Our favourite coming-of-age stories

Discover our edit of the very best books about growing up. 



'When a child first catches adults out - when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just - his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone.’ John Steinbeck, East of Eden 

Writers and readers repeatedly return to the subject of growing-up. The confusing, difficult, and exciting journey from child to adult is one that provides authors with endless material. We've put together a list of what we consider to be the very best coming-of-age books and novels about growing up. 

to kill a mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s.

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catcher in the rye

The Catcher in the Rye

J.D Salinger

The ultimate novel of disaffected youth, Salinger’s seventeen-year-old dropout Holden Caulfield is the definitive voice of teenage angst and alienation. Written with the clarity of a boy leaving childhood, it deals with society, love, loss, and expectations without ever falling into the clutch of a cliché and feels as relevant today as in the 1950s.

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i know why the caged bird sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou

In the first volume of her six books of autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930s. She learns the power of the white folks at the other end of town and suffers the terrible trauma of rape by her mother's lover. Despite her enduring love for the world, she realises its cruelty.

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growing pains of adrian mole

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole

Sue Townsend

The second volume of Adrian Mole’s secret diary perfectly captures the frustration of being young and misunderstood. Now approaching the mid-point of his teenager years, Adrian is still no closer to understanding life, women, school, and, crucially himself but continues to struggle valiantly against the slings and arrows of growing up. This coming-of-age book will have you laughing out loud. 

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