There are some books I constantly find myself recommending. For example, I’ve told both my dad and my brother on multiple occasions to read Veronica Roth’s Divergent, and it’s the first book I recommend to students when they’ve finished The Hunger Games.
With that in mind, here is a list of the books I recommend the most. Go forth and read!
- The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling: Whenever a student tells me they “don’t like reading,” I ask them if they’ve read Harry Potter, and when the inevitable “no” is given, I tell them to read it. If you don’t like these books, you have no soul. Or are maybe secretly Voldemort.
- The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: Do you like dragons and treasure and epic battles and giant fiery eyeballs? Start with The Hobbit, because while it’s not necessary to read it before The Lord of the Rings, it’ll make you appreciate the story so much more.
- A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R.R. Martin: Do you like dynastic warfare and dragons and death and people coming unhinged and don’t mind a little incest? Then you are my people, and these are your books.
- Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: When you finish ASoIaF and find yourself waiting ten years for the next installment, read Throne of Glass, which has assassins and less incest. (I also recommend reading the prequel novellas, because you understand Celaena so much more.)
- Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: And when you finish ToG, you’ll want to move on to Shadow and Bone, which is set in Ravka, a country based on Russia that is being swallowed by a literal darkness and has my favorite villain pretty much ever.
- The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta: And while you’re on your fantasy kick, read the Lumatere Chronicles and then despair because you’ll never be able to write something so good. Marchetta has done with these books what every fantasy writer should try to do, which is to make a world so rich and alive it could be a real place, populated with characters so human they could live in our own world.
- Seven Realms Series by Cinda Williams Chima: Similar to ASoIaF with the dynastic warfare thing, but with less death, more kissing, and wizards. It starts a little slow, but it’s worth the wait, because once it gets going…BOOM.
- Everything Tamora Pierce has ever written: I first discovered her books in high school and then proceeded to devour every single one of them within the span of probably two or three months. It was her books that helped me realize girls could kick butt, too, and she has been hugely influential on my writing.
- The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson: Elisa isn’t the “typical” fantasy heroine – she’s more likely to use her brains than a sword and she doesn’t think very highly of herself – and watching her journey toward believing in herself was by far the best part of the book. I haven’t read the rest of the series yet, but I need my hands on them, like, two weeks ago.
Science Fiction & Dystopian
- The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins: A fast-paced dystopian with high stakes and a lot more going on than just teens slaughtering each other on national television: themes it covers include glamorization of violence, the media (the movie does an even better job of this), control of information, the rich/poor gap. It may be action-packed, but it’s smart.
- The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth: If you like The Hunger Games, you’ll like this other fast-paced dystopian trilogy that also features teenagers but not killing each other (at least not on TV). But seriously, though, Tris’s journey to finding her Dauntless side? So realistic. Also: Four.
- The Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver: Lena becomes more dynamic as the series progresses, plus it has what is quite possibly the best love triangle I’ve ever read.
- The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: The first book involves a retelling of Cinderella with Cinderella in this case being a cyborg who lives in a futuristic China. All of the other books are also fairytale retellings, and so far, they’re every bit as awesome as this one sounds.
The “Real World”
(Contemporary & Historical Fiction)
- Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: Looking for Alaska is a book very dear to me for personal reasons, and I hope I have the chance someday to thank John Green in person for writing it. And The Fault in Our Stars was masterful in that it was more than a “cancer book” – it had warmth, realism, and pulled off the seemingly-impossible feat of making me laugh and cry at the same time.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie: Alexie piles on a generous helping of humor in his depiction of one boy’s experience as the only Native American at a mostly-white high school.
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: Speak isn’t a funny book by any means, but I did occasionally find myself snickering at Melinda’s dark humor. I think the humor is what makes watching Melinda’s journey to finding the courage to speak up about what happened to her more heartbreaking.
- If I Lie by Corrine Jackson: I feel like Quinn’s quiet strength – her ability to keep her head up and not become disillusioned and bitter even though pretty much the entire town is slut-shaming her – puts her on par with the heroines like Katniss who come to mind when the word “strong” is tossed about. And the secondary characters are just as good.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: If this book doesn’t make you cry, then you’re definitely Voldemort.
What books do you find yourself inflicting on people the most?