I learnt of JD Salinger's death shortly after I'd finished reading the brilliant 'Youth', the second part of Gregor von Rezzori's 'Memoirs of an Anti-Semite: A Novel in Five Stories' (recommended to me by Gadjo).
The coincidence got me wondering why we find the bildungsroman, the coming-of-age novel - Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye' being probably the best-known modern example - so perennially fascinating. We've loved them ever since Goethe's smash-hit 'The Sorrows of Young Werther' had moody young men mooning about all over Europe.
My guess is that the revelatory subject matter - the revealing of the adult world to a youth - lends itself to the novelist's more general task of revelation (don't literary novels always aim to unveil the true nature of things?). I'm sure we also enjoy reading about that period of our lives when so many significant things are experienced for the first time (yes, sex, of course: thrilling, fearful, fascinating - few would have no interest in vicariously exploring that territory again).
Whilst I'm not a great one for novel-reading, here are a few that have made an impression, in no particular order:
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce
First Love - Ivan Turgenev
Youth (a story within Memoirs of an Anti-Semite) - Gregor von Rezzori
The Buddha of Suburbia - Hanif Kureishi
Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
The Rachel Papers - Martin Amis
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens [the only Dickens I've really enjoyed]
I ran this list past T. Off the top of her head, she would add 'Cat's Eye' by Margaret Atwood and metaphorically throw 'The Rachel Papers' across the room (as would most women - the truth is pretty awful to learn).