This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
The Isekai Novels are a subgenre of lightweight novels that have taken the manga and anime worlds by storm. The term isekai (異 世界) roughly translates to “different world” or “other world” from Japanese. In an isekai novel, a protagonist is taken (almost always from modern Japan) to a fantasy world, a world based on virtual reality, or even a parallel universe. Characters can be transformed (i.e. traveling / transmigrating or being summoned by a magical entity) or reincarnated (i.e. dying and being reborn or resurrected) in other magical worlds.
The characters themselves are generally mundane but generally have a trait which is considered ordinary in our world but which is extraordinary in the fantasy world. This trait can be anything from eye color to engineering knowledge. Alternatively, characters can receive special gifts once they arrive in their new world.
Isekai’s novels can be quite original in nature. In fact, some of them overlap with the harem genre, in which the protagonist has multiple love interests. I haven’t included any such books in this list, but they do exist!
Because isekai novels are a light type of novel, they have a very fast turnaround time in publication, which means the series themselves are long and ideal for collecting. They also bridge the gap between manga rich in illustrations and novels rich in prose. Basically, you get the best of both worlds.
This brief list has some of the best isekai light novel series that work great for those who want to start reading the genre.
The Twelve Kingdoms: The Sea of Shadows by Fuyumi Ono
The Twelve Kingdoms follows young Yoko Nakajima who leads a fairly ordinary life until she meets Keiki, who informs her that they must return to his kingdom. Shortly thereafter, Yoko is confronted with a mysterious entity who takes her to said realm. Here, he’s got a magical sword, a gem, and a question or two about what’s going on.
This time I reincarnated in slime by Fuse and Mitz Vah
Like I said, isekai can get weird, as you might have guessed from the word “slime” in the title. Satoru Mikami is an employee who is suddenly killed. But that’s not the end for him because he’s reincarnated as… well… a Slime. In this new world populated by monsters, Satoru tries to find his place and even help some of his new friends.
Ancestry of a bookworm by Miya Kazuki and You Shiina, Translated by Quof
As you might have guessed from the title, this one is for all bookworms. A student who (of course) happens to be a bibliophile is reborn in a new world as Myne, a sickly toddler. Plus, her New World has a low literacy rate, and books are incredibly scarce. She then decides to become a librarian.
Arifureta: from the mundane to the strongest in the world by Ryo Shirakome and Takayaki, Translated by Ningen
Hajime Nagumo is an average teenager who also happens to be an otaku (i.e. a younger individual who is addicted to computers and / or specific parts of popular culture resulting in poor social skills) . But his normal life is turned upside down when he and his entire class are summoned to a fantasy world, where they are treated like heroes. Their mission? To save the human race from extinction.
So I’m a spider, so what? by Okina Baba and Kiryu Tsukasa
Going back to another original isekai novel, So I’m a spider, so what? follows (you guessed it), a high school girl who is reborn as a spider. Lucky for her, despite being a little spider, there is a chance for her to level up and survive in this new world.
If you like isekai novels and want to read more light novels, check out your article on some of the best new light manga novels. Here is an additional list of light novels because why not?