I’ve been recommending books to people for years, sometimes because I’ve been asked to, other times because I’ve read something I think someone I know will love. There are 20 highlights that I find myself recommending time and time again, so I’ve collected them all here in the hopes that it’ll help you find something new to read if you’re feeling a bit lost for what to do in this strange time.
I’ll be adding to this list any time I read something that deserves a spot here. I’ve split them out into younger readers (10-14), young adult (YA) and adult, but predictably YA takes up most of the list. If you don’t consider yourself a young adult, keep in mind that I am almost 30 and still love YA. You can read more about why I love it and why I think adults are missing out by not reading them here.
Best books for younger readers
I read lots as a child and young teenager, and can still remember some of the books that captured my heart.
My ultimate favourite author around this time was Meg Cabot. I distinctly remember the first book I read of hers: Teen Idol. It’s a classic story of a girl falling in love with a celebrity, and I have since become a total sucker for this kind of plot. I plan to round up my favourites in a separate post because I have read lots!
Meg Cabot is also the author of The Princess Diaries, but funnily enough I’ve never read those. Absolutely love the movies though. Other Meg Cabot highlights for me include The Mediator series and the Missing series. Technically these are all YA but they are on the younger side of that category.
Angels Unlimited by Annie Dalton
I was obsessed with these as a young teenager. They are now called Agent Angel, but they used to be called Angels Unlimited when I read them. There are 12 in the series but the first five or six are the best. They follow Meg, who finds herself studying at an Angel Academy and time travelling with her fellow angels to fight the Opposition. They actually don’t have the best reviews on Goodreads but they were an absolute highlight of my younger reading years.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
I don’t really think I need to say much here. Harry Potter is an obvious one but one that will forever be on this list.
Best Young Adult Books
I’ve spoken before about my love of YA and I always encourage older readers, including actual adults, to consider giving some a go. Not every YA is quite so relatable for an adult, but so many of them are. This is the category I have read the most throughout my life, so these really are some of the best around. I read most of them when I was 18 or older, so these will appeal to some adults too.
I still can’t get enough of dystopian storylines. The good ones are just about believable but equally crazy. I’ve read so many, including lots that completely miss the mark, but there are four that really stand out to me as the best. If anyone has any more recommendations I’m always up for reading more.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I’m sure you’ve all heard of The Hunger Games and maybe even watched the films, but the books are just fantastic. Suzanne Collins has just released a prequel so I am rereading these as we speak. They’re are perfect for kids and adults alike. Bonus suggestion if you’re an adult and have already read The Hunger Games – Battle Royale is great too! It’s translated from Japanese and is certainly a lot more violent, but I loved it.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Divergent movies are so, so disappointing, but the books are absolutely amazing. Set in a dystopian future that divides people into factions, Tris discovers that things are not as they seem and that her friends and family are in danger. This series is great the whole way through and has a shocker of an ending. Don’t be put off if you’ve seen the films as they really don’t live up to this fantastic story. This is another series that both teenagers and adults of any gender will enjoy.
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
This one is a little more girly, about a future in which love is seen as an illness and there is a cure. I was absolutely addicted to this when I first read it, and I plan to give it another read at some point this year. A fantastic story that’ll have you on the edge of your seat the whole way.
The Selection by Kiera Cass
A guilty pleasure that I’ve talked about many times before. This is definitely girly, with a storyline that’s often described as The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor. But man it’s good! Another one I plan to reread soon, and I think it’s coming to Netflix at some point in the future if I remember rightly! Eek.
Apocalyptic novels capture me in a similar way to dystopians. They give me a buzz of adrenaline and can often be quite scary. I expected to have a few favourites to add here but there’s only one true standout so far. Let me know if you’ve read any great apocalyptic novels, YA or adult. I think I need to read more!
The Rain by Virginia Bergin
I loved The Rain by Virginia Bergin so much. Initially I thought I would be too old to enjoy this one as the main character is quite young, but man did it make my heart race. I am so proud to have a quote from my review in the sequel, The Storm.
Another favourite genre of mine is Sci Fi, and there are some great Sci Fi stories within YA.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Illuminae is one that I recommend to anyone that’ll listen. I pretty much suggest it whenever someone asks for a book recommendation, no matter who they are. It’s so clever, so unique and so addictive. I’ve heard that the audiobook for this one is amazing too. If I had to pick just five books for this list, Illuminae would without doubt be one of them.
The Loneliness of Distant Beings by Kate Ling
Gosh, my heart. Every time I think of this story it swells. This is one of the most underrated series I’ve ever read, I wish more people would pick it up and fall in love with it like I did. It’s set in the future, in space, and the romance is just incredible. It made me cry, like properly sob. Gosh.
Across The Universe by Beth Revis
There are some elements to this that are a little bit bonkers, but I’ve read this series more than once and really enjoyed it each time. It’s another one set in space and it has some similarities to The Loneliness of Distant Beings, albeit not quite as good.
YA romance can be kinda pants when you’re an adult, because sometimes it (rightfully so) just feels too immature when you’re married with a baby! But these all resonated with me and were completely fantastic, even at 29 years old.
Freshers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison
Freshers is about Uni students so didn’t feel so distant (despite being something I experience more than ten years ago now… what the hell). It’s laugh out loud funny and so relatable. This author duo has written some other crackers that I devoured, too, but they didn’t quite make it into this ultimate list. I’ve also just remembered that the main character is called Phoebe!
Songs About A Girl by Chris Russell
Oh how I love a story about falling in love with a celebrity. There’s just something about this kind of plot that captivates me. But Songs About A Girl is a total standout, it’s absolutely fantastic and I’ve read it more than once. There’s a love triangle, mystery, travel and lots of swooning. This is a trilogy and it’s well worth investing in all three. There’s absolutely no middle book syndrome happening here.
I would recommend pretty much anything by Sarah Dessen, she’s an amazing YA romance novelist. A particular highlight is Someone Like You, and I also recently loved Saint Anything.
Remix by Non Pratt
This is a short standalone with a big impact. It’s got the celebrity romance element to it but in a very different way to Songs About A Girl, set at a festival.
It’s a story about friendship and rebellion and that exciting time in your life when you’re getting closer to adulthood but you’re still naive and trying to work out how the world works.
Absolutely Everything by Patrick Ness
Patrick Ness is without doubt my favourite author. Everything he writes is unusual, beautifully written and unpredictable. My first Patrick Ness novel was More Than This, and I have recommended it to everyone since. It’s a great one to start with, but he also has the fantastic Chaos Walking trilogy (set to become a movie) as well as some amazing standalones.
Between The Lives by Jessica Shirvington
Oh, this book. It’s another I can’t wait to reread. It broke my heart! I stayed up until the early hours of the morning reading this and completely balled my eyes out at the end.
Best books for adults
I’ve read loads of novels that are categorised as adult, but not many of them are good enough for this list! I just finished reading Vicious by V. E. Schwab, and while I really liked it it still isn’t good enough to compete with the rest of the books I’ve listed here (at least for me!)
However, I do love a chick lit, and these authors have so many fantastic ones written for adults. I don’t think I could pick just one from them:
I did originally have a Fantasy section in this post, but I deleted it in the end! I had added Trial By Fire by Josephine Angelini, but I realised that the middle book really frustrated me after an amazing book one, so I never finished the series.
I also loved Angelfall by Susan Ee but have yet to read the third book (so far so good with books one and two though, so it may well end up on this list).
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is amazing, but again I’ve only read the first book so far.
The same goes for Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I’m not sure what it is with me and struggling to finish fantasy series, but it really is a downfall of mine.
Wowzers, that took me a while. I’ve been working on this a little bit most nights for almost a month! I have added and deleted so many books I’ve lost count. But I think this is the right list for now. I can’t wait to give some of these a reread and finish some of the series I’ve mentioned above too. Plus, I hope it won’t be long before I come across more books to add to this epic list.
Have you got any all-time favourite books? I am continuously adding books to my TBR on Goodreads, so let me know if there are any you think I really should add.