We always hear about the books that shaped history, the classics which were ahead of their time, leading social change. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Orwell’s 1984, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and so many more. But what about the books of our generation, which are shaping our lives and socially important now? Well, here’s my list!
A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) by Khalid Hosseini
Why You Should Read This Book: I read this book when I was 16 and it has since remained the most important book I have ever read. It follows two generations of Afghani women across 30 years and taught me more about the history of the conflict in Afghanistan than any news source ever could. It shattered my heart and enlightened my soul. If you’ve read The Kite Runner, then should should undoubtedly read this, but even if you haven’t, this book hits powerful chords in relation to war, family, women’s rights and survival.
Representation: PoC, mental health, immigration.
Content Warnings: Suicide, war themes, domestic violence, rape, abuse, miscarriage, death, severe misogyny, stoning.
“Learn this now and learn it well. Like a compass facing north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.”
The Hate U Give (2017) by Angie Thomas
Why You Should Read This Book: With the number of black people being unjustly killed in the US every day, it is astounding that everyone in the world has not read this book. And they should. I say this as someone who has only just finished it. It should not have taken me so long to pick it up and if you haven’t, you should this very minute. There’s even a film now if you’re not into reading.
Representation: PoC main characters and black culture, mental health (grief and implied PTSD), strong familial relationships, second chances / rehabilitation.
Content Warnings: Shooting, gang themes, riots, violence, loss of loved ones, grief, substance abuse, drug dealing, police brutality, racism. Please research for more if you think this book may be triggering.
Thoughts from others…
“It demonstrates why representation in YA lit matters so much and that despite previous reticence of publishers, books written by PoC make money (which is sadly their bottom line).” – Josephine Boyce, author of the Rebellion duology
“It shows people what being African American in the USA is like, what it’s like to grow up in the inner city, how you have to deal with other people’s perception of you, and about prejudice.” – Colleen (@jedithebookpup)
“You know. We all know. Masterpiece. Especially in the US where police brutality is rampant.” – Melanie (blogger at Meltotheany)
“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”
A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (2014) by Becky Chambers
Adult, Sci Fi
Why You Should Read This Book: This is the single most diverse book I have ever read and bonus points, it’s set in space. There are so many different species with beliefs of acceptance and prejudice across gender, sexuality and race. It’s a futuristic and fantastical look at the prejudices that divide the human race and is incredibly eye opening.
Representation: A racially (in terms of species) and sexually diverse cast of characters, so many different species and cultures, so much rep I can’t even list it.
Content Warnings: War themes, death, loss of loved one. Please research for more if you think this book may be triggering.
“People can do terrible things when they feel safe and powerful.”
Girls of Paper and Fire (2018) by Natasha Ngan
Why You Should Read This Book: This book is a beautiful and powerful embodiment of women fighting for themselves, their bodies and their rights in a fiercely misogynistic and patriarchal society. It explores caste systems and social segregation through the demonic castes, but further that that, explores a woman’s right to be treated as a human being despite her caste, her right to give her body to whoever she chooses and keep it from those she does not.
There are some very graphic scenes in this book – Natasha wrote a very beautiful and important and detailed author note at the front so please read that if in doubt.
Representation: Asian PoC, F/F romance, racial castes (defined through demon, half-demon, human).
Content Warnings: Rape, sexual assault, slavery, sex trafficking, loss, murder, abduction, captivity, torture, physical abuse, war themes. Please research for more if you think this book may be triggering.
“You are strong, Lei. You are beautiful. You are mine. And, always, most important: You are yours.”
It Ends With Us (2016) by Colleen Hoover
New Adult, Contemporary
Why You Should Read This Book: This is one of the most impactful novels I have read. The lessons this book taught me about love and abuse will stay with me forever. I still don’t think domestic violence is talked about enough, we all know about it, we may know someone who has experienced it, but what are we doing about it? In this book, Colleen Hoover is doing something, she’s giving victims a voice, she’s giving them strength.
Representation: Female friendship, homelessness, mental health.
Content Warnings: Domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, attempted rape. Please research for more if you think this book may be triggering.
Thoughts from others…
“It Ends With Us does a great job exploring how ‘easy’ it is to fall into an abusive relationship, and how confusing feelings can be in that situation.” – Victoria (@victoriaeellis2).
“It’s one of the first contemporary novels to touch on how relationships can slowly unravel and an abusive one can begin without noticing. It explores the cycle of children of abusive relationships falling into ones of their own and the realisation that it can happen when you least expect it.” – Bee (blogger at Beauty and the Books)
“Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love.”
I asked other bloggers, bookstagrammers and fellow book nerds what they thought the most socially important millennial books were – here are some answers!
Symptoms of Being Human (2016) by Jeff Garvin
“It’s the first person POV of a gender-fluid teen navigating high school. Being unfamiliar with what exactly being gender fluid meant, I felt it was a really eye-opening read for me. And Riley, the narrator, has such an honest voice that easily draws the reader in.” – Jennifer (bookstagrammer at
Sawkill Girls (2018) by Claire Legrand
“Sawkill Girls was the first book I’ve read where I’ve seen on page ace representation, that is not only introduced seamlessly throughout the story but explored and discussed with respect a partner. There is also further queer rep and PoC rep, which is important for a multitude of young readers seeing themselves in the protagonists..” – Lauren (blogger at Northern Plunder)
Our Own Private Universe (2017) by Robin Talley
“It is not only a very romantic contemporary featuring two queer women, one of who is a person of colour and bisexual, but it also talks about the importance of safe sex which is rare in ya contemporary and almost non existent in sex education when it’s about same sex relationships” – Kayla (@mskayla.reads)
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2016) by Becky Albertalli
“Because straight and white should not be the default, and it gives LGBTQ teens a happy ending when there are many books and TV shows that do the opposite for these characters.” – Lauren (@leakycauldrons)
The Astonishing Colour of After (2018) by Emily X. R. Pan
“This book is all mental health and identity and is probably the book that meant the most to me all year. I have never read a book that discusses depression better than this one.” – Melanie (blogger at Meltotheany)
Girl Made of Stars (2018) by Ashley Herring Blake
“This is an important book because it showcases the aftereffects of sexual abuse and rape. It also has bi rep, gender fluid rep, talks about anxiety and PTSD. Great book to have in this day and age.” – Felicia (bookstagrammer at
The Long Song (2010) by Andrea Levy
“It’s about racial inequality, slavery and social unrest in a British colony. It’s a powerful story of love and survival.” – Jess (blogger at Jessica Writes)
Looking for Alaska (2006) by John Green
“Because of it’s cult-like status it has made more people read across a range of ages, and sparked conversations about YA, the glorification of misery, and the manic, pixie dream girl.” – Julie (@LessonInGravity)
The Fifth Season (2015) by N. K. Jemisin
“The Broken Earth trilogy tackles white supremacy, racism, and oppression head on, and reminds us that we shouldn’t vote on who gets to be people. ” – Melanie (blogger at Meltotheany)
The Female of the Species (2016) by Mindy McGinnis
“It’s mostly about rape, but not only. It also talks about how women are seen and it really resonated with me. The protagonist is morally grey, and yet, a lot of the way she spoke up and fought during the book made me heavily reflect on how people tend to remain silent and watch from afar instead of taking action.” – Camilla (blogger at Reader in the Attic)
Noughts & Crosses (2006) by Malorie Blackman
“It handles incredibly relevant and damaging social issues – the lasting impact of racism and segregation, with a twist that compels entitled audiences to consider the alternative side of their privilege – whilst being extremely accessible for children and young adults through making them and their struggles the focus.” – Becky (@padabecky)
This list is by no means conclusive, so please feel free to list the books you think are social important in this generation in the comments!