Looking for Something New to Read?
If you’re anything like me, you like books.
Old books, new books, silly books, harsh books, thick books, thin books, any sort of books.
And the fact that the young adult section of the bookstore seems to be packaging and repackaging the same book over and over is really, really, really driving you crazy.
So here are the Good Ones. Here are some books that I really cherish, and I hope, if you haven’t read them yet, you will come to love them as much as I do.
It’s a long list, so if you want, skip through it. But I’ve read a lot in my life, and these are the books I’m going to wax poetical about.
NOTE: I am constantly editing/updating this list when I find books I think would fit in, so check back frequently. And if you have suggestions of your own, send them to me and I’ll gladly check them out.
Atypical Young Adult Literature (In That It’s Actually Good)
This includes sci-fi, fantasy, historical, and modern-day normal stories. :)
>Cornelia Funke — The Inkheart Trilogy
If you haven’t read The Inkheart trilogy yet, I’m going to ask you, politely, to put your computer down, go out, and buy them, because not only have they influenced me greatly as a writer, they also completely changed my view of books in general. Meggie is an ordinary twelve-year-old girl, living with her bookbinder father somewhere in Europe, when a strange man called Dustfinger shows up in the middle of the night, requesting help. It turns out Meggie’s father is one of those rare sorts of readers who can literally bring fictional characters to life — and one of them, a villain called Capricorn, wants Silvertongue back. I’ve always found books translated from German to be deep, rich pools of words and twists, and Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath are some of the best I’ve ever read. Absolutely intoxicating. Go out and buy them. Now.
>Alison Goodman — The Eon Duology
An Australian author with a fresh take on the fantasy genre. Eon is a twelve-year-old boy who longs to be the next Dragoneye, a position of great power and prestige. But it turns out Eon is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl, who would be killed if she’s discovered — and the dragon who chooses her has been missing for centuries. This is a series to be devoured, and then read again, savoring each word. They’re that good.
>Cassandra Clare — The Infernal Devices trilogy
First of all, if you’re a Tumblrite and haven’t heard of Cassandra Clare, for shame. She has a Tumblr herself, and is very polite and willing to speak with fans. Secondly, The Infernal Devices is one of my favorite steampunk/Victorian series out there today. The writing style is lovely, the characters are wonderful, and the romance is, while not understated and subtle like I typically prefer, quite well written. I prefer this series much more over Ms. Clare’s original trilogy, The Mortal Instruments.
>Noriko Ogiwara — Tales of the Magatama
Originally entitled Sorairo Magatama (空色勾玉, or Sky-Colored Jade), this trilogy was translated from Japanese to English by VIZ Media, and it may be one of the best decisions they’ve ever made. Manga-readers may recognize the name Noriko Ogiwara from Good Witch of the West (made into anime form as The Good Witch of the West: Astraea Testament); she was the writer of the novels the manga and anime were both based on. She has a wonderful, lyrical voice, and her deep understanding of Japanese folklore offers an incredibly rich tableau of a world. I personally really enjoyed Dragon Sword and Wind Child, mainly because of my favorite character, Chihaya, but the second book, Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince, is equally if not more amazing. They are, sadly, a bit difficult to get your hands on; you’ll probably have to order them off of Amazon.
>Holly Black — the Curseworkers series
Imagine a Mafia story. Now, imagine the Mafia in a world where everyone wears gloves, where special people called ‘workers’ can manipulate your feelings, your thoughts, your memories, or even your physical structure by touching you with a bare hand. This is the world of the Curseworkers. There have only been two books published — White Cat and Red Glove — but the noir flair is addicting and the writing is amazing. The final book, Black Heart, came out on April 3rd; sadly, I have not yet had a chance to read it. Holly Black is also the writer of The Spiderwick Chronicles and the Ironside trilogy, of faeries in modern NYC, which I really enjoyed, but my favorite series of hers is, by and large, the Curseworkers. Ms. Black has a Tumblr too, here.
>Libba Bray — A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy
After the suspicious death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Gemma returns to England, after many years in India, to attend a finishing school where she becomes aware of her magical powers….and the dangers of the realms. Libba Bray, Cassie Clare, and Holly Black are kind of a trio, so if you’ve read one, you’ve probably read the other two. Ms. Bray is exceptionally good at present tense writing, and the love interest she crafts — Kartik — is my favorite character.
I love this author, so, so much. I’m recommending everything she’s written. I particularly push you towards The Immortals Quartet, the Beka Cooper trilogy, the Song of the Lioness quartet, and all the other stories she has set in Tortall. Also, there’s the Circle of Magic, The Circle Opens, and The Will of the Empress.
>Scott Westerfeld — Uglies series, the Leviathan trilogy
In Uglies, teenagers wait eagerly to turn sixteen and be transformed from their normal selves into ‘pretties’ – preternaturally beautiful people who get to party for the rest of their lives. Tally Youngblood can’t wait to become a pretty, but when she meets a colony of uglies out in the middle of nowhere, her previous perceptions of the world are turned on their heads. The Leviathan trilogy is a steampunk version of World War One – read it. I don’t care if you’ve never heard of steampunk. It’s a spectacular series.
>Carrie Ryan — The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Dark and Hollow Places
I don’t typically read zombie books. Carrie Ryan’s are the exception. Except here, the zombies are called the Unconsecrated. Mary longs to know what’s outside of her walled-in village and the surrounding forest, and when an attack on the village sends her and several of her friends out into the Forest of Hands and Teeth, she gets her wish. Devastatingly creepy and eerily beautiful.
>Orson Scott Card — Ender’s Game
Set in Earth’s future, the governments in Ender’s Game recruits the world’s most talented children to a training center in space known as the Battle School, to learn the arts of war through difficult games in order to fight of the presumed third invasion of the aliens known as Buggers. It is an absolutely brilliant novel, though it can be incredibly violent in places, and should be required reading for all sci-fi YA fans. My favorite companion/sequel out of the whole series has to be Ender’s Shadow, however.
>Jennifer Lynn Barnes — Raised By Wolves
One of the only werewolf series I will read. Bryn was taken into a werewolf pack after her parents were murdered by a rogue wolf. Now, the pack has a new member — a boy kept under lock and key, a boy who wasn’t born a werewolf, but made one. Pack hierarchy, scrappy heroines, and epic battle scenes; a treat to read. Sequel is out, entitled Trial By Fire.
>Carrie Vaughn — Voices of Dragons
In a world where humans and dragons live in a cold war, a teenage girl named Kay accidentally befriends a young dragon named Artegal, and tries to find a way to show that humans and dragons can, indeed, coexist. Kind of like How to Train Your Dragon, but a lot less cute and a lot more intense.
>Patricia Wrede — Thirteenth Child
Eff was born a thirteenth child. Her twin brother, Lan, is the seventh son of a seventh son. Which means he’s supposed to be an amazing magical talent — and Eff is supposed to bring doom to everyone around her. An alternate version of the westward migration in the US, only with wizards, steam-dragons, and homesteaders. Sequel out entitled Across The Great Barrier.
>Lian Hearn — Across the Nightingale Floor series
There aren’t many samurai books I will read — because most people get the samurai ethic horribly wrong. But Lian Hearn is a literary genius. Young Takeo becomes a pawn in the feudal battles of warlord clans, while at the same time battling his heritage — and powers — from the mysterious Tribe. Samurai and ninjas at their finest. Bloody, sharp, witty, beautiful, achingly sad, and completely fascinating.
>Cinda Williams Chima — The Heir trilogy and The Seven Realms series
Cinda Williams Chima is one of the most talented YA writers out there right now, and both The Heir and The Seven Realms are series to kill for. The Heir takes place in a version our world, where the War of the Roses has been secretly continued through gladiatorial tournaments between different wizarding families. Sounds weird, but absolutely enchanting; Seph, from the second book, is one of my fictional true loves. And The Seven Realms is set in a world utterly apart from ours, where wizards (a common theme in Chima’s work) and queens fight over the throne of a queendom, and a warrior princess struggles to claim her birthright with the help of a thief who is more than he seems. Absolutely exquisite writing in both series.
>Eoin Colfer — Artemis Fowl series
Artemis Fowl is a young, brilliant Irish boy with a secret — he’s taken over his father’s criminal activities. In an effort to collect as much gold as possible, he kidnaps a fairy, Holly Short, a member of the LEP — the Lower Elements Police — and shenanigans ensue. I cannot explain how much I loved the first four books of this series. It’s catered to kids, but anyone can read them, and I heartily encourage you to do so.
>Laini Taylor — Daughter of Smoke and Bone
”Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.” A fascinating story about chimaeras, wishes, and twisted angels. Fierce writing, delicate descriptions, trope-breaking characters and international — and interdimensional — consequences. Like a Renaissance artistic masterpiece.
Atypical Sci-Fi/Fantasy Lit for Adults (In That It’s Actually Good)
Since my writing genre is generally YA, I don’t read all that many books for adults. Usually, I find YA literature more compelling. But these ones are just too good not to recommend.
>Robin McKinley — Sunshine
One of the very first vampire books (other than Dracula) that I ever read, and though there are some mature scenes in it (blanket warning delivered here) it remains one of my absolute favorites. Dark, edgy, and so, so sexy. I need to find a copy of it, because I lost mine and I regret it every day.
>M.K. Hobson — The Native Star
Emily is forced to join up with an obnoxious warlock in order to fully understand the meaning of the Native Star, a magical stone which has ended up trapped inside her hand. A roaring steampunk romp through the Wild West. Kind of an esoteric find — it’s pretty rare — but it’s oh-so-good.
>Carol Berg — The Collegia Magica series
So I may or may not have written a love letter to this woman and begged for a scrap of her talent. Not to her, obviously, but still, if I had half her talent…bestill my heart. The Collegia Magica is a trilogy (so far) of high fantasy novels (mainly about mages, with no dwarves, elves, and the like) with mystery and very twisting, twining plots that make my heart skip a beat. Her writing is just….it’s so intelligent. I want to own everything she’s ever done and then some.
>Anne Bishop — The Black Jewels trilogy
Anne Bishop is a talented fantasy/romance writer; many of her books are my guilt reading, because even if they’re fabulous, they’re also very, very sexy, and bordering on the trashy romance. Doesn’t make them any less awesome (or dark). Seven hundred years ago, a Black Widow witch saw an ancient prophecy come to life in her web of dreams and visions. Now the Dark Realm readies itself for the arrival of its Queen, a Witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But she is still young, still open to influence - and corruption.
WARNING: Mature scenes and language which might end up being triggers. This includes sexual abuse, mental, emotional, and physical rape, blood, torture, castration, murder, and dismemberment, among other things. Not for anyone under 16 (though you’ll probably ignore me).
Out and Out Fantasies/Fairy Tales (marked Adult or YA as necessary)
>Shannon Hale — The Goose Girl (YA)
A superb twist of an old fairy tale. When a princess is betrayed by her maidservant, she is left solely with her wits and her ability to command the wind in order to regain her old position and convince the court of her betrothed that she, not her treacherous maid, is the true princess. An excellent elaboration on the original tale, with a splash of rebellion and magic liberally added. Phenomenal.
>Mette Ivie Woodson — The Princess and the Hound (YA)
Woodson has the knack (gained through years of German study, including a master’s degree in the language) of writing exactly like a German author, and the beauty of this story is undeniable. Prince George can speak to animals, but in a country where that sort of magic is forbidden, he must hide it or die. When he is betrothed to a princess from a nearby kingdom, something strikes him as strange about not only her, but her relationship with her hound. A delicately woven story of incredible power. There’s a sequel, but I can’t remember the title.
>Antonia Michaelis — Tiger Moon (YA)
Another book translated from the German, Tiger Moon is the story of a young Indian boy on a mission to free a trapped princess — but it’s also a story within a story. Vibrant, beautiful, and bittersweet. Definitely worth the length.
>Kristin Cashore — Graceling and Fire (YA)
In a world where some people are born with extreme and often-feared skills called Graces, Katsa struggles for redemption from her own horrifying Grace, the Grace of killing, and teams up with another young fighter to save their land from a corrupt king. It and its companion (not a sequel) are some of the best books I have ever read; they still haunt me, in a good, spine-tingling way.
>Juliet Marillier — Heart’s Blood andthe Sevenwaters series (YA/Adult depending on the volume)
Historical fantasy/mild romance set in ancient Ireland. Absolutely delightful for a summer afternoon.
>Mercedes Lackey (YA/Adult depending on the volume)
No, that is not a typo. I did not forget a book, because I am recommending ALL of Mercedes Lackey’s work. She started out as a fanfiction author, believe it or not, but now she’s churning out so many unique ideas that it boggles the senses. I would particularly recommend the Elemental Masters series, Gwynhyfar, and the Obsidian trilogy. Far more lighthearted than many of the books on this list, you can pretty much depend on a happy ending. Most of the time.
Alternate Perspectives on Myths, Legends, and Some Very Famous People
>Laurie R. King — The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and the rest of the Mary Russell series (Adult)
The one and only Sherlock Holmes continuation I will ever read. Mary Russell is a bitter teenager when she literally stumbles over the infamous detective studying bees on a hillside in Surrey, where she startles him with her deductive abilities. He makes her his apprentice. An exquisitely detailed, lovely series.
>Daniel and Dina Nayeri — Another Faust (YA)
Faust is an old play of a scholar who makes a deal with a devil to achieve his dreams, and has it all blow up in his face. Another Faust stays true to the original story, but there’s a twist: here, there are five orphans who have made deals with their devious governess, and each of them have amazing powers. A chilling story, but absolutely fascinating; it leaves the feeling of being clubbed over the head when you’re finished with it, but in a good way — not because the writing is bad, but because it’s just that good. There’s a new book out in this series called Another Pan, but I liked Another Faust much more.
>Nancy Springer — I Am Mordred and I Am Morgan le Fay (YA)
Along with Vivian Vande Velde’s The Book of Mordred, I Am Mordred may just be the best story I’ve ever read that centers around Arthur’s destined murderer. And I Am Morgan le Fay is just as brilliant. Both of them are far too short for my liking. I wish there were more.
>Lisa M. Klein – Ophelia (YA)
How did Ophelia feel about it all? Klein taught Hamlet for years, and she wondered this the whole time. Ophelia is an alternate version of Shakespeare’s play — in layman’s terms, not verse, thank God — detailing Ophelia’s role (and some surprising twists) in what we know about Hamlet’s story. Do NOT miss this one.
>Sharon Dogar – Annexed (YA, but intense)
Another alternate side of things, but this time, it’s the perspective of Peter from Anne Frank’s Diary. A heartbreaking look at a young boy trapped in the same Annex as Anne Frank, but because we know next to nothing about Peter, the author has a whole canvas to paint — and paint it she does. Heartbreaking. Do not read without tissues. (Could also be listed under The Thought Provokers, see below.)
Those Books Your Teacher Kept Telling You to Read but You Never Wanted To (AKA the Books from the Deep End of the Pool, or the Thought-Provokers)
>Jennifer Donnelly — A Northern Light and Revolution (YA, but both are quite intense)
A Northern Light is a historical fiction book based off of the murder of Grace Brown in the early 1900s, mixed in with the fictional story of Mattie Gokey. Exquisitely crafted and haunting. Revolution is equally haunting, but in different ways. After her brother’s death, a tortured young musician discovers the diary of a girl in Revolutionary France, and gradually becomes obsessed with how the story ends. Jennifer Donnelly is a talented writer, and to ignore one or both of these books is a crime against literature.
>E.L. Koningsburg — The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place (YA)
After leaving an oppressive summer camp, twelve-year-old Margaret Rose Kane spearheads a campaign to preserve three unique towers her grand-uncles have been building in their backyard for over forty years. A hilarious, thought-provoking book written for middle-schoolers, but it can be read by all.
>Han Nolan — A Summer of Kings (YA)
In 1963, fourteen-year-old Esther gets a crush on eighteen-year-old King-Roy Johnson, a black man accused of murder in Alabama, when he comes to stay with her family. Twining in the ideals of the civil rights movement and a coming-of-age story for Esther, this book is amazing.
>Martha Brooks — Bone Dance (YA)
A little book is by no means a small one. Bone Dance is one of those little books. When Alexandra inherits a cabin in Manitoba from her father, she meets a boy who shares her Native American heritage, as well as her experience of being haunted by ghosts. I still think about this book sometimes, and it’s been five or six years since I last read it. It’s that sort of book.
>Justina Chen Hadley — North of Beautiful (YA)
Frankly, Justina Chen Hadley could write trashy romance novels (the one genre I really cannot read) and I would still gobble them up. But I have to say North of Beautiful is my favorite book of hers. Terra was born with a port-wine stain, a birthmark that covers most of her face. When she meets a Goth Chinese boy named Jacob, he begins to challenge all her previous perceptions of beauty, as well as make her question how her father treats both her and her mother. I would also recommend Nothing But The Truth (And A Few White Lies) by the same author.
>Jennifer Echols — Going Too Far (YA, but intense both sexually and psychologically)
A bittersweet and sexy love story about a teenage rebel doing community service by riding along with a rookie police officer on the night shift. Meg is devastatingly raw and focused, and John, the policeman, is trapped by things he won’t say. These two don’t even have to look at each other for sexual tension to make your skin crawl in the most delicious way.
>Mal Peet – Tamar (YA but psychologically intense)
A novel about the Dutch resistance to the Nazis in World War Two. In England, fifty years later, Tamar, grief-stricken by the puzzling death of her beloved grandfather, slowly begins to uncover the secrets of his life and role in the resistance. An amazing, devastating story.
Old-Fashioned but Delicious
>Charlotte Bronte — Jane Eyre
Seems a bit strange in places, especially considering the age gap between the heroine and the love interest, but an absolutely fascinating story. One of the first real examples of feminism I could find in Victorian literature. That alone makes it worthwhile.
>Emily Bronte — Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights is exquisitely written, and grabs you the way only a psychological thriller can. Heathcliff is delightfully evil; Catherine is wonderfully selfish and, eventually, psychotic. They go past passion into obsession, and how it details the fall of the human psyche is exquisitely detailed and brilliantly plotted.
>Robert Graves — I, Claudius
For those who love Roman history or know absolutely nothing about it. I, Claudius can be kind of hard to digest, especially in the beginning, but it tells the story of Augustus, first Emperor of Rome, all the way up to Caligula and beyond. The decadence of the Roman court is palpable; the selfishness of some of its members, sickening. An absolutely brilliantly plotted, well-characterized, not entirely historically accurate novel which must be read by all would-be Rome-lovers.
>Jane Austen —Pride and Prejudice
Yes, I know it was published in 1815. Yes, I know that to some people it seems like the only thing these characters do is sit around, drinking tea. Doesn’t keep it from being one of my absolute favorite books of all time. Darcy may not have been my first fictional crush/love, but he is definitely one of them; despite not having any scenes which, by modern standards, could be called sexy, it remains one of the most romantic books I have ever read, and I reread it frequently.
Mysterious Suspense (or Suspenseful Mystery)
>Elizabeth Peters — Amelia Peabody series
A hilarious, sweet mystery series about one Amelia Peabody, a stout feminist in the Victorian era who insists on becoming an Egyptologist. I hold a not-so-secret torch for Ramses, a character who comes in later in the series, who is the utter embodiment of intelligence being sexy. A very tongue-in-cheek, funny read.
>Seanan Maguire — the October Daye series
One of those rare series that should be much more popular than it is. October Daye is a half-faerie who has been trapped as a fish because of a curse for the past ten years. When her curse is broken, her family is gone, and she has nothing left to do except work as a knight for one of the nearby fae kings. She’s trying to get a hold of her life again, though the sexy King of Cats, Tybalt, isn’t helping much. A mystery series of epic proportions.
>Kathy Reichs — Virals
Written by the same woman who created Temperance Brennan of Bones fame, this is a sci-fi story about Tempe’s niece, who lives with her friends in the Everglades in a scientific research camp. After breaking into one of the labs, all of them start having strange symptoms — and what happens is utterly cataclysmic.
>Lauren Myracle — Bliss
Lauren Myracle is known for her fluff fiction, but Bliss honestly scared the bejeezus out of me, and still does. Bliss is the daughter of hippies, but when she moves to Atlanta, she is determined to fit in as a freshman at her new high school…which makes her the perfect target for Sandy, a sweet-yet-sinister girl obsessed with the occult. Creepy story, but too good to not recommend.
The Funny One
>Douglas Adams — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series
A hilarious social commentary, to be read for its pure zaniness. First line? ”Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.” If that doesn’t convince you to read it, I don’t know what will. Laugh-out-loud funny. I don’t care if you liked the movie; I swear to you, like always, the book(s) are pretty much a thousand times better.
The Comic Book:
Basically, this is a lot like Once Upon A Time, except a), it’s a comic book, b) it’s far better, and c) it’s a lot more violent. Very, very excellent. I have to say that Boy Blue is my favorite character, and he makes me smile more than any fictional character has in a very long time. I also have a huge soft spot for Cinderella, and that’s always been hard for me to say.