50 Best Classic Books for Teens and Young Adults

Updated August 31, 2022
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Do you think that classics are just old? Well, you would be surprised that many modern stories are based on the classics of literature. To broaden your horizons and maybe find your new favorite books, explore a list of some of the best books for young adults and teens that cover action, adventure, fantasy, and even romance.

Classic Fantasy Books for Teens

Fantasy books aren’t a new thing. Some of the greatest fantasy books were written a decade or even a century ago. Explore a few classic titles teens might really enjoy.

  1. The Giver - In a dystopian world, Jonah discovers that the world isn’t what it seems to be as he learns about the colorful past. As he learns about the harsh reality of his world, he decides it is better to run.
  2. A Wrinkle in Time - Planets and time travel, oh my! You won’t want to put down this thrilling fantasy adventure of Meg Murry as she tries to find her father.
  3. Ender’s Game - Are aliens and military tactics more your jam? Fall into the world of Ender Wiggin and his fight to eradicate the Formics.
  4. Brave New World - You’d think that a world that is pain-free would be great. But as you see in the dystopian novel, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, life loses its luster and becomes very meaningless.
  5. Frankenstein - Dive into the mind of Mary Shelley as she has Dr. Frankenstein create a monster in this romantic classic. But it will leave you questioning, who is the true monster?
  6. Matilda - Being born special isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for Matilda in this light fantasy classic. That is, until she discovers the power of telekinesis.
  7. Tuck Everlasting - Romance blooms in this classic romance of Winnie Foster and Jesse Tuck. However, when she learns his secret, it could change her life forever.
  8. The Time Machine - H.G. Wells is a master at his craft. Standing the test of time, you’ll find this 1800s science fiction about a Victorian man traveling to the year 802,701 an instant page-turner.
  9. Dracula - Many depictions of Dracula have evolved over the years, but you should dive into Bram Stoker's Dracula. This gothic novel might not be exactly what teens expect.
  10. The War of the Worlds - Interested to see how someone can make it out of an alien invasion? The classic The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells is the basis of many current invasion books and movies.
  11. The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials Series) - A modern fantasy classic published in the mid-nineties, The Golden Compass offers a fantasy universe, familiars, and adventure that allows you to escape reality.
  12. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter Series) - Enter a world of magic like nothing that you’ve ever seen before by following Harry Potter on his journey to Hogwarts.

Classic Books for Teens With Action & Adventure

Do you like a little action and adventure in your reads? There are a lot of adventure books lining those classic library shelves. View a few fun adventure books that you might really enjoy.

  1. Lord of the Flies - Teens often wish they could just do what they want! Find out what happens with a group of boys stranded on a deserted island when they get to do just that.
  2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - One of the great adventure stories of all time, Mark Twain chronicles Huckleberry Finn and his adventures with Jim, the runaway slave.
  3. The Call of the Wild - Set during the Klondike Gold Rush, this story follows Buck, a large mixed-breed dog, as he is abducted from his home and becomes a sled dog.
  4. Treasure Island - Published in 1881, Treasure Island follows Jim as he grows from cabin boy to captain in this high seas adventure.
  5. The Princess Bride - Action, adventure, and an evil prince follow Buttercup and Westley through this fantastical romance that has a happily, but not perfectly, ever after.
  6. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia Series) - Follow four orphaned siblings that find a fantastical world of adventure hiding in the back of a wardrobe.
  7. Gulliver’s Travels - Ready to traverse some of the strangest places outside of this planet, settle in with Lemuel Gulliver and his many adventures.
  8. The Hobbit, or There and Back Again - Join Bilbo Baggins through his adventures with Gandolf outside of the Shire. Dive into the fantastical world of J.R.R. Tolkien through this fun classic for all ages.
  9. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Another Mark Twain favorite, this classic follows the mischievous Tom Sawyer and his adventures in St. Petersburg, Missouri.
  10. The Three Musketeers - Get lost in the adventures of d'Artagnan as he joins the Musketeers guard.
  11. The Swiss Family Robinson - How would you fare stranded on a deserted island? Find out how the Robinson family does it in this exciting classic.
  12. The Sword in the Stone - You’ve heard of King Authur. But do you know the story of Wart and the wizard Merlin? Get inspired by T.H. White's making of King Arthur.
  13. Hatchet - Considered a contemporary classic novel, Hatchet follows 13-year-old Brian Robeson and how he survives in the woods alone after a plane crash.
  14. Johnny Tremain - Go back to Boston during the American Revolution with Johnny Tremain. This classic adventure takes you through much of the American Revolution through the eyes of a cocky teen that becomes a spy for the Sons of Liberty.

Best Books for Young Adult With Struggles

Throughout history, teens have struggled. Explore some of the greatest struggles by checking out a few of these classics.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird - Published in 1960, follow the antics of Scout Finch and the discrimination and prejudice she is subject to during the trial of Tom Robinson.
  2. The Diary of a Young Girl - Explore the real life of Anne Frank, a Jewish teen living in hiding during World War II.
  3. Animal Farm - An allegorical novel written in 1945, Animal Farm explores the plight of a group of animals as they try to gain their freedom against the humans, only to become like the humans themselves.
  4. A Raisin in the Sun - A play first performed in 1959, Lorraine Hansberry’s book introduces you to the struggles and clashing dreams of a young African American family living in the midst of a white neighborhood.
  5. Things Fall Apart - Looking to be taken to a faraway place? This 1950s novel takes you through the struggles of the Umuofia clan and the changes that Europeans bring.
  6. The Story of My Life - Explore the trials and struggles faced by Helen Keller, an inspiring woman that persevered to become a well-known speaker despite being both deaf and blind.
  7. Bud, Not Buddy - Dive into the adventures and struggles that Bud Calloway experiences trying to find his family in Michigan during the Great Depression.
  8. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - This classic young adult novel explores the forbidden friendship of Jewish and German boys leading to unimaginable consequences.
  9. Holes - Follow the unlucky Stanley Yelnats through his adventures in juvenile detention, which ultimately leads to the redemption of his family.
  10. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - Finding your religion isn’t always easy. Margaret Simon discovers this as she explores what religion is to her.
  11. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Trying to maintain your independence and integrity during injustice can be tough. Add to this the backdrop of the Great Depression, and you have the inspiring story of Cassie Logan.
  12. A Separate Peace - Coming of age can be tough for any teen. But with World War II looming around them, Gene and Finny have even more to worry about than the average teens.
  13. The Color Purple - Published in 1982, this classic explores the abuse and bigotry Celie, an African American teen living in the south in the early 1900s, receives and her resilient hope for a better future.

Fan Favorite Classic Reads Teens Might Enjoy

When it comes to classics, there are a few that are near and dear to most hearts. These books have withstood the test of time and still fall on many teen’s top read lists.

  1. Pride & Prejudice - Though it has been adapted into a multitude of movies, there is nothing quite like the romance between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. It’s something you need to experience on the pages yourself.
  2. The Outsiders - This classic novel gives a unique coming of age perspective of orphaned boys growing up on the lower-class East Side. Following the lives of Ponyboy Curtis and his best friends, this is a tale you won’t soon forget.
  3. Romeo & Juliet - Reading Romeo and Juliet is probably not on many teenagers’ idea of a good time. However, once you get past the Shakespearean language, the beauty of the story of Romeo and Juliet really starts to shine through.
  4. Little Women - Watching the bonds of family and sisterhood tried and tested makes this classic tale of the March sisters a hard one to put down.
  5. The Great Gatsby - The wealth and privilege in 1922 New York found in The Great Gatsby is a history lesson and a tale of love and tragedy wrapped all into one.
  6. Jane Eyre - A unique love story, Jane Eyre follows the tragic and unique life of Jane as she meets and falls in love with Mr. Rochester.
  7. The Catcher in the Rye - Explore the world through Holden Caulfield's eyes as he tries to understand how twisted the world becomes after you lose the luster of youth.
  8. Oliver Twist - A classic Charles Dickens novel, Oliver Twist dives into the London underbelly, poverty, and crime.
  9. The Secret Garden - Friendship and mystery work to bring Mary Lennox and her secret garden to life.
  10. Anne of Green Gables - Quirky and vivacious Anne goes from an orphan to becoming part of a family and community.
  11. The Yearling - The classic dives into connection between a boy and deer in the Florida backwoods. Snuggle into their adventures behind the pages of this novel.

Finding Books for Young Adults

Teens are always looking for what is new and hip, but some of the greatest books are actually the classics. Whether they are modern classics or those that have stood the test of time, there is a reason that these books have their own category. Now that you know some teen classics, you can explore a list of children’s books.