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DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Besides the (in)famous Catcher in the Rye, what other "coming-of-age novels" have you read and would recommend?

Asked by DarlingRhadamanthus (11273points) August 4th, 2012

There are a number of “coming-of-age” books that are quite well-known…books such as Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Anne of Green Gables.

Some of the lesser known coming-of-age novels I have read and enjoyed were Summer of My German Solider by Bette Green and the starkly beautiful Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.

What classic coming-of-age novels have you enjoyed? What lesser known “coming-of-age novels” do you recommend?

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28 Answers

bolwerk's avatar

I think bildungsroman novels are usually dull, but one that stood out as very vivid for me was Cold Sassy Tree. It was rather depressing, simplistic, preachy, and took place in a comically apolitical, idealized early 20th century Amerikan South.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

I’m not sure I’d recommend it in retrospect, but one coming-of-age book that is usually required or suggested in the schools is John Knowles’ A Separate Peace. Another one that usually finds its way onto reading lists is Chaim Potok’s The Chosen. One popular reading list choice I liked though, is John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony.

I liked S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders when I was a teen. Haven’t read it since then though, so not sure how well it’s held up over the years.

One book I read recently that has a coming-of-age theme of sorts that I really enjoyed is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. A very whimsical story about a young boy raised in a graveyard.

Judy Blume’s works generally deal with coming-of-age issues, although I wasn’t really into them.

Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia is a good book, and one I’d recommend. Another one that is pretty good, but probably lesser known these days is Where The Lilies Bloom, by Bill and Vera Cleaver, about a family of orphans dealing with adult issues and crises in Appalachia.

Two historical novels that have strong coming-of-age elements are Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, about one boy’s experience as a soldier in the American Civil War, and Irene Hunt’s Across Five Aprils, dealing with the same time period. Another one to check out is Adam Of The Road, by Janet Grey, about a young teen in early medieval England. In the same vein is Marguerite de Angeli’s The Door In The Wall, also set in England during the Middle Ages.

Some adult fiction I recommend for older teens that deal with coming-of-age themes include Carson McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding, and Stephen King’s novella The Body (The movie “Stand By Me” was adapted from this story). John Irving’s stuff is all great, but A Prayer For Owen Meany and The Cider House Rules deal strongly with coming-of-age themes. A more recent book that has a coming-of-age story as its central plot is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n. It’s set in Barcelona during the Franco years, and is rather mystical to a degree. Absolutely a must-read.

Biographies and memoirs are also good reads, especially because youth can relate to these experiences. One I suggest is Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi,

whew Ok, that’s good enough for now…

Bellatrix's avatar

I had to go and find a list to remind me but these are some of the books I have enjoyed greatly that are characterised as ‘coming of age’ novels.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kid.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

The Alchemist Paulo Coelho.

2davidc8's avatar

Your post reminded me of Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

jordym84's avatar

@Bellatrix ditto on The Kite Runner and The Alchemist!!! I also highly recommend The Life of Pi! Amazing book with a surprising wrap-up. The Birth of Venus is also very good. I myself consider it a coming-of-age book, but I’m not sure if it is considered as such by others. Either way, it’s a good book and definitely worth a read.

Earthgirl's avatar

Only a few come to mind. From Doris Lessings Children of Violence series:
Martha Quest
A Proper Marriage

Saul Bellow’s Adventures of Augie March

@AngryWhiteMale I loved __The Graveyard Book__! Did you know he modeled it on __The Jungle Book__? Now that is one truly original coming of age story!

Of course I read and loved __Catcher in the Rye__

I’m sure there are many more that I am forgetting.

Earthgirl's avatar

Oh how could I forget! The next book I’m going to be reading is one of the classic coming of age stories. Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel . I started to read it years ago and I loved his prose style but it was rich and dense and I didn’t have the patience for it at the time. I’m going back to it now. Soon I’ll be visiting his hometown of Asheville so I want to finish reading it before I go.

Supacase's avatar

Some really good books have been listed. They being back such good memories

@AngryWhiteMale I completely agree with you about Shadow of the Wind. Excellent.

@bolwerk Cold Sassy Tree was a favorite of mine.

A few that have not been mentioned

Townie by Andre Dubus III is an excellent coming of age memoir.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
The Coalwood Way
She’s Come Undone

There are a couple more bouncing around in my head that I can’t put my finger on.

Mariah's avatar

I looooove The Secret Life of Bees.

Mr_Paradox's avatar

Not exactly a “coming-of-age” novel, The Gunslinger by Stephen King is most definatly a book of a man finding himself again. After his entire world collapses around him and he is left almost alone except for the occasional poeple he meets on his journey to The Dark Tower. Which sits at the middle of all of creation.

filmfann's avatar

Old Yeller

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

@Earthgirl, I had no idea Gaiman was inspired by Kipling! How interesting!

Fly's avatar

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Earthgirl's avatar

@AngryWhiteMale Yes, he’s said so. Look, here he’s even written the intro to the new edition of The Jungle Book.
This talks about the new Graveyard Book movie. Let’s hope it doesn’t get cancelled. It was shelved once before..

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

There are so many great recommendations listed above. Here are a few others.

Teen reading:
* Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. It’s a great story about a young girl who is just about the exact opposite of her twin sister, who in her mind, is the favored child. It won the ‘81 Newbery Medal.

* The Madeleine L’Engle trilogy of Meet The Austins, The Moon by Night, and A Ring of Endless LIght. They are about a teen girl dealing with a variety of family changes, as well as romantic relationships.

* The Tripods trilogy that takes place in post-apocalyptic setting in Europe. It’s about three teen aged boys that start to discover their own abilities while battling with an alien invasion.

Adult reading:
* The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The story is told from the POV of six family members that move from Georgia, US, to the Belgian Congo when the father decides to take up missionary work. Their four daughters all deal with the experience in very different ways.

* I’d be shocked to find someone else who has read this last recommendation, but here it is. Inside Daisy Clover by Gavin Lambert.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

@Earthgirl, ugh. I hope they don’t ruin the book when they do the movie. I vastly preferred Coraline the book over “Coraline” the film. I’ll have to check out that new edition of The Jungle Book, then.

filmfann's avatar

How did I forget the Hunger Games trilogy?

Bellatrix's avatar

Breath – Tim Winton.
All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy.
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

What wonderful reads….some of them are on my shortlist, too…some I had totally forgotten and some are going on my wish list! Superb contributions…thank you everyone!

(Keep adding to the list….it will be a good reference to have on the Fluther.)

I really am so grateful for all you wrote…lurve coming to all!

Earthgirl's avatar

@Bellatrix I have ordered Breath. I want to read it soon!

Bellatrix's avatar

Winton is a wonderful writer. I loved Cloudstreet too. Let me know if you enjoy it.

snowberry's avatar

I’m guessing most folks here have never heard of it, but Otto of The Silver Hand is one of my favorite books. Although it’s definitely got some sad parts to it, the ending is positive, which makes it a win in my book.

Earthgirl's avatar

@snowberry When I read your post just now I thought, wait a minute, that sounds familiar. And it was familiar because coincidentally I just saw a great exhibit of Howard Pyle’s artwork at the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, Mass. I never realized how influential an artist he was. At the exhibit they mentioned how his representations of pirates, cobbled together from the best historical references he could find at that time combined with his ample imagination, have shaped the popular image of pirates for generations of people. Imagine that! He actually dreamed up what pirates may have looked like and a lot of it stuck! Judging by your love of his book he was also a good writer.

snowberry's avatar

@Earthgirl That, and the fact that his book has endured for so many years gives you an idea of how good a writer he was. I love his imagery. Both funny (at times) and poetic, and yet very fitting to the period. The style of writing helped to set the tone. Sometimes I wish I had the knack of speaking like that.

Even though it’s written for children, I think it’s a great book for any age because there are layers of insight that only an adult might really get.

Earthgirl's avatar

@snowberry This painting was in the exhibit. It was a little atypical of his work yet very powerful. It transcended illustration to be a powerful work of art in it’s own right. Now you have intrigued me about Otto of the Silver Hand! Lucky for me it’s on Project Guttenburg!

snowberry's avatar

Yes, in my opinion Otto is a far better choice for reading than Lord of the Flies (which is required reading in high schools in the US). Otto is still a coming of age book. You still get the point that the world has a lot of mean nasty people capable of doing hideous things, but it’s more realistic, because it shows both the good and bad in people. Lord of the Flies is simply odious.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Thank you for continuing to add here…back after long absence…

I love Howard Pyle…so glad you mentioned him. He is one of the greatest illustrators
America has produced.

Lurve still coming to all!

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