20 Must-Read Books That Will Change Your Life

Must-read books from the American Library Association

The American Library Association (ALA) is one of the oldest and most prestigious library associations in the world. They have been recommending books for over 100 years, and their reading lists are highly respected by librarians, book lovers, and students alike. ALA’s book lists feature a diverse selection of titles, ranging from classic literature to modern bestsellers. In this article, we will be looking at some of the must-read books recommended by the ALA.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is a powerful and timeless coming-of-age story that deals with racial injustice and social inequality. Set in a small Alabama town in the 1930s, the story is told from the perspective of a young girl named Scout Finch. Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. Despite the overwhelming evidence in the defendant’s favor, the all-white jury finds him guilty, and he is sentenced to death. The novel showcases the strength of character of Atticus, Scout, and their family as they try to do what is right in the face of prejudice and hatred. To Kill a Mockingbird is a must-read for anyone interested in American literature, history, and culture.

One of the reasons that To Kill a Mockingbird is such an important book is that it deals with issues that are still relevant today. Racism and discrimination continue to be major social problems, and it is essential that we continue to have honest and open discussions about these topics. To Kill a Mockingbird provides an excellent starting point for such discussions, as it raises important questions about justice, empathy, and the value of human life.

Moreover, Harper Lee’s writing style is captivating and evocative. She creates a vivid and detailed picture of life in the South during the Great Depression, and her characters are lifelike and believable. The novel is both entertaining and thought-provoking, and it has earned its place as a classic of American literature.

Overall, To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that everyone should read at least once in their lives. It is a masterpiece of storytelling that has the power to change hearts and minds. Whether you are a young adult or an adult of any age, this book will make you think, feel, and reflect on what it means to be human.

Diverse books recommended by ALA

Diverse books recommended by ALA

The American Library Association (ALA) is a nonprofit organization that promotes the advancement, dissemination, and coordination of library services and literature. It consists of several divisions, each of which focuses on a different aspect of library work. ALA has various reading lists with recommendations for readers of all ages, backgrounds, and interests. These reading lists include diverse books which explore identities and experiences underrepresented in mainstream literature, promote understanding and empathy, and empower readers to think critically about the world around them. Here are some examples of diverse books recommended by ALA.

1. We Need Diverse Books (WNDB)

We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization that advocates for diversity in children’s literature. In partnership with ALA, WNDB has created reading lists that feature diverse books for children, young adults, and adults. The books on these lists cover a range of genres and formats and offer a window into the lives of marginalized people who are often excluded from mainstream literature. Some of the books on WNDB’s list include “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, and “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika L. Sánchez.

2. Rainbow Book List

Rainbow Book List

The Rainbow Book List is an annual list of recommended books for children and young adults that portray gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer experiences. It is created by the Rainbow Book List Committee of the ALA’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table. The books on this list represent a variety of genres and reading levels and offer a voice to LGBTQ+ people who are often marginalized and misrepresented in literature. Some of the books on the Rainbow Book List include “This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story” by Kheryn Callender, “The Black Flamingo” by Dean Atta, and “Speak No Evil” by Uzodinma Iweala.

3. Notable Books for a Global Society

Notable Books for a Global Society

The Notable Books for a Global Society list features children’s and young adult literature that represents diverse cultural groups and experiences from around the world. The books on this list are selected by a committee of educators and librarians who value the importance of diversity and cultural competence in literature. Some of the books on this list include “When Stars Are Scattered” by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, “A Different Pond” by Bao Phi, and “The House That Lou Built” by Mae Respicio.

4. Amelia Bloomer Project

Amelia Bloomer Project

The Amelia Bloomer Project is an annual list of feminist literature for children and young adults. The books on this list feature female protagonists who challenge gender stereotypes and empower girls and women. The project is named for Amelia Bloomer, a suffragist and editor of the first newspaper for women in the United States. Some of the books on the Amelia Bloomer Project list include “The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy” by Mackenzi Lee, “Piecing Me Together” by Renée Watson, and “Brave” by Svetlana Chmakova.

In conclusion, ALA’s diverse reading lists provide an opportunity for readers to explore identities and experiences that are often ignored in mainstream literature. They offer a platform for underrepresented voices to be heard and foster understanding and empathy among readers. By reading diverse books, readers can expand their worldviews and learn to view the world through a wider lens.

ALA’s top picks for children’s literature

ALA's top picks for children's literature

Reading is fundamental to a child’s development and growth. As the world changes, and technology rapidly advances, reading books is a calming and educational activity that still holds a vital place among children today. That’s why the American Library Association (ALA) has dedicated its time to recommend the best books for children from birth to 14 years old. It’s no secret that children learn best when they enjoy what they are doing, and books provide a fantastic opportunity for children to explore fiction or non-fiction stories and ignite their imaginations. ALA’s top picks for children’s literature provides a collection of outstanding literature to encourage children and young adults to read more.

Picture Books

ALA's top picks for picture books

Picture books are essential for young children to develop language skills, and they provide an excellent introduction to a child’s literary journey. From stories filled with beautiful illustrations to stories that teach valuable life lessons, ALA’s top picks for picture books have it all. One of the recommended picture books is “The Stuff of Stars” by Marion Dane Bauer, a beautiful book that explores the origins of the universe, making it perfect to read to children aged 4-8 years. Another great pick is “Sulwe” by Lupita Nyong’o, a book that teaches children to love themselves and provides a vital message of self-acceptance and inner-beauty.

Chapter Books

ALA's top picks for chapter books

Chapter books are perfect for young readers who are ready to graduate to more advanced reading, and ALA’s top picks for chapter books have an extensive collection of novels for children aged 7 to 14 years old. One of the top book recommendations is “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate, a book inspired by a real-life story of a gorilla, and it teaches children the importance of friendship, love, and empathy. It’s a great novel that encourages children to use their imagination while creating emotional connections with the characters. Another fantastic pick is “The War That Saved My Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, an inspiring story about a disabled girl’s resilience during WWII. The book deals with issues such as disability, abuse, and bullying, making it an ideal choice for children looking for adventure and learning opportunities.

Young Adult Books

ALA's top picks for young adult books

ALA’s top picks for young adult books are perfect for teenagers aged 14 years old and above, who are ready to take on more complex themes and issues that are relevant to their age group. One of the top picks is “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, a book that tackles issues of racial prejudice, justice, and life in a black community. It’s a fantastic read that provides essential knowledge for young adults to understand cultural diversity and the importance of standing up for what’s right. Another pick that has been highly recommended is “We Are Okay” by Nina LaCour; it explores themes of grief, loss, and depression and teaches young adults the importance of facing their fears and how to move on after tragedy.

ALA’s top picks for children’s literature offers a vast collection of books that range from picture books to young adult novels, and they are perfect for children and young adults who love to read or who are just starting their literary journey. By reading books that are thought-provoking, inspiring, and nurturing, children and young adults can learn valuable life lessons that will help them throughout their life.

Adult fiction books recommended by ALA

ALA recommended fiction books

The American Library Association (ALA) compiles a list of recommended books for readers every year. These books are categorized in different themes and genres such as young adult, children’s, fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novels. Here, we will explore the adult fiction books recommended by ALA across the years. Grab a cup of coffee, snuggle up in your favorite reading nook and let’s explore these amazing books.

1. “Becoming” by Michelle Obama: Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s memoir, “Becoming” chronicles her unique journey from the South Side of Chicago to the White House. In the book, she shares her struggles, triumphs, and unforgettable experiences on her journey to becoming a public figure and advocate for women, girls, and minorities around the world. This book is an inspiring and relatable read that will leave you feeling motivated and empowered.

2. “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah: Set in France during World War II, “The Nightingale” tells the story of two sisters who are forced to make difficult choices to survive the war. The book highlights the strength and bravery of women during wartime and how they struggled to protect their loved ones. This heart-wrenching, captivating read is perfect for fans of historical fiction and books featuring strong female characters.

3. “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas: “The Hate U Give” is a powerful young adult novel that explores themes of racism, police brutality, and activism. The book tells the story of a young girl named Starr who witnesses the fatal shooting of her best friend by a police officer. The story is powerful, raw, and authentic, and it has received praise for its excellent storytelling and its thought-provoking exploration of complex social issues.

4. “The Overstory” by Richard Powers: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, “The Overstory” is a stunning work of eco-fiction that explores the relationship between humans and the natural world. The book tells the stories of nine characters whose lives become interconnected as they seek to save ancient forests from destruction. It’s a beautifully written, thought-provoking read that will challenge your perception of the world around you.

5. “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead: Winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, “The Underground Railroad” is an incredibly powerful work of historical fiction that tells the story of a young slave named Cora who escapes a Georgia plantation and seeks freedom via the Underground Railroad. The book is an intense, emotional read that will leave readers feeling moved and inspired.

6. “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row” by Anthony Ray Hinton (with Lara Love Hardin): Anthony Ray Hinton was sentenced to death in Alabama for a crime he didn’t commit. He spent 30 years on death row before he was finally released in 2015. In his memoir, “The Sun Does Shine,” Hinton shares his harrowing story of wrongful conviction and imprisonment and how he found hope and humanity in the darkest of places. This book is a testament to the human spirit, and it’s an inspiring read for anyone who needs a reminder of the power of hope and resilience.

7. “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones: “An American Marriage” is a poignant, heartbreaking novel that explores the effects of wrongful imprisonment on a young couple. The book tells the story of Roy and Celestial, a newlywed couple whose lives are upended when Roy is wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. The book is a powerful meditation on love, loss, and personal identity, and it’s a read that will stay with you long after you finish.

8. “The Water Dancer” by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Bestselling author Ta-Nehisi Coates’s first novel is a captivating work of historical fiction that tells the story of a young man named Hiram, who possesses an extraordinary gift for remembering. The book is set in Virginia during the era of slavery, and it explores themes of freedom, memory, and redemption. It’s an engrossing read that will challenge readers to think deeply about the legacies of slavery and oppression in America.

9. “The Great Believers” by Rebecca Makkai: “The Great Believers” is a powerful work of historical fiction that tells the story of a group of friends living in Chicago during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. The book explores themes of grief, loss, and the power of friendship in the face of tragedy. It’s an incredibly moving read that will leave you feeling both heartbroken and inspired.

10. “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett: “The Dutch House” is a beautifully written, absorbing novel that tells the story of a wealthy family in Pennsylvania and the house that defines their identity. The book explores themes of family, memory, and sacrifice, and it features some of the most memorable characters in recent fiction. It’s a deeply satisfying read that will stay with you long after you finish.

Wrapping up, these are just some of the best adult fiction books recommended by the ALA. All these books present different but equally impactful stories with relatable and inspiring characters, which make them perfect for both the avid and aspiring reader. So, pick up one or all of these books and get lost in a world of literature. Happy reading!

ALA’s selection of non-fiction books for readers of all ages

ALA booklists nonfiction

The American Library Association (ALA) is well-known for its annual book awards and author celebrations, but did you know that it also publishes recommended book lists? The ALA’s selection of non-fiction books for readers of all ages showcases some of the best work in the genre, covering topics ranging from history and science to art and social justice.

1. OverDrive Recommended Nonfiction


This list is geared towards older teenagers and adults, featuring a wide range of titles from biographies and memoirs to political analysis and social criticism. OverDrive is a platform for digital lending, making these books easily accessible to anyone with a library card. Some standout titles include “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander and “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert.

2. Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

reluctant young adult readers nonfiction

This list is aimed at teenagers who struggle with reading or simply have a hard time finding books that interest them. The books are all non-fiction and cover a range of topics, from sports and pop culture to true crime and animal stories. Some titles include “It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah, “In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives” by Kenneth C. Davis, and “Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman.

3. Notable Children’s Books

notable ALA children's books

The ALA’s list of notable children’s books is broken down into different age groups and includes both fiction and non-fiction titles. This list is a great resource for parents, teachers and librarians looking for engaging and educational books for children of all ages. Some standout non-fiction choices include “The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs” by Fiona Robinson, “A House That Once Was” by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Lane Smith, and “The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler” by John Hendrix.

4. Stonewall Book Awards

Stonewall Book Awards

The Stonewall Book Awards are handed out annually by the ALA to works of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience. While the list includes both fiction and non-fiction titles, the non-fiction books deal with a wide range of issues and experiences, from personal memoirs and family histories to political analysis and social commentary. Some titles include “How We Fight for Our Lives” by Saeed Jones, “Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story” by Jacob Tobia and “We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir” by Samra Habib.

5. Outstanding Books for the College Bound

outstanding books for the college bound

This list is meant to help high school students prepare for college by providing them with a list of books that will broaden their knowledge and understanding of the world around them. The non-fiction books cover a wide range of topics, including history, politics, science and culture. Some standout titles include “The Rise of the New Second Generation” by Min Zhou, “The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy” by Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz, and “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot.

The ALA’s selection of non-fiction books for readers of all ages offers something for everyone, from the casual reader to the serious scholar. Whether you’re looking for a memoir, a history book or a book about science, the ALA’s book lists are a great resource for finding quality literature.

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