Okay, of course adults can read (or reread) the Harry Potter series. Arbitrarily categorizing which books belong to “kid lit” and which belong to the realm of adults isn’t really a valid pursuit. But those who grew up reading J.K. Rowling’s now-foundational series have continued to grow up. If you’re looking for books that have similar magic and mystery but with storylines aged up to where you are in life, this list of books like Harry Potter for Adults (™) is for you.
Low Fantasy Books Like Harry Potter for Adults
These books mingle muggles and wizards when magic intrudes on our own “real” world.
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
Look, Hogwarts isn’t the only magic school with a remarkable mortality rate. In this standalone mystery, non-magical PI Ivy Gamble is put on the case of the murder of a faculty member at Osthorne Academy of Young Mages. The awkward complication? Her estranged twin sister Tabitha also teaches at Osthorne.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
With an atypical Ivy League past, Alex Stern is an unlikely freshman at Yale. But Alex has a certain special talent that brought her to the attention of a benefactor. In exchange for a full ride, she’s tasked with monitoring the university’s secret societies and their occult activities. In this complex web of well-to-do students and future power brokers, she’s got her hands full.
Borderline by Mishell Baker
If you like watching the worlds of magic and mortals messily collide, you’ll dig the Arcadia Project trilogy. When Millie, recently disabled and diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, is recruited by the project, she thinks it’s a joke. But then she sees Los Angeles’s secret firsthand: it hosts a well-trafficked portal between our world and Faerie.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Do you miss picking up a giant book and being unable to put it down until you’ve conquered it? Morgenstern provides. Our world holds scores of doors that lead to the secret shores of the Starless Sea. Zachary Ezra Rawlins has found one such door to this realm of long-told stories, mysterious secret societies, and highly inquisitive cats.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
This series-starting novella is a Chosen One story with the welcome twist of a black woman as its heroine. Don’t let the space setting fool you; it’s the perfect matriculation for Harry Potter readers. Binti is the first of the Himba people to be accepted to the esteemed intergalactic Oomza University. Naturally, her journey drops her in the middle of a much larger alien conflict.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I think there’s little doubt that the main character of Neverwhere, Richard Mayhew, is a Hufflepuff. That makes it doubly fun to watch this mild-mannered, good-hearted, nervous young man become the hero when he meets a mysterious girl named Door. Fleeing assassins, Richard follows Door down to “London Below,” and then the fun starts.
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Much like Harry Potter, Zacharias Wythe is a bit of a magical outsider. Instead of a scar, though, Zacharias’s dark skin is what marks him as an oddity among the rich white men’s club of English magic. But now, as Sorcerer Royal, it’s his job to save the nation’s fading magical supply, and he’ll journey to Fairyland to do it.
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Baker
Do you remember the pure wonder you felt when you were first introduced to the Great Hall? Do you remember how you then discovered everything at Hogwarts was deadly? This portal story follows a similar trajectory when grad student Nora stumbles into an alternate world that on the surface appears grand and glamorous. Of course, things aren’t what they seem.
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
While the central character in this creepy fairy tale odyssey is a 12-year-old boy, this isn’t a children’s book. Young David is mourning the loss of his mother and the ensuing changes in his family. When he climbs through a crack in the garden wall, he finds himself in a strange and dangerous land of stories and fables.
High Fantasy Books Like Harry Potter for Adults
In these stories, you’re taken to an entirely different world. But the characters, plots, and charms (wink) make them good picks as books like Harry Potter for adults.
Witchmark by C.L. Polk
In this alternate world reeling from a World War, families of elite mages pull the strings of nations and power structures. (Sound a little familiar?) Miles Singer went to war and faked his own death in order to escape his magical destiny. But a patient’s mysterious death at his hospital and the appearance of a handsome stranger threaten Miles’s hard-won anonymity.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Missing the Potterverse’s London? Schwab has four more for you. Red, White, and Gray London exist in parallel, each marked by varying levels of magic. (Black London has been lost to time.) Kell is one of a dying breed of magicians who can travel between these mirrored cities, which is a gift—until it’s not.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
This sweeping high-fantasy novel kicks off a trilogy of epic proportions. But at its center, this is a book about a young woman, an outsider to the world of her family, who suddenly finds herself the most-watched figure around. When her mother dies, Yeine Darr is named heir to the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and all the power struggles that come with it.
Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
While epic and gorgeously illustrated, this graphic novel series may seem like an odd choice for a list of books like Harry Potter for adults. But consider its protagonist, Maika Halfwolf, an orphan trying to decode her past while also wrestling with the near-uncontrollable power inside her. With intricate world-building and a darkly imaginative plot, it sounds like a pretty good fit to me.
Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft
The ongoing Books of Babel series is an all-around pleasing fantasy adventure. It mixes lightness and darkness, world-building and adventure like the Potter series, while also throwing in some steampunk elements. The journey starts when uptight headmaster Thomas Senlin loses his wife Marya at the foot of the Tower of Babel—on their honeymoon.
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
The youngest half-goblin son of the emperor, Maia has spent most of his life in lonely exile, away from the intrigue of the Imperial Court. But when the emperor and his three elder sons are killed, Maia suddenly finds himself as heir to a dangerous throne. What follows is a more complex version of Harry’s journey from the cupboard under the stairs to life as the Chosen One.
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