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Top 10 Best Fiction Books to Read in Your 20s

Your 20s can be an exciting and turbulent decade, a time when you are growing, changing and discovering who you are. These best fiction books are perfect to complement these years, featuring many relevant themes such as identity, personal growth, adventure, romance, and overcoming challenges of many types. See below for the best fiction books to read in your 20s.

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1. The Bell Jar

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Sylvia Plath | 1963

College girl Esther Greenwood is fighting two battles: one against her own desire for perfection in all things - grades, romance, looks, career... and the other against remorseless mental illness. As her depression deepens, she finds herself encased in it, an invisible barrier firmly between her and the rest of the world. This is the story of her journey back into reality. Witty and disturbing, this is Sylvia Plath's only novel but it has a lot to say about what women expect of themselves, and what society expects of women.


2. Ready Player One

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Ernest Cline | 2011

It's 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. Famine, poverty and disease are rife. Like most people, Wade Watts spends much of his time jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be on any of 10,000 planets. And like most people, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate jackpot within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who has promised to leave his fortune to whoever can solve the riddles he has scattered throughout his creation. Millions have struggled in vain to attain this prize - and then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle. Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the prize...


3. The Handmaid's Tale

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Margaret Atwood | 1985

In the dystopian Republic of Gilead, Offred is forced to be a Handmaid, a woman with only one function: to breed. If she dares to challenge this position, she - like other dissenters - will be hanged at the wall or sent out to die, slowly and painfully, of radiation sickness. Offred remembers all that has been taken away from her: love, family, access to the news. But even a tyrannical state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men upon which her future depends...


4. Neverwhere

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Neil Gaiman | 1996

Beneath the streets of London, there's a world most people could never even imagine: a city of monsters and murderers, saints and angels. Richard Mayhew is a young businessman, but a single act of kindness catapults him out of his safe and predictable life and into a world that is both eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. He encounters a girl named Door, an angel named Islington, an earl who holds court in a tube train, a beast in a labyrinth, and endless dangers and delights he could never have dreamed of. And Richard - who only wants to go home - is soon to find a strange destiny waiting for him in this unsettling version of his native city...


5. NW

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Zadie Smith | 2012

This brilliant tragi-comic novel about city life follows four Londoners - Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan - after they've grown up, left their childhood council estate and moved on to different lives. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their city is brutal, beautiful, and complex. After a chance encounter, however, they each find that the choices they've made - the people they once were and are now - can suddenly, inescapably unravel. A portrait of modern life, this book is poignant, funny, relevant and brimming with vitality.


6. One Hundred Years of Solitude

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez | 1967

This breath-taking work blends the natural with the supernatural in one of the most spellbinding reading experiences ever published. It tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family and of Macondo, the town they have built. Though little more than a small settlement surrounded by mountains, Macondo has its own wars and disasters, wonders and miracles. A microcosm of Colombian life, its secrets lie hidden, encoded in a book, and only Aureliano Buendia can unravel its mysteries and reveal its shrouded destiny. Blending political reality with magical realism and fantasy, this book is one of the most daringly original works of the 20th century.


7. Anna Karenina

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Leo Tolstoy | 1877

This renowned novel features one of the most loved and memorable heroines of literature, whose wonderful charm dominates a book of unparalleled richness. Tolstoy considered this his first real attempt at the novel form, and it addresses the very nature of society at all levels - of destiny, death, human relationships and the irreconcilable contradictions of existence. Although there is much in the novel that evokes despair, the story also offers an abounding joy in life's many ephemeral pleasures, and contains sprinkles of comic relief.


8. Jane Eyre

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Charlotte Bronte | 1847

A novel ahead of its time, Jane is the feisty, argumentative and keenly intelligent protagonist of this enthralling novel. She refuses to accept her designated position in society and resolves to find love on her own terms. She thinks she may have found it when she meets the dark and brooding Mr Rochester, but she will endure terrible tragedies, setbacks and challenges, from a difficult childhood with her cruel aunt, to shocking encounters and deadly fires. This rich work of literature is simply a must-read.


9. To Kill a Mockingbird

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Harper Lee | 1960

This inspiring and gripping story is told from the perspective of six-year-old Scout, a girl who lives in the American Deep South. Her father, lawyer Atticus Finch, is determined to defend a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. Animosity and prejudice against Scout's family inevitably follow, and Scout comes to truly comprehend the magnitude of the injustice present in her own hometown. Powerful and moving, this classic is a must-read.


10. The Color Purple

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Alice Walker | 1982

Set in the American South between the wars, this haunting novel stars Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and persecution. Abused by the man she calls 'father', she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie, and is trapped in an ugly marriage. But then, Celie meets the glamorous Shug Avery, a singer and magic-maker, a woman who commands her own destiny. Celie will gradually uncover the power and joy of her own spirit, and will have the chance to free herself from the past and reunite with those she loves...


Don't forget to check out our entire range of the best fiction books.

Books to read in your 20s and beyond!

  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker