Behind some of the greatest characters in literature are mentors who allow them to reach their full potential. These people serve as educators, confidantes and spirit guides, ultimately allowing the protagonist to achieve self-actualization and accomplish all of their goals. This selection of novels emphasizes some of the powerhouse advisors who make all the difference in the lives of our favorite characters.

House of Tomorrow
by Peter Bognanni

After living most of his life in a geodesic dome, Sebastian Prendergast is forced to leave when his grandmother suffers a stroke. Unfamiliar with the outside world, he must try to navigate his new normal with minimal guidance and no one to rely on. During his acclimation, Sebastian befriends Jared Whitcomb, who teaches him about all of the things he missed out on in the dome — sugary snacks, punk rock and girls. Jared becomes the catalyst for Sebastian’s discovery of his own talents and fulfillment of his grandmother’s dying wish. This misfit pair sloppily navigates their teenage years, leaning on each other for much-needed support.

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by J.B. Whitehouse

After years of working a monotonous job and feeling uninspired, Quentin Dettweiler realizes that his life is the exact opposite of what he wants it to be. His days are repetitive and he has entirely lost the zest for life he once had. When he finds himself on the verge of accepting this complacency as his permanent normal, Jersig enters his life and turns it upside down. Wealthy and accomplished himself, Jersig considers helping others discover their untapped potential to be his gift. He works his magic in Q’s life, allowing him to discover his stifled creativity and potential for greatness. With Jersig’s help, Q becomes a dominant force in the lives of others too. This novel follows the two men as they use their talents to impart brilliance on all they encounter, creating a world anyone would love to live in. Read our full review here.

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Forrest Gump
by Winston Groom

This classic tale recounts the protagonist’s experiences in his early life, most markedly meeting his mentor. Forrest meets Lieutenant Dan during his stint in the Army and is quickly taken under the wing of his platoon leader. Lieutenant Dan is the product of a long line of military men, while Forrest has had quite a different path. When their life journeys do converge, though, Dan assists Forrest through some of the most difficult points in his life, ultimately becoming his main confidante and best friend. While this is only a small part of Forrest’s fascinating and sometimes comical life, it is perhaps one of the most important and impactful pieces.

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Autobiography of a Yogi
by Paramhansa Yogananda

Steve Jobs was known to reread this title, hinting that it contains some very valuable lessons. This memoir reflects on the author’s journey — both physical and spiritual- through his study of Kriya Yoga meditation. He encounters spiritual leaders around the globe and each offers their own tokens of wisdom, culminating in this memoir. Taking place in the mid-1900s, this book offers pieces of advice on spirituality that were virtually undiscovered in the Western world at the time. East meets west in this author’s life story of his experiences with dozens of incredible mentors.

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The Paper Magician
by Charlie N. Holmberg

This novel kicks off a series that follows Ceony Twill on her adventures. This protagonist differs in one major way from others on this list — she is magically inclined and searching for a magician to mentor her. She begins an apprenticeship in paper magic under Thane, who teaches her to bring stories to life and animate two-dimensional drawings in her sketchbook, as well as the dangers of this form of forbidden magic. When Thane’s life is suddenly at risk, Ceony finds herself using his own lessons to save his life, truly bringing the story full circle.

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Luck in the Shadows
by Lynn Flewelling

Alec of Kerry meets his mentor in the most unlikely of places — prison. His cellmate, Seregil, is both a spy and a thief and offers to mentor Alec and teach him the ways of his dark and twisted world. Following their release from prison, the pair embarks on a journey far outside of Alec’s comfort zone, leading almost directly into the epicenter of a war-torn land. They are entrusted with responsibilities along the way that come with life-or-death consequences if not fulfilled, making this novel a truly wild ride.

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Dead Poets Society
by Nancy H. Kleinbaum

In this coming-of-age tale, John Keating serves as the mentor for a class of boys at Welton Academy. He is meant to teach them classic literature, but ends up inciting a new passion for exploration in each of them with the simple tenet of “make your lives extraordinary.” The newly-inspired group of teens rediscovers the school’s defunct Dead Poets Society, a secret organization that allows them to explore their academic and personal interests freely. They individually blossom, led by their exemplary English teacher.

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Black Swan Green
by David Mitchell

The thirteen chapters of this novel each recount a segment of one single year in the life of thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor. This expertly detailed novel brings the reader along on Jason’s journey to come of age, alongside a band of older characters who bring him trespassing with them. In each of the yards they sneak into, Jason discovers a part of himself and becomes entangled in a generation-spanning mystery along the way. 

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