Books + Comics

Search Histories

Books about discovery and loss.

the_bodyThe Body
Stephen King
1982, Viking

The Body is one of my all-time favorite coming-of-age novels. It follows four 12-year-old boys as they hunt for Ray Brower, a kid their age who went missing from a nearby town and is presumed dead. They tell their parents they’re camping out, but instead they go on an overnight adventure to the woods, where they heard Ray’s body was spotted. Their mission is grim, but it’s also filled with moments of heart-wrenching tragedy that make you think about, as cheesy as it sounds, the point of life. The friendships between the boys are really tender—they tease each other, but they also support one another wholeheartedly when they start opening up about their individual struggles (self-esteem issues, an abusive home, a dysfunctional family, grief over a sibling’s death, etc.). It reminds me how important it is to have pals who get you. The book is short, but if you’re not a big reader, never fear—The Body was adapted into a movie called Stand by Me, which I also totally recommend (and so does Ruby B.). —Shriya

foundFound: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items From Around the World
Davy Rothbart
2012, Fireside

The idea behind Found magazine, in a nutshell: Found objects like discarded notes, old letters, and tattered photos are compiled, scrapbook style, without any descriptions besides who discovered them and where. This is one of those projects that is so simple in its conception but so exquisite in its execution that the first time I saw it I thought, How has this not existed forever?! Flipping through it is like intruding on a stranger’s most intimate feelings and experiences. You also become really aware of how much can be conveyed through scraps of paper: the tender, the sentimental, the silly, and the smutty. I’ve been a longtime fan of Found the magazine, and a more recent fan of Found the book, which presents some of the magazine’s greatest hits. I wanted to refer to some of its specific ephemera in this recommendation, but I’m in the process of moving and everything I own is packed in boxes, including Found. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I jetted off to my local bookstore to see if they had a copy of the book. “I need it for Rookie!” I said. They didn’t have any in stock, but another customer overheard me and offered his input: “Why don’t you write about trying to find Found magazine—it can be a conceptual project!” I rolled my eyes, and then he introduced himself as Micah Lexier, the conceptual artist. So, thanks for the idea, Micah. I totally used it. —Anna F.

tiny-beautiful-thingsTiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar
Cheryl Strayed
2012, Vintage Books

It’s been a while since I read this collection of advice by Cheryl Strayed, which she wrote for The Rumpus under the pseudonym Sugar. I don’t remember a lot of specific problems anonymous people brought to her, or their exact details, other than that they were about love, doubt, money, anger, lies, cheating, forgiveness, family, and friends (basically, the heaviest, most important, most gut-wrenching stuff there is). But even just skimming the pages I’ve dog-eared, I come across, over and over again, crystal-clear gems such as: “The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of love.” It doesn’t even matter what prompted her to give someone such loving guidance. The advice applies to everything! And you’ll find a lot more of it in this book. —Lena

The_CircleThe Circle
Dave Eggers
2013, Knopf/McSweeney’s

The plot of this terrifying novel, set just a few years in the future, begins when Mae Holland lands a job at the Circle, the most powerful company in the world. The Circle defeated Google and Facebook in the battle for internet relevancy, and is quickly becoming the repository for all the world’s information. The bright-eyed Mae arrives at a corporate campus teeming with pretty young coworkers, hilariously trite art and architecture, and endless rounds of company happy hours. She’s made it! But as talented as she is at her customer-service job, she learns that really getting ahead at the Circle entails total immersion in the company’s online social network. Mae’s descent into a world in which people make life decisions based on their follower counts will make you feel uncomfortably exposed. This is a total sci-fi page-turner—I mangled a few cuticles while I blew through the chapters. By the time I saw the Circle’s true colors (its motto, “Privacy is theft,” haunts my dreams), I was questioning the merit of my own time spent traveling the highways and byways of retweets, likes, and check-ins. —Caitlin D.

bad-indiansBad Indians: A Tribal Memoir
Deborah A. Miranda
2013, Heyday

Deborah Miranda is a member of the Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen Nation of Native Americans. Like many Native American tribes in California, the Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen were nearly wiped out during Spanish “missionization” and American enslavement and displacement—a period that lasted from the 1700s through the early 1900s. Miranda writes in the introduction, “As a mixed-blood ‘Mission Indian,’ I have spent a lifetime being told I’m not a ‘real Indian’—in large part because I do not have the language of my ancestors, and much of our culture was literally razed to the ground.” She goes on to say, “Culture is ultimately lost when we stop telling stories of who we are.” This book is Miranda’s way of preserving her Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen culture. It’s angry, it’s funny, it’s smart, and it’s transcendent. She connects her own history with her ancestors’ and comes to an understanding of herself that I can only dream of finding someday. —Stephanie

holesHoles
Louis Sachar
1998, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Holes is about a kid who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our seemingly doomed protagonist is Stanley Yelnats, a boy who is arrested for stealing a pair of sneakers—a crime he committed, but without realizing it. Stanley is sent to a juvenile correctional facility called Camp Green Lake, which neither is green nor has a lake. At the “camp” he and his fellow inmates are forced to dig holes in the desert all day. They’re told it’s to build character, but the people in charge have a secret plan. The book is set in present-day Texas, but a lot of the action happens in 19th-century Latvia and is dependent upon events from Stanley’s great-great-grandfather’s life. While he’s digging in the sand, Stanley learns that he has to make amends for his ancestor’s mistakes if he wants to end the family’s very real curse. This book has a little bit of everything–family vibes, soul-searching, friendships, adventure, murder, lizards, treasure…you name it! —Shriya

aquamarineAquamarine
Carol Anshaw
1992, Mariner Books

I spend a lot of time considering all the paths I might have taken but didn’t, or couldn’t. I think about what would have happened if I looked different, or grew up somewhere else, or had other interests. I love Aquamarine because it addresses these exact types of questions. It’s about Jesse Austin, a teenage Olympic swimmer who loses the gold medal to an Australian contender. From there, three very different selves she could have become are explored in depth, and you really get to know and love each of the women Jesse might have been. Reading Aquamarine made me think back on all of my teenage milestones, both good and bad, and consider how thankful I am that they made me who I am today. —Brittany

the-virginsThe Virgins
Pamela Erens
2013, Tin House Books

The Virgins is set at an East Coast prep school in the 1980s. It’s a beautiful, difficult story about a girl narrated by the boy who’s in love with her. Bruce, our VERY-EASY-TO-HATE narrator, has a huge crush on the new girl, Aviva. Bruce makes his feelings about Aviva known in the most despicable way possible—by trying to rape her soon after they meet. Then Bruce watches as Aviva has a REAL relationship with another boy named Seung. Erens writes truthfully about first loves, first times, and how insecurity can do terrible damage to others and oneself. —Monika

songs-for-a-teenage-nomadSongs for a Teenage Nomad
Kim Culbertson
2007, Hip Pocket Press

Calle arrives in Andreas Bay, California, at the beginning of her freshman year. Before then, she’d moved from town to town with her mother for most of her life. She hasn’t let herself connect with people in a long time. Instead, she clings to and lives through her song journal, where she relates her memories through music—the Madonna-themed birthday party, the No Doubt song at the barbecue, the Ani Difranco song that her mom hummed outside a diner. But you start to get glimpses of her present, like her first love, and what she learns about a father who named her, then left. This book is like reading—or living—your favorite mix CD, tape, or playlist. If, like me, you use music to help you figure out who you are and to get through your life, Calle will feel like your twin. You’ll completely lose yourself in her story and the songs she uses to tell it. —Stephanie

a-scene-betweenA Scene in Between: Tripping Through the Fashions of U.K. Indie Music 1980–1988
Sam Knee
2013, Cicada

Recently a friend of mine revealed that she hates everything about the ’80s, especially the decade’s aesthetics. I know my disagreement with her is biased because that’s when I came of age, but my guess is that when she thinks of the ’80s, she pictures, like, this:

80scollage copy2

When to me, WHO WAS ACTUALLY THERE, it looked more like this:

90scollage copy

That second set of photos come from Sam Knee’s brilliant book A Scene in Between, which does one specific thing and does it very well: It collects pictures of UK indie bands taken between 1980 and 1988 (Knee says he chose ’88 as the endpoint because that year brought “the ghastly advent of all things ‘baggy’”). It doesn’t bother itself with the music, which has been well covered everywhere else; this book is only about OUTFITS. Every page is just picture after picture of cute boys and girls with fuzzy bowl cuts, faded skinny jeans, heavy eye makeup, oversize sweaters, schoolboy blazers. This would have been my fashion bible when I was in high school and worshiped Morrissey and prayed every night that I could get the radio in my bedroom in Detroit to pick up Brave New Waves, a show from across the border in Canada that was devoted to New Wave and indie music (it worked about once a week, and not for very long). But even if you weren’t born then, this book is still really fun to look at today. Most of the bands are ones you’ve never heard of, but there are also the most awwww-inspiring pictures taken by fans at early shows by the Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Vaselines. There are also a few bonus interviews and an essay by David Conway, My Bloody Valentine’s original singer, in which he reveals that early on in their existence, the band sat down and mapped out some fashion ground rules worthy of the Plastics: Bowl haircuts were mandatory. Leather pants were forbidden. Black was allowed, but in limited contexts. How adorable is that? I will say that it feels weird that every single person in this book is white! On the other hand, I don’t remember there being a lot of artists of color on Brave New Waves, either. So there’s one thing that’s gotten better, I guess? Why am I talking about this? This is not a racist book. This is a gorgeous book that shows you that no matter what the accepted idea is of a given time period or person or thing, the bigger picture always contains pockets of wonderfulness that you will miss if you just listen to what everyone tells you. —Anaheed

unbearable-lightness-of-being-milan-kunderaThe Unbearable Lightness of Being
Milan Kundera
1984, Harper & Row

Reading this book was the first time in a while that I have felt completely overwhelmed and moved by my love for a novel. Kundera plays with idea that what we do and the decisions we make can give our lives lightness, through joy, or weight, through tragedy. The story is nonlinear—it follows plot lines and characters that are not necessarily tied to one another by time or place. I really identified with the ways the stories diverged and then came together, and I felt myself getting a little bit closer to understanding my own life’s importance. —Brittany

norwegian-woodNorwegian Wood
Haruki Murakami
2000, Vintage Books

Toru Watanabe is in love with Naoko, his best friend, Kizuki’s, girlfriend. Toru and Naoko start hanging out and become close, but under horrible circumstances: Kizuki commits suicide. Toru and Naoko take long walks together and try to understand what to do now that the most important person in both of their lives is gone. After Naoko goes away to a clinic to recover from the tragedy, Toru agonizes over whether he should start dating Midori, a feisty gal he meets at his university. Midori is the true star of this book. She calls her male classmates out on their sexism and tries to bring Toru out of his shell of sadness. I felt like Midori was my new best friend and wished I could chill in ’60s Tokyo with her. (We’d maybe ditch Toru, but I guess we’d let him come along ’cause we felt bad for him.) Because of her, I read Norwegian Wood in almost one sitting. —Monika ♦

13 Comments

  • doikoon April 4th, 2014 12:53 AM

    During the last few sentences of Anaheed’s rev+rec a rock anthem worthy of someone’s motorcycle ride into the sunlight in a checkered white/pink elvis-like wing/fringed jacket started blowing in my head.

    Run. On.

  • bookishbrenna April 4th, 2014 1:33 AM

    I already had Holes on my to-reads list, and that little summary made me want to read it even more!
    Aquamarine, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Norwegian Wood also sound very interesting to me!

  • Christie April 4th, 2014 5:03 AM

    Will definitely be reading most, if not all, of these books!

  • Erin. April 4th, 2014 10:04 AM

    There could be a Literally the Best Thing Ever entirely dedicated to Midori, that’s how awesome she is. (Or to Murakami himself, for being one of the best writers ever.)

    I just finished reading Sputnik Sweetheart, which I think also fits with the theme of these books. I don’t often read novels where the thoughts and emotions are actually too much for me to handle or comprehend, but this was one of them. I’d have to read it a dozen times, I think, to understand it better. So, if you’ve already read Norwegian Wood, I’d recommend Sputnik Sweetheart.

  • Elizabete April 4th, 2014 10:06 AM

    Oh, wow. I want to read ALL of those books!

    Holes got me at: “a lot of the action happens in 19th-century Latvia” MY HOME COUNTRY, YOU GUYS! I alway get excited when see it mentioned on Rookie.
    I haven’t read Norwegian Wood (yet), but the film is incredibly beautiful, it has Rinko Kikuchi and Kiko Mizuhara!

    http://melodyfairitale.wordpress.com

  • Ella W April 4th, 2014 2:40 PM

    Holes is such a great book! Also, I really want to read ‘The Circle’ – it’s been added to my neverending Goodreads ‘to read’ list!

  • irismonster April 4th, 2014 2:59 PM

    I love the movie version of The Body, Stand By Me, so much, because I watched it at precisely the right point in time and it really echoes my own childhood, galavanting in the forest and dealing with loss and all that. I haven’t read the book yet and I don’t know if it would add or detract from the film. I need advice on this one!

    the movie also inspired a cinematic nostalgia phase for me that I wrote about on my blog http://weevilsofevil.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/a-list-of-nostalgic-movies-that-you-should-definitely-watch/

    Iris

  • dreamygirl April 4th, 2014 5:24 PM

    murakami is great at feisty gals agh

  • madmadeline April 4th, 2014 7:16 PM

    great suggestions!!

    a word of advice about Norwegian Wood – DO NOT watch the movie first. I personally thought it wasn’t a great representation of the book (although it was pretty). the book is amazin though, and Murakami’s other works are equally engaging.

    • daydream April 9th, 2014 9:22 PM

      I didn’t like the movie that much either… I think the actors couldn’t really capture the vibe that the characters had in the book.

  • rhymeswithorange April 6th, 2014 1:52 AM

    Ahhh! I LOVE Found (I have my whole own collection of finds) and Tiny Beautiful Things, and Holes is one of my favorite books! I will have to try some of the others on this list, particularly Norweigan Wood, I really liked the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle :)

  • canijustgo April 6th, 2014 4:45 PM

    Stand by me is the best movie and I’m so glad to hear there’s a book about it

  • Jes June 28th, 2014 3:40 PM

    I think Holes is probably one of the best books I read in my childhood. I often find myself thinking about it even though the last time I read it was seven years ago.