The best coming of age books 📚

Browse the best books on coming of age as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Childhood, Boyhood, Youth

Childhood, Boyhood, Youth

By Leo Tolstoy

Why this book?

When I was in college, I told my writing teacher I wanted to write about my father’s death, which had happened when I was very little. My teacher, a famous writer, lost his father when he was very little too, but he told me he never wrote about it directly. I looked for examples in literature of someone writing autobiographically about a loss in early childhood and I only ever found one: Tolstoy’s debut novel, Childhood, Boyhood, Youth. Tolstoy’s mother died when he was 2, his father when he was 8, and he writes about it with unparalleled power…

From the list:

The best coming-of-age novels that feature loss

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Book cover of Woman at Point Zero

Woman at Point Zero

By Nawal El Saadawi, Sherif Hetata

Why this book?

A feministic milestone, a must-read for all activists and people engaged in the battle for a better society. It tells the story of Firdaus, a young woman coming of age in the male-dominant Egyptian society, who never eyes an escape from the hardships and trials imposed on her by senseless men. It’s such a strong description of women as an underclass, as slaves in a male dominant society, that it changes your basic outlook on life. “Every single man I did get to know filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and bring it smashing down on…

From the list:

The best me-against-the-world books

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Book cover of To All the Boys I've Loved Before

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

By Jenny Han

Why this book?

There has been lots of hype around this book series and for a reason! Jenny Han is super talented and like so many readers out there I was charmed by Lara Jean’s story, especially since I had trouble openly admitting my own crushes in high school! I adored the storyline, the tight bond between the three sisters, and must admit to having watched the Netflix film a few too many times too.

From the list:

The best YA books about finding your way through school

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Book cover of Free Love

Free Love

By Tessa Hadley

Why this book?

Tessa Hadley’s latest novel Free Love is set in 1967, and it follows forty-year-old Phyllis Fischer through a life-changing year. After a kiss with a twenty-something family friend, Phyllis is moved to leave behind her life as a contented suburban wife and mom, and to enter a very different life in London. Phyllis doesn’t always make the best choices, but she finds her own way twenty years after marrying and having children. Tessa Hadley always writes beautifully layered novels, and Free Love is a compelling look at a family forced to change, as well as a gorgeous evocation of a…

From the list:

The best midlife (yes, midlife!) coming-of-age novels

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Book cover of Through the Waters and the Wild

Through the Waters and the Wild

By Greg Fields

Why this book?

Through the Waters and the Wild really impacted me because it asks the timeless and relatable questions—“Where shall I go now?” and “What shall I do?” Focused on questions we all ask at some point in life, this wonderfully crafted novel answers that question in a unique way. Moving through the time period of the Irish Civil War, Fields is able to tell the story of a young boy finding his way all the while creating a setting in which is almost unbelievably described. I love this book because it seems as if Fields truly used a time machine, and…

From the list:

The best coming-of-age novels that capture the nature of growth

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Book cover of The Complete Persepolis

The Complete Persepolis

By Marjane Satrapi

Why this book?

Marjane Satrapi’s powerful graphic novel memoir is one of my all-time favorite books in any genre. The stories that comprise her young life during Iran’s cultural revolution, her eventual solitary exile in Europe, and her post-war return, are riveting, heartbreaking, hilarious, and unforgettable. Illustrated in stunning black and white drawings, Persepolis blends Satrapi’s inner and outer experience of events and characters with such sublime artistry that her story will (if I can predict it) become instantly lodged in your heart. 

From the list:

The best coming-of-age stories by diverse women

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