Light novels

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Light novels are a huge and popular medium in Japan, & increasingly so in the West as well. The more good ones pour in, however, the harder it gets lớn sift through and find the best light novels khổng lồ read.

What you’ll find here is a selection of the best light novels currently available in English translation. Many of these are long-running series, and even more have exploded in popularity following a successful anime adaptation.

In fact, whether you’ve read any of these light novels or not, you’ll recognise the names of at least a few — such as KonoSuba & Re:ZERO — thanks to their popular anime adaptations.

Before we dive into the danh mục of best light novels, & just in case you’re wondering and unfamiliar, let’s ask and answer the question: what are light novels?

What is a light novel?

Put simply, a light novel (literally ライトノベル in Japanese) is a novel. But khổng lồ meet the definition of light novel, it needs khổng lồ have certain features.

A novel is typically defined as any work of prose over 30,000 words in length (roughly 100 pages). Anything shorter is often defined as a novella. Light novels usually come in at around 50,000 lớn 60,000 words, so they definitely are novels.

But what also defines a light novel is its target audience: teenagers và young adults. Light novels mô tả a lot of themes, tropes, and style with the broader YA genre of literature.

Another feature of light novels is that they are often serialised, rather than standalone works. Some of the best light novels go on for as long as some manga, spanning dozens of volumes.

However, because they’re breezy in tone và light on word count, they’re quick to get through (hence the name “light novel”). Reading ten volumes of a light novel isn’t the same as reading The Wheel of Time or A tuy nhiên of Ice và Fire.

Another feature of light novels is that they feature art in a manga style. Usually, every few pages, there will be a full-page manga panel depicting the current scene. There aren’t hundreds of these, but usually a few per chapter.

As already mentioned, the best light novels are also frequently adapted into both manga & anime. It’s easy khổng lồ watch a popular anime series and never realise it was first a light novel series, and often then a manga as well.

A common trope with some of the best light novels is their comically long titles (especially if they’re of the isekai genre). The anime will then also giới thiệu that title, and fans must find a way khổng lồ shorten it (like shortening That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime to Tensei Slime, Tensura, or Slime).

The already mentioned KonoSuba is a shortening of God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! (Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! or この素晴らしい世界に祝福を!).

So there’s your definition of a light novel. Lớn recap:

A word count of around 50,000 to lớn 60,000 words (150-200 pages)Occasional manga-style illustrations throughoutA middle grade or YA audience và styleMultiple volumes in a seriesOften adapted into manga and/or animeOften very long titles, especially if they are isekai

The Best Light Novels khổng lồ Read Right Now

With that definition out of the way, here are some of the best light novels khổng lồ read right now. Of course, a few of these are isekai light novels, but many are not. All are popular & beloved light novels, whatever their genre.

86 EIGHTY-SIX by Asato Asato

The anime adaptation of 86 EIGHTY-SIX was one of the best anime of 2021, leading a lot of new fans in search of the original 86 EIGHTY-SIX light novel series, which is easily one of the best light novels ever penned.

If you’re unfamiliar with the anime or the light novel, 86 is set in a pseudo-dystopian world, in a country known as The Republic of San Magnolia. This country is divided into eighty-five human districts.

The titular 86 is the name given to lớn the trang chủ district of an abused race of people: the Colorata. They are considered khổng lồ be subhuman by the rest of the republic, which is made up entirely of a race known as the Alba.

For nine years, San Magnolia has been at war. The people believe that this war is being fought by autonomous machines called Juggernauts, & no human lives are being lost. It is soon revealed, however, that the Juggernauts are in fact piloted.

However, these pilots are still not considered human, since they are all from the eighty-sixth district.

One person, however — our protagonist, Lena Milizé — has spoken out about the monstrous treatment of the Colorata of 86.

As a member of the military, Lena is assigned as the overseer (or Handler) of a group of Colorata soldiers. This particular group are elite fighters, và Lena vows to lớn get khổng lồ know them on a human level, và to continue speaking out against the republic’s fascistic behaviour.

86 is one of the best light novels of recent years. A non-isekai series full of personal drama, political themes, smart social và political commentary, và a female lead who is well-written and multi-layered.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation by Rifujin mãng cầu Magonote


Having run from 2012 to lớn 2015, & spanning a total of 25 volumes, Mushoku Tensei is one of the most influential isekai light novels lớn have ever existed.

The reason isekai looks the way it does today is because of this light novel series. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up khổng lồ you. Either way, many agree that Mushoku Tensei is one of the best light novels of all time.

As its title states, this light novel series follows the fantasy reincarnation of a man who, in his previous life, was a jobless Japanese hikikomori in his thirties. We begin with him being cast out after failing to attend his parents’ funeral.

In a moment of clarity about his wasted life, our nameless NEET performs one good deed which leads to lớn his death. From here, he is reincarnated into a fantasy world of knights & magic as Rudeus Greyrat.

While some isekai transport our protagonist into another world as though they have been teleported, Rudeus is quite literally reincarnated from scratch, but with his previous memories intact.

This light novel’s subtitle, 異世界行ったら本気だす (translated to lớn “If I go to lớn another world, I will get serious”) gives you an idea of the themes here. In his new life, our protagonist has been given an opportunity to bởi vì better — lớn be better — và he is going to lớn try.

Rudeus, however, is not a likeable protagonist at first. He retains all of his previous perverted tendencies. But he is trying. This is a story about redemption, & that’s a long road.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime by Fuse và Mitz Vah


With both a manga & an anime adaptation, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime has proven khổng lồ be one of the most popular isekai series’ of all time, và for very good reason.

Not all isekai is good (far from it) but Tensei Slime is an example of how to vì chưng isekai well, while still enjoying & revelling in the genre’s most notable tropes and features.

Tensei Slime begins with Satoru Mikami, a single và lonely but relatively content salaryman who is one day stabbed on the street by a random attacker. Before he knows what’s happening, Satoru finds himself reincarnated in a fantasy world as a slime.

Thanks to lớn the Dragon Quest series of video clip games, the slime boss is a popular figure in Japanese media, and that’s exactly what Satoru has now become: a foot-tall wobbly xanh blob of slime. Mostly cute & mostly useless.

Except for one feature: his Predator ability, while allows him to lớn easily devour, absorb, & take on the skills & aesthetics of anything & anyone he comes across.

Overpowered protagonists are a tired và boring trope of lazy isekai stories, but here in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime that feature is used to lớn surprisingly clever effect.

Newly named Rimuru Tempest by the dragon Veldora Tempest — whom he frees, devours, and befriends — our protagonist then ventures out into the world to make friends và build his own society.

In terms of its worldbuilding, Tensei Slime is one of the best light novels lớn read. It does a wonderful job of playing off fantasy & isekai tropes to form something fresh & brilliantly well-plotted.

The world of this light novel is immaculately designed and it draws you in like few other light novels can.

Ascendance of a Bookworm by Miya Kazuki

I know it’s another isekai light novel but oh what a charming & warming one it is. Ascendance of a Bookworm (本好きの下剋上 or Honzuki no Gekokujou) is one of the best light novels for readers who want a good time.

It begins, as all good isekai light novels do, with a death. Our protagonist is college student và wannabe librarian Urano Motosu, who is crushed to death by a falling stack of books.

Reincarnated in the toàn thân of five-year-old Myne, a girl who lives in a medieval fantasy world of princes và paupers, all Urano (or, rather, Myne) wants to vì is go back to reading.

In this world, however, books are only for members of society’s upper echelon. & so, using her skills và knowledge from her past life, Myne sets out on a journey of papermaking & bookbinding.

For bookworms lượt thích myself, fascinated by the history of the written word as well as the craft of making books, Ascendance of a Bookworm is like a soothing balm.

At times, this isekai light novel reads like edutainment, providing detailed information about bookbinding. But even then, it remains engaging and endearing through và through.

Ascendance of a Bookworm is a celebration of reading, perfect for those of us who thrive off literature.

As a side note, the anime adaptation of this light novel is a slow burn, but it retains the original’s charms và colourful tone.

Spice & Wolf by Isuna Hasekura

Spice và Wolf is easily one of the best-known, best-regarded, và straight up best light novels ever written. A beloved classic at this point, and not an isekai.

Although it isn’t isekai, Spice and Wolf is still a fantasy light novel, but one that sets itself far apart by not being about knights & mages. Instead, it’s about a trader and a harvest goddess.

This is a premise that, as a fantasy fan, has intrigued me for a long, long time: writing a fantasy story that follows a more ordinary kind of character. A journalist, a postman, or an artist for example.

That’s more or less what you get here with the Spice và Wolf light novel series.

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Spice và Wolf (狼と香辛料 or Ōkami lớn Kōshinryō) started all the way back in 2006 và opens with the travelling merchant Kraft Lawrence. Having apprenticed through his teen years, the 25-year-old is now a fully fledged trader.

The world-building begins right away as Lawrence briefs the reader on the town he’s headed to, as well as recent municipal shifts & also the spiritual traditions of this town. We get the impression that he’s a worldly man with a lot of associates.

In the town of Pasloe, there is a superstition surrounding the harvest and the local god of that harvest. Suddenly, however, that very god is asleep in the back of Lawrence’s cart.

Holo presents herself as a young girl with wolf ears và a tail, but she can also transform, werewolf-style, at will. As the world around her is changing, both spiritually and economically, Holo is at a crossroads, and so she barters a ride with Lawrence.

The relationship between these two, as well as the excellent fantasy world-building on display here, & the fact that this is not the tale of a noble knight or a chosen one, makes for a really fresh fantasy light novel series.

The Saga of Tanya the Evil by Carlo Zen và Shinobu Shinotsuki

Tanya the Evil is, without a doubt, one of the smartest & most compelling, và therefore best light novel stories out there. A genuine must-read for fans of the isekai genre.

While most isekai manga and anime drop their protagonist into a traditional fantasy world (think swords và sorcery, and a setting inspired by Middle Ages Western Europe), Youjo Senki went a different route, và it’s this route that makes it so smart and so damn unique.

Beginning with a salaryman facing an unexpected death, our protagonist’s soul is quickly confronted by God, a being whom our protagonist does not believe in. As punishment, God (Being X) reincarnates our protagonist into the body of a young girl named Tanya.

Tanya is an orphan who lives in a world inspired by Imperial Germany circa 1920. If she is killed, she’ll be sent straight to lớn hell for her sins. Và so, she uses her savvy to gain a safe và tactical position within the Empire’s army, thus living up to the name Tanya the Evil.

Youjo Senki is a fantastically clever isekai light novel series, led by heavy moralistic themes that engage the reader consistently, volume after volume.

Overlord by Kugane Maruyama & so-bin

Overlord is another twist on the often predictable isekai trope. This is doubly impressive given how this light novel series started back in 2010, proving that it was very much ahead of its time.

Overlord begins in the future, with the servers of an advanced MMORPG known as YGGDRASIL about khổng lồ be shut down. The last remaining guild decides to stay online until the end, but when the end comes the guild leader — Momonga — finds himself stuck in the game’s world.

As a powerful guild leader, with almost limitless power, Momonga is now trapped in an isekai prison; the twist being that he is the strongest thing in this world. Khổng lồ put it simply, Overlord is the ultimate in isekai nguồn fantasies.

If you choose lớn pick up the Overlord light novels, you’ll find a series of books with beautiful cover illustrations but little else. This is an impressively-sized series of some of the best light novels you’ll ever read. The Overlord manga, on the other hand, has some really stellar artwork for you khổng lồ enjoy.

Which one you choose simply depends on whether you prefer isekai manga or light novels. The novels feature more written detail, but a picture speaks a thousand words. Reader’s choice.

Otherside Picnic by Iori Miyazawa

Otherside Picnic is one of the best light novels I’ve ever read. For me, at least, it blends many of my favourite genres và themes: science-fiction, surrealism, horror (or perhaps ‘terror’ is a better word), và queer relationships.

Our protagonists are Sorawo and Toriko, two young girls who travel through magical doorways into horror-inspired parallel worlds known as the Otherside. The horrors of these different worlds are inspired by infamous urban legends & internet creepypastas.

Sorawo meets Toriko after a near-death experience facing off against one of the monsters of the Otherside. From here on, the two adventure together, collecting artefacts and meeting other people in the Otherside; all the while their journey begins khổng lồ twist them as individuals and tangle them together as a pair.

Amongst light novels, Otherside Picnic is something truly unique, and its attempts at blending genres and styles really pays off in a myriad of satisfying ways.

Kino’s Journey by Keiichi Sigsawa

Kino’s Journey is another classic, & one of the absolute best light novel series ever written, beginning way back in 2000. Being a classic, it’s unsurprising that Kino’s Journey has seen multiple anime TV & film adaptations, as well as a manga.

The light novel’s titular protagonist is Kino, who, accompanied only by her talking bike Hermes, travels across a fantastical land. When she pauses to rest and explore a new area, Kino always spends exactly three days there.

She argues that this three-day rule because three days is always enough, but also admits that it’s because she has a fear of settling down. This is something that hit me, as a reader, particularly hard. I never stay in one place for long, either, & have lived in many different cities và countries.

I, & many other readers like myself, feel a kinship with Kino; her fears and her philosophy. Beyond that, there are also similarities to Spice và Wolf. This is a fantasy adventure that doesn’t hinge on war & the kết thúc of the world. This is about world-building, exploration, and introspection.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai by Hajime Kamoshida và Keji Mizoguchi

When the anime adaptation of Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai was released, it made an enormous splash with the anime, manga, and light novel community. And for good reason. It also made a lot of new fans sit up và pay attention to the source material.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is one of the best light novels of recent memory. However, the less that’s said about it, the more impactful it’ll be for new readers.

This light novel series begins with a teenage boy,Sakuta Azusagawa, noticing a girl, dressed as a bunny, wandering through the library. Nobody else pays her any mind. In fact, they can’t see her at all. But he can. Why? Who is she?

I won’t answer those questions. This is a powerful slice-of-life light novel series that is best explored fresh. It asks us lớn consider and relate khổng lồ the experiences of teenagers as they struggle through that tumultuous time of life called adolescence. It looks at loneliness in all its forms, many of which don’t even look lượt thích loneliness at first.

There’s a lot going on, thematically, with Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, và it’s a light novel series seriously deserving of your time.

KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! by Natsume Akatsuki & Kurone Mishima

Shortened from the Japanese Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku o, KonoSuba is an isekai light novel series which leans on, và extracts from, the tropes of isekai khổng lồ make one of the best-laugh-out-loud series’ in light novel history.

Spanning multiple light novel series’ manga adaptations, và a popular isekai anime, KonoSuba is huge. In fact, it’s likely to lớn have been many readers’/viewers’ first isekai experience, which is weird given its status as a parody of the genre.

KonoSuba, one of the most iconic and best light novels in the isekai và comedy genres, follows Kazuma Sato, a boy from modern nhật bản who dies & is reincarnated into a fantasy world. So far, so familiar.

What sets KonoSuba apart — and makes it such a successful isekai comedy series — is its central tiệc ngọt of characters. In order lớn succeed in this fantasy isekai, Kazuma must forge a party, & what he chooses is three women, each stupid in her own way.

The first is Aqua, the goddess who reincarnated him in the first place, và whom he quickly outsmarts. The second is Megumin, a magician who can vày little but make things explode spectacularly. The third is a masochistic crusader named Darkness.

Together, this band of adventurers make one hilarious các buổi tiệc nhỏ that bring some real fresh comedy to lớn the isekai genre — comedy that toes the line between stupid fun & clever parody.

Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World by Tappei Nagatsuki & Shinichirou Otsuka

While it is another isekai light novel, what makes Re:Zero smarter, & also one of the very best light novels, is the way in which it plays with its own premise, rules, & the concept of isekai itself. Couple that with some really detailed world-building that rivals the best fantasy novels of our time.

Re:Zero is another isekai manga that features an unlikable loser protagonist in Natsuki Subaru, but this one presents its protagonist with more of a wink và a nod that lets the audience know: he will improve.

Subaru wakes up in a fantasy world built with complex interwoven politics, history, và lore. Very quickly, however, he is killed.

This moment reveals the chất lượng crux of Re:Zero. Subaru is, for some mysterious reason, fated to restart after death, revived time & again several hours or days back in time, with the world as it was but his memories of that timeline still intact. It’s traumatising to say the least.

Classroom of the Elite by Syougo Kinugasa

Classroom of the Elite is a high school drama of a different sort, mix in school of the future called Tokyo Metropolitan Advanced Nurturing High School, a school in which students are awarded a lot of personal freedoms but are also set on the path to lớn incredible success (provided they excel).

Our protagonist, Kiyotaka Ayanokouji, is smart but he has still wound up at the bottom of Class-D: the reject class. He’s an unassuming kid, but in his classroom he meets Suzune Horikita, a student eager to lớn climb the ranks in order to arrive at the top: Class-A.

While Kiyotaka expected an ordinary, by-the-numbers school experience, his new friendships quickly shift his tracks entirely.


This is one of the big ones: the Monogatari (Story) series. Monogatari has had a profound impact on the world of light novels, & it began with its first arc: Bakemonogatari (Monster Story). Beginning back in 2005, the Monogatari series concluded in 2021 after 28 light novel volumes.

Bakemonogatari begins with Koyomi Araragi, a high-schooler who just spent a short stint as a vampire. But he shook it off with the help of a bizarre man who lives in an abandoned cram school.

From here, Koyomi soon crosses paths with a classmate of his: a girl named Hitagi who weighs almost nothing at all. He learns this about her when she falls down the stairs at school và right into his arms. And so he takes Hitagi to lớn the man at the cram school in order khổng lồ cure her of her oddity.

Bakemonogatari is a light novel series about the supernatural, and the people suffering with supernatural-related oddities. It’s a long one, but a great one.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

This is another heavy hitter. One of the biggest & best light novels of all time. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was immortalised by legendary animation studio Kyoto Animation, but the original light novel (and its follow-up books) is also one of the original greats of the light novel genre.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a trippy story. Its title character is the wide-eyed Haruhi Suzumiya, a girl with reality-warping powers (though she doesn’t know so).

We begin with Kyon, a boy whom Suzumiya has wrangled into helping her set up a club (the SOS Brigade) with the goal of investigating supernatural & mysterious events (ghosts, monsters, UFOs, etc).

Soon enough, three new members join the club. Behind Suzumiya’s back, they reveal lớn Kyon the thruth: that they are actually there khổng lồ keep an eye on Suzumiya. They know of her powers, & fear that she could use them to end/change the world forever.

And so, with Kyon’s help, our club must keep Suzumiya amused by giving her the adventure và excitement she is always craving.