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Top 27 books we read way too young

Which of these books did you sneak from the library or your parents’ bookshelf when you were way too young for it? If you were an avid and early reader like me, you powered through the kids and young adult book sections at the library fast and wandered over to the adult fiction and non-fiction shelves to avoid reading cereal boxes and instruction manuals.

Along with copies of my sister’s Cosmopolitan magazine, many of these books gave me a sense I was more grown-up than I really was. Check out the list and see which ones you have read, and add your own in the comments!

This list was compiled from more than 3,000 comments received on my TikTok video from August 8, 2021, talking about books I read when I was way too young.

27. Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford (published 1978)

No more wire hangers, the bloody steak, the love scene in the horse stable. A sad, torrid Hollywood childhood we had no business reading about when we were under age 10.

26. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (1997)

Beautifully written, but the romance with Mr. Chairman is not one for the kiddos.

25. Crank by Ellen Hopkins (2004)

This best-selling series about a mother coping with her daughter’s meth addiction is serious adult content.

24. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)

The quintessential dystopian novel is violent, disturbing and vividly sadistic.

23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (1971)

Aimed at young adults when it came out in 1971, this novel would have a trigger warning today longer than your grocery list. Profanity, sexual assault, drug use.

22. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (1959)

The tragedy of mentally disabled patient Charley who receives treatment that temporarily increases his intelligence only so he can realize what he’s losing. “This book had me a wreck in middle school,” one commented.

21. 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James (2011)

The amazingly successful and smutty story of a young woman and the man who introduces her to a whole new world.

20. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb (1992)

One of Oprah’s early book club picks, this is the story of one woman raised by a mentally ill mother as she copes with friends dying from AIDS, health issues, and adultery.

19. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)

Esther Greenwood copes with depression, anxiety, mental asylum, attempted sexual assault and more in this book which is seen as a roman a clef of poet Sylvia Plath’s own struggles in the mid-20th century.

18. The Sex Chronicles by Zane (2002)

Cinemax made these books into one of its after-dark erotic series. There are dozens and dozens of them. We just picked one.

17. Wattpad stories or fan fiction websites (2008-on)

While most fan fiction and Wattpad stories are tame, it wasn’t hard in the mid-2010s to find the explicit and “spicy” stories if you were looking for them. And some people were.

16. Forever by Judy Blume (1975)

The book centers on teenage Katherine’s decision to lose her virginity to her boyfriend Michael and made his member “Ralph” quite infamous.

15. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)

14. The Bible, King James Version

13. White Oleander by Janet Fitch (1999)

12. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)

11. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2002)

10. Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter by Laurell K. Hamilton (1993)

This series starts out tame but gets raunchy later.

9. Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse series) by Charlaine Harris (2001)

8. The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah (1999)

7. Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel (1980)

6. Wifey by Judy Blume (1978)

5. It by Stephen King (1986)

4. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaure (1983)

3. A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer (1995)

2. Dawn by V.C. Andrews (1990)

1. Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews



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