10 Best Light Novels for Beginners to Read in English

Best Light Novels for Beginners

Light novels are the hottest content of Japanese pop culture in addition to anime and manga, which has got much more popular among both Japanese foreign people recently.

A large number of new titles of light novels are released every season and some popular books are adapted into manga and anime series. If you haven’t read any light novel, you may wonder which to read at first.

Today, I’d like to introduce 10 best light novels for beginners to read in English including the classic franchises and the latest titles.

1. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱), one of the most famous classic light novels in Japan, is highly recommended for beginners to read first. It is the first title of the Haruhi Suzumiya Series (涼宮ハルヒシリーズ), which is categorized as comedy, science fiction, slice of life and mystery. There are 12 volumes in the series published from 2003, and two seasons of an anime adaptation were also made in 2006 and 2009.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is set in a high school located in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture. The story is narrated by a protagonist Kyon centering on his eccentric classmate Haruhi Suzumiya. They form a new school club called SOS Brigade that consists of an alien Yuki Nagato, a time traveler Mikuru Asahina and an esper Itsuki Koizumi to make boring days more exciting.

Genre: Slice of life/Comedy/Science fiction

Author: Nagaru Tanigawa

Illustrator: Noizi Ito

Volumes: 12 (As of November, 2020)

Published: from 2003

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2. Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online (ソードアート・オンライン) is one of the most well-known and popular light novel series worldwide. The Isekai action light novel has been published since 2009, which consists of 25 volumes as of December, 2020. The light novel series has been already adapted into three seasons of the anime series broadcasted from 2012 to 2020. Another series titled Sword Art Online: Progressive has been published since 2012.

Sword Art Online is set in Japan in 2022, when the world’s first VRMMORPG (virtual reality massively multiplayer online role-playing game) called Sword Art Online (SAO) is developed and offered to users. A 14-year-old boy named Kirito is trapped in the game world of SAO with a 15-year-old girl Asuna and other players. They fight with swords against enemies to survive the severe world heading to the 100th floor of a castle Aincrad to log out of SAO.

Genre: Isekai/Action

Author: Reki Kawahara

Illustrator: abec

Volumes: 25 (As of December, 2020)

Published: from 2009

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3. Bakemonogatari

Bakemonogatari
Bakemonogatari

For light novel beginners who are not even interested in other Japanese pop cultures like manga and anime, Bakemonogatari (化物語) is what to read in English. It is the initial title of the renowned novel series Monogatari Series written by Nisio Isin. Bakemonogatari was released in 2006, followed by the sequels and anime and manga adaptations.

Bakemonogatari, categorized as fantasy, mystery, comedy, slice of life and even action, depicts the life of a high school boy Koyomi Araragi. He gets involved in a variety of strange incidents caused by apparitions after being transformed into a vampire. They occur around heroines including his classmates, friends, sisters, etc.

>>Which is the best Monogatari Series reading order?

Genre: Fantasy/Comedy/Slice of life

Author: Nisio Isin

Illustrator: Vofan

Volumes: 28+1 (As of August, 2021)

Published: from 2006

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4. 86

86 EIGHTY-SIX
86 EIGHTY-SIX

86 (86-エイティシックス-) is a finest recent light novel series perfect for beginners to read, categorized as mecha, action and drama. It has been published by Ascii Media Works, one of the brands of Kadokawa, since 2017. Its manga adaptation has been released since 2018, and an anime series started in 2021.

The mecha action light novel series presents not only intense battles but also serious international affairs and human drama. 86 is set in the Republic of San Magnolia in the remote future. It conflicts with a neighboring country the Empire of Giad, which develops an unattended self-sustaining army machine called Legion. The story follows a 16-year-old boy Shinei Nouzen called Shin, who fights against the Legions as the leader of the Republic of San Magnolia’s squadron Spearhead. Shin and other 86 people are persecuted and sent to the front line of the fight against the Republic of San Magnolia and the Empire of Giad.

Genre: Mecha/Dark fantasy

Author: Asato Asato

Illustrator: Shirabii

Volumes: 10 (As of June, 2021)

Published: from 2017

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5. Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World

Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-

Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World(Re:ゼロから始める異世界生活), one of the best light novel series for many fans worldwide, is strongly recommended for light novel beginners to read first. The greatest Isekai light novel was first released by the writer Tappei Nagatsuki on an online publishing website Shosetsuka ni Naro in 2012 and has been published by Media Factory, one of the popular brands of Kadokawa, since 2014. In its anime adaptation, there are 25 episodes in the first season airing in 2016 and 25 episodes in the second season in 2020 and 2021. A side story series has been also published since 2015.

Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World centers on a socially withdrawn high schooler Subaru Natsuki, who is transported to a fantasy world, one day. He meets Emilia, a young half-elf girl, and is getting involved in a huge story in the strange world. It’s found that he has a special ability called Shonimodori (Return by Death), which enables him to go back in time to the past by dying.

Genre: Isekai/Dark fantasy/Adventure

Author: Tappei Nagatsuki

Illustrator: Shinichiro Otsuka

Volumes: 27+6 short story collections (As of June, 2021)

Published: from 2014

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6. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

For a recent trend of light novels, you should pick out That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (転生したらスライムだった件). The Isekai adventure light novel series was first released on the online novel publishing site Shosetsuka ni Naro in 2013. An manga adaptation has been serialized since 2015 and two seasons of an anime adaptation were released in 2018-2019 and 2021.

The story begins when a protagonist Satoru dies from stab wounds inflicted by a phantom killer and is reincarnated as a Slime newly named Rimuru in another world. He travels around the fantasy world with the special ability that enables him to draw powers and skills from enemies and objects.

Genre: Isekai

Author: Fuse

Illustrator: Mitz Vah

Volumes: 19 (As of October, 2021)

Published: from 2014

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7. Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World's Strongest
Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest (ありふれた職業で世界最強) is a recommended light novel for beginners to read in English. The modern Isekai light novel series, written by Ryo Shirakome and illustrated by Takayaki, was first released on the user-generated novel website Shosetsuka ni Naro in 2013. Its publication as a physical light novel started in 2015, which has been adapted into manga and anime series. A side story series Arifureta Zero has been published since 2017.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest follows a bullied geeky high schooler Hajime Nagumo, who is transported to an Isekai world with his classmates. He is given the weakest power but decides to be much stronger by ant means to survive the world alone.

Genre: Isekai

Author: Ryo Shirakome

Illustrator: Takayaki

Volumes: 11+1 short story collection (As of June, 2021)

Published: from 2015

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8. The Irregular at Magic High School

The Irregular at Magic High School
The Irregular at Magic High School

The Irregular at Magic High School (魔法科高校の劣等生) is one of the most popular long light novel series. A writer Tsutomu Sato started its serialization on a user-generated publishing website Shosetsuka ni Naro from 2008 and its physical novel series illustrated by Kana Ishida was published by Kadokawa between 2011 and 2020.

Set in an alternate world where 35 years passes after the Third World War ends, the action fantasy light novel focuses on a protagonist Tatsuya Shiba and his little sister Miyuki Shiba。He enrolls in the second course at the National Magic University Affiliated First High School while she is accepted as a student of the superior first course.

Genre: Fantasy/Action

Author: Tsutomu Sato

Illustrator: Kana Ishida

Volumes: 32+1

Published: 2011-2020

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9. Overlord

Overlord
Overlord

Overlord (オーバーロード) has been read by many beginners and fans of Isekai light novels, written by Kugane Maruyama and illustrated by so-bin. The Isekai dark-fantasy light novel was first released on a user-generated publishing website Arcadia in 2010 and had been published since 2012. It has been adapted into a manga series since 2015 and into an anime series since 2018.

Overlord revolves around a skeletal character Ainz Ooal Gown, who played a Dive Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game called Yggdrasil as a member of a glorious guild in the game, is sent to an Isekai world. Ainz comes to aim to dominate the world as the most powerful character with his companions.

Genre: Isekai

Author: Kugane Maruyama

Illustrator: so-bin

Volumes: 14 (As of March, 2020)

Published: from 2010

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10. Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

As one of the most popular light novel series lately, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (ダンジョンに出会いを求めるのは間違っているだろうか) is highly recommended for beginners to read. The fantasy and adventure light novel gas been published by SB Creative since 2013 while its side story series titled Sword Oratoria has been released since 2014. An anime series began with 13 episodes in 2015, and the latest fourth season will air in 2022.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? takes place in a fantasy city Orario and and its underground Dungeon, centering on a young boy named Bell Cranel. His growing-up story proceeds as he joins a guild-like group led by the goddess Hestia and fights against evil monsters in Dungeons with other Hestia Familia members and other gods.

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure

Author: Fujino Omori

Illustrator: Suzuhito Yasuda

Volumes: 17 (As of April, 2021)

Published: from 2013

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If you like manga or anime, you will also like light novels. Now, many popular titles are translated into English and other languages. First of all, how about starting with those recommended light novels above?

Check the 30 best light novels of all time below, too!

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