The most recommended young adult books

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2,307 authors created a book list with young adult books, and here are their favorites.

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Book cover of The Authoritarians

Natasha Lindstaedt Author Of Democratic Decay and Authoritarian Resurgence

From my list on why the world is becoming more authoritarian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a political science professor who has always been interested in authoritarian regimes, how they function, and how they control their citizens. In particular, I find it fascinating why citizens may genuinely adore and respect the (sometimes outrageous) autocrats that lead them, even though they rule with an iron fist. Additionally, the rise of authoritarianism in democracies also caught my attention. Terms like “slow-moving coups” and “insurrections” are being used when referring to democracies now. In some ways, this is shocking to me—but it’s motivated me to better understand how this happenedand the ways in which autocracies and democracies seem to be mimicking each other.

Natasha's book list on why the world is becoming more authoritarian

Natasha Lindstaedt Why did Natasha love this book?

For anyone interested in political psychology, this book explores the leader-follower relationship and more specifically, helps you understand why citizens might support autocrats and autocratic regimes. As many may find Karen Stenner’s book, The Authoritarian Dynamic, too academic, Robert Altemeyer’s book, The Authoritarians explains in clear and plain language (and written in the first person) what drives right-wing (and to a lesser extent left-wing) authoritarian aggression. This book explores all the details of how authoritarians think—the unquestioning loyalty to authority, the proclivity towards fundamentalism, and the suspicion of outsiders and change, particularly societal change. Altemeyer, who is known for improving upon Theodor Adorno’s F-scale of authoritarianism, also highlights the difficulty that authoritarians have in thinking critically and living with nuance and complexity. This book explains why family reunions might be so difficult.  

By Bob Altemeyer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Authoritarians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

The Authoritarians summarizes the research of Dr. Robert Altemeyer, whose professional career has focused on the study of the Authoritarian Personality, and development of the Right-Wing Authoritarian (RWA) personality and ideological variable widely studied in political, social, and personality psychology.

The foreword is provided by John W. Dean, former Nixon White House counsel and New York Times best-selling author.


Book cover of The Boundless

Kevin Sylvester Author Of MiNRS

From my list on getting around.

Why am I passionate about this?

Am I an expert on transportation? No. But I’m fascinated by movement. Physical movement (how do bike gears actually work?) and metaphorical (how does life actually work?) I did enjoy a brief moment as the kind of unofficial bike traffic reporter when I was on CBC Radio here in Canada. I’d report on my 4 am commute to work. But as a writer and illustrator for kids, I know the freedom transportation represents. We all want to fly. In MINRS I write about spaceships. We all want to see the world. In The Fabulous Zed Watson! I write (with my kid Basil) about epic road trips.

Kevin's book list on getting around

Kevin Sylvester Why did Kevin love this book?

The titular Boundless is a train, and my grandparents were all train people in Canada. One of my most vivid early memories is being in the engine with my grandpa.

At 11 kilometers long, the Boundless is also a living, moving city. Ken makes a journey through the train like a journey through time, space, and history. Each time Will, the main character, leaps from one car to another, the reader also takes a leap into a new world. Why is Will jumping from car to car? Because he’s witnessed a murder, and the culprit is hot on his tail.

By Kenneth Oppel, Jim Tierney (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Boundless as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

After a murder is committed, Will finds himself in possession of a key that has the potential to unlock the train's hidden treasures. Together with Maren, a gifted escape artist, and Mr Dorian, a circus ringmaster with amazing abilities, Will must save the Boundless before someone else winds up dead. With villains fast on his heels and strange creatures lurking outside the windows, the train hurtles across the country as Will flees for his life.

His adventure may have begun without his knowing . . . but how it ends is now entirely up to Will.


Book cover of Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics

Nicholas Smith Author Of Kicks: The Great American Story of Sneakers

From my list on running history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I get it, to most people running isn’t fun, but its simplicity can be deceptive. To some, running (especially when done in nature) can be a spiritual act. To others, it (along with its cousin jogging) should’ve been included in the Geneva Conventions. Me? I’ve been running since the third grade and watching running for even longer. Growing up, the Olympics were required viewing and an interest in running naturally flowed from it. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a runner to enjoy the great many books out there about runners and their impact on sports, culture, and world events. 

Nicholas' book list on running history

Nicholas Smith Why did Nicholas love this book?

In one of the indelible images from the 20th Olympic Games is the grainy footage of American sprinter Jesse Owens racing down a dirt-running track to victory during the notorious 1936 Berlin Olympics, which Adolf Hitler sought to exploit as a propaganda opportunity. Owens won an unprecedented four gold medals during those Games, a stark defiance to the Nazi’s racist ideology. Triumph tells the story of those Olympics, along with Owens humble origins as a talented black athlete in Jim Crow America, his unlikely friendship with a German long jumper, and his inglorious return to the U.S. that prohibited him from profiting from his success on the track because of draconian amateur rules of the time. 

By Jeremy Schaap,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Triumph 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 remarkable behind-the-scenes story of one of the most iconic clashes in sports and world history.

In 1936, against a backdrop of swastikas flying and storm troopers goose-stepping, an African-American athlete won a staggering four Olympic gold medals. Jesse Owens, the son of sharecroppers, had single-handedly crushed Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy. The story of Jesse Owens at the 1936 games is that of a high-profile athlete giving a performance that transcends sports. But it is also the intimate and complex tale of the courage of one remarkable man.

This is the incredible true story of one of the moment…


Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time

By PJ Davis,

Book cover of Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time

PJ Davis

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Featured in "Best Middle Grade Fantasy Books" - Reedsy Discovery

"Fun & Fast Paced, This is Middle Grade Fantasy at its Best!" — Shaun Stevenson

"If you know any middle-grade readers who enjoy science fiction/fantasy with a mix of action, danger, and humor - recommend this book to them, or just go ahead and give them a copy." — The Fairview Review

“With elements of adventure, exploration, other worlds, and fantastical science, Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time is an exciting middle-grade novel with plenty of suspense… Behind the adventure are important messages about believing in oneself and finding inner strength.” — The Children's Book Review

"The plot of Nemesis and The Vault of Lost Time is a tapestry of surprises characterized by its unforeseen twists and turns. It’s this element of suspense that grips the readers, while the vivid descriptions create immersive visual experiences. Beyond its adventurous core, this mystery novel delves into themes of friendship and the nuanced dynamics of father-son relationships, offering a multi-layered reading experience." — The Literary Titan

Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time

By PJ Davis,

What is this book about?

Thirteen-year-old Max is a daydreamer. It gets him into trouble at school, but his restless curiosity really turns problematic when he runs into a mysterious professor at his uncle's bookstore.

The old man informs Max that time is being sucked out of the planet by invisible bandits, stolen from unsuspecting people one breath and one sneeze at a time, and is being stored in a central vault. Once full, the vault will fuel a hungry horde of invaders looking to cross into earth, and cross out all its people.

What's more, the professor claims he knew Max's missing scientist father.…


Book cover of The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly

Marty Kingsbury Author Of Rescuing Oricito: The Almost True Story of a South American Street Dog

From my list on if you’re a dog needing rescuing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Thirteen years ago I adopted a homeless dog from Puerto Rico. I also met his rescuers, and they told me the story of this little yellow dog who lived by the food trucks on the road between San Juan and El Yunque National Forest. He had been hit by a car once, maybe twice. His leg was broken, and he was close to death. But they scooped him up, took him to the vet for surgery, nursed him to health, and sent him north. I named him Winston, and now I read every dog book with him in mind – the way he trusts me, believes in me, understands me, and understands everything I say. How did we get so lucky to have dogs? 

Marty's book list on if you’re a dog needing rescuing

Marty Kingsbury Why did Marty love this book?

I watch these oil rigs blow up, I bear witness to birds smothered by oil slicks, and I am paralyzed with despair. But Luis Sepulveda finds hope, and he finds it with two animals who, in my back yard, would be natural enemies: a cat and a seagull. He finds, not only hope, but also reasons to break all unwritten rules. Because life is more precious than money, and hope is stronger than despair. I love the animals in this book. I love them with my whole heart. They’re not super smart or super courageous or super anything. They’re two animals, on a porch in a situation that needs to be solved. And if they can do the impossible, then damnit, I can at least try.

By Luis Sepulveda, Chris Sheban (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Published in 20 countries, sold over 1 million copies, and the subject of a feature film, THE STORY OF A SEAGULL AND THE CAT WHO TAUGHT HER TO FLY has finally come to the U.S.!

It's migration time and as a mother gull dives into the water to catch a herring she's caught in an oil slick! Thinking of the egg she is about to lay she manages to extract herself and fly to the nearest port.
Exhausted, she lands on a balcony where Zorba the cat is sunning himself. Zorba wants to get help, but the gull knows it's…


Book cover of I Am Drums

Jennifer Gennari Author Of Muffled

From my list on middle-grade about kids making music.

Why am I passionate about this?

In fifth grade, I chose to play the clarinet. After a lot of cracked reeds and squeaky notes, I switched to choir. I still love to sing! I love books that explore young people’s first experiences with music, whether it’s as a star or as a way to express one’s true self. Music takes many forms, and for me, that includes the arrangement of sounds in a sentence. When I write for young people, I look for the musicality of words, how they flow, and how variety can make a story pop. Try reading aloud your own work or a favorite book and listen to the rhythm of language.

Jennifer's book list on middle-grade about kids making music

Jennifer Gennari Why did Jennifer love this book?

If you’ve ever heard drumrolls and rhythms in your head, this story is for you.

Set during a recession, Sam and her family are experiencing hard times. But sixth grader Sam has a dream to play drums, and she’s gutsy enough to lie and mow lawns to pay for lessons and save for her own drum set someday.

Her worries about friends, cuts to the school’s music program, and her parents fighting over money mean that drumming is the only thing that’s saving Sam.

Through sheer determination and lots of practice, this girl who everyone said would never be good finally plays like the star drummer she is.

By Mike Grosso,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Am Drums as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

“This book is the song of my middle-school heart.” —Michelle Schusterman, author of the I Heart Band! series   Sam knows she wants to be a drummer. But she doesn’t know how to afford a drum kit, or why budget cuts end her school’s music program, or why her parents argue so much, or even how to explain her dream to other people. 
But drums sound all the time in Sam’s head, and she’d do just about anything to play them out loud—even lie to her family if she has to. Will the cost of chasing her dream be too high?…


Book cover of Savvy

A.W. Downer Author Of Best Friends Playbook

From my list on The best books about friendship and family with homeschooled characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was homeschooled from the beginning until I graduated from high school, and I’m now homeschooling my family. I also teach writing and English to kids from around the world, many of whom are homeschooled. As a kid, I loved fantasy and adventure stories, but I didn’t really like realistic stories because I wasn’t familiar with things like homeroom or class periods. I have loved finding books with characters who are homeschooled, especially if homeschooling is portrayed accurately. I also love stories about relationships, so stories with strong family ties and deep friendships are meaningful to me. I hope that both homeschoolers and other schoolers can enjoy these book picks!

A.W.'s book list on The best books about friendship and family with homeschooled characters

A.W. Downer Why did A.W. love this book?

Mibs (the main character) isn’t homeschooled yet, but she is about to be homeschooled with her older siblings. The characters felt like ones I would meet in my homeschool or church life. They felt comfortable.

But more than that, this book is just fun. I love the story and the characters so much, as well as the struggle to find what makes a person unique. The family bonds in Savvy are strong, and Mibs develops deep friendships with characters of all ages. It’s a special story, and one of my favorites. I am not doing it justice by half.

By Ingrid Law,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Savvy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

But just before the big day, Poppa is in a terrible accident. And now all Mibs wants is a savvy that will save him. In fact, Mibs is so sure she'll get a powerful savvy that she sneaks a ride to the hospital on a rickety bus with her sibling and the preacher's kids in tow. After this extraordinary adventure - full of talking tattoos and a kidnapping - not a soul on board will ever be the same.


Book cover of Rebel of the Sands

Lin Senchaid Author Of Force of Chaos: The Coming of Age of the Antichrist

From my list on fast action stories to break a reading slump.

Why am I passionate about this?

I read broadly across many genres and know what it's like to get stuck in a rut and need to find something different to keep my interest. The books I've suggested all have a broad appeal and any one of them could break the dreaded slump. Even those that fall into a genre you don't normally read are likely to draw you into their own special magic.

Lin's book list on fast action stories to break a reading slump

Lin Senchaid Why did Lin love this book?

We've all heard of the Arabian Nights, whether we've read the book or not. This one takes you into the exotic and magical world of a mock-Arabic land where Djinnis and other magical beings are accepted as real. Amani is a character you just have to love! She is thrown into an adventure that takes her far from her remote desert home and relies on her wits and special skills with forbidden weapons to stay one step ahead of capture by the sultan's men or worse, the magical forces that seem to surround her!

By Alwyn Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rebel of the Sands 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?

The first in the highly acclaimed trilogy packed with shooting contests, train robberies, festivals under the stars, powerful Djinni magic and an electrifying love story. WINNER of the 2016 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Debut Author.

"Tell me that and we'll go. Right now. Save ourselves and leave this place to burn. Tell me that's how you want your story to go and we'll write it straight across the sand."

Dustwalk is Amani's home. The desert sand is in her bones. But she wants to escape. More than a want. A need.

Then a foreigner with no name turns up…


Book cover of Coo

S.M. Stevens Author Of Shannon's Odyssey

From my list on adventure with talking animals and a dash of magic.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a girl, I would roll around on the floor with my Labrador retriever, beg my parents for horseback-riding lessons, and dream of being a vet. A proficiency in language and lack of science skills led me to writing instead, but my intense love of animals never waned. I adore adventure stories featuring animal characters and human ones, and some form of communication between them. That’s why I wrote Shannon’s Odyssey which, like many Middle Grade novels, also explores family secrets and the all-important act of forgiveness. It’s not fantasy but contains mystical elements rooted in reality, because who doesn’t want to believe magic exists in our everyday lives?

S.M.'s book list on adventure with talking animals and a dash of magic

S.M. Stevens Why did S.M. love this book?

Coo’s journey covers only a few city blocks but is long in emotional impact. At age 11, she enters the world of humans for the first time, having been raised by pigeons on a roof. A second, longer journey follows but to define it would spoil the surprise. The human-animal communication in the story will be considered fantastical by some, but others will believe it entirely possible that a child who has only known pigeons would speak their language. Coo touched my heart and gave me a new appreciation for these oft-maligned birds!

By Kaela Noel,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Coo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

“An unforgettable story of friendship, love, and finding your flock.” —Erin Entrada Kelly, Newbery Medal-winning author of Hello, Universe

In this exceptional debut, one young girl’s determination to save the flock she calls family creates a lasting impact on her community and in her heart. Gorgeous and literary, this is an unforgettable animal story about friendship, family, home, and belonging. For readers who love books by Kate DiCamillo and Katherine Applegate.

Ten years ago, an impossible thing happened: a flock of pigeons picked up a human baby who had been abandoned in an empty lot and carried her, bundled in…


Book cover of A Kind of Spark

Erik Christopher Martin Author Of The Case of the French Fry Phantom: Dotty Morgan Supernatural Sleuth Book One

From Erik's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Storyteller Social Worker Tabletop role playing gamer Reader Perpetual student

Erik's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Erik Christopher Martin Why did Erik love this book?

Addie is a young, autistic girl in Scotland. She learns dozens of women were executed for witchcraft right in her own village. She is horrified even though it took place hundreds of years before.

Addie feels a kinship with the women and becomes determined to create a memorial for them. Unfortunately, other than her big sister and her best friend, no one else understands her passion for women who died so long ago.

The story is written in first person, and is an #ownvoices book, as the author, Elle McNicoll, is autistic herself. Neurodiverse people are under-represented in literature, but A Kind of Spark helps readers see that autistic people can be the heroes of their own stories.

By Elle McNicoll,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Kind of Spark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Perfect for readers of Song for a Whale and Counting by 7s, a neurodivergent girl campaigns for a memorial when she learns that her small Scottish town used to burn witches simply because they were different.

"A must-read for students and adults alike." -School Library Journal, Starred Review
 
Ever since Ms. Murphy told us about the witch trials that happened centuries ago right here in Juniper, I can’t stop thinking about them. Those people weren’t magic. They were like me. Different like me.
 
I’m autistic. I see things that others do not. I hear sounds that they can ignore. And…


Book cover of Restart

Dayna Lorentz Author Of Wayward Creatures

From my list on exploring ideas of justice and accountability.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a parent, I’ve been struck by the fierce sense of justice my children have, from the unfairness of one getting more screen time to bigger injustices, like bullying or discrimination. Kids have an innate sense of what’s right, of what’s fair, but they can also lack a sense of nuance and have rather Byzantine notions of what justice requires. I wrote Wayward Creatures to explore a different way of thinking about justice and accountability. Restorative justice practices seek to bring the offending party together with the people hurt by their actions to acknowledge the harm caused and find a solution together. These five books explore other aspects of what it means to seek justice.

Dayna's book list on exploring ideas of justice and accountability

Dayna Lorentz Why did Dayna love this book?

I love stories that force characters to grapple with big questions. In both Wayward Creatures and Restart, the main character has done something they realize is huge and has hurt a lot of people. Only in Restart, the narrator, Chase, has suffered a traumatic brain injury and doesn’t remember anything about who he was or what he did. The story asks readers to think about what justice and accountability require, both inside and outside the courtroom.

By Gordon Korman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Restart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

The amazing New York Times bestseller about what you can do when life gives you a second chance.

Chase's memory just went out the window. Chase doesn't remember falling off the roof. He doesn't remember hitting his head. He doesn't, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name. He knows he's Chase. But who is Chase? When he gets back to school, he sees that different kids have very different reactions to his return. Some kids treat him…