Must-Read Books If You Like 'The Catcher in the Rye'

Actress Michelle Williams holding a copy of The Catcher In The Rye
Actress Michelle Williams holding a copy of The Catcher In The Rye.


Jeff Kravitz / Getty Images

J.D. Salinger presents his classic tale of alienation and dysfunctional adolescence in his controversial novel "The Catcher in the Rye." If you like the story of Holden Caulfield and his misadventures, you may enjoy these other works. Take a look at these must-read books like "The Catcher in the Rye."

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'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn book cover

 Historical Picture Archive / Getty Images

"The Catcher in the Rye" is often compared to Mark Twain's classic, "​The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Both books involve the coming-of-age process of their respective protagonists; both novels follow a journey of the boys; both works have caused violent reactions in their readers. Compare the novels and you'll find yourself in a fruitful discussion about what you can learn from each of them.

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'Lord of the Flies'

Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies. Penguin Group

In "The Catcher in the Rye," Holden observes the "phoniness" of the adult world. He is an outcast in search of human interaction, but more than that, he is a teenager on the path to growing up. "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding also touches on what it's like to interact with others while still maturing. It is an allegorical novel in which a group of boys creates a savage civilization. How do the boys survive when they are left to their own devices? What does their society say about humanity as a whole?

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'The Great Gatsby'

The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby. Scribner

In "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, we see the degradation of the American Dream, which was originally about individualism and the pursuit of happiness. How can we create meaning in such a place of moral decay? When we step into the world of "The Catcher in the Rye," we question if Holden even believes in something like the American Dream. How does his idea of "phoniness" figure into the decline of the American Dream and the emptiness of the upper classes, as we see in "The Great Gatsby?"

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'The Outsiders'

The Outsiders
The Outsiders. Viking

Yes, this is another book about teenagers. "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton has long been a high school favorite, but the book has also been compared to "The Catcher in the Rye." "The Outsiders" is about a close-knit group of teenagers, but it also explores the individual versus society. How must they interact? Holden tells the story in "The Catcher in the Rye," and Ponyboy tells the narrative of "The Outsiders." How does the action of telling the story allow these boys to interact with what's around them?

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'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'

One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Penguin

"The Catcher in the Rye" is a coming-of-age story told by Holden Caulfield with a sense of bitterness and cynicism. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kesey, is a protest novel told from the perspective of Chief Bromden. Holden tells his story from behind the walls of an institution, while Bromden tells his story after he has escaped from the hospital. What can we learn about the individual versus society from studying these two books?

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'Flowers for Algernon'

"Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes is another coming-of-age story, but this one is turned on its head. Charlie Gordon is part of an experiment that enhances his intelligence. In the process, we see the development of an individual from innocence to experience, similar to Holden's journey.

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Time is an important element of "Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut. With time and freedom no longer constants in life, the characters could weave their paths through existence—without fear of death. But, somehow, the characters are "stuck in amber." Author Ernest W. Ranly describes the character as "comic, pathetic pieces, juggled about by some inexplicable faith, like puppets." How does the "Slaughterhouse-Five" worldview compare with Holden's view in "The Catcher in the Rye?"

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'Lady Chatterley's Lover'

Written by D.H. Lawrence, "Lady Chatterley's Lover" is controversial for its inclusion of obscenities and sexuality, but it's also that delve into passion and love that makes this novel so important and ultimately allows us to link it to "The Catcher in Rye." The controversial reception (or rejection, rather) of these two novels was similar in that both works were banned on sexual grounds. The characters attempt to make connections—interactions that could save them. How these connections play out, and what these connections say about the individual versus society is a question that's ready for a comparison between these novels.

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'Of Mice and Men'

Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men. Penguin

"Of Mice and Men" is a classic by John Steinbeck. The work is set in the Salinas Valley of California and centers around two farmhands—George and Lennie. The title is believed to reference the poem "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns, in which "The best-laid plans of mice and men / Go often askew." The work has been banned in the past because of its controversial language and subject matter. The two main characters can be compared with Holden in their mutual alienation and outsider status.

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'Pale Fire'

"Pale Fire" by Vladimir Nabokov is a 999-line poem. It is presented as the work of fictional poet John Shade with commentary by fictional colleague Charles Kinbote. Through this unique format, Nabokov's work satirizes university life and scholarship, similar to Holden's views of the institutions. "Pale Fire" is a popular classic and was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1963.

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Your Citation
Lombardi, Esther. "Must-Read Books If You Like 'The Catcher in the Rye'." ThoughtCo, Sep. 7, 2021, Lombardi, Esther. (2021, September 7). Must-Read Books If You Like 'The Catcher in the Rye'. Retrieved from Lombardi, Esther. "Must-Read Books If You Like 'The Catcher in the Rye'." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).