10 Awesome Book Recommendations from John Green

John Green, our beloved patron saint of stirring young adult fiction, is a voracious reader. I don’t understand how the man has time for anything, let alone the thousands of books that occupy his home library. I remember being a Vlogbrothers viewer back in the late 2000s and watching the many bookshelf tour videos he would make and marveling at how any one person could be so well and widely read.


This list is a small sampling of favorites from the shelves of New York Times bestselling author John Green.


Image via Giphy

The King Is Always Above the People by Daniel Alarcón


Image via Amazon


This National Book Award nominee is a collection of short stories on themes of migration, loss, and family, united under the common theme of living through transitional periods with high stakes. Green went to high school with Alarcón, “where he beat [Green] out for the creative writing award three years in a row.” Clearly there are no hard feelings, given the emphatic recommendation Green gives to this book, the stories in which he says “astonish me with their precision and their power, it is no wonder that this book is a finalist for the National Book Award.”

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo


Image via Amazon


This book, a winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction, chronicles the lives of the residents of Annawadi, an impoverished Mumbai settlement that is, at first, hopeful in the face of India’s growing prosperity. Green calls this “the most interesting and complex book about poverty I have ever read,” and has recommended it to people with an interest in humanitarianism, or to put it in Green’s words, “decreasing Worldsuck.”

The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell


Image via Hachette Book Group


This book, about the ever-pressing threat of climate change-derived mass destruction, is nonfiction, yet it has been said to read like a thriller. Green describes it as such, and goes on to say that “it is a thriller in which the hero in peril is us.” The Water Will Come details what will happen when the world is inevitably flooded due to the melting of the world’s Arctic and Antarctic ice.

Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism by Elizabeth Grosz


Image via Amazon


John Green is married to Sarah Urist Green, an art museum curator and host of The Art Assignment. With Sarah’s influence, John Green has quite the collection of literature about art, including this book. Volatile Bodies, which is an examination of the body in art, and argues that the “sexually specific body” is merely a human cultural construction. Green says that this is his favorite art history book.


The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart


Image via Goodreads


John Green recommends this book “if you’re a Looking for Alaska fan who mostly liked the boarding school-y parts.” The book tells the story of Frankie Landau-Banks, a high school sophomore attending a high-brow boarding school academy in Massachusetts. The plot concerns Frankie’s exploits in dating, friendship, and infiltrating secret societies.


Sula by Toni Morrison


Image via Abe Books


Toni Morrison’s Sula tells the story of the friendship between two young girls, later women, and the struggles and strain their relationship faces due to the environmental circumstances of growing up black in rural Ohio. Green recommends this book to fans of The Catcher in the Rye on the basis that “if Catcher is the great American novel about growing up without a friend, I think Sula is the great American novel about friendship in adolescence.”


Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag


Image via Goodreads


Regarding the Pain of Others is a reflection on the depiction of violence in photography, addressing the questions of if, how, and to what degree such images inspire action. About this book, Green has said “In an image saturated age this is absolutely required reading about the unreliability of the image.”


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


Image via Amazon


This book, which will soon be released as a movie starring Amandla Stenberg, tells the story of a teenage girl’s transformation into an activist after witnessing the shooting of her best friend at the hands of the police. The book is an incredibly important work that covers the current state of police brutality and racism in the United States, and John Green has said that he truly believes this book “will be remembered as a classic of our time.”


Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson


Image via Amazon


Piecing Me Together is about a teenager, Jade, living in a poor neighborhood and struggling to take the most advantage of every opportunity she can to get out and make a success of herself. Green has said that this book “genuinely changed the way I think about the role art plays in human life. I read this book in two days and I’ve been thinking about is for six months.”


And finally:


Everything You Need to Know About the Goth Scene by Kerry Acker


Image via YouTube


John Green has had this book for a very long time. I do not know why, I do not know how he came to possess it, all I know is that he has had it since at least 2007. I leave you with a Goodreads review of Everything You Need to Know About the Goth Scene, written by Goodreads user “Bob’:


“This title explores the most basic ideas of Gothic philosophy and style. I am most interested in Goth music and the book details the Goth music scene as the basis for a distinct view of the world and how to live in it.”


Featured Image Via Culto.