s too: Empire records, Cruel intentions, the Delia catalogue, shopping at Merry-Go-Round and Contempo Casuals, slap bracelets…I could go on forever. Lilith Fair, Dazed and Confused, Nirvana and Grunge all hold a special place in my heart.

I’m a kid of the 80’s and 90’s and I often scroll through the nostalgic Instagram pages, reminding myself of things I forgot and bringing back many other memories. Don’t get me wrong, I know there was a lot I didn’t understand when I was a little kid in a pretty isolated environment. While I don’t remember some of the more serious events like the Iran-Contra hearings, I do remember reading about Christa McAuliffe and watching the Challenger explode live on TV. I remember the case of Lisa Steinberg, Ariel Glaser and Ryan White and the discussion of HIV and AIDS (and later I learned about Reagan’s handling of it…or lack of it), the fall of the Berlin Wall, Rodney King, Operation Solomon and such further much more.

While these two decades are filled with historically and socially relevant events, I remember them from a child/teen’s perspective. Knowing all the things I now know about those decades, there is a different background to many of my memories of the time. For me, that doesn’t take away from the memories; it adds texture, context and information to them.

Sometimes I get the urge to review those two decades, and of course I reach for books. I reach for books when I just need a little escape from today. When I miss my grandparents and all the time I spent with them as a child and teenager. Or even if I want to read more about an event I didn’t know much about then (or now).

books that bring me back

Of course, when I get nostalgic for the 80’s or 90’s I sometimes reach for book favorites from that era like Tuck Everlasting, but I also enjoy reading fiction and non-fiction books set in those decades or around. I really enjoyed Chuck Klosterman’s The Nineties, especially as I wasn’t always old enough to fully understand much of what he was discussing at the time it happened. (You can read more of my thoughts on the book here). I loved the mix of personal opinion and experience, research and pop culture commentary.

Cover of

Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall by Alexandra Lange was a great read especially as she talked about Southpoint in Durham which has a Barnes & Noble which I spent a lot of time shopping and studying at during grad school . When I was a little kid, when I went to the mall with my grandparents or parents, I had to get a penny to throw in the fountain to make a wish, and get a soft pretzel at Aunt Anne’s or a giant cinnamon roll at Cinnabon’s . We’d always make sure to stop by Waldenbooks or B. Dalton for the next book in the The Babysitters Club Sleepover Friends series. While I was never allowed to “hang out” at the mall every day as a teenager, I would go to the mall with some friends on Friday nights. After the mall we walked across the street to Chili’s for a late dinner or snacks. Reading this non-fiction book about the mall and its social impact not only brought me back to all sorts of memories, but also made me think about the things I had seen at the mall and its social functions.

Cover of Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

While I didn’t even think about NYC as a kid in the 80’s, I never get bored of reading about 80’s NYC, which is one of the reasons I loved Abdi Nazemian’s Like a Love Story. Set in 1989 in NYC during the AIDS crisis and ACT-UP activism, it’s a beautiful tale of friendship, love, and staying true to yourself. Another novel, The Black Kids, by Christina Hammonds Reed, is set in Los Angeles in 1992, when the police were acquitted of beating Rodney King and the riots and protests that followed took place. Reading these books now gives me a whole new perspective on the time I just didn’t have when I was 9 and 12 years old.

Books are a great way to spend time reflecting on childhood memories, and I’m sure it would be infinitely better if such nostalgia were paired with snacks like gushers, dunkaroos, and giggles biscuits.

To learn even more about the 80s and 90s, read this post on must-read 1990s novels and this post on 80s nostalgia book recommendations.

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