Friday, October 29, 2010

Essential Reading: An Exhaustive and Comprehensive List

The following list was probably more fun to compile than it will be to read. But I'm posting it anyway because a lot of hard work (ie googling and polling) went into this here blog. It was the product of an unusually slow afternoon at work, and a desperate attempt to amuse ourselves (meaning me, my two co-workers and my boss), in lieu of our usual slow day (often vicious) Facebook Scrabble tournaments. It originally started out as just a list of all the books I think my future daughter(s) need to have read by puberty. But then it turned out that given the difficulty of some of the books mentioned, and in some cases, mature subject matter, maybe I should give a less stringent timeline.

As we were listing and googling to ensure accuracy of author and merit, it became apparent that there are so many good books out there, that perhaps we should include books that no boy should exit high school without having read. And as that process developed, it also became clear that perhaps having two such lists is somewhat sexist and encourages stereotypical gender roles, maybe we'll just make one big list that children of all genders (we're inclusive of those who aren't sure), should enjoy.

That lead to the argument regarding series of books and whether or not they count as 'seminal classics.' (Tee hee, seminal). So we just included those too. So here is the outcome of that ultimately productive afternoon of listing books that inspired us, moved us, taught us, and bonded us in a celebration of classic litt-tra-chure (one must pronounce it in the most pompous British way possible).

To My Future Daughter:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Emma by Jane Austen

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett
Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Eloise by Kay Thompson
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
The Flip-Flop Girl by Katherine Paterson
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

To My Future Son:

The Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
1984 by George Orwell
Animal Farm
by George Orwell
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
The Han Solo Trilogy by Ann C. Crispin
On the Road by Jack Karouac
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer
The Kid Who Ran for President by Dan Gutman
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson


Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal
Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler
Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
Babysitter's Club by Ann M. Martin
Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
The Shoe Books by Noel Streatfeild
Anything by Judy Blume
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
Goosebumps by R.L. Stein

Feel free to add any you thought we missed, though we did spend a shocking amount of time ensuring that nothing was forgotten and nothing extraneous was included. I was going to annotate and justify and add pictures, but that just seems like a lot of work. Have at it!


  1. Another reader! Awesome! I always love discovering others that read.
    I must say though... I hated Emma. It might have been the professor that had us read it for class, or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it, but I haaaaaated it. It was a serious effort to read each page.

  2. Aww, I love Emma! Though I think as with all Jane Austen, it's helpful if you see the movie first. Normally it would be the other way around, but it's easier to understand what's going on if you have that convenient visual set up.