Although Generation X is said to be the MTV generation, they were defined by more than just television. From Judy Blume’s Fudge series to Edward Packard’s Choose Your Own Adventure books, Gen X found themselves at the center of some classic reads. We’re taking a look at a few of the many books that define Gen X.
‘The Outsiders’ by S.E. Hinton (1967)
This coming-of-age novel is unique in that the author was just a teenager when she wrote the story. Hinton began working on the novel at age 15 and by the time she was 18, the book was published.
The story follows the conflict between two rival gangs: the Greasers and the Socs. The book became so popular that it inspired a movie, TV series, and video game. Plus, the folk duo Jamestown Revival is writing the score for a 2023 stage musical based on the novel.
‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ by Judy Blume (1970)
An adolescent tale that defined many people’s childhood, this classic by Judy Blume was on many Gen Xers’ reading lists. For a book from over 50 years ago, it still has relevant themes for tween girls today, such as religion, getting your period, and dating. In fact, the book has recently been turned into a movie and is set to be released in April 2023.
‘Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing’ by Judy Blume (1972)
The first book in the Fudge series, this novel follows the relationships between Peter, 9, and his 2-year-old brother Farley, better known as “Fudge.” In the story, Peter becomes more and more annoyed at all of Fudge’s antics and how the toddler is able to get away with so much because of his age. For all of us who have younger siblings, it’s a pretty familiar tale.
‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by Douglas Adams (1979)
This science fiction series is beloved by many people around the world. The trilogy—inaccurately named since there are five books in the series—follows the misadventures of Arthur Dent, the last surviving man from Earth after the planet has been destroyed. Of course, Dent is saved by hitchhiking onto a passing spacecraft.
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‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ by Edward Packard (1979)
Being able to choose your own adventure was the absolute coolest thing to do as a kid. You were the main character in these interactive books and had the chance to create your own story. The books were inspired by bedtime stories that Packard’s daughters would help him tell. These stories weren’t just fun for his children but also for millions children around the world.
‘Sweet Valley High’ by Francine Pascal (1983)
Who can forget the adventures of identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica? The series that debuted in 1983 detailed the experiences of the twins and their friends at Sweet Valley High in a fictional town outside of Los Angeles.
‘Bright Lights, Big City’ by Jay McInerney (1984)
A book written in the second person, Bright Lights, Big City follows the escapades of a 24-year-old writer. A fact-checker for a magazine by day, he spends his evenings trying to escape his life through partying. However, he soon discovers that his previous trauma is what he’s really trying to escape from.
‘Less Than Zero’ by Bret Easton Ellis (1985)
Can you get any more Gen X than a novel that’s named after an Elvis Costello song, about a college student, and written by a 21-year-old? The book follows the main character as he becomes disconnected from the culture around him, loses faith in his friends, and reflects on events he’s just witnessed. It doesn’t get more Gen X than this.
‘Hatchet’ by Gary Paulsen (1986)
A classic young adult must-read, Hatchet follows 13-year-old Brian Robeson after he survives a plane crash. As the sole survivor, the boy’s only tool is a hatchet, which he must use to stay alive in the coming days.
Robeson learns how to survive on his own and take care of his needs. For the latchkey generation, it was a lesson most Gen Xers learned on their own.
‘Generation X: Tales For An Accelerated Culture’ by Douglas Coupland (1991)
Andy, Dag, and Claire are three names that you probably instantly recognize if you were a teen or young adult in the 1990s. The main characters are underemployed, overeducated, unpredictable, and are extremely suspicious of advertisers. This classic book is the quintessential book for Gen Xers, especially since it popularized the term Generation X.
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (1995)
A book that encapsulates the mid-1990s, High Fidelity tells the story of Rob Fleming, a record store owner, after his girlfriend leaves him.
The novel reads something of a movie—which it eventually became in 2000—as Fleming’s friends discuss mixtapes and desert-island top five lists. When his ex-girlfriend returns, Fleming commits to her and his previous disc jockey career.
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland (1995)
It’s difficult to think of another Gen X book that perfectly captured the rise of technology better than Coupland’s Microserfs. Though it first appeared as a short story for the cover article of Wired’s January 1994 issue, Coupland soon turned it into a novel.
In fact, the story showed us what blogs would look like in the future as the book contains diary entries from the narrator, Daniel.