Summer reading can change everything. 

The biggest weekend of the summer is here, for those of you who are stateside. And that means our favorite adventurous D&D playing, mall-shopping, monster-killing crew from Hawkins, Indiana are back for another season of horror and delight. So what would we recommend to these characters of Stranger Things (and the swashbucklers in your library, too)? This list is for you. 

Jonathan Byers: A somewhat pretentious teen who we know is Vonnegut fan? Summer ’85 we’re sure to see him reading Breakfast of Champions. Modern-day Jonathan enjoys the darkly humorous and unconventional literary fiction of Michael Chabon, but right now he’s leaning in to his internship at the local paper with Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, 2018. 

Joyce Byers: When busy single mom Joyce Byers has time to pick up a book, she turns to the work of bestselling Gothic novelist V.C. Andrews., to read about families even more troubled than her own. In the summer of ’85, she’s reading Seeds of Yesterday, the 4th book in Andrews’ legendary Dollanganger family series. In 2019, she is looking forward to the release of Beneath the Attic, a prequel to the series that takes place in the 1890s (and possibly Andrews’ most high-profile posthumous release since her death in 1986).

Will Byers: Oh, Will. We’ll give Will Underground Kingdom by Edward Packard. This title was published in 1983, one of the earliest Choose Your Own Adventure books published, and we think a good way for Will to have some control over the spooky/scary factor as he attempts to learn what happened to Doctor Vivaldi in that seemingly bottomless crevasse.  For 2019 we’re giving Will In the Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant. (See NoveList Theme TH Don’t go in there!)

Steve Harrington: Steve can totally relate to Babysitting is a Dangerous Job by Willo Davis Roberts, a middle-grade mystery published in the spring of 1985. These days, having finished the entire series of Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier, Steve is moving on to the brand-new middle-grade series by Caroline Cala, Best Babysitters Ever

Billy Hargrove: In the summer of 1985, mean metalhead Billy Hargrove turns to Less than Zero, longing for the fast life in his native Southern California. And in summer 2019 we think he’d like another bleak California-based story of youthful depravity: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson.

Dustin Henderson: Creature features are Dustin’s style, given his own experience raising Dart from a tadpole. (See NoveList Theme TH creature feature.) Alan Moore’s early 80s run on Swamp Thing has him scouring the comic book bins in 1985. In 2019, we think he’d like Christine Lynn Herman’s new YA paranormal, The Devouring Gray.

Chief Jim Hopper: Like many of Stephen King’s protagonists, Hopper is a good dude doing his best to cope with some terrifying situations. Luckily, King’s story collection Skeleton Crew is the bestselling book of the summer of 1985, and Hopper feels seen. In 2019, we think he’d take a break from the horror and have some apocalyptic fun with young detective Hank Palace and The Last Policeman series.

Eleven: She’ll take a page from Hopper’s book and kick off her summer reading with the Stephen King’s Carrie — a natural fit for a telekinetic & telepathic teen girl who’s experienced some real trauma already. But what is Jane “El” Hopper reading in 2019? The Power by Naomi Alderman!

Max Mayfield: Ace skater Max Mayfield’s reading material of choice is Thrasher magazine, duh. She has a subscription in 2019 that she’s held since at least the summer of 1985, as well as a vintage Thrasher magazine hoodie that she lets her niece borrow. Perhaps a good memoir for her 2019 summer reading. We recommend Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

Lucas Sinclair: We see Lucas in 1985 picking up another Stephen King title: Different Seasons. But it’s the novella The Body that’s his favorite. What’s better than four best friends on a quest? So here and now in 2019, we’ll give him Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero, of course!

Mike Wheeler: Also out in 1985 is the Unearthed Arcana expansion to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. We think Mike’s waiting for the school year to end to dive into this one. For sensitive and woke Mike Wheeler, whose closest friends have experienced some real trauma in their short lives so far, we are giving him Destroy All Monsters by Sam J. Miller for his summer ’19 reading.  

Nancy Wheeler: Summer 1985 Nancy is picking up a little dystopian future, something that could *NEVER* happen in real life, so she’s reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Boy is 2019 Nancy in for a surprise. Speaking of which, we’ll recommend Circe by Madeline Miller to modern Nancy. We know she'll dig Circe's journey as she learns to harness her powers against gods and mortals alike in this re-telling of Homer's The Odyssey.

An easy strategy for getting at these strange reads into the hands of your summer reading sorcerers (and rangers and zoomers, etc.) is to use NoveList’s theme childhood trauma together with the genre horror. To find fiction for all ages, type this string into the NoveList search bar: GN horror AND TH childhood trauma

You can then use the checkboxes under “Audience” to filter for any age level.

Want to keep the pub date in the outrageous 80s? Most definitely! We’ve got you covered. Adjust the years under Publication Date to limit to your desired dates. 

Try our ready-made list of adult fiction For Fans Of Stranger Things to find books with similarly well-developed characters, escalating suspense, and genre-blending plot twists: UI 444377 

If you’re looking for other ways to engage your pop-culture vulture patrons, watch a replay of our of webinar “Unlocking pop culture to improve your readers’ advisory.”  

Autumn Winters is the Recommendations Lead at NoveList and a member of the Book Squad. She is currently reading gothic haunted house novel Theme Music by T. Marie Vandelly. 

Molly Wyand is the Communications Specialist at NoveList. She is currently devouring Normal People by Sally Rooney.