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Recommended Reading - Fiction

Reading books is one of life's greatest pleasures, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you are looking for a new book to get stuck into, here are a selection of novels that I really really enjoyed whilst at school and university.

This is not just a list of books that an adult is telling you to read. This list includes books that made me cry, that made me laugh, that kept me so hooked that I read them for hours without putting them down. Many of these books completely changed the way I saw life. The books in the first four sections are books that I read between the ages of 12 and 20 and genuinly loved. The fifth and sixth sections contains some Young Adult Literature that the 15 year old still inside me really wanted an excuse to read.

The final section is a  list of books some of my friends most enjoyed reading when they were 12-18. These are books that real people loved and think you will too.

When I have more time I will finish adding synopses.

* Starred books are probably best suited to people aged 16+

More thoughtful books that generally had an impact on how I viewed the world

  • His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
    If you only read three books for pleasure before you leave school, read these three. Northern Lights is a gripping adventure that takes Lyra to the Arctic trying to rescue her best friend. This book is about friendship, trust and betrayal; and is set in one of the most original and brilliant steampunk-esque universe. The Amber Spyglass takes the trilogy to a whole new level of epicness with a beautifully crafted plot that makes the book impossible to put down. Pullman sensitively explores deep issues including theology, first love and personal sacrafice. he is a master storyteller who writes excellent literature. (Northern Lights 11+, The Subtle Knife 12+, The Amber Spyglass 13+)
  • The Butterfly Tattoo by Philip Pullman
    While this book is currently out of print, I believe it to be one of Pullman's most underrated acheivements. This thriller struck a chord with me when I read it in Year 10, and was one of the best 'coming-of-age' books I read, and really made me think about our own social repsonsibilities. And it has a great love story running through it. (15+)
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
    I won't say much about this book, because it is both simple and complex at the same time. If you enjoy thinking about life, or are unsure about your path in life, read this book. (12+)
  • The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
    This is a gripping thriller about books. Well, it's about much more than books, but that's the overriding theme. It is set in post-Civil War Barcelona, and follows a boy's obsession with a book called The Shadow of the Wind and its elusive author; and how it takes over his life as he enters adulthood. This book is dark and beautiful. (14+)
  • Now I Know by Aidan Chambers
    This is the book that first got me interested in exploring spirituality and religion. An essential read for anyone who is exploring their own faith, agnosticism or atheisism. And it's also an all round good read because Aidan Chambers is a brilliant Young Adult Fiction writer. (12-18)
  • The Ringmaster's Daughter by Jostein Gaarder
    This book is about stories; or more specifically a boy who comes up with more stories than he knows what to do with. As an adult he starts selling his story ideas to authors with writer's block, but soon gets tangled up in his web of lies. Read this, and Jostein Gaarder's other books - they are all awesome! (12+)
  • The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
    The story of four young friends trying to make their way across war-torn Poland to try and find their parents. Brilliantly readable and moving. Based on a true story. (11-14)
  • If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor*
    If you enjoy words, poetry and literature, you will probably enjoy this book. It is beautifully lyrical and very well observed. I won't say much else as I don't want to ruin the surprises. (16+)
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime by Mark Haddon
    A brilliantly touching book who's narrator has autism. But you probably already knew that. (12+)
  • Face and Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah
    Two very well written books about personal identity, belonging and the ways in which we are perceived by society. Beauty is more than skin deep. (12-17)
  • Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
    This is the original coming of age novel. This book really gets to the heart of what it is to be a teenager. (13+)
  • Dear Nobody by Berlie Doherty
    This is the only book on my list that was a set text in English. In general I didn't enjoy the books I was made to study in school, but this one was an exception. I found it deeply moving and it really opened my eyes and made me think about what pregnancy actually meant.

Books that were really fun to read

I've left off Harry Potter on accounts of everyone (hopefully) having heard of it. If you haven't read Harry Potter I urge you to do so, like, now. (Not because it's good literature, just because of its cultural significance.)

  • Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman
    Oh look, Pullman also wrote a Victorian era mystery/detective series with a strong female protagonist. Guess what? It's awesome. (11-18)
  • Alex Rider series by Antony Horrowitz
    He's 14 and a spy. There are gadgets, car chases, mad evil villians, explosions, plot twists and a cute girl. What more do you want from a book? The film may have sucked, but the books rock. I read the first book aged 11 and the final book in one sitting aged 21 when it eventually came out. (11-18)
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
    Artemis is an evil genius. And 12. And he steals a lot of gold from some tech-savvy fairies. Eoin Colfer is a hilarious writer. (11-16 - Who am I kidding, I still read these! - 11+)
  • Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
    This is a comic science fiction classic that I often reference in my lessons. Adams uses the vastness of space to poke fun at society. Laugh out loud funny. Hopefully you haven't been put off by the disappointing film adaptation. (12+)
  • Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn
    It's about a boy who discovers he belongs to a tribe of semi-magical ninja assassins and his forbidden love for a beautiful noble-born girl in a japanese-dynasty-esque fantasy world. Brilliant. I still reread these books aged 22! (12-16/all people with an inner teenager)
  • Wind on Fire trilogy by William Nicholson
    A fantasy series about escaping slavery. I read these a long time ago, so have forgotten the details, but I remember them being awesome. (11-16)
  • Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
    Terry Pratchett has written a ridiculous number of brilliant, hilarious books that make us laugh by holding up a mirror to society.
    Younger readers (10-13) should start with The Carpet People, The Amazing Maurice or the Nomes series (Truckers, Diggers and Wings).
    Older readers (14+) should (as I did) start half-way through the Discworld series with the "Watch Trilogy" (Guards! Guards!, Feet of Clay, Men at Arms) or Pyramids, Moving Pictures or Soul Music. A lot of people also recommend starting with Mort.
    Alternatively start with more recent ones such as Going Postal (linked above) and Making Money.
  • The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkein
    Classic fantasy epics. These books are partly responsible for becoming a geek (and proud of it) and definitely helped shaped my teenage years. (Hobbit 11-16, LOTR 13+)

Classic books every young person should read

(Synopses from Amazon)

  • My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
    The autobiography of Gerald who likes to collect and protect wild animals. When his eccentric family move to a greek island the ten year old is let loose on nature. (11+)
  • Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
    I think the title says it all here. Phileas Fogg rashly bets his companions £20,000 that he can travel around the entire globe in just eighty days. He immediately sets off for Dover, accompanied by his hot-blooded French manservant, Passepartout. Traveling by train, steamship, sailboat, sledge, and even elephant, they must overcome storms, kidnappings, natural disasters, Sioux attacks, and the dogged Inspector Fix of Scotland Yard to win the extraordinary wager. (11+)
  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransom
    The story of John, Susan, Titty and Roger, who set out in their boat - the Swallow - to an island of adventure. All seems well until they encounter their enemy. At first they are angry at the invasion of their peaceful haven by these Amazon pirates, Nancy and Peggy, who claim ownership of the land. (8-13)
  • The Chronicals of Narnia by C S Lewis
    Four children travel repeatedly to a world in which they are far more than mere children and everything is far more than it seems. (8-13, and then again aged 20+)
  • Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London
    Jack London's tale of a dog's fight for survival in the harsh and frozen Yukon is one of the greatest animal stories ever written. It tells of a dog born to luxury but sold as a sledge dog, and how he rises magnificently above all his enemies to become one of the most feared and admired dogs in the North. (10+)
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
    The terrible spectacle of the beast, the fog of the moor, the discovery of a body: this classic horror story pits detective against dog. When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead on the wild Devon moorland with the footprints of a giant hound nearby, the blame is placed on a family curse. It is left to Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson to solve the mystery of the legend of the phantom hound before Sir Charles' heir comes to an equally gruesome end. (12+)
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
    The story follows a warren of Berkshire rabbits fleeing the destruction of their home by a land developer. As they search for a safe haven, skirting danger at every turn, we become acquainted with the band and its compelling culture and mythos. (8+)
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
    The island of Gont is a land famous for wizards. Of these, some say the greatest - and surely the greatest voyager - is the man called Sparrowhawk. As a reckless, awkward boy, he discovered the great power that was in him - with terrifying consequences. Tempted by pride to try spells beyond his means, Sparrowhawk lets loose an evil shadow-beast in his land. Only he can destroy it, and the quest leads him to the farthest corner of Earthsea. (12+)
  • Treasure Island by R L Stevenson
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell

Graphic Novels

  • Scott Pilgrim series by Bryan Lee O'Malley
    Scott wants to date the beautiful and mysterious Ramona Flowers, but first he must defeat her seven evil ex's. The art is lovely, and the plot is both brilliant and gripping. The books are even better than the film! (13+)
  • Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O'Malley
    Are you lost? Read this book. (13+)
  • Maus by Art Spiegelman*
    A beautifully conceived story about being Jewish under the Nazis. (13+)

Some good young adult fiction I've read as an adult

  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
    The story of Hazel Green and Augustus Waters, two ordinary teenagers who just happen to have cancer. I honestly do not have the words to do this book justice - it is brilliant, heartfelt, funny, and terribly terribly sad. (13+)
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
    I wish I'd read this book aged 15! It's another brilliant coming of age story about being young. (14-18)
  • Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
    There are no words for how awesome this post-apocalyptic survival thriller is. Except it has some of the same flaws as Twilight - the male leads are two-dimensional idealised versions of boys designed for Katniss, the female protagonist, to agonise over. (14-18)


Books on my own reading list

Books that some of my friends enjoyed while at school (recommender in brackets)

These are the books that some of my friends came up with when I asked which books they most enjoyed reading when they were aged between 12 and 17. There are some absolutely brilliant books here and I hope you enjoy them. Incidentally, a lot of my friends also recommender some of the books I listed above, Philip Pullman being the most popular.

Books of general awesome




Science Fiction




* Probably best suited to people aged 16+

NB: No, my friends aren't all teachers, but I'm not willing to disclose the full names of my friends!