The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a coming-of-age story about childhood, friendship, life, and the power of love. When reading this book, you get a look into someone else’s struggles and trials, as well as the victories that they experienced.
While not all of these stories are coming of age, there is a common theme of characters growing through trauma and/or upheaval around them – whether they are children or adults. If you’re looking to dive into soul-gripping stories like The Kite Runner, these 20 books may be exactly what you’re looking for.
Snow Falling on Cedars
Snow Falling on Cedars (David Guterson)
In 1954, a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with the murder of a local San Piedro Island fisherman. Over the course of the trial, more is at stake than just Kabuo’s innocence. Memories of his story, like growing up on the island, falling in love, and what happened to Japanese residents during WWII, grip the town while Kabuo fights for his life. Buy the book here.
The Space Between Us
The Space Between Us (Thrity Umrigar)
Two women in modern Bombay struggle against the caste system they live in. Amid this way of life, they are faced with tradition, honor, class, gender, and family. As they struggle against the system, they develop a rapport that helps keep their identities intact. Purchase the book here.
The Swallows of Kabul
The Swallows of Kabul (Yasmina Khadra)
Mohsen, the son of wealthy shopkeepers that the Taliban destroyed, and his wife, Zunaira, who is now controlled in her own home by the governing rule, cross paths with another couple. Atiq, a prison keeper, and his dying wife, Musarrat, struggle to keep their faith. When Moshen wanders through Kabul, he becomes part of a public stoning. This event ends up pushing the four toward their true destinies. You can buy the book here.
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell
The Pearl that Broke Its Shell (Nadia Hashimi)
Rahima and her sisters are born to a drug-addicted father in Afghanistan. In Kabul’s culture, women are rarely able to leave the house and only go to school every now and then. However, that does not go for the men in society. Rahima gets the idea to dress up as a man until she is of marriageable age. What she doesn’t know is that her great-grandmother did the same thing in order to survive. Buy the book here.
Memoirs of a Geisha
Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
Nitta Sayuri was born in a little fishing village and was sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. While there, she is forced to learn the life of a geisha such as beauty trends, song, dance, how to correctly pour saké, and how to compete with jealous rivals for men’s attention. You can purchase the book to read here.
The Book Thief
The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak)
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich during 1939. She survives by stealing and comes across books that she can’t resist. Through the help of her foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her books with neighbors and the Jewish man hidden in her basement. Buy the book here.
The Color of Our Sky
The Color of Our Sky (Amita Trasi)
Mukta, a 10-year-old girl from a lower caste Yellema cult, escapes her fate of becoming a temple prostitute by becoming a house girl for a family in Mumbai. While there, she befriends a daughter in the family, Tara, who shows her a new way of life. Shortly after, Mukta is kidnapped and Tara goes with her father to the United States. Can the two find their way together again? Purchase the story here.
The Stationary Shop
The Stationary Shop (Marjan Kamali)
In the middle of political upheaval in 1952 Tehran, Roya, an idealistic teenager, finds refuge in a stationary shop. There she meets Bahman, a handsome customer with a passion for justice. The two agree to marry, and on the eve of the wedding, town violence and chaos break out Bahman never shows. Roya is forced to move on after moving to the United States until fate leads her back to Bahman over 60 years later. Read the book here.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
The Beekeeper of Aleppo (Christy Lefteri)
Nuri, a beekeeper, and his wife, Afra, live a happy life in the hills of Aleppo in Syria. However, when war breaks out, they are forced to leave the home and life that they love. The two flee to Britain through Turkey and Greece to take refuge in a cousin’s place in Yorkshire where Nuri teaches fellow refugees how to keep bees and fight for the lives around them. Buy the book here.
The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
Santiago is an Andalusian shepherd boy who wants to travel and search for a worldly treasure. Along the way, he learns about the wisdom of listening to your heart, being aware of and open to those around you, and the importance of following your dreams. Read the book here.
Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts)
A convict, Lin, has escaped from an Australian prison and flees to Bombay where he can disappear. As a hunted man, Lin runs a local clinic in one of the poorest areas while serving as an apprentice for the Bombay mafia. He faces betrayal, torture, pain, and more as he attempts to restart his life in a place unknown. You can purchase the book here.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (John Boyne)
In Berlin in 1942, Bruno returns home from school one day and finds that his belongings are being packed and his family is moving away due to his father’s new “promotion.” He and his family are actually taken to a place of unspeakable horror inside a long, tall fence and Bruno forms a friendship on the other side. He finds that the other boy’s life is opposite to his own and their bond may have insurmountable consequences. Read the book here.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez)
The Buendiá family lives in a small town called Macondo that is alive with animated, lively people. Through the family’s history, the story of the town – its rise and fall, birth and death, and so much more – is told. Check out the book here.
To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
When Tom Robinson, an African American man, is accused of raping a woman, Caucasian lawyer Atticus Finch offers to defend him – against the threats from the community. Atticus’ children, Scout and Jem, watch the story unfold and witness how racism can tear people apart. Read the story here.
The Eighth Life
The Eighth Life (Nino Haratischwili)
On the edge of the Russian empire at the start of the twentieth century, a family thrives due to their chocolate recipe. Stasia learns it from her father and takes it with her when she follows her husband to the center of the Russian Revolution. Buy the book here.
Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami)
Toru is a serious college student devoted to a woman named Naoko. Their passion is based on the death of a mutual friend years prior. As the two navigate their own lives, Toru realizes that he’s fiercely drawn to Naoko’s independence and sexual liberation. Read the book here.
Life of Pi
Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
After a cargo ship sinks at sea, the only survivors are a 16-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a wounded zebra, an orangutan, and a Royal Bengal tiger. When the tiger kills all but Pi, the two are forced to coexist for 277 days while lost at sea. When they are finally saved, the boy tells a story different from the one he thought he experienced, which leaves the question of which story is the truth. Purchase the book here.
Snow in August
Snow in August (Pete Hamill)
Brooklyn in 1947 looks like a working-class neighborhood, war vets returning home, and Jackie Robinson becoming a Dodger. In one neighborhood, an 11-year-old Irish Catholic boy, Michael Devlin, has made a friend in a rabbi from Prague. As the two introduce each other to their cultures, the prejudices of the time begin to play an important role. Read the story here.
The Other Side of the Bridge
The Other Side of the Bridge (Mary Lawson)
Arthur and Jake Dunn are two sons of a farmer in the 1930s when WWII is right around the corner. Arthur is the dutiful son set to inherit the farm while Jake is the family misfit. When a beautiful young woman comes to visit, the brotherly dynamic is put in jeopardy and the family’s next generation is the one to pick up the pieces. Buy the book for yourself here.
Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail
Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail (Malika Oufkir)
Malika Oufkir was born in 1953 as the eldest daughter of General Oufkir, the closest aide to the King of Morocco. She was adopted by the King at age five and grew up in the court’s wealth and riches. However, when her father was arrested for an assassination attempt on the king, Malika and the rest of her family are imprisoned for 15 years before Malika escapes. Purchase the book here.
Whether fiction or nonfiction, coming-of-age stories can be both heartwarming and heart wrenching. If you’re someone who enjoys stepping into someone else’s shoes as they journey through life, these 20 books may be the perfect stories for your bookshelf.
What is a coming-of-age story?
A coming-of-age story is one where the reader follows the growth of a character from childhood through adulthood.
What is the difference between a memoir and fiction?
A memoir is a book based on true events while a fiction book is a made-up story.
How easy are these books to read?
It depends on which books you read. Among all of them is a theme of some sort of loss, but some may be heavier than others.
Can children read these books?
The books listed are written for an adult audience.
Have any of these books been made into TV shows or movies?
Yes! Titles like To Kill a Mockingbird, Life of Pi, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas all hit the big screen.
- Unforgettable Stories: The 20 Best Books Like The Kite Runner (by Khaled Hosseini) - February 10, 2023
- Dystopian Adventures: The 20 Best Books Like The Hunger Games (for Adults) - February 7, 2023
- Edge of Your Seat: The 20 Best Thriller Authors Like Sidney Sheldon - February 2, 2023