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Books for Readers Who Enjoyed "The Catcher in the Rye"
Interesting Facts about "The Catcher in the Rye"
- First published in 1951
- Frequently listed as one of the best books of the 20th century
- Frequently appears on lists of "most challenged books" on high school curriculums
- Has never been produced as a play, movie, or television series, based on Salinger's own refusal to license the rights
- Roughly 250,000 copies of the novel are sold per year
- John Lennon's killer was obsessed with it
- Salinger's only full-length novel
Books with Similar Themes/Characters as "The Catcher in the Rye"
Though J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" is a controversial and frequently banned novel, it is also a staple of many high school English class curriculums and is beloved by readers the world over. Generations have read the book as adolescents, connected with its angry and confused hero, Holden Caulfield, and gone on to pass the story on to their own children.
If you loved Holden Caulfield, then you may also enjoy these novels, all of which feature protagonists with mental illness struggling to mature and develop an identity:
- "The Bell Jar," by Sylvia Plath
- "The Silver Linings Playbook," by Matthew Quick
- "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky
Read "The Bell Jar"
"The Bell Jar," by Sylvia Plath
Like J.D. Salinger, Sylvia Plath wrote one novel--"The Bell Jar." Like "The Catcher in the Rye," is it is semi-autobiographical and its protagonist struggles with growing up, society, and connecting meaningfully with others.
The heroine of "The Bell Jar," also like Holden, suffers from depression and struggles with the death of a loved one.
There are many similarities between the two books, and readers who enjoyed "The Catcher in the Rye" will also likely love "The Bell Jar." You can tell from her prose that Plath is a renowned poet, and passages of the "The Bell Jar" will stay with you long after you finish the story.
Read "The Silver Linings Playbook"
"The Silver Linings Playbook," by Matthew Quick
A more contemporary offering, Matthew Quick's "The Silver Linings Playbook" was just adapted into an award-winning movie starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.
In it, Pat Peoples emerges from a mental institution, uncured but determined to improve--and win back the love of his wife, Nikki. Pat refuses to face up to the reason his wife left him, and he struggles with depression, anger, and an excess of honesty--which is sometimes brutal and alienating to those around him.
Pat is what Holden might be like if Holden decided to grow up without addressing his depression or getting help; however, "The Silver Linings Playbook" is much more humorous than "The Catcher in the Rye" and has a host of interesting, funny side characters.
Pat himself often drops gems of real wisdom, mental illness or not, that make you think, laugh, and appreciate him as a character.
"Silver Linings Playbook" Film
Read "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower," by Stephen Chbosky
Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" also just made it to the silver screen, and the best-selling novel focuses on its hero's first year in high school. Charlie is quiet and awkward, sometimes going to a "dark place" and struggling with depression and anger, but at the same time he's eager to please and make new friends.
When he's adopted by a group of misfit but undeniably cool seniors, including Sam, who he falls in love with, his life changes and begins to have new experiences and stretch his boundaries. His angst, unlike Holden's, is less angry and focuses on his struggles to fit in and understand the new experiences being thrown at him as a result of his new friendships.
Charlie has been compared to a modern-day Holden, and while his mental illness is a bit more severe and much more frightening to Charlie, it's an apt comparison. Readers who love "The Catcher in the Rye" will find much to enjoy in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" Film
Which of these novels is your favorite?
Reading Beyond "The Catcher in the Rye"
If you came of age reading "The Catcher in the Rye," you'll probably identify with and love the books in this list! While all deal with adult themes, they're also appropriate for teens age fourteen and up (as long as you're open in your family about sexuality and adult language, etc.).
Consider reading one or two of the novels with "The Catcher in the Rye" to enhance your enjoyment of each and explore the similar themes, symbolism, and portrayals of the struggle to come of age when suffering from depression or other mental illness.