Classic literature does not have to be limited to adult fiction or a classroom. Here are ten great classic works for young readers.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women follows the four March sisters in a coming of age tale about growing up, love, and individuality. The sisters have unique personalities that make them easy to identify with, even centuries later. It is an interesting insight into life for young women in the 19th century, but also a moving story about family and budding identities.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Black Beauty is the life story of a horse with the same name. The story follows his life from a colt to retirement as he learns important moral lessons. It is a great story to teach young readers about empathy and care for animals. It is also one of the biggest selling books of all time!
A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hogdson Burnett
Frances Hogdson Burnett is responsible for a few of my favorite childhood stories. A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Sarah from A Little Princess is a naturally caring and generous girl who goes from wealth, poverty, and back to wealth. Along the way, she makes friends with the underdogs and teaches others (even adults) the value of empathy. Mary in The Secret Garden, on the other hand, was an ignored child who grew up spiteful and uncaring. She eventually learns a lesson on empathy and gains what she’s always craved, love and friendship.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Charlotte’s Web is another classic that teaches young readers about the importance of caring for others. Especially those who can’t speak for themselves (like animals). The story follows Wilbur the pig as he and his barnyard friends try to keep him from the slaughterhouse. With the help of Charlotte the spider and her miracle webs, Wilbur learns about the challenges of growing up (and apart) and death.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
For most of us, Where the Red Fern Grows brings up memories of the tearfilled afternoon we finished it in elementary school. The story follows Billy and his two hunting dogs as they chase down raccoons and win hunting championships. It is a timeless classic, but will probably make young readers a little weepy.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time follows siblings Meg and Charles Wallace on a quest to find their father who has been trapped by “The Black Thing.” With the help of a human boy named Calvin and the three supernatural Mrs. Ws, the children go on an adventure through space and time to save their father (and the universe) from the evil “Black Thing.”
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl is responsible for numerous childhood classics but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory might be his most famous work. The book follows Charlie’s adventure through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The characters in the story learn valuable lessons about greed. Matilda is another favorite classic of Dahl’s. It is the story of a very intelligent little girl who develops telekinesis due to the neglect and mistreatment from her family and school headmistress.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Holes may not have been around as long as the other books on the list but it is another personal favorite. Stanley Yelnats’s entire family was cursed with bad luck, thanks to his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.” When Stanley is falsely accused to stealing an expensive pair of shoes, he’s sent off to Camp Green Lake to dig holes for the Warden. Though the holes are supposed to “build character” it seems that the Warden is actually after the infamous treasure buried in the desert by the outlaw Kissin’ Kate Barlow.
For anyone not quite ready to let go of the creepy, scary, monsters, and magic of Halloween just yet I have a few books that can help you hang on to it for a little while longer.
The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey
This book is a really unique read. It’s fast paced and thrilling, following first a girl named Melanie and the rest of really interesting group of characters living on a military base after a big fungal infection wipes out a lot of the population. The blurb on the back is what caught me and it did not disappoint.
“Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.”
The Collection by Bentley Little
This book is a collection of short stories that will really fill the creepy and scary want. I originally read this one years ago and it was still the first one I thought of when I started looking for stories for this blog.
*Some of the short stories can be disturbing, containing violence, assault, and graphic descriptions.
The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes.
They don’t all have to be scary to fit into the theme and Fred the Vampire Accountant is really not scary but it is funny and filled with the supernatural. I listened to the audiobook on Hoopla and loved it. Fred was an uninteresting guy and found himself supremely disappointed when that didn’t change after he turned into a vampire. The book is written almost like a diary and goes through a series or adventures that Fred gets roped into by his growing collection of friends, starting with his high school reunion.
Hocus Pocus & the All New Sequel by A.W Jantha
I had to mention this one. Hocus Pocus is a movie I’ve watched every year for Halloween. This is a two-part novel that starts with a retelling of the original movie and continues on to a sequel twenty five years later with Max and Allison’s daughter Poppy and her own encounter with the Sanderson Sisters.
Elsewhere by William Blatty
I found a nice haunted house book to round out the list. The story follows Joan Freeboard a tough, New York, real estate agent that is set to sell a mansion for giant commission. The fact that it’s haunted is just another step in the process. She gets herself a plan and a ghost busting team. This book was a fun read with fast pace.
Thanks for the read!
The weird fiction genre is the result you get when you throw books of fantasy, science fiction, and horror into a blender. Often including intense and/or graphic scenes and language, these titles are recommended for older teens and adults.
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville: Sentient, steam-powered robots? Check. A love affair between a scientist and a member of a half-woman, half-insect species? Check. Trans-dimensional spiders that only speak in telepathic, stream-of-consciousness free verse? Double check. Join the throngs of New Crobuzon, an overcrowded city full of mismatched people while this book sucks you into its vortex with a great story and even better world building. While working on his latest project, Isaac, a freelance research scientist, unwittingly unleashes a horror that feeds on dreams. Meanwhile his partner, Lin, is commissioned to sculpt a life-size statue of one of New Crobuzon’s most dangerous criminals.
Monstress by Marjorie Liu, Illustrated by Sana Takeda: What do you do when your inner monster keeps trying to eat your friends? Blending pieces of steampunk with anthropomorphic animals and Lovecraftian creatures, Monstress is a beautifully drawn graphic novel set in an alternate version of Asia. Here, a teenage girl is desperately trying to figure out the truth behind her past and how to control the thing that lives inside of her.
The Southern Reach Trilogy--Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer: In an undisclosed region on the southeast coast, behind a barrier that defies scientific explanation, lies Area X. The first expedition into Area X found ruins of the towns and houses of the people who once lived there, but no signs of the people themselves. Members of the third expedition died at each other’s hands in a free-for-all firefight. Members of the eleventh expedition suddenly returned home unseen with no memory of where they had been only to die months later from a particularly malignant form of cancer. Annihilation is the story of the 12th expedition, a group of 4 female scientists: a psychologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a biologist. Unable to communicate with the outside world, these four women must try to find the secrets behind Area X and make it back alive. Area X, however, has other plans…
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins: Think all librarians are quiet and mousey? Try this novel where they are all homicidal psychopaths. In the beginning was the head librarian, Adam Black, and his twelve student librarians—Father and his twelve children. Now Father has gone missing. Many of the librarians suspect David, librarian over the catalogue of war and Father’s once favorite son. Or was is Father’s right-hand general, the ancient tiger Nobununga? Regardless, Carolyn, librarian over the catalogue of languages, has a plan. If only her plan cared more about humans and less about countering attacks from immortal beings made of pure thought or girls that walk the lands of the dead.
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor: Welcome to a town where time doesn’t exist and summoning the secret police is as simple as speaking into the microphone that’s (poorly) hidden above your fridge. Here, the mother of a shape changing boy first glimpses the boy’s father for the first time in years. Then she sees another one of him. Then another. Meanwhile, a girl who doesn’t age and can’t remember where her mother keeps the silverware (a trapdoor under the scalded milk drawer) is handed a slip of paper that she literally cannot put down. Welcome to Night Vale is a humorous addition to your reading list, managing to be both dark- and light-hearted at the same time.
Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos by H. P. Lovecraft and others: No list of the weird can be complete without including one of the genre’s greatest and original author’s: H. P. Lovecraft. Cthulhu, the dreaded tentacled horror, has gone from little-known character to pop culture icon. This anthology of short tales includes Lovecraft’s original legend, The Call of Cthulhu, as well as new stories written by many different authors.
Looking for some inspiration on what to read next? Who better to ask then the people who work around books for a living!? Each month we will post a "staff picks" blog post written by one of our staff members. These posts will vary in genre, theme, age appropriateness, etc. If you have any requests on a genre or age category you would like to see, submit a comment here and we will get it on the list!