Literary Throwbacks: 8 Books That Are A Blast To The Past

March 6, 2018

Our nation’s nostalgia for bygone days is awfully pervasive, even for those of us born after those decades have ended! Here are eight books that will tug on your memories and your emotions, whether it’s the age of jive or the age of grunge. While all of these were published during the past few years, they are set in the later decades of the twentieth century. So settle down with these particular time machines, and you can take a quick trip to the fairly recent past. Without further ado, here are some of our favorite literary throwbacks!

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

A late-nineties suburb may seem idyllic, but there are secrets simmering below the surface, and constant suspicion. The crux of this novel is a battle between rules and freedom, a skirmish about the nature of art and identity, and a fight over the custody of a Chinese-American infant.

Best paired with: Zima!



South and West by Joan Didion

Less a book, and more a collection of notes, Didion takes us along with her as she drives through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama during the summer of 1970. Her impressions of syrupy heat and stifling racial tension are as relevant now as ever, and they offer a glimpse into the writing process of a legendary author.

Best paired with: Sweet Tea!


Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

There is something terribly wrong in the town of Nevada, Iowa, where movie rentals are being returned due to unsettling and eerie video additions. Video clerk Jeremy is caught up in the mystery, which stretches in time far past the 1990s, and becomes part of an impossible search for an unimaginable goal. This is definitely not your average cookie-cutter mystery!

Best paired with: Crystal Pepsi!


Ill Will by Dan Chaon

It is the height of the Satanic-cult panic during the 1980s, and a young boy’s tearful testimony sends his adopted brother Rusty to prison for life. 40 years later, and DNA evidence exonerates Rusty, sending everyone reeling. This is just the beginning of a slowly creeping mystery that peeks under the lies we tell ourselves, and shines a light on the perils of self-deception.

Best paired with: New Coke!


The Unseen World by Liz Moore

When Liz’s brilliant father begins losing his memories to Alzheimer’s, her quest to rediscover his past is a journey that connects her childhood to her adult life. Set in a cutting-edge computer science lab in 1980s Boston, the futuristic themes of virtual reality and artificial intelligence are delicately intertwined with thoughts on family, psychology, and compassion.

Best paired with: Lemon-Lime Slice!


Swing Time by Zadie Smith

The protagonist Tracey is a compelling and relatable character, who often thinks back to her grand goals as a dancer and close friends growing up in eighties London, a contrast to her current job as a personal assistant. Her nostalgia is our nostalgia, and while the juxtaposition of fond remembrance and reality isn’t comfortable, it is a piercing glance behind the curtains of memory.

Best paired with: Orange Tango!


Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

This touching and sentimental story takes place over the year of 1986, and follows two outcast teens as they try to navigate a tumultuous time—in anyone’s life! You will find yourself yearning for the incomparable eighties, and the rosy glow from your first love.

Best paired with: LifeSavers Soda!



Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

Set in the 1980s, amidst The Troubles in Northern Ireland, an 18-year-old boy has a strange connection to a girl who died in an ancient age, who has a haunting familiarity in his dreams. Winner of a Carnegie Medal and classified as a historical novel, a YA book, and children’s fiction, it occupies an interesting place on our list, but a well-recommended one nonetheless!

Best paired with: Club Rock Shandy!



by Kimberly Guerin


At The Masters Review, our mission is to support emerging writers. We only accept submissions from writers who can benefit from a larger platform: typically, writers without published novels or story collections or with low circulation. We publish fiction and nonfiction online year-round and put out an annual anthology of the ten best emerging writers in the country, judged by an expert in the field. We publish craft essays, interviews and book reviews and hold workshops that connect emerging and established writers.

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