Here are ten classic book series that every teen should read at least once in their life. I will admit to not reading all of them in my teens, but only because there wasn’t a super cool internet blogger to tell me they were out there.
10 The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
Truthfully, it was difficult to choose a series of McCaffrey’s to recommend as must read. Not because she doesn’t belong on this list, but simply because she should have a must read list all of her own. Dragons are probably what she is most famous for, still I am partial to The Freedom Series and Crystal Singer Trilogy . Whichever book of hers you pick up, you will not be disappointed.
9 The Wizard Of Oz by Frank Baum
These 14 books written between 1900 and 1920 are on this list because most people don’t know there is any story after Judy Garland. Though the movie was delightful, it doesn’t even begin to tell the tale of Dorothy Gale and her companions in Oz.
The saga of Paul Atreides, the messiah saving an oppressed people on a desert world and his progeny. The original 6 book series was phenomenal. The saga was completed and expanded upon, including prequels, by Brian Herbert along with Kevin J Anderson. This is a science fiction series that is not easily rivaled. I would placed it higher up in the count, however it does have some strong adult themes. I wholeheartedly recommend the books, but I do suggest caution with tender eyes.
7 The Belgariad by David Eddings
The universe of The Belgariad is full of imperfect gods and crotchety old wizards all playing out against an end of the world prophecy and a war that has been raging since the beginning of time. This five book series was followed up with an even better series The Mallorean, two companion prequel books (tomes)and a guide. For the newly excited fantasy reader, it is a great jumping off point.
6 The Magic Kingdom of Landover by Terry Brooks
I am a huge fan of everything Terry Brooks, but this series is particularly fun. Businessman Ben Holiday needs a break and the magic kingdom for sale in a high end catalogue is just the place he needs to go to put his life back together. He is a little bit surprised that he has indeed bought a magic kingdom and high adventure ensues as he learns to govern it and its citizens and still deal with a magical con man who would like the bill of sale to not necessarily be final.
5 The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis
As with most of the fantasy genre, despite heroic efforts, it has been difficult to put this series on the big screen. The themes are simply too profound and yet so simple to be easily written for visual consumption. Nothing beats reading and to appreciate this series, it really needs to be read. As a brief aside, I will mention that a lot releases of this series put The Magician’s Nephew in the last place. It is in fact a prequel and while it was fun to read it at the end and see the traces of the story come clear in its pages, for those who are new (or generally ambivalent) to fantasy, reading this book first might make the whole thing a whole lot better.
4 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
It is the dark, hilarious, satirical tale of the lone surviving earthman Arthur Dent and his alien friend Ford Prefect as they travel the universe with the aid of the Revised Hitchhikers Guide. If you can read your way through it, it will forever be imprinted on your soul as one of the best tales told of all time.
3 The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov
This is the story of the fall of the Galactic Empire and its aftermath. Its hero is Hari Seldon a mathematician who has stumbles upon the concept of psychohistory, a way to mathematically show and shape the future of humanity.
Originally this was a trilogy. Four more books were added as official Foundation titles. Eventually Asimov integrated his Robot series, featuring the character R. Daneel Olivaw, into the series adding more titles, leaving a dedicated reader with a list of books long enough to read for the entire year. Actually about once a year I take a week and go through the whole stack from start to finish. Admittedly with the series mash up, Asimov created some time line inconsistencies here and there, however in this reader’s opinion, that doesn’t really detract from the whole in the slightest. Most definitely worth the effort to read it.
2 The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson)
Every book in this series is thick, like you don’t need to go to the gym this morning because you stayed in bed reading thick. Never has a book drawn me in so fast and so hard. I ripped my boyfriend a new one when the book he suggested, but never had actually read, turned out to be a series and I watched in growing fear that I would never get to know the end of the story as book followed book and the story kept me hard in its grip while making me wait for the next brick, I mean book, to drop. My sincerest thanks to Brandon Sanderson for masterfully navigating the story to its conclusion following Robert Jordan’s death. Seriously, not knowing what happened to these characters would have made me mental.
In this fantasy saga, time is a like a wagon wheel, always turning back to the beginning. The outward appearances and circumstances change, but those that time flows around are reborn to continue their own stories. On its surface it is a male/female struggle but the themes run very deep and it is only through balance and coming together of disparate factions will the story reach its outcome. While magic and magical creatures abound, this is not typical fantasy fare. It was followed up with a kid friendly version and a graphic novel series and even a stellar hard cover companion guide. It is for sure an investment of time, but one that is worth every minute you will spend turning pages to see how it is all going to end.
1 The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien
Anyone who knows I read, knows how how often I read these books. It should be required reading only because the ever popular movies have evolved to tell their own story and the original story didn’t need any embellishment. It set the bar for fantasy fiction in the modern age and few, if any, have come close to creating a world as detailed and flawless as Tolkien. I will admit that Tolkien can be a rough read, but it is so worth the journey. For those stalwart enough to work their way through the series I would suggest tackling The Silmarillion and other companion books edited by Christopher Tolkien. This rich world is beyond comparison.
I know I missed many amazing series in this less than comprehensive, somewhat genre specific and quite dated, list. If you have an idea about what should be “required” teen reading, drop a comment and let me know so I can tell you how right you are.