Riot Recommendation

13 of Your Favorite Books Set in the ’80s

Jamie Canaves

Contributing Editor

Jamie Canavés is the Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator and Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter writer–in case you’re wondering what you do with a Liberal Arts degree. She’s never met a beach she didn’t like, always says yes to dessert, loves ‘80s nostalgia, all forms of entertainment, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. You can definitely talk books with her on Litsy and Goodreads. Depending on social media’s stability maybe also Twitter and Bluesky.

This Riot Recommendation is sponsored by Simon & Schuster.

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.

Like, totally time to go back to the gnarly ’80s with some awesome books set in the decade of big hair, loud clothes, video games, and John Hughes movies. There’s Ernessa T. Carter’s fantastic 32 Candles and the fun My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix. We asked you to tell us your favorite book set in the ’80s and here are your favorites!

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

1984 by George Orwell

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter

Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond

26A by Diana Evans

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by by Benjamin Alire Sáenz