20 Books For Teens to Read Before They Turn 18

Updated: March 25, 2020
This is the ultimate bucket list of books for teens (and tweens) to read before they turn 18 - including a mix of classics, young adult fiction, and non-fiction. Parents may even want to re-read or cross some of these off their own list for the first time!
20 best books for kids to read before they turn 18

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Reading is a passageway to other worlds. It can make you feel less alone and more connected with the world at large. It can open your eyes to issues, triumphs, and challenges that you never dreamed of, and take you to far away places. Reading is a gift - and as a parent, there will be many stories that you will hope to share with your children. As a start, here are the top 20 books all teens should read before they turn 18.

More: 6 Life Skills Every Teen Should Master Before College

And as a book recommendation for parents to use to continue to find treasures in books for their children, check out Better with Books by Melissa Hart. This book is a gold mine of recommendations with the tagline, “500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens.” Each chapter includes topics of concern like body image, mental health, race and ethnicity, and nature and environmentalism. It is a wonderful resource for parents and their kids.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This book takes place in 1939 Germany. Death is a major character and books are saviors. This is an intense story that will take your teen into the heart of Nazi Germany.

Purchase it here.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

This may be one of the most powerful books of the decade, and it addresses themes of race and community in a poignant way that will speak to any teen. This book is an award winner and one for both parents and their children.

Purchase it here.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This book is known for inspiring a Netflix Original Series about mental health and suicide. This is a book with graphic stories and imagery, but understanding the reasons why Hannah Baker decides to commit suicide is something that will stay with readers in important and impactful ways for a long time.

Purchase it here.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

This book is a series of vignettes surrounding the experiences of Esperanza Cordero, a Latina girl living in Chicago. It will take readers along a coming-of-age story that explores happiness, heartbreak, and everything in between.

Purchase it here

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This novel centers around a boy with autism and a mystery that the readers get to experience from the perspective of Christopher John Francis Boone. He doesn’t understand human emotion, and living this mystery through this angle is a thoughtful way for teens to understand the ways in which people can differ yet also be the same.

Purchase it here.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Though this book recently became popular again due to the release of the movie version, the movie is not a substitute for this beautiful story about family and the process of embracing who you truly are through the angle of space and time exploration.

Purchase it here.

Educated by Tara Westover

This is an unforgettable memoir for both adults and teens that has won many awards, including the recommendation of Barack Obama. Raised as a survivalist in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was kept out of school and survived a childhood of violence and isolation. This would be a wonderful book to read at the same time as your teen for the purpose of family discussion.

Purchase it here.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Augie was born with a facial difference that kept him out of school for years. In fifth grade, he discovers what it’s like to crave normalcy and also how difference can be the most meaningful teacher of all.

Purchase it here.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird has been voted as one of the best novels of the twentieth century. Themes of prejudice, beauty, and inequality shine in this must-read classic for everyone aged preteen and above.

Purchase it here.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

This memoir was written by the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. This story highlights the power that every person has to make a difference.

Purchase it here.

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Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

This novel can be easily overlooked for its simplicity, but preteens will treasure the story that brings the experience of homelessness to light as well as the power and redemption of imagination.

Purchase it here.

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings

This memoir of transgender advocate, Jazz Jennings, has inspired a TV show on TLC. It has also given voice to a trailblazer that has opened up the conversation of gender identity to all in a real and wise way.

Purchase it here.

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

This story is a celebration of friendship, heartbreak, and love and centers around Ben, a character who comes out as non-binary to their parents. Ben struggles with an anxiety disorder, but the friendship that blossoms in this book will be redeeming and inspiring for all readers.

Purchase it here.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

The author shares beautiful poetry that will speak to tweens and teens about her experience of growing up in the South as an African-American in the 1960s and 1970s. The poems are charged with the themes of self-awareness and identity.

Purchase it here.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This story begins on a Spokane Indian Reservation, and it is both heartbreaking and funny — a perfect combination for young teens.

Purchase it here.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This is a story from 1943 that will take preteens into another world. The power of love is the theme, and the feeling of both fairytale and science fiction will appeal to many.

Purchase it here.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The compelling advice in this book given by Don Miguel Ruiz is perfect for teens going off to college or beginning a new stage of independence. It is a book that can be re-read all throughout life without losing its power.

Purchase it here.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This coming-of-age story is unforgettable as it explores what it’s like to feel like you’re on the fringe. The characters deal with loss and love and everything in between, and can feel very relatable to teens.

Purchase it here.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

This classic is a testament to the human spirit and the power of hope. Though there are now many decades separating Anne’s life in Nazi-occupied Holland and your teen’s, the way Anne bares her soul will close that gap instantly.

Purchase it here.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This memoir by Maya Angelou is another classic that explores loneliness and bigotry. It is both poetic and raw, and a must-read for everyone.

Purchase it here.

Reading can be a great way for teens to unplug and relax? Here are a few more ways parents can help teens de-stress.