7 Hi Lo Books for Adults

Simple reads aren't just for kids.


For a variety of reasons, there are plenty of adults who have a difficult time getting through an "adult" book. They may struggle with long page counts, winding sentences and unusual words, or perhaps they haven't read a book since high school and are daunted at the prospect. 

While YA books are often written with simpler sentences and are easy to get into (and we do think there are lots of YA books that adults would love too), many adults don't find them mature enough, or would rather read books that don't focus on teens. Thankfully, there is a category of books that meets these needs.

Hi/lo books, also known as high/low books, are books with high interest levels and simple vocabularies and sentence structures. Though the term is more often used for children's books, there are plenty of hi lo books for adults, too! Keep reading to discover a few of our favorites. 

the hangman, a hi lo book for adults

The Hangman

By Louise Penny

This is a book is from the famous and well-loved world of Inspector Armand and Three Pines, Quebec so obviously it includes a mystery that will sweep you in from page one. At eighty-seven pages, this is a fast dive into a whodunnit that has you guessing every step of the way.

Penny has a way of making a murder mystery cozy and very accessible to the reader without making the solution too easy to guess. See if you can decipher whether the man found dead in this sweet French-Canadian village was troubled enough to take his own life or if trouble followed him there. 

the barrio kings, a hi lo book for adults

The Barrio Kings

By William Kowalski

Rosario swore off gang life after losing his brother. But after putting down his crown as a Barrio King, an old friend and current gang member reaches out for help. The thing is Rosario has made a new life for himself: he's holding down a good job while getting his G.E.D. and looking forward to raising a child with his girlfriend.

This book may be one hundred and twenty-five pages but it is packed with some of life’s biggest questions. Can you escape your past? Can you re-invent yourself? What do you owe others? Will Rosario be tempted to avenge his brother’s life, or will he choose to keep his new family his priority? Fate may just step in and decide for him.

not a star, a hi lo book for adults

Not a Star

By Nick Hornby

It doesn't get much more adult than this! In this 80-page novella from Nick Hornby, the famous author of books like High Fidelity and About a Boy, Lynn is shocked when she sees her son Mark in an adult film. And to make it worse, her nosy neighbors knew before she did. Now that she knows, Lynn's head is spinning with questions: does she really know her son? What made him start doing this? And how is she going to tell his father?

Related: The Best Novellas Every Book Lover Should Read

the sky is everywhere, a hi lo book for adults

The Sky Is Everywhere

By Jandy Nelson

Lest you think all hi lo books revolve around thrillers and action adventure, fear not. Here comes a romance with our protagonist, Lennie, torn between two possibilities: the dependable boy she has always loved or the vibrant new boy who in town. She is attracted to both for different reasons.

Her current love has been there for her since the death of her sister. The new boy is a chance to define herself in a new way. Watch as Lennie finds her own way forward through grief, wonder, love and adventure. Who will she choose as her soulmate? 

Related: 12 New Adult Novels for Your Adult Reading List

all our yesterdays, a hi lo book for adults

All Our Yesterdays

By Cristin Terrill

For all those who love a dystopian setting, this one's for you. This book takes the premise that the secret to time travel has finally been discovered. Sounds cool, right? The problem is that the discovery is held in the hands of the U.S. government and is being used as ammunition rather than for the greater good.

Bring in three characters who are tied together in ways that are not clear at the beginning but oh-so-fun to figure out along the way. Em is imprisoned, Marina is in love with her best friend and James is blissfully unaware of the effect that his brilliance will have on him and the world. If you’ve ever been asked the question, “What would you do if you could go back in time?”, then this is the choice for you.

the builders, a hi lo book for adults

The Builders

By Maeve Binchy

One of the most popular Irish writers, Maeve Binchy is known for writing about family relationships. This short book follows Nan Ryan, an older woman who lives by herself. When builders arrive to repair the deserted house next door, one of them joins Nan in a search to figure out what happened to the previous residents. Then, things get complicated.

temple grandin biography, a hi lo book for adults

Temple Grandin

By C.L. Laney

If biographies are more your jam, then there are a hi lo versions available with plenty of photos and fun facts about very interesting and diverse people including Tyler Perry, Elon Musk and Chien-Shiung Wu (the first lady of physics, but you already knew that, I’m sure). 

This selection features the life story of Grandin who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at age two. This quick read gives a lot of information about Grandin’s passion for animal welfare and advocacy for the ASD community in a format that is easily accessible and not overwhelming at all. I’m looking at you, biography books over 500 pages still sitting on my coffee table. 

Keep Reading: 5 Easy Books to Read