100 books like Childhood, Boyhood, Youth

By Leo Tolstoy,

Here are 100 books that Childhood, Boyhood, Youth fans have personally recommended if you like Childhood, Boyhood, Youth. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Bell Jar

TP Wood Author Of 77° North

From my list on stirring your heart and imagination.

Why am I passionate about this?

It’s Saturday, 5 p.m. If you could peer back in time to the late ’60s, you’d find me plunked in front of our new colour RCA Victor, a Swanson TV dinner steaming before me, and the theme…da-da-DAAA-da-da-da-da-DAAAA, announcing my favourite show: Star Trek. I absorbed the logic of Mr. Spock, the passion of Dr. McCoy, and the fantastical world of Klingons, wormholes, and warp drives. Add to that a degree in history and English, and it set the stage for my passion to read and write in genres of science fiction and magical realism. I hope you find these books as stimulating and thought-provoking as I did.  

TP's book list on stirring your heart and imagination

TP Wood Why did TP love this book?

In The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath unscrews the top of her skull and invites us to peek inside. This is one of my favourite first-person narratives.

Considering Plath’s struggle with depression and her ultimate suicide, the book portrays the tribulations of a tortured artist in New York’s beatnik fifties. Plath’s lyrical language infuses the prose which appeals to my love of poetry.

By Sylvia Plath,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Bell Jar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

I was supposed to be having the time of my life.

When Esther Greenwood wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953, she is elated, believing she will finally realise her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther's life begins to slide out of control. She finds herself spiralling into depression and eventually a suicide attempt, as she grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take women's aspirations seriously.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath's only novel, was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria…

Book cover of Frankenstein

David Demchuk Author Of The Bone Mother

From my list on chills and thrills on a dark and stormy night.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer of Gothic-inflected suspense and horror fiction, I just can’t help it: I love to be scared! We are lucky to be in a time when so many wonderful thrillers, mysteries, suspense, and horror stories are being written and published, but I have a great love for the classics of the genre. These are the books I turn to again and again, not just to marvel at their craft and ingenuity, but to feel the skin prickle on my arms and shoulders and the hairs rise on the back of my neck. Whether for the first or the twentieth time, let these masterworks cast their spells over you.

David's book list on chills and thrills on a dark and stormy night

David Demchuk Why did David love this book?

I have been a fan of Gothic and melodrama since I first watched the 1931 film Frankenstein with Boris Karloff–and I was delighted to discover that the book is even better and so much more than what we’ve ever seen on screen.

Frankenstein’s monster is articulate and soulful in Mary Shelley’s atmospheric, dread-filled original novel, and his plight is all the more moving because of it. She wrote it when she was just 18 years old, still grieving over the death of her first child two years earlier. I feel her aching sorrow on every page. 

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Why should I read it?

40 authors picked Frankenstein as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

'That rare story to pass from literature into myth' The New York Times

Mary Shelley's chilling Gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley on Lake Geneva. The story of Victor Frankenstein who, obsessed with creating life itself, plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, but whose botched creature sets out to destroy his maker, would become the world's most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity. Based on the third…

Book cover of The Catcher in the Rye

Adam Kuper Author Of The Museum of Other People: From Colonial Acquisitions to Cosmopolitan Exhibitions

From my list on books that helped me to grow up.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in white South Africa, a racist, philistine, authoritarian, and puritanical society. The first four books I have chosen appeared in the 1950s, and I read them in my teens. Catch-22 was published in the ‘60s, but all five heroes–or anti-heroes–of these novels were of the same generation, about ten years my senior, so they were perfectly placed to be role models. They were rebels and mavericks, and except for Yossarian, they were all would-be writers. I recognised a kinship with them and took them as my guides into adulthood. And so I left for Paris and became a writer and an anthropologist. No regrets.

Adam's book list on books that helped me to grow up

Adam Kuper Why did Adam love this book?

This is a compulsive first-person account of the plight of Holden Caulfield, an awkward adolescent, just expelled from his private boarding school, who is shyly trying to find sex and love while pursuing a personal crusade against adult hypocrisy. (His favourite put-down is “phony”).

I read it first as a teenager in South Africa and felt an immediate kinship with Holden, a Tom Sawyer for our times, who was standing up for himself against the idiocies of the grown-ups.

By J.D. Salinger,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked The Catcher in the Rye as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After leaving prep school Holden Caulfield spends three days on his own in New York City.

Book cover of Ordinary People

Monica Starkman Author Of The End of Miracles: A Novel

From my list on good and bad psychiatrists.

Why am I passionate about this?

There are very few novels written by psychiatrists, and even fewer that accurately show psychiatrists at work. That is one of the major reasons that I wrote The End of Miracles. I’ve been a professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, seen many patients, and taught many psychiatry residents, so I know a good deal about people with mental illness and its treatment. As a novelist, I also wanted to write a book that is exciting and gives pleasure to readers. I think I succeeded. Here are some comments from reader reviews online: “gripping”… ”thought-provoking”… ”spell-binding”… ”illuminating”… “a page-turner”… ”a rich and satisfying read”.

Monica's book list on good and bad psychiatrists

Monica Starkman Why did Monica love this book?

In Ordinary People, the boating-accident death of the older teenage son shatters the family.

Conrad, the younger son who was also on the boat, is tormented by self-blame for his brother’s death. After a suicide attempt and a psychiatric hospitalization, Conrad is released. He is still beset with guilt and depression and begins outpatient treatment with Dr. Berger, a blunt yet also an empathetic psychiatrist.

I like the way he helps Conrad reconsider his unrealistic guilt and helps him look at the limitations of his mother, a parent unable to provide him the warmth and support he needs. I like the way Dr. Berger is portrayed as caring and skilled, an example of how psychiatrists effectively treat their patients.

By Judith Guest,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Ordinary People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the great bestseller of our time: the novel that inspired Robert Redford's Oscar-winning film starring Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore

In Ordinary People, Judith Guest's remarkable first novel, the Jarrets are a typical American family. Calvin is a determined, successful provider and Beth an organized, efficient wife. They had two sons, Conrad and Buck, but now they have one. In this memorable, moving novel, Judith Guest takes the reader into their lives to share their misunderstandings, pain, and ultimate healing. Ordinary People is an extraordinary novel about an "ordinary" family divided by pain, yet bound by their…

Book cover of Childhood

Catherine Cusset Author Of Life of David Hockney

From my list on by French women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a French novelist, the author of fifteen novels, many of which are memoirs, so I am considered a specialist of "autofiction" in France, of fiction written about oneself. But I also love writing about others, as you can see in my novel on David Hockney. Beauvoir, Sarraute and Ernaux were my models, Laurens and Appanah are my colleagues. Three of the books I picked would be called memoirs in the States, and the other two novels. In France, they are in the same category. All these women write beautifully about childhood and womanhood. I love their writing because it is both intimate and universal, full of emotion, but in a very sober and precise style. 

Catherine's book list on by French women

Catherine Cusset Why did Catherine love this book?

This book is so subtle and intelligent that it makes me smile at almost every line. Sarraute hates nothing more than clichés and the narcissistic self-indulgence of memoirs. In Childhood, the inner dialogue between the narrator and her memory allows her to avoid these pitfalls and resurrect the past with an amazing emotional accuracy. The questions asked by her critical self deepen her memory and lead to a delicate, vivid, and funny rendering of her childhood at the beginning of the twentieth century in Paris between her divorced Russian parents.

By Nathalie Sarraute, Barbara Wright (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Childhood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As one of the leading proponents of the nouveau roman, Nathalie Sarraute is often remembered for her novels, including "The Golden Fruits", which earned her the Prix international de litterature in 1964. But her carefully crafted and evocative memoir "Childhood" may in fact be Sarraute's most accessible and emotionally open work. Written when the author was eighty-three years old, but dealing with only the first twelve years of her life, "Childhood" is constructed as a dialogue between Sarraute and her memory. Sarraute gently interrogates her interlocutor in search of her own intentions, more precise accuracy, and, indeed, the truth. Her…

Book cover of Twenty Letters to a Friend: A Memoir

Simon Mawer Author Of Prague Spring

From my list on or around the Cold War from a child of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a child of the Cold War. Until the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989 this strange standoff between the Soviet Union and the Western allies informed everyone’s life, but my own case was particular because my father served in the Royal Air Force. For three years he was even in command of three squadrons of nuclear bombers. With a background like that, how could I not be interested in the larger picture? Since then I have gone on to write novels with all kinds of settings but the other side of the now defunct Iron Curtain has always held a fascination... and has directly led to at least three of my own books.

Simon's book list on or around the Cold War from a child of the Cold War

Simon Mawer Why did Simon love this book?

Svetlana Alliluyeva was Josef Stalin’s daughter. In 1967 she fled to the West bringing this memoir with her. It was published to universal acclaim in the same year. An epistolary memoir it gives remarkable insight into her life growing up in the Kremlin. Haunting, at times lyrical, always affecting, she shows Stalin as something other than the monster we take him to be. She makes no excuses for him but it is salutary to see him portrayed as a father and a human being. An antidote to the all-too-easy dismissal of him as ‘a monster’.

By Svetlana Alliluyeva,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Twenty Letters to a Friend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this riveting, New York Times-bestselling memoir—first published by Harper in 1967—Svetlana Alliluyeva, subject of Rosemary Sullivan’s critically acclaimed biography, Stalin’s Daughter, describes the surreal experience of growing up in the Kremlin in the shadow of her father, Joseph Stalin.

Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva, later known as Lana Peters, was the youngest child and only daughter of Joseph Stalin and Nadezhda Alliluyeva, his second wife. In 1967, she fled the Soviet Union for India, where she approached the U.S. Embassy for asylum. Once there, she showed her CIA handler something remarkable: A personal memoir about growing up inside the Kremlin that…

Book cover of The Death Of Ivan Ilych

Susan M Soesbe Author Of Bringing Mom Home: How Two Sisters Moved Their Mother Out of Assisted Living to Care For Her Under One Amazingly Large Roof

From my list on portraying death and loss honestly and hopefully.

Why am I passionate about this?

I lost my marriage. I lost my dad to cancer, and my mom to Alzheimer’s Disease (and wrote a memoir about it). Along the way, I lost my sense of superiority and entitlement. I gained the ability to laugh at myself and trust God for everything. I found that I was not as important as I had tacitly assumed. I’ve learned Jesus’s words are true: “Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” When I see this depicted well in a book, I think, “Thank God for writers who will tell me the truth.” Today, I’m a fiction book coach with a goal of helping writers tell the whole awful, glorious truth.

Susan's book list on portraying death and loss honestly and hopefully

Susan M Soesbe Why did Susan love this book?

It’s not possible that Tolstoy died and lived to tell about it, but that's what this book feels like.

As Ivan Ilych’s illness progresses, the reader sees how shallow his relationships are, and how fruitless is his striving to “get ahead.” As I read this book, I felt the vast chasm between the living and the dying, how alone Ivan is in his suffering. Ivan Ilych is no hero: he is an everyman. He squarely faces the pointlessness of his life, and ultimately throws off the things of no importance.

Through his experience I anticipated my own death, and felt how important it must be to live my life remembering that all the stupid stuff doesn’t matter. What does matter is my relationships with God and with other humans. Everyone who expects to die someday should read this book.

By Leo Tolstoy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Death Of Ivan Ilych as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Death of Ivan Ilyich, first published in 1886, is a novella by Leo Tolstoy, one of the masterpieces of his late fiction, written shortly after his religious conversion of the late 1870s. "Usually classed among the best examples of the novella", The Death of Ivan Ilyich tells the story of the sufferings and death of a high-court judge from a terminal illness in 19th-century Russia.

Book cover of Laurus: The International Bestseller

Robin Gregory Author Of The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman

From my list on fantasy exploring love, loss, healing, and redemption.

Why am I passionate about this?

Do you ever wonder if you belong in this world? Since I was a kid, I’ve felt more at home in my imagination than with external events and people. When I first read Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, I felt like he spoke my language. He gave me permission to voice intuitive perceptions and deeply personal views through fiction. As time progressed, the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Borges, Lois Lowry, Toni Morrison, Angela Carter, and Adolfo Bioy Casares inspired me to further explore multi-layered realities through novels and screenwriting. 

Robin's book list on fantasy exploring love, loss, healing, and redemption

Robin Gregory Why did Robin love this book?

This book is brimming with themes that are super meaningful to me—love, loss, healing, the nature of reality, time travel, spirituality, faith, and redemption. He does this through language that waxes poetic in a formal, archaic voice, dropping into and out of time, occasionally lapsing into a hilarious, modern tone. Laurus, the protagonist, reminds me of myself, a holy fool, who believes in the healing power of mercy and compassion. As well, he keeps one foot in this world and the other in a mystical realm to which he longs to return.   

By Eugene Vodolazkin, Lisa C. Hayden (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Laurus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



Fifteenth-century Russia

It is a time of plague and pestilence, and a young healer, skilled in the art of herbs and remedies, finds himself overcome with grief and guilt when he fails to save the one he holds closest to his heart. Leaving behind his village, his possessions and his name, he sets out on a quest for redemption, penniless and alone. But this is no ordinary journey: wandering across plague-ridden Europe, offering his healing…

Book cover of Fathers and Sons

Roland Merullo Author Of Dessert with Buddha

From my list on thoughtful works of fiction and non-fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

My twenty novels tend to focus on characters who face great challenges, and I have a particular appreciation for beautiful prose. I don’t read for distraction or entertainment, but to be enlightened, moved, and made more compassionate about different kinds of people in different environments.

Roland's book list on thoughtful works of fiction and non-fiction

Roland Merullo Why did Roland love this book?

I speak Russian and spent several years working in the former USSR on cultural exchange exhibitions. I majored in Russian Language and Literature at Brown and have a Master’s in those subjects, also from Brown, and I love Turgenev even more than I love his great contemporaries, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

In this short novel, Turgenev speaks to political differences across generations, something pertinent to the American political scene now and to the tension between activism and domestic life. 

As a novelist, I’m also blown away by his ability to put so much into a very short piece of fiction. It’s helpful, but not essential, to have a bit of knowledge about pre-Revolutionary Russia, but like his masterful Sportsman’s Sketches, he is a genius at bringing characters, both real and imagined, to life.

By Ivan Turgenev, Peter Carson (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fathers and Sons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons explores the ageless conflict between generations through a period in Russian history when a new generation of revolutionary intellectuals threatened the state. This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the Russian by Peter Carson, with an introduction by Rosamund Bartlett and an afterword by Tatyana Tolstaya.

Returning home after years away at university, Arkady is proud to introduce his clever friend Bazarov to his father and uncle. But their guest soon stirs up unrest on the quiet country estate - his outspoken nihilist views and his scathing criticisms of the older men expose the growing…

Book cover of Anna Karenina

Judith Lindbergh Author Of Akmaral

From my list on historical fiction with eponymous titles.

Why am I passionate about this?

When we authors name our characters, we gift them with meaning—a single word that somehow encompasses everything they will experience on the page. The name of my heroine, Akmaral, hails from Kazakhstan and means “white deer.” It resounds with the sound of hooves on the ancient Central Asian steppes and the deep connection to the natural world of the nomadic people who once lived there. Names bear unconscious expectations—hopes for strength and wisdom, dreams of triumph, beauty, and love. I hope that someday, hearing “Akmaral” will bring to mind vast, windswept steppes and a strong woman on horseback, head held high, contemplating her journey from warrior to leader.

Judith's book list on historical fiction with eponymous titles

Judith Lindbergh Why did Judith love this book?

Well, perhaps her name isn’t unfamiliar anymore, and it wasn’t historical fiction when it was written. But this luscious, complex, and moving classic is about more than the titular Anna and her ill-fated romance. For me, the best parts were about Levin and his longing for a simpler life.

Maybe I’m projecting, but when compared with Moscow society's social climbing and deep disillusionment, it’s hard not to want to turn away and opt for an admittedly idealized simple life working the soil. Yes, I know it’s long, but it’s well worth reading—or rereading!

By Leo Tolstoy,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Anna Karenina as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1872 the mistress of a neighbouring landowner threw herself under a train at a station near Tolstoy's home. This gave Tolstoy the starting point he needed for composing what many believe to be the greatest novel ever written.

In writing Anna Karenina he moved away from the vast historical sweep of War and Peace to tell, with extraordinary understanding, the story of an aristocratic woman who brings ruin on herself. Anna's tragedy is interwoven with not only the courtship and marriage of Kitty and Levin but also the lives of many other characters. Rich in incident, powerful in characterization,…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Russia, childhood, and Leo Tolstoy?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Russia, childhood, and Leo Tolstoy.

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