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15 Best Books That Celebrate Diversity

Diversity in literature is still a hot topic but many lists pertaining to diverse books focus solely on race or sexuality. I’ve compiled a list of ten books that celebrate diversity or diverse characters, including those with disabilities or mental health problems too.

Of course, this list is by no means extensive, however, it’s a good start for those looking for some other diverse reads besides the obvious ones such as The Hate U Give.

Some of these books are hugely popular, whilst others are rarely talked about. Let’s normalise other ethnicities, other sexualities and other states of mind!

NB This article was first published in 2015 but has been updated in 2018. 

TEN BOOKS THAT CELEBRATE DIVERSITY
1. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project focuses on Don, a middle-aged man with Aspergers syndrome, who is trying to find a wife. The problem is, he’s never even been on a second date! Don has come up with a girlfriend test in order to find his perfect match but he soon finds out that love can’t be calculated in quite such a way. He is very atypical with a unique way of thinking and reacting to events. He can be incredibly blunt and as Hermione said, ‘has the emotional range of a teaspoon’. Very funny, very touching, this is a must-read for the summer!

Check out my review of The Rosie Project.

Buy The Rosie Project: Amazon | The Book Depository 

TEN BOOKS THAT CELEBRATE DIVERSITY

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I don’t think John Green’s best-selling young adult classic needs much explanation to be honest, but seeing two teenagers battling terminal illnesses and still trying to live their lives as ordinary teenagers is both inspirational and heartbreaking. The Fault in Our Stars is a favourite amongst many young adult readers and kicked off a trend of stories where teenagers with life-threatening illnesses find love and affection. Whilst Hazel’s illness is visible with all the tubes coming out of her body, Augustus’ is invisible, which just goes to show that appearances never tell the full story.  

Check out my review for The Fault in Our Stars.

Buy The Fault in Our Stars: Amazon | The Book Depository

TEN BOOKS THAT CELEBRATE DIVERSITY

3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You is one of my all time favourite books. It is the beautiful story of a man who was once very active and sporty who is now paralysed from the waist down. This book had me in buckets – more so than The Fault in Our Stars! This can almost be seen as the adult version of TFiOS, but I actually think this is slightly better and more touching. READ THIS BOOK NOW. (Also buy a big box of tissues)

Check out my book review for Me Before You.
Check out my film review for Me Before You.

Buy Me Before You: Amazon | The Book Depository


Buy Me Before You: Amazon | The Book Depository

TEN BOOKS THAT CELEBRATE DIVERSITY

4. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

The Mortal Instruments is a popular young adult paranormal series and it has been adapted into a film and Netflix series. The main characters are Jace and Clary but I know for a lot of fans of this series, the gay relationship between Bane and Alec is their favourite part of the story. This series ticks both the ethnic and sexual diversity box and I guess the paranormal one too with all the different creatures present in this series!

Check out my review for City of Fallen Angels (Book #4).

Buy City of Bones: Amazon | The Book Depository

TEN BOOKS THAT CELEBRATE DIVERSITY

5. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Set in the 1950s when for the first time ever, black children were admitted to a white school, this book features a dual narrative told from the POV of a white girl and a black girl. Not only that, but these two girls develop a beautiful relationship that portrays the struggles they faced in what I thought was a very accurate way.

Buy Lies We Tell Ourselves: Amazon | The Book Depository

TEN BOOKS THAT CELEBRATE DIVERSITY

6. Ink by Amanda Sun

Most young adult books are set in the USA or the UK but Ink is set in Japan and most of the cultural references are pretty spot on! It’s is centred on an American girl and a Japanese boy and the magical ink that can make drawings come to life. In most Asian interracial relationships you’ll find a white boy with an Asian girl but Ink and Eleanor & Park (below) are two exceptions. 

Check out my book review of Ink by Amanda Sun.

Buy Ink: Amazon | The Book Depository

TEN BOOKS THAT CELEBRATE DIVERSITY

7. How To Be Both by Ali Smith

Written in two parts, How To Be Both explores how someone can be ever-present and yet forever-gone, both male and female, both homosexual and heterosexual etc. etc. There are some lesbian relationships in this book and the way Ali Smith writes about adolescence is really touching. Though be warned, this is an incredibly complex and confusing book. Most people I know have a love/hate relationship with this title!

Check out my review of How To Be Both.

Buy How To Be Both: Amazon

TEN BOOKS THAT CELEBRATE DIVERSITY

8. Tampa by Alissa Nutting

I’m not sure how much of a “celebration” this book is as I found Tampa pretty disturbing when I read it but it is a unique read. It is about the taboo sexual relationship between a teacher and pupil. The teacher in question is obviously a pedophile and her psychology is both really interesting and really frightening. If you’re a fan of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov then you should definitely add this to your TBR pile. Well worth a read!

Check out my review of Tampa.

Buy Tampa: Amazon | The Book Depository

eleanorandpark
9. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Wahey for asians in YA fiction! I’m half-Chinese and a big fan of Korean culture so I was ecstatic to find a book with an oriental teenager in it. I felt like I could relate to Park’s family life, but I also appreciated that Park being Korean wasn’t a huge deal. This is just like any old teenage love story (but better). Let’s normalise interracial couples! 

Check out my review of Eleanor & Park.

Buy Eleanor & Park: Amazon | The Book Depository

10. The Immoralist by Andre Gide

This is one from my Oxford University reading list and is about a married man who begins to explore his homosexual desires that are awakened through travelling. This was written at a time when being homosexual was still taboo so this book was someone of a scandal (as you can see from the title ‘The Immoralist’). This is a fairly short story and an important part of the history of French literature so I’d definitely recommend giving it a read. Some of the descriptions are absolutely beautiful even if the characters aren’t the sort of people you want to be.

Buy The Immoralist: Amazon | The Book Depository

11. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles is my all time favourite Greek myth retelling. It tells the story of Achilles and Patroclus who unwittingly become the best of friends. Or even something more. Madeline Miller imagines a completely different take on Achilles’ story and writes about the gay romance between the brave soldier and the exiled prince. Whilst the Trojan War rages in the background, we are treated to a devastating account of forbidden first love between two young men. The Song of Achilles is about duty vs the heart and will captivate your heart.

Check out my review of The Song of Achilles

Buy The Song of Achilles: Amazon | The Book Depository

12. The Vegetarian by Han Kang 

You wouldn’t think that there could be discrimination against vegetarians but in Asian countries vegetarianism is incredibly rare. The Vegetarian by Han Kang is the story of a woman who refuses to eat meat after a horrible dream but the consequences in her Korean family are devastating. Written in three parts, we get an insight into the mind of our main character Yeong-hye, her husband and her sister. It’s beautifully written but some passages are rather disturbing.

Check out my review of The Vegetarian.

Buy The Vegetarian: Amazon | The Book Depository

13. The Wangs vs The World 

The Wangs vs The World is the incredibly funny story about a family that moves to America and gets rich quick. But then it all comes crashing down when Mr Wangs goes out of business. His family are used to the finer things in life but now they’ve got to pack up all their belongings into one single car and road trip to the East Coast to stay with the oldest child in the family. This is a hilarious insight into Chinese culture and Chinese parenting so is well worth a read for those interested in what happens when East comes West. 

Check out my review of The Wangs vs The World.

Buy The Wangs vs The World: Amazon | The Book Depository

14. House of Windows by Alexia Casale 

Nick is a self-confessed genius. And he won’t let you forget it. At just 15 years old, he earns a place at the prestigious Cambridge University but he’s never been good at making friends and the fact that he can’t drink is another barrier. At first you think that Nick is just an irritating little sh*t but as time goes on, you begin to see how his dysfunctional family life and absent father have shaped him into the abnormal teenager that he is. He’s thrown in at the deep end at university but he begins to learn what life is about and find real love and friendship. 

Check out my review of House of Windows.

Buy House of Windows: Amazon 

15. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant leads a carefully timetabled existence and as far as she’s concerned, life is just fine. With zero friends, nobody’s ever told her that life could be better than “just fine”. With a large scar across one side of her face, few people have ever tried to get to know the real Eleanor Oliphant, the girl behind the facial disfigurement. Nobody’s ever really asked how she got it or tried to help her out of her miserable existence. Then one day, a chance encounter with Raymond from work changes everything. She’s a little strange but by no means unloveable and if you only pick up one book on this list, make it this one. 

Buy Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Amazon | The Book Depository 

If you liked this post, check out these:ย 
13 Controversial Books Similar to Lolita
Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning to Read But Haven’t
10 Books Like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
15 Books Like Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
5 Books Like Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur
Top Five Books For When Time is Short

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Laura

Laura is a culture and travel blogger based in London. She studied French at Oxford University and now studies Law in London. She’s an avid reader and traveller and loves to combine the two with literary travel. Find her tips and reviews on the best reads, eats and destinations on whatshotblog.com.

Find me on: Web | Twitter

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46 Comments

  1. Mellissa Williams
    21st July 2015 / 10:48 AM

    I've seen the film The Fault In Our Stars – I bet the book is better. Great competition from a fab company.

    • Laura Hartley
      22nd July 2015 / 10:30 AM

      Yes the book is soo much better! The film is good but it doesn't give you the same heart-wrenching feeling that the book does!

  2. Dannii Martin
    21st July 2015 / 10:57 AM

    I really want to read The Fault In Our Stars. Thanks for the reminder. I really don't read enough, but I need to start making the time.

    • Laura Hartley
      22nd July 2015 / 10:33 AM

      It is a must-read but don't forget to buy a BIG box of tissues beforehand!

  3. 21st July 2015 / 11:00 AM

    Ahhhh Magnus and Alec! I am fully aware and love their relationship but completely forgot about it when making my list. So silly. Great list ๐Ÿ™‚

    My TTT http://wp.me/p3ftwe-Ih

    • Laura Hartley
      22nd July 2015 / 10:33 AM

      I know lots of people rave about them but I still prefer Jace and Clary! At least, the Jace and Clary from the first few books.. Then things started to get weird.. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Tori Dennis
    21st July 2015 / 4:08 PM

    Tampa and Me Before You sound like great reads!!! Awesome Post!! Check out my Top Ten Tuesday

    • Laura Hartley
      22nd July 2015 / 10:30 AM

      Tampa is a truly disturbing read – not for the faint hearted, but I really enjoyed it! (Not sure what that says about me..)

  5. 22nd July 2015 / 12:06 AM

    Great book choices! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Some of these I haven't heard of, so I will definitely be checking them out on Goodreads!

    • Laura Hartley
      22nd July 2015 / 10:32 AM

      Yes you definitely should! Thanks for stopping by ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. bookenthral
    22nd July 2015 / 1:18 AM

    There are so many books on your list on my TBR! They all sound so good! Great list:)

    • Laura Hartley
      22nd July 2015 / 10:32 AM

      Thanks for stopping by ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. The Bibliophile Babe
    22nd July 2015 / 1:23 AM

    Tampa has been on my TBR for a while! So has Me Before You. I really need to get on those. Great list!

    • Laura Hartley
      22nd July 2015 / 10:31 AM

      Tampa is soo creepy, but brilliant at the same time. Not at all along the same lines as Me Before You which is just so heartbreaking!

  8. Johnny F.
    22nd July 2015 / 12:57 PM

    Glad i found your blog! Really nice post. I want to read them all!! And btw you're right, my favorite thing in TMI is Magnus and Alec

    John @ burnishbooks

  9. Lisa @ Lost in Literature
    22nd July 2015 / 1:20 PM

    I just got Me Before You with a gift card that I had this week – I'm so excited to finally read it!!! I'm very curious about The Rosie Project as well. We had a few of the same picks this week – yay for diversity in books! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 10th November 2015 / 11:07 AM

      Hope you enjoyed Me Before You and you didn’t cry too much ๐Ÿ˜‰ Can’t wait for the film!

  10. BookCupid
    22nd July 2015 / 4:13 PM

    Didn't know that about Eleanor and Park. Even more hyped about reading it now ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Ellie Warren
    22nd July 2015 / 6:14 PM

    I adore Me Before You. I kinda read it by accident because I entered a competition to win some special cookies to celebrate the book and the book came with them. It's one of my favourites too, I was just trying to convince my boyfriend to read it!

    • 10th November 2015 / 11:07 AM

      haha that sounds like the best surprise – food and a good book!

  12. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence
    23rd July 2015 / 10:42 AM

    What a great list of diverse books! I have read on this list Ink, where I liked the Japanese culture, TFIOS which goes without saying, City of Bones although I haven't gotten to the relationship yet. The Rosie Project really interests me as well. I heard about Tampa, but it might give me the heebie jeebies!

    • 10th November 2015 / 11:08 AM

      Lots of people say that about Tampa and to be honest it probably will but I think that’s the point! It is pretty darn creepy :/

  13. Lyn Kaye
    26th July 2015 / 1:33 AM

    Lies We Tell Ourselves is a GREAT novel! I think I cried through the whole thing!

  14. 9th November 2015 / 5:34 PM

    Great list of books here, will be adding some to my ever growing list of books I want to read x

  15. 9th November 2015 / 6:32 PM

    Ohh I am going to have to go through some of these, I do love a good book to read. x

  16. Tori Gabriel
    9th November 2015 / 7:15 PM

    What a great list. I’ll have to add some of these onto my own reading list.

  17. Linda Hobbis
    9th November 2015 / 7:34 PM

    Great list. I’m guessing you’re quite a fast reader!

  18. Natasha Mairs
    9th November 2015 / 7:37 PM

    I have a few of these on my to read list.

  19. 9th November 2015 / 8:13 PM

    I loved Me Before You although it made me cry and also Fault in My Stars, I must put the rest on my list x

    • 10th November 2015 / 11:06 AM

      It made me cry buckets!!! Can’t wait for the film ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Hannah Wood
    9th November 2015 / 8:23 PM

    I was only on about this today I never get to read grrrrrr just don’t seem to have time too .x

  21. 9th November 2015 / 10:11 PM

    I want to read Tampa it sounds good if disturbing I like a narrative that challenges convention.

  22. Deanna
    9th November 2015 / 11:22 PM

    These books sound amazing, I’m really liking the sound of How to Be Both. I need to take more time to read, I used to love it.

  23. bericebaby
    10th November 2015 / 12:03 AM

    I adore The Fault in Our Stars – But you guessed it. I watched the film LOL. I must read the book I bet I’m going to still need a hole load of tissues. Pure emotional I was in the cinema.
    Great post hun
    Charlotte x

  24. Laura
    10th November 2015 / 1:21 AM

    I read Me Before You while on honeymoon and absolutely loved it xxx

    • 10th November 2015 / 11:06 AM

      Ooh I can’t imagine reading it on honeymoon! That would’ve completed ruined the mood for me haha

  25. 10th November 2015 / 11:26 AM

    Always looking for new books to read, especially if they’re diverse!

  26. Ickle Pickle
    10th November 2015 / 12:31 PM

    My daughter loved The Fault in our Stars book, I have seen the film but not read it. Kaz x

  27. Teresa Bowen
    10th November 2015 / 2:21 PM

    Not read a single one of these books. Some interesting ones here to investigate.

  28. raine_hp
    10th November 2015 / 4:32 PM

    Would love to read quite a few of those. The Fault in our Stars is on the top my list of books to read.

  29. Lina
    10th November 2015 / 8:14 PM

    Some of these sound amazing! I wish I had more time to read.

  30. Emma Russell-Bennett
    11th November 2015 / 9:02 PM

    I’m definitely going to be picking up a few of the books featured here!

  31. 12th November 2015 / 7:24 AM

    There are a few books here that I fancy reading – definitely adding Lies We Tell Ourselves to my list

  32. Charlotte
    12th November 2015 / 9:12 PM

    I have only read the mortal instruments. I would like to read several of the others. x

  33. 12th November 2015 / 11:49 PM

    I like the sound of Tampa, I like books what are ‘different’. Great list and it reminds me that I really need to read more. I used to read so much but over the years my ‘passion’ for books vanished.

  34. Louise Smith
    16th November 2015 / 5:06 AM

    This is a great list. I don’t think I’ve read any of the books though! I’ll have to pick a couple up to try ๐Ÿ™‚

    Louise x

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