10 Must-read Books For Young Adults

Figuring out the adult world may seem impossible, but these books will help you through!
Image Source: unsplash.com

Let’s face it: 2020 was a terrible year for all of us. It seems like we were smacked with one problem after another, and if you’re a part of the younger generation, it can feel like the world is handing you a mess that you have no idea how to clean up. It’s a lot of pressure just trying to figure out who you are and where you belong, and there is so much to learn about the world it can feel like there’s no good place to start.

Each of the books below has not only helped a lot of people get through one difficult situation in life or another, but also in understanding - that figuring out who you are, and how the world works takes time, and is an ongoing process.

As a young adult, reading these books helped me cope with the transition into adulthood. The topics covered across these books are diverse, but they’ve all taught me something about how people live through difficult times. It’s far from a how-to guide, but it’s a fun place to start! If any of these books sound interesting to you, pick them up and start reading! You might be surprised where you end up.

Here is the list of must-read books for young adults:

1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Image Source: Amazon.com

This novel tells the story of Randle Patrick McMurphy through the eyes of ‘The Chief,’ a resident of the mental ward dominated by Nurse Ratched. Throughout the novel, the day-to-day lives of the men in the mental ward are illustrated through brutal metaphors and gripping mental images. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is about life in a mental ward but has striking parallels to the real world.

The narrator of the story, The Chief, talks about the Combine: the world outside the mental ward, and how it wants you to fit into a nice tidy square and be a quiet cog in the machine. 

Sometimes it can feel like all the world wants for you is to get in line, sit back and go with the flow. This novel shows us how people who don’t fit into society’s molds cope with having to try to fit in where they don’t feel they belong. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a great novel to read if you’re struggling to feel a sense of belonging in the world.

2. The Green Mile by Stephen King

Image Source: Amazon.com

Stephen King is known for his classic horror thrillers, and while this novel does not appear to be that on the surface, it still provides moments of gut-wrenching terror. The Green Mile tells the story of death row inmate John Coffey and the impact he has on the guards and other inmates on death row while he waits for his sentence to be carried out.

Coffey is an amiable man and hardly seems like the type of person who could commit the crime he was sentenced to death for. As time passes, Coffey is shown to have an interesting effect on the guards and his fellow inmates and is even revealed to have a secret gift. 

The Green Mile is full of twists and turns, with an ending that will make you ponder some of the bigger things in life. I recommend this book to those who want to challenge their expectations in life.

3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Image Source: Amazon.com

Little Women is deemed a literary classic, and for good reason. It tells the story of the March sisters, following the events of their lives as they grow up and go their separate ways. Sisters Jo, Beth, Amy, and Meg have a strong bond but are vastly different people, and their relationships change with time as they venture off to find themselves. 

As a young woman, reading this book felt like a rite of passage. I loved the story of the sisters, and I cried as they drifted apart and were brought back together over the course of their lives. I loved Jo’s ferocity and aspired to have that kind of confidence in myself as I grew older. Reading Little Women was like getting a chance to glimpse what growing up is like. Times and circumstances change, but we all deal with finding who we are, figuring out our place in the world, and trying to balance doing right by yourself and by others. If you haven’t read this classic by now, do yourself a favor and pick it up.

4. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Image Source: Amazon.com

The Devil in the White City tells the story of the events surrounding the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. The story is told from two vastly different perspectives: that of the architects involved with designing and creating the World’s Fair installation, and that of serial killer H. H. Holmes, who is suspected of killing as many as 200 people during the World’s Fair.

The Devil in the White City starts slowly, showing the events leading up to Chicago being chosen to host the 1893 World’s Fair, but once construction of the fair begins, the novel becomes increasingly hard to put down. This novel is based on official documents, like the Official Guide to the World's Columbian Exposition, and the personal journals of the people involved, including H. H. Holmes, and it reveals the dark truth about Chicago at the turn of the 20th century. 

Seeing the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, an event largely deemed the height of success for architecture at the time, portrayed through two opposite perspectives opened my eyes to how limited our perspective is of the world around us. If you like suspense, are interested in history and architecture, or just want to read a story with more than one side: this book is for you.

5. Next by Michael Crichton

Image Source: Amazon.com

Next is a fictional novel, but the science presented within isn’t that far off from reality. It’s all about genes in this story, and the possibilities presented are both terrifying and exciting. Next pose questions about the ethics of gene editing and patenting biological materials to make cures for diseases. It won’t be long before the scenarios depicted in this novel will become scientifically possible, and reading this is a good way to prepare for handling the ethics of living out these scenarios.

Next drove me to peruse through some of my old Scientific American magazines to check the fiction against articles concerning the scientific capabilities of genetic engineering at the time. I recommend this novel to anyone curious about the future possibilities of gene editing, and the potential consequences.

6. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

Image Source: Amazon.com

In They Called Us Enemy, George Takei tells the story of his and his family’s time in an internment camp during World War II. Reading the novel, you see the way the country dealt with the attack on Pearl Harbor, becoming more and more suspicious of Japanese Americans until they began restricting their rights and finally sent them to internment camps. You also see how it personally affected George Takei, both while he was in the camp, and later on in his life. 

This graphic novel is one of my favorite books that has been published in the last few years. It shows how fear and suspicion can negatively alter people’s perceptions and gives a glimpse into what it is like to be subjected to other people’s fears and suspicions, no matter how unfounded they may be.

7. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen

Image Source: Amazon.com

North of Beautiful is the story of Terra: a young girl with a large port-wine stain on her face, an emotionally abusive father, and a self-conscious, but well-meaning, mother. Terra has perfected everything about her image to hide her insecurities: from her perfectly straight hair and obsessive workout routine to the loads of makeup she skillfully applies each day, her outward image is perfect.

But her father is always belittling her and her mother regardless. Terra’s life changes for the better when she and her mother meet an eccentric family that sees them as beautiful and values them, imperfections and all. Slowly, Terra starts to see the beauty within herself and takes action to make her life the way she wants it to be.

I read North of Beautiful for the first time as a young girl and have read it countless times since. It’s a fun novel with a touch of romance, and it taught me a lot about how people see themselves versus how others see them. I recommend this book to anyone having trouble finding beautiful things about themselves.

8. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Image Source: Amazon.com

Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1931, imagining what life would be like in the year 2540 AD. In Huxley’s version of the future, society runs like a machine. Reproduction is no longer a natural process but is handled by machines. People are sorted at birth into different classes based on mental capacity and strength.

A drug called Soma is distributed to everyone to keep them happy at all times. It’s strange to read about this strange vision of the future proposed in 1931, as it feels like some of Huxley’s predictions may be possible in another 500 years. Technology is advancing at an exponential rate, and people are increasingly choosing technology over nature. 

When I first read Brave New World, I was blown away by the strangeness of the society Huxley proposed, but, as time passes, I see how some of the things he proposes could become a reality. Brave New World posits that humans need to be exposed to the natural element, and can’t be strictly controlled without consequence. I recommend this novel if you’re wondering how a society that seems to work perfectly can collapse in on itself when one cog falls out of place.

9. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

Image Source: Amazon.com

This graphic novel has a similar moral to that of Brave New World, only the social elite in V for Vendetta doesn’t coerce the masses into cooperation with drugs, but with fear. If you’ve seen the movie with Natalie Portman you have the general idea of what the graphic novel is about, but the way it is told originally by Alan Moore and David Lloyd is unparalleled. The details behind the story, the heartbreaking imagery, and the air of mystery as the story unfolds is masterful. 

Reading V for Vendetta in 2020 gave me a lot to think about. I couldn’t help but see similarities between the propaganda in the graphic novel, and the propaganda tied to the election. If you’re someone who takes everything at face value without question: read this book.

10. Dune by Frank Herbert

Image Source: Amazon.com

Finally, we arrive at Dune by Frank Herbert. This novel is the first in a very long series, covering the life of Paul Atreides and his journey to become the savior of the planet Arrakis, aka Dune. It’s a science-fiction epic that takes you on an exciting journey full of battles, mysticism, and politics. The planet Arrakis is a desert planet; there is very little water anywhere, but they have an abundance of a valuable resource called Spice. This resource is controlled by the Atreides family at the beginning of the novel, and Paul’s father wants to meet with the natives of Arrakis, called the Fremen, to see how they survive on the harsh planet. 

Watching Paul and the Fremen cope with life in their desert environment, and seeing their plan to terraform the planet, made me think about humans here on Earth. Our planet has limited resources. Sure it’s still blue and green, but the human population only keeps growing, and if humanity can’t find sustainable ways to support our population, we may have to look for a new home elsewhere in the stars. This is a great novel to get you thinking about the future of humanity.

Life is messy and the world is far from easy to figure out, but these books have helped me make sense of what’s going on, and I feel they can help you too. The best part about being young is all the potential you have.

Young people have time to figure out what they want and make their dreams a reality, but it can be difficult to figure out just what that dream is, or why it’s so hard to get it off the ground. Each of these books has something different to teach you, but the lessons in all of them are priceless. If any one of these books sounded interesting to you; pick it up today and start reading!

Welcome to my profile! Here you'll find well researched and personal articles on some of my favorite topics: check it out!

No Saves yet. Share it with your friends.

Write Your Diary

Get Free Access To Our Publishing Resources

Independent creators, thought-leaders, experts and individuals with unique perspectives use our free publishing tools to express themselves and create new ideas.