After the broad categories, these are in no particular order. That would be too hard.
YA Books That Grown-Ups Will Like
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. This semi-autobiographical novel is about a teenager who checks himself into psychiatric care, and, true to the title, it’s funny along with being touching and wise.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I only started this because I knew I should, National Book Award winner and all that stuff, so I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that I actually loved it. Love it when that happens.
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. M, J, and I all loved this one. The protagonist has Asperger’s, so the perspective is interesting, and we literally laughed and cried over it.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. I loved this narrator’s voice–so funny. But he wasn’t kidding when he swore up and down that it wouldn’t exactly be entirely heartwarming
Wonder by R. J. Palacio. M, J, & I all loved this one. A great story about kindness and empathy.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. This is a lovely, mature love story of two teenagers. I pretty much will ready everything by Rainbow Rowell.
Counting by 7s by Holly Sloan. Another one that all three girls in the family loved, with a quirky cast of characters who come together and warm the cockles of your heart.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. This is a smart fantasy with a kick-ass female protagonist.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Another favorite among all three of us girls. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and then you’ll need to read all his other books.
Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. This is a futuristic fantasy fairytale that’s fun and much, much cooler than it looks by its cover.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. A beautiful book set in Nazi Germany.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Another kick-ass protagonist in a fantasy world that feels like historical fiction except for the magic.
A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet) by Madeleine L’Engle. I read this book in third grade and it was one of the most formative reads in my life. Among other things, it taught me to question authority and to consider my place in the universe, and it inspired the name of my first-born. I have yet to convince either of my children to read past the first chapter. Dammit.
Harry Potter Paperback Box Set (Books 1-7) by J.K. Rowling. Well, of course. Cute W and I started reading these before we had kids, and the girls loved them, too.
The Hunger Games (Book 1) by Suzanne Collins. Read and enjoyed by all of us–the rest of them, too.
Divergent (Divergent Series) by Veronica Roth. This was fun, and I especially liked how well-thought-out the society was, with extra info at the end of the book. I didn’t think that the sequels were as strong, though.
Station Eleven: A novel by Emily St. John Mandell. This is a lovely, hopeful post-apocalyptic novel.
Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt. I was surprised that this novel about a woman who entombed in a cell as an Anchorite nun for about thirty years was as readable and interesting as it turned out to be. Great, especially, if you’re a fan of history and girl power.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. This is a love story that was one of those books that I just didn’t want to stop reading.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley. Our whole family loved this audiobook read by Jayne Entwhistle. Flavia de Luce is an 11-year-old English girl who loves chemistry and finds herself solving a murder mystery.
The Sparrow: A Novel (Ballantine Reader’s Circle) by Mary Doria Russell. A terrific book about science fiction and faith.
The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver. Just one of my favorite books ever, thoughtful and action-packed story of a family and a story of post-colonial Africa.
The Red Tent: A Novel by Anita Diamant. Another one of my all-time favorites, a beautiful story filled with history & girl power.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. A charming, light love story. I found this one while on vacation, and it’s a perfect vacation read.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Another all-time favorite, a compelling story about a weird futuristic society that’s scary as heck.
The Bell Jar by Silvia Plath. I somehow never “got” The Catcher in the Rye, and when I read The Bell Jar, I was like, “Oh, this is how people felt about Holden Caulfield.”
Favorite Jane Austen Novels: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion (Dover Thrift Editions) Please. Jane Austen is so awesome. I love the slow burn love story! Plus she has the funniest descriptions of people.
Anna Karenina (Modern Library Classics) by Leo Tolstoy. I’ll always remember starting this book. I’d bought it at an English language bookstore while studying in Paris, and I’d picked it chiefly because it was really long, so it would be more entertainment for my money. I remember being in the Metro and feeling, like, euphoric because I loved it right away. I recently re-read this and was a little bummed: being an old, married mother makes me less patient with Anna.
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. I loved this book. Once or twice, as I was reading, Cute W asked, “How’s the book?” and I’d say dreamily and sigh out, “It’s SO GOOD.” Totally cried at the end.
The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg. This is a fascinating account of girls and women living as male for a variety of complicated reasons.
Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon (Newbery Honor Book) by Steve Sheinkin. This is actually a kids’ or YA book, but it’s also great if you are usually not a non-fiction person. It reads like a super-fun thriller.