You’re a wizard, Harry. If I could summarise my childhood reading in one short sentence, that’d be one of the top contenders.
I grew up in the prime Harry Potter years, eagerly waiting for the next book to be released so I could read it from start to finish with minimal breaks.
But that was quite some time ago. What about now? How to satisfy those cravings for immersive magical adventures as an adult?
If you’re looking for the best books like Harry Potter to read as an adult, you’re in the right place. In this post, I’ve shared some of the best books about wizarding schools, friendship, growing up, and more.
Whether you’re looking for magic, cozy fantasy, or dark academia, let’s get to it. Some of these are young adult books, others are written for adults, and many are part of a series, so if you love the first book, you have plenty more to enjoy.
Read on for your next comfy, magical read to escape into a whole new world…
(A quick note here to say that I’m absolutely aware that J.K. Rowling has shared problematic opinions in recent years, and writing this post does not suggest I agree with her perspectives on non-bookish matters.)
The best books like Harry Potter for adults to read
A Deadly Education (The Scholomance, #1) by Naomi Novik
Read A Deadly Education for… what bestselling fantasy author Katherine Arden describes as “The dark school of magic I’ve been waiting for.”
In this top-rated series, El Higgins may be isolated and without allies, but she has a dark power strong enough to wipe out millions, not least the monsters that prowl her school. For the safety of the other students, El is trying her hardest not to use her powers… at least, unless she has no other choice.
Naomi Novik is one of the best authors of books like Harry Potter for adults – escape into her unique world for one of the darkest and most immersive books about magic schools.
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss
Read The Name of the Wind for… a darker, more atmospheric take on all of the classic tropes of magical coming-of-age.
It’s fair to say that The Name of the Wind, a bildungsroman of a magically gifted orphan who goes to wizard school and secretly seeks revenge against the shadowy forces that killed his family, shares some surface-level similarity to Harry Potter. But Kvothe’s story is much darker and more sprawling, and is a more-than-worthy adult successor to Rowling’s tales.
Read this captivating novel and you’ll be sure to join the rest of the world in waiting impatiently for the trilogy to be finally completed.
Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher
Read Storm Front for… a gripping story about the only openly practicing professional wizard in the country, based out of an office in Chicago and in need of work.
The Dresden Files is perhaps the closest to an adult equivalent of Harry Potter. Not only is it about another wizard called Harry, but it’s also set in a human world where wizards must co-exist with non-magical folks.
You don’t get the same academic setting in Storm Front as HP, but following lone wizard Harry Dresden into the dark secret world of Chicago – where he’ll encounter mobsters, vampires, and more – is an enthralling journey.
A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V. E. Schwab
Read A Darker Shade of Magic for… grown-up magic vibes by one of the best authors to read now if you loved Harry Potter.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is probably V.E. Schwab’s most popular book, but her Shades of Magic series is a great starting point for fans of magical universes.
In the gripping first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, Kell is one of the last Antari: magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons. In some of these Londons, magic reigns. But in others, magic lies forgotten.
As Kell travels between the different versions of London, her defiant hobby results in dangerous consequences with treachery and perilous magic at every turn (but also, plenty of adventure).
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Read A Discovery of Witches for… the cozy first book of the All Souls series, Harkness’s beloved collection that follows the story of Diana Bishop, a historian and reluctant witch.
In this richly inventive novel, Deborah Harkness draws on her expertise as a historian of science and medicine to create a novel steeped in magical realism and age-old questions about what it is that makes us who we are.
Fall into the story of a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together. This book for fans of Harry Potter is perfect for any time of year, but especially autumn – it’s one of my top fall reading picks).
The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Read The Final Empire for… a classical escapist fantasy tale, and a great accessible entry point into Brandon Sanderson’s massive Cosmere universe.
The Final Empire, the first book in the original Mistborn trilogy, is not Brandon Sanderson’s most original or refined novel. But it is a tremendously fun, page-turning adventure in a cleverly crafted world.
Following Vin, a gifted street orphan, as she joins a crew of magical thieves intent on overthrowing the malevolent Lord Ruler, The Final Empire is an absolute blast, and a great way into Brandon Sanderson’s seemingly endless oeuvre.
The Last Magician (The Last Magician #1) by Lisa Maxwell
Read The Last Magician for… later Harry Potter vibes plus time travel between modern-day and 1900s New York.
Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future. In Lisa Maxwell’s The Last Magician, Esta is a talented thief based in modern-day New York. Although magic is all but extinct, Esta hides in the shadows with an innate ability to manipulate time… and steal from the past.
All of Esta’s training has been for one job: travelling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book. But Old New York is a dangerous world, and for Esta to save her future, she may have to accept betrayal in the past.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell for… Susanna Clarke’s Hugo-award-winning bestseller about two men who change England’s history when they bring magic back into the world.
Weighing in at an almighty 864 pages, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is absolutely not a short read. But it is a wonderfully compulsive and immersive book about magical universes to read as an adult.
Set in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, most people believe magic to have long since disappeared from England. However, when Mr. Norrell steps out of the shadows, he becomes an overnight celebrity. Then, another magician emerges: Jonathan Strange.
Strange is young and daring, and after becoming Norrell’s pupil, they join forces in the battle against France where their magic, partnership, and values are tested. I love this comment on Reddit: “It’s like Harry Potter for adults if it was written by Dickens or Austen.”
Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1) by Philip Pullman
Read Northern Lights for… another of the best book series of all time, best known as a series for young adults but beloved by readers of all ages.
With unparalleled world-building, complex characters, and thought-provoking explorations of freedom, authority, and morality, Philip Pullman crafted one of the greatest modern classics in His Dark Materials.
The first book of the series, Northern Lights, is where it all begins for Lyra Belacqua and her daemon Pantalaimon. Several elements of the book are different from Harry Potter, but it’s another one-of-a-kind book about magic, friendship, and growing up.
Having read both series in childhood, His Dark Materials evoked a similar sense of awe in me as Harry Potter, and that’s what I remember now. In the last few years I also loved rereading the Pullman books in parallel with the fantastic HBO adaptation.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Read The Night Circus for… a gripping novel written in beautifully rich and captivating prose that’s full of witchy vibes.
If you love books that manage to be both cozy and creepy, read The Night Circus. Set in a circus in a spellbinding fantasy world, Celia and Marco, two young magicians (and unfortunately for them, star-crossed lovers), are locked in magical combat that can only end badly.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
Read The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches for… a lighthearted read about a witch looking for a place to belong (and a great choice if you want less action and more coziness than Harry Potter).
In this cozy fantasy book with similar vibes to The House in the Cerulean Sea and Legends & Lattes, we meet Mika Moon – one of the few witches left in Britain.
Mika knows she has to hide her magic and keep her head down, but when she receives the opportunity to embrace a quirky new family and teach young witches, the course of her life goes in a whole new direction.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Read Ninth House for… a tale of power, dark magic, and privilege set among the Ivy League elite. You can think of it as dark academia meets magical realism.
After being raised by a hippie mom, dropping out of school, and being the target of awful circumstances, Galaxy “Alex” Stern is unexpectedly given the chance to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities.
What’s the catch? And why her? Sure enough, Alex learns she has a mission – to monitor the activities of Yale’s secret societies: places that hold enormous power, tamper with forbidden magic, and are absolutely rife with danger.
What about the best books like Harry Potter for young adults?
While putting together this list of books like Harry Potter for adults, I (unsurprisingly) shortlisted a *lot* of young adult books.
I included a couple of my favourites above, but I’ve added the rest here in case you’d like some more YA suggestions for your Harry Potter-inspired reading list. Enjoy!
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Read A Wizard of Earthsea for… a classic philosophical, nature-driven magical bildungsroman for all ages to enjoy.
A Wizard of Earthsea is a timeless classic of young adult fantasy, one of the first books to prominently feature a magic school, and a wonderful gateway to the magical world of Earthsea.
The coming-of-age tale of the legendary mage Ged has a different feel to Rowling’s work – mythological in tone and philosophical in mood – but that only contributes to its ageless feeling.
Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, #1) by Eoin Colfer
Read Artemis Fowl for… the beloved bestseller about a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind and his siege against dangerous, tech-savvy fairies in an effort to restore his family’s fortune.
The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1) by Rick Riordan
Read The Lightning Thief for… a young adult bestseller that’s best known as a modern classic for teen boys, but is fantastic for all ages. Pick this up for a thrilling adventure with a wonderfully relatable main character who’s half boy, half god, and all hero.
The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus #1) by Jonathan Stroud
Read The Amulet of Samarkand for… the story of Nathaniel, a young magician’s apprentice, taking his first lessons in magic. Set in modern-day London with some magicians and mayhem thrown in, it’s perfect if you love the everyday magic of the Harry Potter universe.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Read The Graveyard Book for… Neil Gaiman’s award-winning modern classic about the adventures of Nobody “Bod” Owens, who would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard being raised by ghosts.
Looking for more books similar to Harry Potter for adults? Whether you’re after coziness, magic, or spookiness, you might find some of the vibes you’re looking for in these collections…