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10 Books like The Catcher in the Rye: True Teenage Angst

Contributing to this article: Kedar P. and Sadia Praveen

‘The Catcher in the Rye’ has experienced everything that most great books go through: acclaim, popularity, rejection and controversy. If you had a great time reading through Holden Caulfield’s un-phony journey, these books like ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ will surely strike your fancy: ‘Lord of the Flies’, ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, ‘A Separate Peace’, ‘The Stranger’ and ‘The Savage Detectives’.

A Strange Kind of Journey

Grand. There’s a world I really hate. It’s a phony…

‘The Catcher in the Rye’ has been, for over six decades, loved unconditionally by millions of teenagers. It has also been called everything from ‘detrimental’ to outright ‘profane’.

From the start of the novel we can gather that Holden is not a social character, as he gets easily annoyed at minute distractions and is unable to handle his emotions. It’s easy to see that Holden acts as soon as he thinks rather than taking the time out to think about his decisions.

Holden seems to interact a great deal with the reader and this is easily visible throughout the novel: “[…] I felt like jumping off the washbowl and getting old Stradlater in a half nelson. That’s a wrestling hold, in case you don’t know, where you get the other guy around the neck and chock him to death, if you feel like it.

It must be conceded that it perfectly portrays the typical teenage angst. To find a book like ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, you needn’t look farther.


Books Similar to ‘The Catcher in the Rye’…

‘Lord of the Flies’ (William Golding, 1954)

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He became absorbed beyond mere happiness as he felt himself exercising control over living things…

In a stellar literary career, Nobel Laureate William Golding wrote many books, but ‘Lord of the Flies’ became his magnum opus.

Just as Holden Caulfield wanders through the mean streets of New York facing existential questions in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, some teenagers end up on a deserted island in ‘Lord of the Flies’. What ensues is utter chaos that will make you think twice about our ‘civilized’ ways.

Similarity Match: 90%
Anger, frustration, defiance and survival are only some of the common themes between ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘The Catcher in the Rye’.

‘To the Lighthouse’ (Virginia Woolf, 1927)

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On initial reading To the Lighthouse’ may seem like a novel where nothing happens. It starts off with the Ramsay family and how they plan to go to the lighthouse. The father believes that it will rain and thus the rip will be cancelled, much to the displeasure of his wife and child. The novel is split into three sections, each section showing a passing of ten years.

Although you may think not much is happening, the novel focuses on key themes such as death, the war, relationships and experiences. Woolf’s peculiar way of writing with a direct focus on stream of consciousness may deter some readers however, this novel is read worldwide by students and was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the one-hundred best English-language novels, as was ‘The Catcher in the Rye’.

Similarity Match: 90%
‘The Catcher in the Rye’ does not embody stream of consciousness completely, whereas a book like ‘To the Lighthouse’ does, however both novels draw from the technique to show the continuous flow of sense perceptions, thoughts and feelings.

‘The Great Gatsby’ (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925)

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The Great Gatsby’ is famous not only for its movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio but also because most students will come across this novel at one time or another. This novel captures the American dream in the 1920s, a time when it had sloped into decadence.

Nick Carraway is the protagonist of this novel and much of the events are portrayed through his eyes. Along with ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ and ‘To the Lighthouse’, ‘The Great Gatsby’ was also listed on TIME magazine’s one-hundred best English-language novels.

Similarity Match: 85%
‘The Great Gatsby’ seems to focus more on the American dream and mystery rather than teenage angst as ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ does however the narrative of stream of consciousness is evident within both, even with Fitzgerald’s neat and well-crafted prose.

‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ (Mark Twain, 1884)

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All kings is mostly rapscallions…

Meet Huckleberry Finn – a boy who knew it all.

For many, he is the best character to come out of American literary world. In thought, he is a great companion to Holden Caulfield. We can only imagine the kind of rural-urban duo they would have formed.

Similarity Match: 85%
Even though they are separated in time by over 60 years, these two books have much in common and are sure-fire hits among teenagers.

‘A Separate Peace’ (John Knowles, 1959)

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Everything has to evolve, or it perishes…

‘A Separate Peace’ has been a constant fixture in high-school courses in the US. Even important men seem to have been inspired by it.

It’s a story of two close school friends. Taking a turn after turn – from intellectual to moral – the story eventually rests in a tragedy.

Similarity Match: 80%
Right from boarding school backgrounds to personal and moral lapses, ‘A Separate Peace’ and ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ have many parallels.

‘Ulysses’ (James Joyce, 1922)

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‘Ulysses’ is divided into eighteen episodes, with each episode following protagonist, Leopold Bloom’s course of an ordinary day.

Bloom’s every thought effects sentence structure as well as other writing conventions due to the narrative method of stream of consciousness that Joyce employs.

Similarity Match: 80%
The novels may appear to be relatively different however with the use of stream of consciousness to highlight certain themes they are more similar than dissimilar.


If You Like ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, You Will Like…

Now let’s move on to some more books similar to ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. No matter if you want to exclude the stream of consciousness narrative and have more of a focus on teenage angst or if you’re looking for something more philosophical, you’ll find something you like for sure.

‘The Stranger’ (Albert Camus, 1942)

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I’ve often thought that had I been compelled to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but gaze up at the patch of sky just overhead, I’d have got used to it by degrees…

Written by one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, ‘The Stranger’ (also often translated as ‘The Outsider’) is not for everyone.

But if you liked ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, you will find it quite intriguing. It’s more philosophical than entertaining, but all things said and done, it is well worth investing time in.    

Two settings – wartime Algeria and bustling night streets of New York – couldn’t be more different. But ‘The Stranger’ evokes the anger factor quite strongly from cover to cover.

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ (Stephen Chbosky, 1999)

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Following a shy and introverted but extremely intelligent young boy, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ follow Charlie as begins to learn about a world packed with sex, drugs, alcohol, new music and new friends.

Seen through the eyes of Charlie, as a reader we see him mature from a socially awkward stage into someone who’s beginning to find their way. Emma Watson’s portrayal of Sam is especially worth watching the movie for. If this book resonates with you then check out similar books.

This book is great to compare with ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ as we see two young men in both novels progress in their own ways from one stage of life to another.

‘The Savage Detectives’ (Roberto Bolano, 1998)

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It was the tyrannical, slightly stupid thing you say after you’ve made love…

Heading to Chilean Andes now, ‘The Savage Detectives’ is by far the longest in this list.

It’s, however, quite similar to ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ in teen-ramblings and strange worldviews.

At one point, Roberto Bolano even refers to Holden Caulfield, claiming that literature is never innocent. A treat for ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ fans.

‘The Fault in Our Stars’ (John Green, 2012)

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Almost everyone has seen the movie. Unlike most books, this was one that many wanted to read after the movie rather than before.

This story follows a teenaged cancer patient Hazel, as she meets a fellow sufferer Augustus Waters who helps her to cope with her illness. Their adventures together highlight the importance of time well spent, especially when you’re unsure of when your last day might be. If you like the movie then why not check out some similar titles.

Teenage angst is extremely prevalent in both ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ and ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ however John Green’s novel provides an emotional attachment that will stay with you long after you’ve put the book down.


Need to Vent Some Pent-Up Anger?

There’s no better way to vent all the anger and frustration that eats you from the inside than reading books that tell you how. If you are looking for more books like ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, you can resort to other American classics like ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘Confederacy of Dunces’ and ‘Ham on Rye’.

It goes without saying that all suggestions and comments are dearly welcome.

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