5 books to read after you’re done binging 'Stranger Things'
The penultimate season of Stranger Things—"volume 1", at least—is now streaming on Netflix, with the remaining two episodes of Season 4 set to drop at the start of July.
With that in mind, if you are looking out for reads of the same genre or tone of the show, here are 5 books that will scratch the "Stranger Things itch"—if, like me, you are eagerly waiting to see what happens next.
These books, full of horror, humour, grisly monsters, and misfit kids, are the perfect remedy to fill the gap in your time until the show returns with more episodes.
The Duffer Brothers, the creators of Stranger Things, are avid fans of horror master Stephen King, and originally wanted to remake his cult classic, It. Once denied the rights, they decided to make Stranger Things instead to pay an affectionate homage to King's novel, while also using it as an elaborate love letter to all things 1980s.
According to them, their inspiration took form in the title card. The font used for the name of the show was actually inspired by the "big, chunky, ominous-looking" fonts used for the titles of King's paperbacks from the 80s.
The author himself caught wind of Stranger Things and shared his praises rather vocally on Twitter, saying that it felt like watching his greatest hits.
The beloved writer's fingerprints are all over the show's episodes, particularly in the storyline of the nerdy, misunderstood kids being pursued by a monster, which is straight out of IT.
Doubleday Books, 2017
This horror-comedy novel deals with a former group of children detectives—much in the vein of Scooby-Doo—who reunite in their mid-twenties to reopen a case that traumatised them as kids and get to the bottom of their nightmares.
The author sprinkles in some tongue-in-cheek tropes from and references to every "young detective" series throughout the years—from Nancy Drew to the The Famous Five—for a delightful tale that's equal parts brilliant and genuinely haunting horror. The narrative ultimately follows a group of mystery-solvers determined to make sense of their nonsensical world, not unlike Stranger Things.
READY PLAYER ONE
Crown Publishers, 2011
This book is loaded with enough 80s nostalgia to please devoted Stranger Things fans. In a bleak but easily imagined 2044, Wade Watts, an impoverished high school student, lives primarily online alongside billions of others, via a massive online game by the name of OASIS where players race to unravel the puzzles creator James Halliday had built into the game before his death. The ultimate prize is that the winner will take eventual control of the virtual world's parent company, as well as inherit staggering wealth. When Wade stumbles on a clue, he's plunged into a high-stakes conflict with a corporation dedicated to unravelling Halliday's riddles.
The riddles are drawn from Dungeons and Dragons, old Atari video games, and the 1983 film, WarGames, among other articles of the same nature.
There's a film adaptation of the book directed by Steven Spielberg, whose movies are a major source of inspiration for Stranger Things. That being said, if you don't get any of the pop cultural references, a significant aspect of the plot and action of Ready Player One might be lost on you.
MY BEST FRIEND'S EXORCISM
Quirk Books, 2016
Set in 1988, My Best Friend's Exorcism tells the tale of Gretchen and Abby who have been best friends since the fourth grade. One night, at a sleepover at a friend's house, Gretchen takes off to go skinny dipping and seemingly disappears into the woods. After hours of searching, the girls finally find her, wandering in the woods and acting very strangely. It comes to light that Gretchen has apparently been possessed by a demon, and Abby is left to handle the situation.
Stranger Things and My Best Friend's Exorcism give us an eerily similar glimpse at the world of demons and aliens with a splendid 80s twist. They both are heartwarming stories about friendship, with horror elements.
One of the most undeniably charming aspects of the 80s was its music, and Stranger Things features a list of some of the decade's greatest songs, from The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" to Madonna's "Material Girl." Similarly, each chapter of My Best Friend's Exorcism is titled after a popular 80s song, from the likes of Madonna and Bonnie Tyler.
SUSPICIOUS MINDS (STRANGER THINGS #1)
Cornerstone Digital, 2019
Suspicious Minds has been written as a prequel to Stranger Things. The book dives into the life of Terry Ives—Eleven's mother—and the trail of events that eventually leads to Eleven's birth and the secret of her powers she has gained through Martin Brenner's horrific experiments.
The author and editor of the book have closely worked with Paul Dichter, a consultant from Netflix and staff writer on the show, while developing its source material.
"Writing a Stranger Things book would be fun no matter what, but knowing that it's designed to fit within the show and extend the experience for fans in an official way makes it even better", the writer said in an interview. "It was a perfect mesh between that collaboration and the freedom to invent key elements", Bond explained.
If you are a fan of Stranger Things, you owe it to yourself to read this book.
Shababa Iqbal is a contributor to Daily Star Books.