15 Books To Reread As An Adult, Because You'll Get So Much More Out Of Them The Second Time Around

When you're growing up, there are some books you read because you want to read them. You picked them out by yourself at the school library or on a special trip to the bookstore with your parents. And then there are the other books in your childhood and teenage years: the ones you were forced to read. Many of them have remained the same for generations. Your mother will notice you reading The Metamorphosis or Lord of The Flies and will get nostalgic for high school English class, while you remain annoyed that you're being forced to read anything, let alone the same seemingly stale list of books that your mother read 25 years ago. I feel like even when I did like the reading, I still had a bad attitude about it.

Luckily, as I left high school and grew out of many bad teenage attitudes and habits, I realized that reading those books really stuck with me. As we mature and change, the stories we know start to take on different meanings. The summer after my first year, I reread The Grapes of Wrath and picked up on themes and symbols and metaphors that went completely over my head when I read it as a teenager. Here are 15 books that'll become way better the second time around. Prepare to be wowed.

'The Catcher in the Rye' by JD Salinger

When I read The Catcher in the Rye in high school, I very much related to Holden Caulfied, as he was just as angsty and isolated as teenagers growing in up in any decade feel. However, Salinger originally wrote it as a novel for adults. Rereading it puts life in perspective, and makes you realize how comparatively tiny your teenage problems were.


'Where The Red Fern Grows' by Wilson Raws

Where The Red Ferns Grows tells the story of a boy, Billy, and his two dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann, who explore the hills and river bottoms of Cherokee country and become the best hunting team around. Experiencing both glory and sadness, this book is worth rereading for its sense of love, adventure, and very unique friendships.


'Holes' by Louis Sachar

I reread Holes once every few years. It’s one of those books that has so much going on — so many overlapping plot lines, complex characters, and hard-hitting themes like race and crime — that it can always offer a new perspective on history, culture, and redemption.


'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

When I read The Great Gatsby my junior year of high school, I was completely entranced by the beauty and luxury of the novel — the enormous parties, the flamboyant characters, and, of course, the charming Jay Gatsby. That feeling certainly doesn’t go away when I reread it last year, but but my opinion of Gatsby changed in a way that made him much less charming and quite a bit more flawed.


'Where the Wild Things Are' by Maurice Sendak

When you read Where the Wild Things Are as a child, we’re obsessed with the idea of escaping into a foreign world where we can run free with alien creatures. As adults, we recognize the importance of home at the end of any adventure.


'Animal Farm' by George Owwell

I didn’t totally understand this book when I read it in 8th grade. While I was aware of its political nature and allegories (we learned about dictatorships and tyranny simultaneously), and laughed at the idea of talking animals forming a society with strict rules I didn’t appreciate the mastery of Orwell’s satire until I saw a play adaptation earlier this year.


'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime' by Mark Haddon

A book that can be shared across different generations (my mom and I read it simultaneously when I was 13), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is also a great novel to reread as an adult. It’s narrated by Christopher John Francis Boone — a 15-year-old boy who knows all the countries, their capitals, and every prime number up to 7,057 — as he investigates the mysterious death of a neighboring dog. A reread will remind you that it’s not just a mystery novel about a young boy with Aspergers, but rather one about seeing the world in a surprising way.


'The Grapes of Wrath' by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck’s American classic The Grapes of Wrath is more than an epic tale of the Joad family as they travel West during the Dust Bowl migration in the 1930s — it’s a portrayal of power struggles and individual strength. A closer read takes you into the core of injustice in America.


'The Sun Also Rises' by Ernest Hemingway

As a writer, rereading The Sun Also Rises reintroduced me to Hemingway’s intricate, dry, terse style of writing. It became clear how many writers were influenced by his beautiful understanding and mastery of language to represent the quiet inner lives of his 20th century characters.


'Death of a Salesman' by Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman takes on an entirely different meaning in post-graduate life. Even though I’ve only gotten a small glimpse into the “real world” — one in which the majority of my hard-earned paycheck goes straight to the landlord and the questions of work and fulfillment are always on my mind — I have a much better understanding of Willy Loman, the failing salesman’s dreams and struggles.


'The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe' by C.S. Lewis

Since the fiction I read as an adult tends to lean on modern portrayals of everyday life with a twist (like Miranda July’s The First Bad Man,) I’ve realized that it’s healthy to take a break to escape worlds every once in a while. C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is the perfect book to let my imagination run free.


'The Giver' by Lois Lowry

Instead of settling for the less-than-satisfying movie adaptation of Lois Lowry’s YA dystopian novel, pick up an old paperback copy of The Giver, search your parents’ basement for the paper you wrote on it 12 years ago, and argue about the ending with the younger version of yourself. Chances are you’ll still be conflicted.


'The Metamorphosis' by Franz Kafka

The first time you read The Metamorphosis, the biggest thing you’re probably left with is the nightmare in which you followed Gregor’s suit and woke up as a bug. As an adult, Gregor’s form seems almost irrelevant when compared to what it stands for: the heavy, hard-hitting theme of existentialism.


'The Phantom Tollbooth' by Norton Juster

The whimsy of The Phantom Tollbooth never goes away, but the story of a mysterious package that leads to an adventure with a talking dog can remind you of the importance of hope and courage — traits that are often overlooked by cynical young adults.


'The Stranger' by Albert Camus

I read Albert Camus’ existentialist novel in two classes my senior year of high school in two different languages (English and French), but I didn’t really relate or fully understand Meursault’s apathy after I experienced losing a family member myself. This is a book I think I’ll read once every 10 years or so.