Tagged: Fiction Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Jeff Somers 4:30 pm on 2017/10/19 Permalink
    Tags: be like bill, Fiction, hag-seed, , shakespeare retellings   

    21 Shakespearean Books to Read If You Don’t Want to Read Shakespeare 

    Shakespeare’s impact on literature and culture cannot be overstated; put simply, his plays have had a monumental effect on literature and the English language in general, and continue to inspire to this day. Yet for some, puzzling through that archaic language can be an intimidating challenge. No worries: here are 21 novels based on or inspired by the Bard that give you at least a fraction of the benefits of Shakespeare’s genius—without the iambic pentameter.

    A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley

    Inspired by: King Lear. Smiley’s story of a family farm being incorporated and divided between three daughters follows the fundamental plot of King Lear pretty closely, mapping the major elements to a modern world. Smiley takes the story to an even darker place than Shakespeare, however, and as a result captures the terrifying chasm of darkness at the heart of the narrative in a way that faithful stage productions sometimes can’t manage.

    New Boy, by Tracy Chevalier

    Inspired by: Othello. By setting her reworking of Othello in a middle school in Washington state, Chevalier underscores the primal forces examined in the original: jealousy, rage, vengeance. Far from mocking the savage forces driving the main characters, by making the characters children, Chevalier gets to the root of the matter faster, making this a brutal ride from beginning to end and conveying the power of the original almost effortlessly.

    Gertrude and Claudius, by John Updike

    Inspired by: Hamlet. Updike wasn’t the first writer to rework a Shakespeare play from an inverted angle, and he certainly won’t be the last, but by making Gertrude and Claudius, the morally-challenged parental figures whose machinations drive Hamlet insane, the protagonists instead of supporting players, Updike manages to drill down into what makes Hamlet one of the great stories of all time, even without the pretty language Shakespeare seemed to effortlessly produce. Updike went back to the source material Shakespeare himself used to construct his story, making this a shortcut to deep research on the play as well.

    The Gap of Time, by Jeanette Winterson

    Inspired by: The Winter’s Tale. One of Shakespeare’s more difficult plays (to defend and enjoy), The Winter’s Take seems like a tough sell for a reworking in a modern novel, but Winterson’s transformation of sexual subtext into text slams this story into high gear. Hedge fund manager Leo has an unspoken sexual spark with video game designer Xeno, and when he jealousy comes to believe Xeno is having an affair with his pregnant wife, Leo launches into a rage of violence that resembles the shocking opening act of the play in a wonderfully evocative way.

    Hag-Seed, by Margaret Atwood

    Inspired by: The Tempest. Atwood’s great achievement with her novel is the fact that you don’t need to know a single thing about The Tempest to find the book pretty amazing. The revenge tale Atwood crafts is small-scale in the biggest way possible, centered on a theater festival and its wronged director. Atwood doesn’t hold back—one thing she carries over from Shakespeare is the idea that no idea is too silly, too shocking, or too broad, as long as you have the talent to pull it off.

    The Dead Father’s Club, by Matt Haig

    Inspired by: Hamlet. Haig chooses a different route from most authors re-working Shakespeare, in that his story, though modernized, is pretty faithful to the original: the ghost of Phillip’s father visits the young man and implores him to murder his brother to prevent him from marrying Phillip’s mother and taking over the family business. Phillip pursues this goal, but slowly comes to doubt whether his father is right, while the reader begins to doubt Phillip’s grasp on reality.

    The Taming of the Drew, by Stephanie Kate Strohm

    Inspired by: The Taming of the Shrew. One thing about Shakespeare’s plays: they sure were written in the 16th century. Offering all the sass and smart language of the Bard, plus some refreshingly inverted sexual politics, this take on the classic comedy switches the sex roles reads like a literary version of 10 Thing I Hate About You.

    The Madness of Love, by Katharine Davies

    Inspired by: Twelfth Night. Davies smartly ejects much of the madcap comedy inherent in Shakespeare’s original play, mining the confusion of the multiple couples in this story for pathos and a hint of horror. By following a small-scale modernization, the story’s complexity is preserved, but takes on a morose, solemn feel that rings truer on the page than the zany atmosphere of the play.

    Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston

    Inspired by: The Winter’s Tale. Another brave author taking on a difficult story, Johnston captures the savagery and violence of the play in the sexual assault of the main character, competitive teenage cheerleader Hermione Winters. The bones of Shakespeare are at times hard to see in this novel, but the effect is similar; anyone who wants to know what it might have been like for an audience to watch The Winter’s Tale back in the day can read this and get a pretty good idea.

    Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion

    Inspired by: Romeo and Juliet. If there’s a less obvious way to retell Romeo and Juliet than through zombie apocalypse, we don’t know what it is. Marion’s classic is inspired, however, because star-crossed lovers is an eternal theme that always works, whether the reasons you can’t be with your love involve family politics or, you know, an undead epidemic.

    Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler

    Inspired by: The Taming of the Shrew. The Taming of the Shrew is in some ways the easiest of the Bard’s plays to adapt to modern life, dealing as it does with (regretfully) familiar gender politics. Tyler is one of the few authors who manages to retell the story and keep the Bardiness intact while also making a book entirely her own; from the quirky heroine to the setting, this is an Anne Tyler novel, full stop, which just makes the Shakespearean aspects icing on the cake.

    Shylock is My Name, by Howard Jacobson

    Inspired by: The Merchant of Venice. Jacobson explores the perpetual question of whether Shylock is a hero or a villain by transcending the play entirely and bringing Shylock—the character—to modern-day England to make a case for himself. That might sound kind of wonky, but it works brilliantly, allowing Jacobson to not so much re-tell The Merchant of Venice as to repackage its concerns for a modern generation.

    The Prince of Cats, by Ron Wimberly

    Inspired by: Romeo and Juliet. Not so much a retelling as a reimagining of the Shakespearean sensibility in a modern comic format, Wimberly’s striking images and ability to apply classic Shakespeare lines in new and startling contexts (as well as write fresh lines that have the same brilliance of rhythm and imagery) makes this an exciting way to get the sense of what makes Shakespeare so important without actually reading one of his plays.

    Something Rotten, by Alan M. Gratz

    Inspired by: Hamlet. Why rework Hamlet as a hardboiled detective story? For goodness sakes, why not? Gratz sees past the old-school flowery language and the endless school essays to the essentials of Hamlet‘s appeal: it’s a murder mystery and a revenge tale, two things that, when combined, produce a noir atmosphere almost spontaneously.

    Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, by Adam Bertocci

    Inspired by: The Two Gentlemen of Verona. You might think retelling this play with the characters and plot trapping of the film The Big Lebowski is a gimmick, but it’s actually a genius way of modernizing the spirit of the thing—and the general spirit of Shakespeare transforms a classic movie into a modern-day Shakespearean tour-de-force.

    Ophelia, by Lisa Klein

    Inspired by: Hamlet. When pivoting off of a classic play, you can reinvent it, you can reset it, or you can do what Klein does and tweak the plot in one important way. In this case, she imagines that Ophelia doesn’t drown in Hamlet, but rather fakes her death and runs off to a nunnery as advised. She then narrates the story of what happened at Elsinore from her perspective, offering the modern reader a way into the story that’s fresh and new.

    Speak Easy, Speak Love, by McKelle Gorge

    Inspired by: Much Ado About Nothing. It’s possible that Shakespeare was a time traveler who visited the 1920s, because Much Ado About Nothing almost perfectly evokes the wild energy of that decade—something Gorge uses to great advantage in this retelling of the play. All the characters and plot points are there, as is the effervescent energy of the source material.

    The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown

    Inspired by: Macbeth. Not so much a retelling of Shakespeare as a strange celebration of his work, in the context of a smart family dealing with tragedy. Brown’s characters will make you understand why some people are still more than happy to bend your ear endlessly about how fantastic Shakespeare’s plays really are. She takes plenty of bits and pieces of Macbeth for her story of three sisters crashing back into each other when they return home to deal with the illness of their mother (a Shakespeare scholar). You” come away with a love for her characters and a burning desire to read the Bard.

    Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty, by Jody Gehrman

    Inspired by: Much Ado About Nothing. If your worry about reading Shakespeare is the outdated language and impenetrable slang, rest easy: Gehrman not only sets the story in the modern day, she writes it in a sharp, thoroughly contemporary voice that is both hilarious and unflinching, following our narrator to the bathroom and back without missing a beat. As a result, all the lively energy of Shakespeare’s language is captured without directly quoting him once.

    The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey

    Inspired by: Richard III. One of the best mystery novels ever written uses Shakespeare’s Richard III as a catalyst. Playing with the idea that history is written by the winners, Tey has her convalescing policeman investigate the supposed crimes of Richard III from his hospital bed, referring to the play as a knowing perpetuation of propaganda and making the reader want to read it just to compare the Bard’s depiction of the king with the conclusion Tey comes to at the end.

    Macbeth, by Jo Nesbø

    Inspired by: Macbeth. If there’s one author whose plan to re-interpret Shakespeare should get you excited, it’s Nesbø, whose upcoming novel takes the Scottish Play and sets it in a small-town police department, with Inspector Macbeth dealing with a dark past of drug addiction as he investigates a drug deal gone horribly wrong. Macbeth is one of the easiest plays to relate to the modern sensibility, as its themes of power, guilt, and manipulation are unfortunately evergreen—as we fully expect Nesbø to demonstrate.

    The post 21 Shakespearean Books to Read If You Don’t Want to Read Shakespeare appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Sarah Skilton 3:00 pm on 2017/10/18 Permalink
    Tags: adam langer, andrew sean greer, bestseller, , cherise wolas, , Fiction, less, lucia graves, olivia goldsmith, the angel's game, , the resurrection of joan ashby, the right time, the thieves of manhattan,   

    6 Novel Novels About Novelists 

    Films-within-films (Tropic ThunderSingin’ in the Rain), plays-within-plays (Shakespeare does this a lot), and songs referencing songs (“You probably think this song is about you…”) provide entertainment while also poking fun at the business side of art. Naturally, novels are the perfect medium with which to tackle the publishing industry. Not only are these authors positioned to pull back the curtain on the lives of agents, publishers, and editors, but they’re eminently qualified to share the agonies and ecstasies of writing itself. Using humor, irony, and grace, whether they’re hot off the presses or set within the last century, these books bring special meaning to the adage “Write what you know.”

    The Right Time, by Danielle Steel

    A bright, precociously successful writer of complex thrillers, novelist Alexandra Winslow was told during her formative years that men will only read her genre of books if they’re written by other men. The warning stayed with her, and as a result, she decided to pursue her passion under a male pseudonym. Having overcome more heartache than most by her teen years, including an absent mother and the death of her beloved father (who shared his love of mysteries with her), Alex’s latest difficulties are compounded as she realizes the double life she’s living is slowly destroying her. Will she find the strength to reveal her true self to the rest of the world? Will the time ever be right for her to step out of her own shadow?

    The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, by Cherise Wolas
    Joan Ashby’s writing career is off to dazzling start. Adored by critics and readers alike for her dark prose, she’s poised to become a lifelong literary star. Children were never in the picture—until Joan’s husband Martin changes the rule they agreed to and urges her to succumb to motherhood. Raising her two boys isn’t easy, and her creative ambitions struggle against “the consumptive nature of love.” Wolas’ powerhouse debut novel promises to take readers on an emotional ride, while tackling questions about the ways in which women are sometimes forced to choose between love of family and self-actualization.

    Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

    “Minor novelist” Arthur Less is about to turn 50, and his younger, former lover Freddy is getting married. Down and out, and determined to escape the torturous nuptials—while not appearing as though he’s escaping—Less decides to accept every ham-fisted, bizarre invitation he’s received for the year. His writerly itinerary, which will take him from NYC to Paris, Berlin, and Morocco, includes teaching a class, attending an award ceremony (in which high schoolers are the judges), and interviewing a more successful author. A surprise narrator (whose identity is kept secret until the end) adds poignancy and tenderness to this lovely and comedic story.

    The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (translated by Lucia Graves)

    “A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story…A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price.” So begins a haunting, gothic love story set in 1920s Barcelona. Orphaned pulp novelist David Martin leaves his newspaper job behind when he receives a mysterious publishing offer that may prove to be a Faustian bargain, especially when people begin dying and David suspects that the crumbling, abandoned house he’s living in holds terrifying secrets.

    The Thieves of Manhattan, by Adam Langer

    A biting, genre-bending satire of the publishing industry, with hilarious literary in-jokes and slang aplenty (a “frazier” is a large advance for a book, a la Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain; an “atwood” is “a mane of curls sported by the author Margaret Atwood”; and a “tolstoy” is a large pile of manuscripts), Thieves depicts a down-on-his-luck writer who agrees to put his name on an absurd novel and pretend it’s true, so he can take advantage of the misery-memoir trend. “I wasn’t sure if I felt more frightened by the thought that his scheme would work or the thought that it wouldn’t, that I would ruin whatever reputation and self-respect I might have had for nothing, or that lying would make me…successful.”

    Bestseller, by Olivia Goldsmith
    As a bestseller herself, Goldsmith (The First Wives’ Club and many more) knows the heartaches and triumphs of the publishing world, and she recreates it here with intimate aplomb. Five authors whose books were selected by powerful publishing house Davis & Dash vie for the coveted number-one slot on the fall list. But the writers aren’t the only ones desperate to climb the ladder of success. Up-and-coming editors and their shady mentors, back-stabbing agents, brokenhearted parents, struggling indie bookstore owners, and midlist ghostwriters abound in this scandalous tale. There’s even a husband-and-wife writing team that splits up when one of them pretends the work was a solo effort. Enjoy!

    What novels about novels would you recommend?

    The post 6 Novel Novels About Novelists appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2017/10/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Fiction,   

    10 Novels That Teach You Something About Marriage 

    As anyone who’s been married for more than a minute will tell you, it can be hard work. Many books tellingly end on the “happily ever after button,” leaving the results to the imagination, making it easy for the reader to dream up perfect marriages in which no one fights, cheats, or googles “divorce laws in my state.” Yet there are those books with plenty of real-life marriage lessons to share. Getting hitched and wondering what to expect? Sure, you could talk to real, live people, or you could read these 10 books, which offer you all the marriage advice you’ll ever need.

    The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
    Lesson: Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. Many people see Wharton’s high society tale of a man who yearns to throw over his wife in favor of her more alluring cousin as the story of an unhappy marriage. But read it again after being married a while, and you see a heightened version of what everyone goes through: moments of doubt, when escape seems like your only option. The real lesson is that marriage is about more than romantic passion: it’s time plus partnership, weaving together into a life.

    Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
    Lesson: Family matters. From the moment you start dating someone, their family looms in the near distance. The initial meetings, the sizing up, the parental approval—you are never just marrying a single person. You are marrying their whole family. This is a lesson that Austen’s classic brings home with poetic power. If you find yourself denying that someone’s family issues (yours or theirs) matter … you’re lying to yourself, and need to re-read P&P immediately.

    Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty
    Lesson: The grass is always greener. Every married couple has at least one other couple they see socially whom they love/hate because they seem too perfect. They are financially affluent, they have great taste, their kids behave well, they are obviously affectionate. As Moriarty’s great novel reminds us, that’s often window dressing. Everyone has problems. Some of us are just better at hiding them.

    Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
    Lesson: You can never really know someone. Deciding to marry someone is a big step, and is reserved for people you know as well as you possibly can. After all, you’re linking your lives together in a myriad of ways—neither of you will ever be the same. Flynn’s ingenious thriller reminds us, however, that you will never know everything about your spouse. There’s a secret or two there, trust us, and if you discover it, you might find yourself uncertain whether you really know them at all.

    The Yellow Wall Paper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    Lesson: Take your spouse seriously. Getting married is sometimes described as two souls becoming one. Ha ha, no. No matter how close you are, you remain two separate nervous systems filtering everything through unique perspectives. Thus it will always be easy to dismiss a spouse’s concerns, worries, or fears as unfounded or silly. Don’t do this. Doing this is how people wind up crawling around on the floor muttering about wallpaper.

    Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
    Lesson: There are two sides to every marriage. Extending the previous idea a little, never assume that your spouse sees the marriage exactly like you do. There have been too many complacent spouses, certain that their relationship was fantastic, only to find themselves served divorce papers. In Groff’s fantastic novel, a husband and wife offer their own perspective on their marriage, and it’s interesting to see where they agree—and where they diverge.

    Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, by Edward Albee
    Lesson: Fighting in public makes you bad people.Albee’s searing story of middle-aged resentment and passive-aggressive subtext made howling text is a blistering read. You’re really watching four lives descend into chaos in front of you, but along the way he reminds us of a fundamental truth: fighting with your spouse at a party, or out at dinner, or in the movie theater, or literally anywhere but in your house when you’re alone, is a jerk move.

    Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
    Lesson: Don’t push your spouse outside their comfort zone. The day you wake up and realize you wish your spouse were more…anything is a dark day indeed. In the Scottish Play, Lady Macbeth wishes her husband were a bit more ambitious and murder-y, and her pushing him to grasp more than his reach can handle is what sets the violent tragedy in motion. Lesson? Remind yourself that you might be projecting your own issues on your spouse.

    The War of the Roses, by Warren Adler
    Lesson: Talk now or burn down your house later. Adler’s novel about a wealthy couple who go to war amid a divorce is black comedy at its best, but the chaotic, mean-spirited, and shockingly violent way the Roses go after each other holds a potent lesson: if you’re unhappy, say something. If you’re going to split up, start labeling your books today.

    Middlemarch, by George Eliot
    Lesson: Marriage is an ongoing process, and both partners will evolve. Middlemarch is a novel about marriage as much as it’s about anything else, and the basic lesson that Eliot imparts is that all marriages are different, and all people are different, and every day you’re going to wake up next to someone who is slightly different than the person you went to bed with the night before, and will be yourself a little different. Scary? A little. But also kind of exciting, no?

    The post 10 Novels That Teach You Something About Marriage appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 10:00 am on 2017/10/05 Permalink
    Tags: and the winner is, , , Fiction, , , ,   

    Kazuo Ishiguro Wins The 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature 

    The announcement that Kazuo Ishiguro has been awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature is the sort of news that makes you frown and think, wait, he hasn’t won that already? Since the publication of his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, in 1982, Ishiguro has staked out a place in the literary world that is so singular and unique it’s more or less a genre category of one. The Ishiguro genre has been exploring isolation and loneliness in a crowded world ever since, always brilliantly.

    A Citizen of the World and Nowhere

    Born in Nagasaki, Ishiguro moved with his family to England when he was six years old and become a British citizen in 1982 as his first novel was published. This mixture of background shaped Ishiguro’s literary sense; the characters in Ishiguro’s literary world are often painfully alone and unable to bridge the gap between themselves and people standing just a few feet away from them. His best-known novel, The Remains of the Day (which won the Booker prize that year), is consumed by this. The story centers on an English butler, Stevens, who falls in love with the Housekeeper Miss Kenton over the course of years but never acts on his feelings. Stevens is dedicated to the ideals of service, and this commitment leaves him alone and pondering whether or not he has wasted much of his life. Then Ishiguro ends on a beautiful, complex note as Stevens decides to focus on the “remains of the day”—the time he has left—which would be an optimistic note if he was going on an adventure or making a bold play for happiness and not simply going back to his work as a butler. Ishiguro is a master of making characters feel like real people who are revealing their inner selves almost by accident as they tell you their story. The pervasive sense of being unable to truly connect with people or pursue your true self is the pathos that every reader can understand.

    The Chameleon

    Ishiguro effortlessly flirts with genre conventions in his work; his 2005 novel Never Let Me Go explores science fiction themes in a story about children at a special school who realize they are clones created to provide organs for their originals, doomed to die and to care for each other as they suffer. His 2000 novel When We Were Orphans is a detective story. His most recent novel, 2015’s The Buried Giant, trades in elements of fantasy in a story set in Arthurian Britain, playing with the idea that monsters and magic seem real to the people of the time and thus might actually be real in a sense. Ishiguro doesn’t just cynically adopt a genre’s tricks in order to put a twist on things, he uses these elements in service to a deeper story. These books can’t be called straight-up sci-fi, fantasy, or detective novels. They’re Ishiguro novels.

    A Dash of Darkness

    Ultimately, what makes an Ishiguro story so compelling is the way he weaves in the idea that our past, our memory, is simultaneously an illusion—an illusion often unconsciously edited and revised to suit our needs—and an unyielding force that determines our present and future. Characters in an Ishiguro story often appear to be in complete control at first, clearly recalling events and seeing their present with sober authority. Slowly, inevitably, their sense of self fractures as their past clarifies for the reader in subtle ways. More than one critic has noted a sense of the “Kafkaesque” in Ishiguro’s stories, a sense of slowly invading frustration and darkness that spoils a fictional world that seemed beautiful in the early going—The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go both begin on notes of pleasant recollection, then become sadder and darker in the telling. No one reads an Ishiguro novel without being moved, and it’s that power of emotion conveyed through words and images that makes the announcement of his Nobel Prize no surprise at all, but rather an inevitability finally come to pass.

    To celebrate, why not re-read your favorite Ishiguro novel? And if you’ve never had the pleasure, this is as good a reason as any to finally discover one of the best writers we’ve ever had. If you’re skittish about committing to a novel, Ishiguro’s 2009 story collection Nocturnes contains beautiful, meticulously crafted (and subtly connected) stories that are an ideal bite-sized introduction to the singular genre the author has created for himself.

    The post Kazuo Ishiguro Wins The 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2017/10/03 Permalink
    Tags: Fiction,   

    10 Books That Will Remind You of Your Childhood 

    There’s nothing quite like the experience of reading as a child. Whether under the covers with a flashlight or sitting under a shady tree, we remember the books we read as kids like no others. This special bond sometimes works in reverse too, as books we read as adults somehow transport us back to our childhoods, capturing those same fleeting, transient feelings that colored our youthful adventures with the written word.

    That’s what the 10 books here manage to do. Whether your childhood was in the 1950s or the 1990s, these books will remind you what it felt like to be a kid.


    It, by Stephen King

    It is a terrifying novel, it’s true, and the new film adaptation has updated the timeline of its first section to the 1980s. But the original book begins in the 1950s, and King perfectly captures the time and the sense of freedom enjoyed by small-town kids of the era. Childhood is a powerful theme in all of King’s novels, and he has always understood that kids are both smarter than many adults remember, and more capable of faith than their parents or older siblings. It will still scare the pants off you, but there are sections of beautiful writing that feel absolutely authentic to anyone who grew up during the Eisenhower administration.

    A Prayer for Owen Meaney, by John Irving

    With patience and affection, Irving captures what it was like to grow up in the 1950s in this terrific novel. While John Wheelwright and Owen Meaney aren’t typical kids in any sense—Owen’s growing conviction that he is an instrument of god isn’t exactly typical for a kid in any decade—Irving’s attention to detail renders a childhood air instantly recognizable to those who paralleled John and Owen’s fictional existence in their own lives. The decade was one where a slow subversion of tradition and accepted norms would eventually explode into the chaos of the ’60s, and it’s realistically presented here as a restless questioning of a kid’s purpose.


    The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton

    Hinton’s classic proto-young adult novel has been a classic since its debut, in part because Hinton—a teenager herself when she wrote it—nails the passion, confusion, and alienation of being a kid in the 1960s. Your circumstances and experiences may be different from those described in the book, but the pain of lost innocence and that first moment you realized that you wouldn’t—couldn’t—be a kid forever soaks every page . Even if you’ve never dealt with “socs” before, or even if you were the socs growing up, you’ll feel it when you read this classic.

    The Liar’s Club, by Mary Karr

    With little details only a skilled writer could capture, Karr paints a portrait of her childhood in Texas during the 1960s. It’s these details that sell the setting to people who actually grew up during the 1960s, a time TV and movies tend to paint as endlessly tumultuous, but which was, in reality, not so different from the decade before. Karr offers a frank exploration of her troubled family life and the town where she grew up in during a period of history when mental health and substance abuse weren’t considered things “normal” people worried about.


    The Ice Storm, by Rick Moody

    The 1970s were a profoundly strange time for fashion, politics, and youth culture. Growing up in the 1970s, kids were more free-range than today, often left unsupervised as their parents, dealing with the counter-cultural hangover left by the prior decade, pursued their own happiness. Moody’s novel recalls this sense of isolation and freedom perfectly, resulting a book that easily evokes the decade for anyone who came of age when Led Zeppelin was still together. He excels at detailing the emotional devastation of a boozy, druggy suburbia where everyone is on their own in one sense or another.

    The Basketball Diaries, by Jim Carroll

    The fact Jim Carroll survived his childhood at all is pretty remarkable, and this ragged novel based on his own life offers a searing look at his personal journey from high school basketball star to heroin addict living on the streets before his 18th birthday. Although Carroll is actually writing about the 1960s, it’s the 70s his prose evokes; Carroll simply got to the darker part of the American dream a little earlier than everyone else. Take away the drugs and sexual abuse and you have the embodiment of teenage angst, restless heart syndrome, and the willingness to experiment with your own life anyone growing up in the 1970s will recognize.


    The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon

    The ’80s were a hazy time—glamorous on the surface but boiling with change underneath. You can trace a lot of the culture of the era back decades, but the 1990s ended a lot of those connections. The kids who grew up in the ’80s had a sense they’d come late to a party, and were going to have to decide if they went on to the next one, or went home. While the characters in Chabon’s debut are a little older, they’re just shedding their childhoods, so if you spent your youth in the 1980s, you’ll still recognize every single detail.

    A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, by Dito Montiel

    Montiel, a New York icon now in Hollywood making films, wrote a book that perfectly captures growing up in a big city in the 1980s. While Montiel’s story features more violence than most people will experience in their childhoods, he captures the sense of modernity and excitement that defined ’80s kids, who were the first generation to wake up to a world filled with video games and personal electronics, an expanding menu of entertainment choices, and the burgeoning sense that kids weren’t so much kids any more, but smaller adults, capable of all the heartache and violence as their parents or elder siblings.


    The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

    If you grew up in the 1990s, you’ll recognize your life in this book, even if you’re nothing like the introverted Charlie. In the ’90s, the old assumptions about childhood as a time of innocence and carefree adventure were fading away fast, replaced by a new sense that kids were just as troubled as adults. Charlie’s emotional journey is messy and internal—these aren’t kids who go off into the woods on adventures and stumble over bodies, or solve crimes in their spare time. They’re kids who brood and cry and make tentative, heroic steps towards adulthood. If you lived it, you’ll find it in these pages.

    Ghost World, by Dan Clowes

    The 1990s have their own peculiar feel, a world-weariness that seemed to soak into every teenage life. Kids affected a cynicism and blank-faced, fashionable disdain and combined it with a fascination for pop culture—the weirder and danker, the better. Nothing epitomizes this spirit of tired adventure like Ghost World, or the consequences of Early Onset Adulthood that plagued kids in that decade. Clowes captures the disappointing sense that everything was played out and nothing mattered, as well as the fashions, attitudes, and cultural iconography almost perfectly.

    The post 10 Books That Will Remind You of Your Childhood appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

compose new post
next post/next comment
previous post/previous comment
show/hide comments
go to top
go to login
show/hide help