25 Best Light Novels of All Time
Enjoy the best 25 light novels of all time to read in English including the classic series and latest trends
A light novel is one of the coolest modern Japanese cultures while anime and manga have been known more commonly as leading Japanese contents recently. However, dont forget that light novels which are generated by Japanese pop culture (or subculture) becomes the basis of anime and manga adaptions. Current popular anime series are adapted from the light novels.
Speaking of Japanese novels, Haruki Murakami, Soseki Natsume and other modern authors are famous worldwide. At the same time, light novels can be positioned as part of Japanese literature.
The definition of light novels are not clear in a general way. To put it plainly, light novels often have an anime-style illustration on the book cover and some character illustrations are added inside the book as well. That kind of novels were sold in Japan from around the 1970s and it is said that light novels originate with that date.
Light novels became widely recognized when the legendary Slayers written by Hajime Kanzaki (illustrated by Rui Araizumi) was published in 1989 though there were a small minority of the fans in the whole society. Since then, now-famous titles have been released in Japan and the light novel is one of the most popular book genres as well as manga and novels in the present day.
Today, Id like to introduce the best light novels of all time for both beginners and advanced readers. Many popular books are translated into English and other languages so that you can enjoy reading them in your native languages.
A popular ongoing dark-fantasy light novelGoblin Slayer ()was originally released on a Japanese textboard in 2012. And then, the current format as a light novel has been published since 2016.
The main character Goblin Slayer is the soldier who takes his life on hunting goblins. The manga and anime adaptions have been made for its popularity.
24. Didnt I Say To Make My Abilities Average In The Next Life?!
Didnt I Say To Make My Abilities Average In The Next Life?! Light Novel
Didnt I Say To Make My Abilities Average In The Next Life?! (!), which has been published since 2016, is categorized as fantasy and Isekai.
A high school girl Misato is killed in a traffic accident and is born again in the parallel world as a teenage girl namedAdele. She finds out that she has a much more powerful abilities than average while she asks to make her abilities just average.
Katanagatari (), which means Sword Tale in English, was written in 2007-2008 byNisio Isin who is one of the most famous light novel authors in Japan.
The historical story is set in the fictional Japan around the Edo period. The protagonist Shichika Yasuri begins his journey to collect the 12 legendary swords fighting the owners and other enemies. Katanagatari was made into an anime adaption with 12 episodes in 2010.
The Rising of the Shield Hero ()is the popular ongoing Naro light novel published as both online and physical books from 2012.
The university student Naofumi Iwatani is suddenly transported to the fantasy world and given a role asthe Shield Hero. There are three other heroes in the same situation, but they have offensive weapons such as sword, lance and arrow. The Shield Hero manages to fight enemies with the defensive shield.
Arifureta: From Commonplace to Worlds Strongest ()has been published on the user-generated novel website Shosetsuka ni Naro since 2013 while its paper books are also published from 2015.
A nerdy high school boy Hajime Nagumo is summoned to the fantasy world with his classmates. He is represented as an antihero or dark hero in the story. The first season of the anime adaption was released in 2019.
Spice and Wolf (), one of the most known fantasy light novels in the 2000s, has been published since 2006.
The setting is the fictional world that is inspired by the medieval Europe and the story focuses on the two main characters. Atraveling merchant Kraft Lawrence encounters various incidents on his trip with the wolfpersonifiedHolo who looks like a human-wolf hybrid.
Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody (), the typical Naro novel, is one of the most read light novels on Shosetsuka ni Naro in the recent years.
A 29 years oldgaming programmer named Ichiro Suzuki works too hard and has a nap in the office. He wakes up to become aware that he is in the of the role-playing game that he is making. 12 episodes of the anime adaption were aired on TV in 2018.
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime ()is a popular ongoing Naro and Isekai light novel with the unique theme.
Main characters are reborn in the different fictional world as a human, but the protagonist ofThat Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime isReincarnatedas a slime named Rimuru. The strange slimes adventure is also depicted in the anime adaption broadcasted from 2018.
Classroom of the Elite (), published from 2015, is one of the hottest school-themed light novels.
It focuses on everyday life of the highest-level high school and there are highly intelligent students in the school including the protagonist Kiyotaka Ayanokoji. Each class fights with others with a variety of mind games. The following story, which started from 2020, begins afterKiyotaka and his classmates go to the second grade.
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (), which was uploaded on the user-publishing website Arcadia, has been published since 2013.
The setting is the fantasy world Orario where there are lots of underground labyrinth known as Dungeon. The main character Bell visits Dungeons to live from day to day and get stronger, and then he falls in love with thepowerful swordswoman Ais.
The Irregular at Magic High School ()was first released on the Shosetsuka ni Naro website in 2008 and the light novel has been published as a paper book since 2011.
The ongoing sci-fi novel has the theme of magic in the fictional Japan. The story centers on the two students in First High School: the brother Tatsuya and his little sister Miyuki.
Genre: Naro, Action, Science Fiction
My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected (), which is also known asMy Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, is the romance light novel published from 2011 and completed with the vol.14 (and 3 short books) in 2019.
It depicts the high school life of the pessimistic boy Hachiman Hikigaya and his school service club members including the Yukino Yukinoshita. The final season of its anime adaption is being released in 2020.
Zaregoto Series ()is one of the most popular light novel series written by Nisio Isin. The first title of the series isDecapitation: Kubikiri Cycle ( )published in 2002 and all 9 volumes were released by 2005.
The main character I and his friend Timo Kunagiza meet a variety of unique characters and get involved in lots of incidents. The spin-off seriesNingen Series with 7 volumes and Saikyo Series with 4 volumes are also related to the main series.
As one of the most popular Naro light novels,Overlord ()should be picked out. It was published at first on the websites Arcadia and Shosetsuka ni Naro from 2012. Momonga, the player ofVRMMORPG(Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) namedYGGDRASIL, finds out he is transported to the different world fromYGGDRASIL as the game character called Ainz Ooal Gown.
The Saga of Tanya the Evil (), a unique fantasy light novel, started its publication on the website Arcadia in 2011 and as a physical book in 2013. The setting ofThe Saga of Tanya the Evil is inspired by the World Wars in Europe. A salaried worker is sent to another world in the past as a little girl namedTanya von Degurechaff. Theyoung, blonde girl survives in the world as a member of the military. The light novel has been adapted into manga, anime and movies as well as other popular novels.
Konosuba: Gods Blessing on This Wonderful World! (!)was released in 2013 after it had got popular among users in the website Shosetsuka ni Naro, and the story just came to the end in May, 2020.
The Isekai comedy light novel, which can be also looked on as the Naro genre, features the 4 main characters: Kazuma, Aqua, Darkness and Megumin. Kazuma, who dies in an accident when he is a high schooler, is sent to the fantasy world with the goddess Aqua.
As one of the most read light novels in the 2000s,Toradora! (!)is known especially in Japan. The slice-of-life light novel consists of 1o volumes and 3 spin-offs published between 2006 and 2009.
In the story, everyday and romance of the high schoolers Ryuji, Taiga and their friends with comedy. On the other hand, they have lots of problems in their lives such as family problems of the Taiga.
Kinos Journey -the Beautiful World- ( -the Beautiful World-), one of the longest modern light novel series, has been published with 22 volumes since 2000.
The adventure novel focuses on ateen girl named Kino who travels around the world witha talking motorcycle named Hermes. She visits a variety of fictional counties that have unique customs and social systems. Each episode stands alone, which has a kind ofallegoricalness. Two seasons of the anime adaption have been released.
No Game No Life ()is a famous ongoing fantasy light novel and anime series.Remarkably, the same person, whose name is Yu Kamiya, both writes the story and illustrates the characters on the cover.
It follows 18-year-old boy named Sora and his 11 years old sister-in-law named Shiro, who are undefeated gamers with high intelligence. They are transported to Isekai (another world) and fight various unique games there.
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (), which is also known asSeishun Buta Yaro Series, is the first title of the recent popular light novel series published from 2014. In the story, lots of strange supernatural events happen around the main characterSakuta and people around him including his family and classmates. Those things are often caused by theirpsychological problems.
If you enjoy this light novel or other Japanese pop culture, you need to know the word Senpai, which means a senior especially in schools and other communities. In this case, the main Mai is the Senpai (one grade ahead) for Sakuta. A manga adaption has been published since 2016 and the first season of the anime adaption was released in 2018.
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (Re:), which is abbreviated toRe:ZERO, is one of the most popular Isekai light novels of all time. Its online publishing started on Shosetsuka ni Naro in 2012 and over 30 volumes of light novels have been published since 2014.
Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- is set in the parallel world where the main character Subaru Natsuki is sent for any reason. He is transported to another world but is not granted any powerful ability while a main character of many Isekai light novels gets something special.
However, there is the one extraordinary thing he can experience in the world: Shinimodori (Return by Death). He goes back in time to the past in the living state, which is triggered by his death. The story follows him and his meeting various unique characters such as the Emilia and thetwin maids Ram and Rem.
The longest and most popular light novelA Certain Magical Index ()is categorized as action and fantasy. It consists of three titles so far: the firstA Certain Magical Index published between 2004 and 2010, the second New Testament: A Certain Magical Index published between 2011 and 2019 and the thirdGenesis Testament: A Certain Magical Index started from 2020. The number of the total series volume reaches 50.
The setting is the high-tech town in the fictional Tokyo where supernatural power and magic are a reality. There are 2 main groups in the world:Espersbased on science andSorcerersbased on magic. A Certain Magical Index focuses on the main character Toma Kamijo who belongs to the side of Espers and the main Index on the side of Sorcerers. In addition to a variety of attractive characters, powerful battle scenes of Toma are one of the highlights in the light novel.
The spin-offsA Certain Scientific Railgun ()featuringMikoto Misaka andA Certain Scientific Accelerator ()featuringAccelerator are very popular among fans as well.
Sword Art Online (), abbreviated to SAO, is one of the most famous and popular Japanese light novels all over the world. The fantasy adventure novel, published from 2009, can be divided into 5 main parts:Aincrad, Fairy Dance, Phantom Bullet, Alicization and Unital Ring.
The story mainly proceeds in the virtual reality world.Sword Art Onlineis set in the fictional world 2022 where the advanced VR online game called Sword Art Online is invented. TheFullDive technology enables players to immerse themselves in VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), which means theycan feel all senses forfighting, eating, sleeping and so on there.
The story beginswhen the players of SAO are trapped in the game world as they are unable to log out including the main character Kirito and Asuna. The current seasons of anime adaptions are highly rated among the fans of the light novel.
In terms of quality of contents and popularity, many light novel fans look onMonogatari Series ()as the best one of all time. Monogatari Series, written by the popular author Nisio Isin, has been top-rated as both a light novel and a normal novel. There are20 titles with 26 volumes and a spin-off (as of 2020) in the series, and a new volume is still released every few years lately.
The popular series begins withBakemonogartari ()focusing on the high school guy Koyomi Araragi and his girl friends and his sisters. The theme of the novel is anaberrationcalled Kaii in Japanese, which is a sort of an evil spirit. The characters are possessed by the aberrations for any reason, and Koyomi tries to help them while he is also possessed by a vampire.
One of the highlights in the light novel is speedy conversations by the characters who have unique personalities. You can enjoy various essences such as battle scenes, human drama, mystery, etc. The three seasons (from Bakemonogatari to Zoku-owarimonogatari) have been adapted into an anime, and fans expects other parts to be made into anime adaptions in the future.
Haruhi Suzumiya Series (), which is also known for the first titleThe Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (), started its publication from 2003. Its a matter of course thatHaruhi Suzumiya Series is ranked 1st in the best light novel list since it has played a large role in the light novel industry. It is also not too much to say that light novels could be much less popular without the legendary series.
The story centers on the main character Haruhi Suzumiya and the other members ofSOS Brigade, which is a high school club. They are aliens coming from other planets or the future except the human being named Kyon. Its interesting that they enjoy an ordinary school life while supernatural phenomena interfere in their lives, which happen due to the unconscious force of Haruhi.
The fans were surprised by a unique method of light novels: Time Loop meaning characters go back in time to the same past point repeatedly. In the Endless Eight part, Haruhi with the SOS Brigade members experience the same two weeks (from 17th to 31st August) for over 15000 times.
Of course, an anime adaption, consisting of 2 seasons, has been popular among fans of the original light novel and anime lovers.
One of the most popular light novel publishing company Kadokawa offers all-you-can-read deals! You can enjoy reading unlimited light novels and manga published by Kadokawa.The website hereis in Japanese, however, Google Translate can easily help you to read it in English!Just click the right mouse button or tap the menu button on your smartphone to use the translation function!Check more details about the light novels unlimited service!
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You can buy and start reading those light novels right now with e-readers like Kindle. If you are interested in the digital books, check out which device is the best to buy in this article!
If you like light novels, it is strongly recommended to enjoy watching anime and reading manga! Here are the best selection lists of anime and manga!