10 Books to Read When You're Feeling Nostalgic for the Past
Feeling wistful? These dreamy books will take you back.
After the year that we've had, a little nostalgia is exactly what we need. While everyone’s sense of longing for the past is different, there’s something comforting about seeing an image or reading a book and suddenly being transported back to the person that you used to be. Even better? When a book invokes that feeling of nostalgia, even if you’ve never been in that situation before. My own sense of nostalgia revolves around the 2000s (I love queuing up a pop punk playlist filled with some of my favorite hits and rocking out while I answer emails at my day job), and I have loved engaging with that side of myself. Hopefully these 10 books will bring out the same feelings within you. Now put on your headphones, dance around to your old favorite hits, and let's get jiggy with it.
A 2020 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction, Philyaw has written a beautiful collection about spaces where Black women and girls are allowed to be as free and as safe as they can be within the walls of a sacred space. Reading this collection brought back memories of white frilly socks, fancy dresses, and Mary Janes. It’s a holy book, filled with desire, longing, wistfulness, and finding the courage to dream a little bigger.
If you haven’t watched the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, created by and starring Rachel Bloom, please stop reading this article and immediately do that. Right now. I’m not kidding. OK, good, you’re back.
The cover of Bloom's new book makes me so happy with its Sweet Valley High cover vibes. Bloom has given us a hilarious book of essays, poems, and so much more, detailing what her life was like as a "weird kid." Discussing her mental health (she was diagnosed with OCD and depression), her love of Disney, and her hit television show, Bloom leaves nothing untold, and we are grateful for it.
A personal favorite of mine, Extremely Loud is a book about grief. While the main character is a nine-year-old boy named Oskar Schell, it is not a book for children. Focusing on Oskar’s search to figure out the meaning of a key found in the closet of his late father, who died on 9/11, everything about this book heals the soul. After my grandmother passed, I reread Foer’s novel, and it means more to me now than before.
Pulitzer Prize winner Jericho Brown calls Black Girl, Call Home “a Black woman’s heart," and nothing feels more truthful. It is a breathtaking poetry collection filled with moments reflecting queer identity, race, feminism, all on the path to adulthood. I was so happy when I opened my inbox and discovered this book inside. Mans’ story feels universal in so many ways, but it will ring even stronger for Black women. Plus, that cover? It reminds me of sitting between my grandmother’s legs as she did my hair every Sunday afternoon. I miss those moments, and I miss her most of all.
Yes, I know that many of us read this in high school, but you can’t talk about the feeling of nostalgia and not mention this book. Everyone in this novel is longing for the past, especially the title character, Gatsby. Remember Daisy? Whew, talk about heightened emotions. I love this book, and I will always love this book. If you haven’t read it yet, now’s the time.
The wonderful thing about this short story collection is that there are no sad endings. Within under 200 pages, queer and trans characters fall in love, make bad decisions, and continue to thrive in all their messy glory. The best part? No one dies. They’re able to seek out whatever makes them happy in 1990s Portland. It’s a great collection filled with a lot of heart. What more can you need at a time like this?
Published in 1991, House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a classic. A coming-of-age story set in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago, readers watch Esperanza Cordero discover her voice as she learns to express her thoughts and emotions. It’s a quick read, but it packs a definitive punch, and it will stick with you for years. Vivid scenes of Chicago come alive within these pages, and it makes me miss it even more.
A heartbreaking and tender novel, Never Let Me Go questions what it is to be human. It focuses on Kathy and her friends, Ruth and Tommy, and what they discover about themselves when they leave Hailsham, an English boarding school where they are taught nothing about the outside world. If you enjoy a mystery or a love story mixed with all the emotions that come along with growing up, then you’ll love this book.
Little Witch’s Book is perfect for fans of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, or those who simply want to encourage creativity (which should be everyone). Although it’s for ages 8-12, there’s truly no age limit to creating potions and summoning spells with your friends. The beautiful illustrations within this book, carefully crafted by Olga Baumert, are worth a purchase online.
Listen: When I was in the 8th grade, I have very fond memories of rushing to the library during lunch to check out the newest installment in the Twilight series. Meyer gave me everything that I could ever want: it was set in Washington, which is where I lived at the time; there was a love triangle (I was always #TeamEdward); there were fight scenes that took my breath away, and each book was as heavy as a brick. When Midnight Sun was announced, I promptly went online and ordered my copy through my local independent bookstore (hi, Powell’s!). Midnight Sun is told through Edward’s perspective, and you know what? My internal longing is still there.