So over a month ago I was talking to a friend of mine who has children of the nerd persuasion, ad we were talking about different fantasy and sci-fi books that her kiddos have read. Her kids are all boys and two of them are significantly older than the nerdettes so their taste in literature is a lot closer to what mine was when I was their age. At the end of the conversation I promised to get back to her with a list of books to check out, but alas I am not that great of a friend. So today’s post is all about fulfilling my promise. Sorry it took so long.
This is a list of books I feel are both awesome and appropriate for pre-teen to teen-aged kids. As always, use your own judgement on what is appropriate for your kids. Read the book before you let your children, or even better, read some of them together.
*Oh and for full disclosure, the links included in this post are affiliate links. This mean that if you purchase anything through these links I receive a small commission at no additional charge to you. It is my intent to use these affiliate links to help offset the cost of running the blog and I guarantee they will never affect the decision of which products to review. That decisions will solely be based on whether or not I think it will be successful with the nerdettes.*
20. The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney – This set was recently turned into an absolutely horrible movie called the 7th son. However, don’t let that deter you as the books themselves are quite enjoyable. It is a great introduction to fantasy that is not strictly swords and sorcery.
19. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull – Here is a series that takes what ever kid thinks of with regard to magical creatures and turns it on its head. Two kids discover their grandfather is actually the groundskeeper for a magical creature preserve, but their meddling soon leads them into all sorts of trouble. These books are a little heavy on the vocabulary, so make sure your kids know they can ask you for help with words or get them a good children’s dictionary.
18. A Spell For Chameleon by Piers Anthony – This was probably the very first fantasy book I ever read as a kid. At its heart, it is a standard Hero’s Journey but through a magic land made of puns. There are a ton of books in this series but the first has always been my favorite. I would especially recommend this series for anyone who doesn’t take their reading too seriously.
17. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Truly one of the classics, the Hitchhiker’s Guide is a funny snarky commentary on society, set in space, with a depressed robot. What’s not to love.
16. Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey – This series is one of several written by Mercedes Lackey set in the land of Valdemar. My favorites are actually he Last Herald Mage and Darian’s Tale. However the Arrows of the Queen was her first and is still the best starting point for this series. I will admit that it will get a little sappy at times, but i can still lose myself in the pages of any of the Valdemar books.
15. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett – The first of the legendary discworld novels, this book will draw any kid into a deep love of all that is great about fantasy. Perched squarely between silly and greatness, Terry Pratchett should be required reading for all pre-teen kids.
13. The Legend of Drizzt by R A Salvatore – This series is the definitive series based in Faerun. R A Salvatore mixes common dungeon and dragons lore and exception characterization to create a thrilling story that you typically do not get from novels based in pre-made worlds. As an added bonus, these books can help shape any budding dungeon masters for their next D&D campaign.
12. The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis – No young adult list would be complete without the Chronicles of Narnia. This series takes everything that is right about high fantasy and throws in a moral lesson as a bonus.
11. On Basilisk Station by David Weber – If you are looking to introduce your young one to the wonders of space operas, then there is none better than the Honor Harrington Saga by David Weber. Budding history nerds will also appreciate spotting the parallels between this series and the french Napoleonic period.
10. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – The antichrist is delivered to the wrong address and hilarity ensues. This book is a boatload of fun and humor. Fair warning, however, this book does poke fun at religion in general and christianity in particular. I laugh ever time i read it, but as one reviewer notes “if you’re of the mindset that God can’t take a joke, well, you’re probably better off with a different book.”
9. Dune by Frank Herbert – Part sci-fi, part fantasy, and part dystopia, Dune blends all the best of the three genres into a deep and lasting story that both older children and adults can re-read over and over to find something new. ”
8. Ashtown Burials by N D Wilson – not quite as dark as Harry Potter but much grittier than Percy Jackson, the Ashtown Burials series is the perfect transition between books that are just for kids and more sophisticated novels. I am anxiously awaiting the next in the series.
7. The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander – You may recall the Disney movie The Black Cauldron: 25th Anniversary Special Edition” target=”_blank”>The Black Cauldron from the 80s. This series tells the tale of Taran the assistant pig keeper in its entirety. One of the greats in terms of fantasy and mythology, The Chronicles of Prydain are for Wales what the Arthurian legends are for England.
6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – This may be the best of the recent rash of dystopian novels written for teens. The series has been made even more famous by the movies, but the books are far and away better than anything the movies have tried.
5. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan – while this is the book that started it, I could just as easily have put the Kane chronicles or Magnus Chase. Rick Riordan has found a way to make ancient mythology relate-able without butchering the original stories like so many others have.
4. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Neverwhere is like Alice in Wonderland but with way more dirt and grime and less of a happy cartoony feel. There are some more mature themes and scenes so this recommendation is strictly for the older set. That being said, you will not find a better urban fantasy anywhere. This is one of my favorite books of all time.
3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – Whatever you do, please do not judge this book by the movie because thebook is so much more. What could be described as a coming of age story, if you came of age at 11 and were expected to mastermind an attack to wipe out a whole alien race. This book will resonate deeply with anyone who has ever felt over their head or picked on. At the same time, it shows the future through the eyes of genius children destined to change the world.
2. The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien – The granddaddy of fantasy and still one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written. J R R Tolkien set out to create a mythology for a land that he felt had lost its way after the war. What came of that is in my opinion one of the greatest things to happen to the English speaking world.
1. Harry Potter by J K Rowling – I am sure that it comes as no great shock to learn that my number one suggestion for pre-teen and teens is Harry Potter. In fact it is my number one suggestion for almost anyone. In fact I have started reading them to the nerdettes. Words cannot describe how I feel about these books. They have been with me for almost half my life and are still the books I turn to when I need to escape into a happy place.
Well there you have it, my top 20 books/series for pre-teen and teen nerds to be. There are many books that I left off because I do not think they fell into this age range and I might look into making another list like this for younger kids as well as adults. Is there anything I missed or anything you think doesn’t belong? Let me know in the comment.