10 Books to Read After You’ve Finished ‘The Catcher in the Rye’

Catcher in the Rye has been considered one of those life-changing books. It was conceived of as the culminating masterpiece of author J. D. Salinger. He had originally written this story as a collection of serials he penned in the 1940s before eventually being compiled into the 1951 novel. Since its publication, it’s become a hit among many readers who regard it as one of the most important and classic of all novels.  It’s the story of Holden Caulfield, an angsty teenager who tries to find his place in a chaotic world, seeking a path into adulthood. He strives to be a writer but also conceals much of his bitterness and locks it deep within his soul. For a story brimming with angst and rebellion, Catcher in the Rye has often been favored by young adult readers for its more radical outlook on the world from the perspective of a cynical young man. Because of this, there was a time when the book was banned from schools for its vulgar language. Salinger’s writing has also been associated with violent murders, as with Robert John Bardo murdering Rebecca Schaeffer and John Hinckley Jr. attempting to assassinate Ronald Reagan. So the book has been provocative, to say the least. If you’re in the mood for another dose of angsty rebellion that only youth could brew, consider these other fine books that many will liken to the writings of Salinger.

A Separate Peace

written by John Knowles
Published in 1959
236 pages

At a New England boys boarding school during World War II, the teen Gene finds himself in a lonely state of being, being an introverted intellectual. Meanwhile, his friend Phineas is an exceptional athlete, handsome looking, and unashamed to mock others. In one summer, the two friends find themselves losing their innocence as the world changes around them, forcing them to make difficult choices about growing up. Considered John Knowles’s finest works of writing, A Separate Peace has been revered as both an American classic and a bestselling novel for generations.

The Magicians

written by Lev Grossman
Published in 2009
402 pages

Quentin Coldwater is a high school senior who seems to be doing well in school but is feeling quite down. He retreats into the comfort of fantasy novels of his youth that transport him to the mystical lands of Fillory. He wishes for something more and may have that dream come true when he is granted entrance into the exceptionally secret college of magic residing in upstate New York. It is there where he’ll learn all manner of modern magic and sorcery. It is also here where he’ll learn all the usual things most fresh students experience upon attending college. This includes finding love, drinking booze, and the pressures of sex. But perhaps the most shocking discovery Quentin makes is the realization that Fillory is indeed a real place. All of this leads to Quentin experiencing his dreams of fantasy more as reality, along with the nightmares they bring about. This is the first entry in The Magicians book series and it would be adapted into a TV series in 2015.


written by Bhalchandra Nemade
Published in 1963
340 pages

Considered a classic staple of Marathi literature, Cocoon is an episodic narrative told in the first-person perspective of one man who can’t quite grow with the times. Pandurang Sangvikar is the protagonist who lives a brooding and cold existence, deeply disillusioned by the world in both the urban and rural settings. Pandurang is highly critical of society in his deeply angsty anecdotes and rants about how unfair and random such an existence can feel. Highly provocative for its existential critique on the nature of Indian society, Cocoon is sure to stir up some controversial contemplation for its railing against power structures, the lacking nature of individuality, and the crushing blows to freedom that come with such cultural shifts.

Youth in Revolt

written by C.D. Payne
Published in 1993
512 pages

Finding it difficult to make sense of his high school life, Nick Twisp jots down his thoughts in journals and diaries. He’s struggling to cope with the divorce of his parents and is finding his mind most preoccupied with losing his virginity. His situation becomes all the more complicated and frustrating when the divorce grows closer, the police block any exit from the town, his economic situation growing dire, and homelessness seems to be a depressing possibility. And this doesn’t even include the problems of public schools, the competitive nature of vying parents, and murdering dogs. All of this makes his quest to attain the love of Sheeni Saunders a difficult goal. This is the first entry in the Youth in Revolt book series and was later adapted into a 2009 feature film starring Michael Cera and Portia Doubleday.

Ham on Rye

written by Charles Bukowski
Published in 1982
288 pages

In this Americana coming-of-age story, Charles Bukowski writes a unique portrait of his life through the fictional narrative of Ham on Rye. He channels his youth through the character of Henry Chinaski, a boy who goes through quite a transformation over the years. He originally grew up in Germany with a rather tough life. Life took on a different frustration during his teenage years which came with its baggage of acne. Through it all, Henry experiences all the pains and pleasures of discovering booze, girls, and what treasures reside on the shelves of the public library. For taking place during the Great Depression, Bukowski’s writing is refreshingly blunt and unflinching in presenting a detailed tale of growing from a boy into a man.

The Ice Storm

written by Rick Moody
Published in 1994
288 pages

In 1973, a Connecticut suburb was bombarded by one of the worst of winter storms. This storm brings chaos to the sleepy suburb as cars fly off the road and romantic partners find themselves swapping with other partners. The youth, in particular, find themselves being incredibly experimental as they start having sex, doing drugs, and dabbling in suicide. The families of Hoods and the Williamses are followed throughout this storm as emotions quickly boil to the surface where they had once laid dormant within the prim and proper neighborhood. It’s a fascinatingly funny and surreal commentary on suburban dysfunction.

The Bell Jar

written by Sylvia Plath
Published in 1963
244 pages

Esther Greenwood may appear to have the ideal life for a woman that is talented, beautiful, and incredibly successful. But she’s also on the verge of the ultimate breakdown. The darker corners of Esther’s mental state are slowly revealed as madness overtakes one woman’s fragile state of mind. Touching on the topics of suicide and depression, The Bell Jar touches on the issues that many women struggle with as they try to fit a societal image of purity. It has often been considered the female version of Catcher in the Rye for similar states of mental descent.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

written by Stephen Chbosky
Published in 1999
213 pages

Navigating the waters of high school can be a tricky ordeal and the teenager Charlie tries to cope by retreating into his writings that are both funny and tragic. Told from his perspective, Charlie lets the readers in just enough to experience the world as he views it. He writes honestly of his first experiences at that age, including mixtapes and kissing girls. There are troubles in his life with a family that is fighting and the intimidation of his peers. Charlie also whether the untold waters of venturing into sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Being a teenager can sometimes be a drag but it also has its moments of pure joy as Charlie’s writing notes. The Perks of Being a Wallflower would later be developed into a 2012 feature film starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Joan Cusack, and Paul Rudd.

Flowers for Algernon

written by Daniel Keyes
Published in 1959
311 pages

With a dash of the fantastical, Flowers for Algernon has been highly regarded as a classic and best-selling novel, having sold over five million copies. The concerns the intelligence of Charlie, a mentally disabled man who seeks a means of improving his intelligence. The answer lies within the mouse Algernon, a lab mouse in a similar spot. Thanks to a breakthrough operation, Charlie finds himself a much different person as his metamorphosis brings about a level of IQ that even the doctors couldn’t fathom would result from the process. Algernon has also had this operation but when he deteriorates, fears brew within Charlie that the same thing could happen to him. The legacy of the novel has lived on through being read for classrooms across America and being adapted into the award-winning 1968 film, Charly, starring Cliff Robertson, Claire Bloom, Leon Janney, Lilia Skala, and Dick Van Patten.

The Topeka School

written by Ben Lerner
Published in 2019
304 pages

Adam Gordon lives in Topeka, Kansas as a high school senior, graduating as the class of 1997. His parents both work at a psychiatric clinic that has become world-renowned for their incredible work in the field of mental health. One such patient is the lone wolf Darren Eberheart. Adam doesn’t know this about Darren being a patient and unwittingly brings him into his social circle. The results are not pretty. The entire family is also dealing with quite the baggage. Adam’s mother, Jane, has unresolved issues with her abusive dad. Adam’s father, Johnathan, is finding it incredibly difficult to raise a son in such an environment that is brimming with toxic masculine elements. The Topeka School is written as a sort of warning sign for the future that would lead to a questioning of free speech and a deeply uncomfortable rise in new right-wing ideologies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.