100 books like The Contender

By Robert Lipsyte,

Here are 100 books that The Contender fans have personally recommended if you like The Contender. 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 Book Thief

Michele DeMarco Author Of Holding Onto Air: The Art and Science of Building a Resilient Spirit

From my list on transforming your mental and spiritual health.

Why am I passionate about this?

Officially, I’m an award-winning author and specialist in the fields of psychology, trauma, and spirituality. I’m also a professionally trained therapist, clinical ethicist, and researcher. Ultimately, I’m an ardent believer that the same life that brings us joy also (sometimes) brings us pain. More importantly, that every aspect of life has a role to play in making us who we are today and who we’ll be tomorrow. We don’t always have control over the events in life, but the script we live by is ours to write—and write it we must, as only we can. I’m also a three-time heart attack survivor.

Michele's book list on transforming your mental and spiritual health

Michele DeMarco Why did Michele love this book?

Markus Zusak’s book is definitely not for the faint of heart or those easily bored: its narrator is Death, and the book is over 500 pages long. Not really the kind of book you’d think of for those aged 12 and up (as it’s listed). But it is one that really ought to be universally read.

The book follows two young children battling for survival in Nazi Germany. Entropy hangs in the air like Death’s shadow. Life’s harsh realities—like evil, heartache, pain, and mortality—are ever-present. In Max's (the young boy) dreams, he is boxing with Hitler and lands a punch, knocking the Fuhrer down, but soon he’s overtaken by the crowd.

This is one of the reasons I appreciate this book: winners sometimes lose; bad things happen to good people. And yet, the response to this existential injustice isn’t to become a mere survivor, victim, or martyr. It’s to…

By Markus Zusak,

Why should I read it?

29 authors picked The Book Thief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

'Life affirming, triumphant and tragic . . . masterfully told. . . but also a wonderful page-turner' Guardian
'Brilliant and hugely ambitious' New York Times
'Extraordinary' Telegraph
___

HERE IS A SMALL FACT - YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

SOME IMPORTANT…


Book cover of The Fault in Our Stars

Bhavik Sarkhedi Author Of The Unproposed Guy

From my list on romantic teen reads for those who are single.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I penned my first romantic tale Will You Walk A Mile?, I've been enamored with the complexities of young love. For me, writing isn't just a profession; it's akin to breathing. I live to write and write for a living, with a special fondness for narratives that explore the highs and lows of teen romance and human emotion. I have been that ‘teen guy’ next door. That same teenage wonder for love stories that first sparked my passion for writing has stayed with me, maturing into a deeper understanding.  to curate a list of teen novels that will tug at your heartstrings.

Bhavik's book list on romantic teen reads for those who are single

Bhavik Sarkhedi Why did Bhavik love this book?

Honestly, this book crushed me, but in the most beautiful way possible.

It taught me that love can be found in the most unexpected places, even when faced with life's harshest realities. This narrative made me appreciate the small but significant moments in life, a lesson I try to convey in my own writing.

By John Green,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Fault in Our Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

The beloved, #1 global bestseller by John Green, author of The Anthropocene Reviewed and Turtles All the Way Down

"John Green is one of the best writers alive." -E. Lockhart, #1 bestselling author of We Were Liars

"The greatest romance story of this decade." -Entertainment Weekly

#1 New York Times Bestseller * #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller * #1 USA Today Bestseller * #1 International Bestseller

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters…


Book cover of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

M. R. Reed Author Of Enthrall

From my list on doing what is right when others are against you.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m drawn to the idea of doing what you think is right when others are against you because I’ve always felt the desire to row against the current and just do my own thing. I tend to avoid following the crowd because oftentimes I simply don’t agree with them. Am I being purposely difficult? Maybe. But I fear a society that goes with the flow simply because it’s easier and it doesn’t require them to think for themselves. It’s okay to listen to other people, but before you make any major decisions, ask yourself a question: Is this right for me?

M. R.'s book list on doing what is right when others are against you

M. R. Reed Why did M. R. love this book?

Let’s just be honest here: We know we all love this book because of the feels that we experience once that twist hits us, right?

I don’t want to ruin it if you’re not familiar, but once Charlie comes to terms with this very important moment, we empathize with his complicated feelings and we support his recovery, even if it means that certain people in his life will be looked at in a very negative way.

This book reminds us of how important it is to heal, even if the things we have to do to get there may not be something that others (or even we) want to face. 

By Stephen Chbosky,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Perks of Being a Wallflower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

A modern cult classic, a major motion picture and a timeless bestseller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story.

Charlie is not the biggest geek in high school, but he's by no means popular.

Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is attempting to navigate through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and music - when all one requires to feel infinite is that…


Book cover of The Outsiders

Michael Prime Author Of Kristoff Kent: NYC Psycho

From my list on book to movie adaptations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always enjoyed reading the books from which movies are derived from or from which are written after the movie is released, and add more in-depth analysis to the characters and story. Mostly though, I’ve seen the movie first, then read the book. The book almost always has more information about the characters, their reactions, emotions, and feelings. Sometimes, as in the case of Rounders by Kevin Canty, you find out where and what the main character is up to after the end credits roll. Book versus movie: Which is better? It’s a debate that will be here till the end of time. 

Michael's book list on book to movie adaptations

Michael Prime Why did Michael love this book?

The Outsiders is regarded by many readers to be S.E. Hinton's finest novel.

The book is narrated by Pony Boy Curtis and takes the reader through a slew of emotions, from kindness to caring, to friendship and depression, all within a framework that can be considered genius by today’s standards. Pony Boy's friendship with Johnny is a recurring theme throughout the book, not just through him, but through the characters involved.

The movie is almost verbatim from the book, which is a very good thing. This book is timeless and can be read by any generation. Very few books can be said to do this. A good book is one that you read every couple of years. A great book is one that you read every year. This is a great book. 

By S.E. Hinton,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Outsiders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

50 years of an iconic classic! This international bestseller and inspiration for a beloved movie is a heroic story of friendship and belonging.

Cover may vary.

No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he's got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends-true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. But not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is…


Book cover of The Midnights

Steven Prevosto Author Of Nina’s Salvation for Joey

From my list on why characters struggle to achieve their goals.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I think of what it means to come of age, I think of the sacrifices one makes to be the best at what he/she enjoys doing against the challenges of life to experience the joy of living. When I failed not being successful as an actor after studying it for ten years in New York City, I came back home and finished college to become a writer. Now, I write the thrill of young characters with a talent to confront society to fulfill a dream, and if they fail, how to overcome it with the help of others, prayer, and hard work.  

Steven's book list on why characters struggle to achieve their goals

Steven Prevosto Why did Steven love this book?

One book that I really recommend reading is the novel The Midnights by Sarah Nicole Smetana. The main character, Susannah, is a seventeen-year-old girl who plays a mean guitar like her former rock star father whose attention she craves very much. She is driven with passion to pursue her dream even after her father suddenly dies unexpectedly, and must uproot to a new city where she eagerly takes on the challenge. The story is an emotionally charged coming-of-age novel involving loss, creativity, and feeling confident in your voice, while feeling confident in your choices to define who you are. 

By Sarah Nicole Smetana,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Midnights as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

This voice-driven coming-of-age YA novel is perfect for fans of Katie Cotugno and Playlist for the Dead.

Susannah Hayes has never been in the spotlight, but she dreams of following her father, a former rock star, onto the stage. As senior year begins, she's more interested in composing impressive chord progressions than college essays, certain that if she writes the perfect song, her father might finally look up from the past long enough to see her. But when he dies unexpectedly, her dreams--and her reality--shatter.

While Susannah struggles with grief, her mother uproots them to a new city. There, Susannah…


Book cover of When the Legends Die

Mark Warren Author Of Indigo Heaven

From my list on Westerns that don’t thrive off of gunfights.

Why am I passionate about this?

Because I grew up in the 1950s and ’60s, my supply of heroes was liberally doled out by the 130+ Western series that dominated nighttime television in those decades. My parents allowed me one program per week. It was a Western. I was soon interested in history, to know what really did happen in the American West, and so I came to understand the great discrepancies between fact and TV. The truth, for me, is so much more interesting than the myth. As a Western historian, I've done my share of historical research, but I still gravitate toward fiction as a writer. I love the freedom to engage my characters’ thoughts and emotions.

Mark's book list on Westerns that don’t thrive off of gunfights

Mark Warren Why did Mark love this book?

When a poet picks up a pen to write a novel, the end result can be most rewarding.

Here the protagonist is a Ute rodeo star who has lost his way in a world to which he does not truly belong. As the underdog (an Indian in a white world), he seeks his personal redemption by finding the strengths that were long ago buried in his own psyche.

This story of one man’s salvation stays with the reader for a lifetime.

By Hal Borland,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked When the Legends Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

A young Native American raised in the forest is suddenly thrust into the modern world, in this novel by the author of The Dog Who Came to Stay.
  Thomas Black Bull’s parents forsook the life of a modern reservation and took to ancient paths in the woods, teaching their young son the stories and customs of his ancestors. But Tom’s life changes forever when he loses his father in a tragic accident and his mother dies shortly afterward. When Tom is discovered alone in the forest with only a bear cub as a companion, life becomes difficult. Soon, well-meaning teachers…


Book cover of Fat Angie

Susan Coryell Author Of Eaglebait: Can a smart kid survive school bullies?

From my list on characters who find self-identity and self-esteem.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for the theme of building self-esteem and finding self-identity at middle and high school age because I taught secondary English for 30 years. So many of my students struggled with this issue; reading novels about kids with similar situations offers a way for readers to help themselves work out their own problems. I deliberately chose both recent and classic novels with a wide variety of protagonists, settings and plots, each with a unique author voice to show how universal the need to build self-esteem can be. My own novel, Eaglebait, is another strong novel with a similar theme.

Susan's book list on characters who find self-identity and self-esteem

Susan Coryell Why did Susan love this book?

Angie’s life is a mess. Her mother constantly taunts her as “Fat Angie.” High school classmates torment her as a “crazy, mad cow,” when she tries to slit her wrists in a high school assembly. Her heroic sister goes MIA during the Iraq War; her older brother treats her badly. Angie just wants to make it through each day until a beautiful new student arrives and befriends her, seeing the hidden beauty in Angie. I was revolted by Angie’s abusive family life and angry at the peer bullying. Where were school authorities? I was relieved when a warm friendship allowed Angie to become happy on her own. Though it seems extreme, I’ve occasionally observed similar situations among my students; the novel is horrifyingly realistic, but it moves in a positive fashion to its end.

By E.E. Charlton-Trujillo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fat Angie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Winner of a 2014 Stonewall Book Award

Her sister was captured in Iraq, she’s the resident laughingstock at school, and her therapist tells her to count instead of eat. Can a daring new girl in her life really change anything?

Angie is broken — by her can’t-be-bothered mother, by her high-school tormenters, and by being the only one who thinks her varsity-athlete-turned-war-hero sister is still alive. Hiding under a mountain of junk food hasn’t kept the pain (or the shouts of “crazy mad cow!”) away. Having failed to kill herself — in front of a gym full of kids —…


Book cover of Fat City

Jonathan Starke Author Of You've Got Something Coming

From my list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

All these pugilistic narratives touch on people in hardship moving through dark spaces in their lives. I care about people on the fringes. I’ve known many people who have little or nothing. For a lot of my life, I’ve had little. I used to box. When something’s in your blood, you think about it every day. I can’t remember a day I haven’t thought about boxing. Once you’ve done it, it’s hard not to want to go back. You try to just pretend it away, but when it’s in you, it’s got hold. Because I understand this so well, feel it, have lived it, I absorb these boxing stories in a different kind of way. 

Jonathan's book list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters

Jonathan Starke Why did Jonathan love this book?

I first picked up this novel the year I started boxing. It follows the rough lives of Billy Tully and Ernie Munger, two boxers living in separate but parallel worlds—Tully an aging boxer fooled into thinking he can relive a few more glory days and Munger figuring out the hard lessons of what it means to lose. I love how this novel amplifies people eking out difficult lives who spend most of their time in dive bars, cheap motels, and seedy parts of town engaging with dubious, colorful characters. The writing is sparse, direct, sad, and unsentimental. Here Gardner is always pursuing a tough reality.

By Leonard Gardner,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fat City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Tremendous' Geoff Dyer

'A pitch-perfect account of boxing, blue-collar bewilderment and the battle of the sexes' San Francisco Chronicle

A major cult film directed by John Huston

Stockton, California: a town of dark bars and lunchrooms, cheap hotels and farm labourers scratching a living. When two men meet in the Lido Gym - the ex-boxer Billy Tully and the novice Ernie Munger - their brief sparring session sets a fateful story in motion, initiating young Munger into the "company of men" and luring Tully back into training.

Fat City is a vivid novel of defiance and struggle, of the potent…


Book cover of Sold Out

Steven Prevosto Author Of Nina’s Salvation for Joey

From my list on why characters struggle to achieve their goals.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I think of what it means to come of age, I think of the sacrifices one makes to be the best at what he/she enjoys doing against the challenges of life to experience the joy of living. When I failed not being successful as an actor after studying it for ten years in New York City, I came back home and finished college to become a writer. Now, I write the thrill of young characters with a talent to confront society to fulfill a dream, and if they fail, how to overcome it with the help of others, prayer, and hard work.  

Steven's book list on why characters struggle to achieve their goals

Steven Prevosto Why did Steven love this book?

The novel Sold Out is a favorite book of mine because Carlson’s main female character, Chloe Miller, forms her own band while struggling early on until they become a hit in their community. Success, however, brings them problems of finding out who their real friends are. Even when the band is discovered by a talent scout from Nashville, conflicts erupt amongst the band members and attitudes start clashing, and Chloe’s dream is falling apart. However, she refuses to give up, and she finds the strength through God and prayer to make the decisions necessary to be proud of her accomplishments. 

By Melody Carlson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Chloe Miller and her fellow band members must sort out their lives as they become a hit in the local community. Accustomed only to being scorned and marginalized, Chloe suddenly has to decide who her real friends are, and who's just along for the ride. Now her generosity gets her in more trouble than ever. And all too soon after a talent scout from Nashville discovers the trio, their explosive musical ministry begins to encounter conflicts with family and school. Exhilarated yet frustrated, Chloe puts her dream in God's hand and prays for Him to work out the details.


Book cover of Rope Burns

Jonathan Starke Author Of You've Got Something Coming

From my list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

All these pugilistic narratives touch on people in hardship moving through dark spaces in their lives. I care about people on the fringes. I’ve known many people who have little or nothing. For a lot of my life, I’ve had little. I used to box. When something’s in your blood, you think about it every day. I can’t remember a day I haven’t thought about boxing. Once you’ve done it, it’s hard not to want to go back. You try to just pretend it away, but when it’s in you, it’s got hold. Because I understand this so well, feel it, have lived it, I absorb these boxing stories in a different kind of way. 

Jonathan's book list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters

Jonathan Starke Why did Jonathan love this book?

This is the most beautiful, touching, and emotional book about boxing, penned by a cut man who didn’t stumble into writing until he was in his sixties. Toole’s prose is sharp, lean, commanding, and coming from the mouth of truth. His gritty characters tell it and show it like it is, and it’s Toole’s ability to demonstrate the love trainers have for their boxers and passion for the pursuit of boxing, along with all the big hearts and often unseen vulnerability in the sport, that makes this story collection so open and heavy and heartfelt and breathing and alive.

By F.X. Toole,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Ring magic is different from the magic of the theatre, because the curtain never comes down - because the blood in the ring is real blood, and the broken noses and the broken hearts are real, and sometimes they are broken forever. Boxing is the magic of men in combat, the magic of will, and skill, and pain, and the risking of everything so you can respect yourself for the rest of your life.'The hermetic world of boxing is notoriously difficult for outsiders to understand, though it has provided a source of fascination to numerous writers, including Norman Mailer, A.J.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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