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Our Book Bucket List of Coming-of-Age Books features the best books ever written about growing up. With themes of entering adulthood and finding yourself, these are our favourite coming-of-age stories and they're widely regarded as classics.

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Coming-of-age Books

Our Book Bucket List of Coming-of-Age Books features the best books ever written about growing up. With themes of entering adulthood and finding yourself, these are our favourite coming-of-age stories and they're widely regarded as classics.

  • All the Light We Cannot See

    Anthony Doerr

    Product Code: ANBFR
    Paperback
    (4)
    This stunningly ambitious novel is a New York Times bestseller and is written by prize-winning author Anthony Doerr.

    French girl Marie-Laure and German boy Werner illuminate the ways people try to be good to one another in this deeply moving story set in occupied France during the devastation of World War II.

    Marie-Laure has been blind since the age of six and as a result, her world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner...
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  • The Secret History

    Donna Tartt

    Product Code: AADCO
    Paperback
    A misfit at an exclusive New England college, Richard finds kindred spirits in the five eccentric students of his ancient Greek class. But his new friends have a horrific secret. When blackmail and violence threaten to blow their privileged lives apart, they drag Richard into the nightmare that engulfs them. And soon they enter a terrifying heart of darkness from which they may never return.
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  • The God of Small Things

    Arundhati Roy

    Product Code: AABCB
    Paperback
    The Asian literary phenomenon of the 90s. More magical than Mistry, more of a rollicking good read than Rushdie, more nerve-tinglingly imagined than Naipaul, here, perhaps, is the greatest Indian novel by a woman. Arundhati Roy has written an astonishingly rich, fertile novel, teeming with life, colour, heart-stopping language, wry comedy and a hint of magical realism. Set against a background of political turbulence in Kerala, Southern India, The God of Small Things tells the story of twins Esthappen and Rahel. Amongst the vats of banana jam and heaps of peppercorns in their grandmother's factory, they try to craft a childhood for themselves amidst what constitutes their family -- their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko (pickle baron, radical Marxist and bottom-pincher) and their avowed enemy Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grand-aunt).
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  • Bridge to Terabithia

    Katherine Paterson

    Product Code: AOHWL
    Paperback 9 years +
    Jess Aarons wants to be the fastest boy in the class, but when a girl named Leslie Burke moves into the neighbouring farm his life changes forever. Even though she runs faster than him, Jess begins to think Leslie might be okay - she's clever and funny and not a bit soppy. And it is Leslie who invents Terabithia, the secret country on an island across the creek where he can escape his troublesome family. The only way to reach Terabithia is by rope-swing where Jess and Leslie become King and Queen, defeating giants, sharing stories and dreams, and plotting against their enemies. They are invincible - until tragedy strikes. It is more dreadful than anything Jess had ever dreamed of, but as he struggles to cope with his grief and anger, he finds that his family value him more than he'd thought and that, still King, he could even save Terabithia for the future.
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  • The Bean Trees

    Barbara Kingsolver

    Product Code: ABVGZ
    Paperback
    Plucky Taylor Greer grows up poor in rural Kentucky with two goals: to avoid pregnancy and to get away. She succeeds on both counts when she buys an old car and heads west. But midway across the country motherhood catches up with her when she becomes the guardian of an abandoned baby girl she calls Turtle. In Tuscon they encounter an extraordinary array of people, and with their help, Taylor builds herself and her sweet, stunned child a life.
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  • Atonement

    Ian McEwan

    Product Code: AACLR
    Paperback
    On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl's imagination. Briony will have witnessed mysteries, and committed a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.
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  • David Copperfield

    Charles Dickens

    Product Code: ABUAX
    Paperback
    This is the novel Dickens regarded as his 'favourite child' and is considered his most autobiographical. As David recounts his experience from childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist, Dickens draws openly and revealingly on his own life. Among the gloriously vivid cast of characters are Rosa Dartle, Dora, Steerforth, and the 'umble Uriah Heep, along with Mr Micawber, a portrait of Dickens's own father which evokes the mixture of love, nostalgia and guilt.
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  • The Bell Jar

    Sylvia Plath

    Product Code: AAGNJ
    Paperback
    Esther Greenwood is at college and is fighting two battles, one against her own desire for perfection in all things - grades, boyfriend, looks, career - and the other against remorseless mental illness. As her depression deepens she finds herself encased in it, bell-jarred away from the rest of the world. This is the story of her journey back into reality. Highly readable, witty and disturbing, The Bell Jar is Sylvia Plath's only novel and was originally published under a pseudonym in 1963. What it has to say about what women expect of themselves, and what society expects of women, is as sharply relevant today as it has always been.
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  • The Secret Life of Bees

    Sue Monk Kidd

    Product Code: AAHJG
    Paperback
    (2)
    Lily has grown up believing she accidentally killed her mother when she was four. She not only has her own memory of holding the gun, but her father's account of the event. Now fourteen, she yeams for her mother, and for forgiveness. Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her father, she has only one friend: Rosaleen, a black servant whose sharp exterior hides a tender heart. South Carolina in the sixties is a place where segregation is still considered a cause worth fighting for. When racial tension explodes one summer afternoon, and Rosaleen is arrested and beaten, Lily is compelled to act. Fugitives from justice and from Lily's harsh and unyielding father, they follow a trail left by the woman who died ten years before. Finding sanctuary in the home of three beekeeping sisters, Lily starts a journey as much about her understanding of the world, as about the mystery surrounding her mother.
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  • Look Homeward, Angel

    Thomas Wolfe

    Product Code: AQWSH
    Paperback
    The first novel by the great American novelist, now the subject of a major new film, Genius, starring Jude Law, Colin Firth, Dominic West and Nicole Kidman. Eugene Gant, born in 1900 to hard-drinking stone-cutter Oliver and entrepreneurial Eliza, grows up in small-town America. Both lonely outsider and passionate chronicler of American life, Eugene experiences upheaval and family tragedy before coming to realise that he must leave his home behind if he is to forge his own path in the world. This is the dazzlingly rich first novel from one of the most brilliant and mercurial voices of early twentieth-century, who was a major influence on writers including Hunter S Thompson, Ray Bradbury, Philip Roth and the Beats. This new edition includes an introduction by Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian. Wolfe's second novel, Of Time and the River, continuing the story of Eugene Gant, is also now available in Penguin Classics.
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  • The Liars' Club

    Mary Karr

    Product Code: APIXR
    Paperback
    "My father comes into focus for me on a Liars' Club afternoon. He sits at a wobbly card table weighed down by a bottle. Even now the scene seems so real to me that I can't but write it in the present tense." Mary Karr grew up in a swampy East Texas refinery town in a volatile and defiantly loving family. In this funny, devastating, haunting memoir and with a raw and often painful honesty, she looks back at life with a painter mother, seven times married, whose outlaw spirit could tip over into psychosis, and a hard-drinking, fist-swinging father who liked nothing better than to spin tales with his cronies at the Liars' Club.
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  • Dandelion Wine

    Ray Bradbury

    Product Code: ACFMO
    Paperback
    Revelations", the young Spaulding wistfully ponders over magical tennis shoes, and machines for every purpose from time travel to happiness and silent travel. Based upon Bradbury's own experiences growing up in Waukegan in the 1920s, 'Dandelion Wine' is a heady mixture of fond memory, forgiveness, magic, the imagination and above all, of summers that seemed to go on forever.
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  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

    Betty Smith

    Product Code: AJXYP
    Paperback
    The Nolans lived in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919. Their daughter Francie and their son Neely knew more than their fair share of the privations and suffering that were the lot of New York's poor. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the story of Francie, an imaginative, alert, resourceful child, and of her family.
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  • Cutting for Stone

    Abraham Verghese

    Product Code: AAAIB
    Paperback
    (3)
    Marion and Shiva Stone, born in a mission hospital in Ethiopia in the 1950s, are twin sons of an illicit union between an Indian nun and British doctor. Bound by birth but with widely different temperaments they grow up together, in a country on the brink of revolution, until a betrayal splits them apart. But fate has not finished with them - they will be brought together once more, in the sterile surroundings of a hospital theatre. From the 1940s to the present, from a convent in India to a cargo ship bound for the Yemen, from a tiny operating theatre in Ethiopia to a hospital in the Bronx, this is both a richly visceral epic and a riveting family story.
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  • Canada

    Richard Ford

    Product Code: AGUIT
    Paperback
    First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later. It was more bad instincts and bad luck that lead to Dell Parson's parents robbing a bank. They weren't reckless people, but in an instant, their actions alter fifteen-year-old Dell's sense of normal life forever. In the days that follow, he is saved before the authorities think to arrive. Driving across Montana, his life hurtles towards the unknown; a hotel in a deserted town, the violent and enigmatic Arthur Remlinger, and towards Canada itself. But, as Dell discovers, in this new world of secrets and upheaval, he is not the only one whose past lies on the other side of the border.
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  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

    Dai Sijie

    Product Code: AHTXY
    Paperback
    1971: Mao's cultural Revolution is at its peak. Two sons of doctors, sent to 're-education' camps, forced to carry buckets of excrement up and down mountain paths, have only their sense of humour to keep them going. Although the attractive daughter of the local tailor also helps to distract them from the task at hand. The boys' true re-education starts, however, when they discover a hidden suitcase packed with the great Western novels of the nineteenth century. Their lives are transformed. And not only their lives: after listening to the stories of Balzac, the little seamstress will never be the same again.
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  • Sons and Lovers

    DH Lawrence

    Product Code: AFEHW
    Paperback
    '"She was a brazen hussy." "She wasn't. And she was pretty, wasn't she?" "I didn't look ...And tell your girls, my son, that when they're running after you, they're not to come and ask your mother for you - tell them that - brazen baggages you meet at dancing classes"'. The marriage of Gertrude and Walter Morel has become a battleground. Repelled by her uneducated and sometimes violent husband, delicate Gertrude devotes her life to her children, especially to her sons, William and Paul - determined they will not follow their father into working down the coal mines. But conflict is evitable when Paul seeks to escape his mother's suffocating grasp through relationships with women his own age. Set in Lawrence's native Nottinghamshire, "Sons and Lovers" is a highly autobiographical and compelling portrayal of childhood, adolescence and the clash of generations. The "Penguin English Library" - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.
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  • The Invisible Circus

    Jennifer Egan

    Product Code: AEDLD
    Paperback
    In Jennifer Egan's highly acclaimed first novel, set in 1978, the political drama and familial tensions of the 1960s form a backdrop for the world of Phoebe O'Connor, age eighteen. Phoebe is obsessed with the memory and death of her sister Faith, a beautiful idealistic hippie who died in Italy in 1970. In order to find out the truth about Faith's life and death, Phoebe retraces her steps from San Francisco across Europe, a quest which yields both complex and disturbing revelations about family, love, and Faith's lost generation. This spellbinding novel introduced Egan's remarkable ability to tie suspense with deeply insightful characters and the nuances of emotion.
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  • The Marriage Plot

    Jeffrey Eugenides

    Product Code: AECUV
    Paperback
    The new novel from the bestselling author of Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides. Brown University, 1982. Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English student and incurable romantic, is writing her thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot -- authors of the great marriage plots. As Madeleine studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different men, intervenes. Leonard Bankhead, brilliant scientist and charismatic loner, attracts Madeleine with an intensity that she seems powerless to resist. Meanwhile her old friend Mitchell Grammaticus, a theology student searching for some kind of truth in life, is certain of at least one thing -- that he and Madeleine are destined to be together. But as all three leave college, they will have to figure out how they want their own marriage plot to end.
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  • White Teeth

    Zadie Smith

    Product Code: AADDP
    Paperback
    One of the most talked about fictional debuts of recent years, "White Teeth" is a funny, generous, big-hearted novel, adored by critics and readers alike. Dealing - among many other things - with friendship, love, war, three cultures and three families over three generations, one brown mouse, and the tricky way the past has of coming back and biting you on the ankle, it is a life-affirming, riotous must-read of a book.
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  • Persepolis

    Marjane Satrapi

    Product Code: ACEUS
    Paperback
    Wise, often funny, sometimes heartbreaking, "Persepolis: The Story of Childhood" tells the story of Marjane Satrapi's life in Tehran from the ages of six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah's regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken child of radical Marxists, and the great-granddaughter of Iran's last emperor, Satrapi bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. "Persepolis" paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Amidst the tragedy, Marjane's child's eye view adds immediacy and humour, and her story of a childhood at once outrageous and ordinary, beset by the unthinkable and yet buffered by an extraordinary and loving family, is immensely moving. It is also very beautiful; Satrapi's drawings have the power of the very best woodcuts. "Persepolis" ends on a cliffhanger in 1984, just as fourteen-year-old Marjane is leaving behind her home in Tehran, escaping fundamentalism and the war with Iraq to begin a new life in the West. In "Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return" we follow our young, intrepid heroine through the next eight years of her life: an eye-opening and sometimes lonely four years of high school in Vienna, followed by a supremely educational and heartwrenching four years back home in Iran. Just as funny and heartbreaking as its predecessor - with perhaps an even greater sense of the ridiculous inspired by life in a fundamentalist state - "Persepolis 2" is also as clear-eyed and searing in its condemnation of fundamentalism and its cost to the human spirit. In its depiction of the universal trials of adolescent life and growing into adulthood - here compounded by being an outsider both abroad and at home, and by living in a state where you have no right to show your hair, wear make-up, run in public, date, or question authority - it's raw, honest, and incredibly illuminating.
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  • The Help

    Kathryn Stockett

    Product Code: AAAAX
    Paperback
    (15)

    Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 was home to a vanished and unjust world. Black maids raised white children, but weren't trusted not to steal. Meawhile, three women are about to embark on a compelling friendship - they are Aibileen, who is raising her 17th white child and nursing the pain caused by the tragic death of her son, the sassy cook Minny and the white Miss Skeeter, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared. No one would believe the three of them would become friends, and fewer still would tolerate it. But in Kathryn Stockett's The Help, the three very different women manage to find the courage to cross boundaries and come to depend and rely upon one another. This extraordinary story is one to truly cherish.

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  • The Reader

    Bernhard Schlink

    Product Code: AAIFO
    Paperback

    For 15 year-old Michael Berg, a chance meeting with older woman Hanna leads to a passionate love affair, leaving him both euphoric and confused. Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked when he recognises Hanna is the person in the dock. The lady he had loved is a criminal. At first, Michael is confused by her behaviour, but soon it all suddenly, and terribly, makes sense: Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also hiding a bigger secret. Set against the backdrop of the Holocaust, Bernhard Schlink's thriller The Reader delicately tells a moving story about love and obsession. In 2008, the book was adapted into a successful film starring Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes.

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  • Siddhartha

    Hermann Hesse

    Product Code: AADVO
    Paperback
    This edition has a new introduction by Paulo Coelho. "Siddhartha" is perhaps the most important and compelling moral allegory our troubled century has produced. Integrating Eastern and Western spiritual traditions with psychoanalysis and philosophy, this strangely simple tale, written with a deep and moving empathy for humanity, has touched the lives of millions since its original publication in 1922. Set in India, "Siddhartha" is the story of a young Brahmin's search for ultimate reality after meeting with the Buddha. His quest takes him from a life of decadence to asceticism, from the illusory joys of sensual love with a beautiful courtesan, and of wealth and fame, to the painful struggles with his son and the ultimate wisdom of renunciation.
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