“Children should read 50 books a year” says Gove.

Desert Island Collection - Top 24 - Books

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You have to admire Michael Gove and his passion for policy ideas. He seems to be unable to open his mouth without a new policy idea borrowed from somewhere else popping out.

Today it’s the idea that children at the age of 11 should be reading 50 books a year. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8395784/Children-should-read-50-books-a-year-says-Gove.html

It’s a laudable idea. One that gently flirts in the mind and you start to think how it could be achievable. I remember being a bookish child and the thought of being asked to read 50 books would have made me respond “Just 50?”. I know that this policy idea comes from a desire to encourage children to read more than the books set for their SATs or GCSE’s. I read widely around the GCSE curriculum. I was (and remain) a voracious reader. It wasn’t something that was taught to me, it was encouraged. The school librarian made sure there was a wide range of books that were always being refreshed; Mr Griffin, Mrs Mills, Miss Blake, Mrs Lavadera and Mr Pope (my English teachers at school) gave us a rich diet of novels, poetry and non-fiction to study, enjoy and learn. They planted the seeds of a love of literature, it was up to me to nurture, tend and watch my love of books turn into Audrey II. (That’s the giant person eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors)

Having experienced slightly enforced book reading I can also attest to the slightly joyless feeling it can bring to reading. You’ve always got your eye on what’s coming next on the list, silently calculating how many pages you need to read a day to keep up, ploughing through narratives without noticing detail. There’s a time and a place for that kind of reading but it’ll never engender a deep resonating love of books that will flourish into adulthood.

(I took on the Man Booker Prize Challenge to read everything on the prize long list before they announced the winner. Hilary Mantel, I curse you for Wolf Hall. Under more normal circumstances I think I would have enjoyed it)

Here’s my suggestions for 50 books a person should read by the time they’re 18 (they’re in no particular order and not arranged into age appropriateness, just don’t give On The Road to an 8 yr old, ok?)

Think I’ve missed anything off? Stick your suggestions in the comments box.

1) Where the wild things are by Maurice Sendak.

2) On The Road by Jack Kerouac.

3) The Catcher In The Rye- J. D. Salinger

4) The chronicles of narnia- CS Lewis

5) Little House on the prairie Laura Ingalls Wilder

6) 1984 – George Orwell

7) Brave New World- Aldous Huxley

8) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland- Lewis Carrol

9) Anything written by Roald Dahl. Just grab one of the books, they’re all marvellous.

10) Lord of the Flies – William Golding

11) Oliver Twist- Charles Dickens.

12) Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

13) The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

14) The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

15) The Railway Children- E Nesbit.

16) Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes

17) The Sterkarm Handshake/The Sterkarm Kiss: Susan Price

18) Charlotte’s Web: EB White

19) Tom’s Midnight Garden: Philippa Pearce

20) The Sheep-Pig: Dick King-Smith

21) The Iron Man: Ted Hughes

22) Finn Family Moomintroll: Tove Jansson

23) To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee

24) Watership Down- Richard Adams

25) Nation- Terry Pratchett

26) Partners in Crime- Agatha Christie

27) The knife of never letting go – Patrick Ness

28) Ways to live forever – Sally Nicholls

29) A begonia for Miss Applebaum – Paul Zindle. (I cried my heart out!)

30) Grinny – Nicholas Fisk

31) Leviathan – Schott Westerfield

32) Z for Zachariah – Robert C. O’Brien

33) Plague 99, After the Plague and Watchers at the Shrine – Jean Ure

34) Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

35) The Mysteries of Harris Burdick- Chris Van Allsburg

36) Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willlems

37) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

38) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

39) Struwwelpeter, by Heinrich Hoffman

40) Underwater Adventure, by Willard Price

41) The Go-Between by LP Hartley

42) Coraline, by Neil Gaiman

43) The Water Babies, by Charles Kinglsey

44) The Wave, by Morton Rhue

45) A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K LeGuin

46) His Dark Materials Box Set, by Philip Pullman

47) The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket

48) The Spiderwick Chronicles – Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

49) Nicholas Dane by Melvin Burgess

50) Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

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246 Responses to “Children should read 50 books a year” says Gove.

  1. I have an 11-year-old, and he falls on the “Huh? Only 50?” side of this post. His passion is tangible, and his thirst for reading seemingly endless.

    Then there’s my 8-year-old, who struggled every day she was forced to read “Island of the Blue Dolphins” for school. How is it that two children in the same home surrounded by the same people who all love reading can be so different?

    My son absolutely is passionate about the Percy Jackson series — and as a result, he knows more about Greek mythology than I remember from my freshman AP English classes! 😉

    • Ben W says:

      I try to model good reading habits to my nephews and nieces. I love that my nephew rewrote a verse from the kids nursery rhyme “The Wheels on the Bus” to say that I’m on the bus “going read, read, read”. (One of my proudest moments)

      All of them have a respect for books but enjoy reading too.

      I started reading the Percy Jackson books and really enjoyed how the novels were faithful but quirky about Greek Mythology.

    • Anya Willers says:

      I’m on the “Only 50 books?” side. I probably read more than that when school is not too out of hand. Yes, everyone should read To Kill A Mockingbird.You should also consider Anthem by Ayn Rand, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, and The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane.

      Great list, by the way. I’m a volunteer in the children’s section of our library, and I recommend books all the time. Plus I get to see all the cool new ones coming in.

    • Bookspread says:

      I was the bookworm; the love of books was passed down from my parents, who were book hoarders. Their book budget was bigger than their food and clothing budget combined.

      My brother, however, was dislexic, and had to be forced to read – both as therapy and because he didn’t enjoy the books that were force-fed to us in school. My parents had given up on him when, bam! he found a book he loved.

      It was The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. And there was I trying to force-feed him Stephen King and JK Rowling. Go figure.

    • Anya Willers says:

      Percy Jackson is a great series. Riordan is fantastic.

  2. theveryhungrybookworm says:

    I think The Wizard of Oz should be in there. I am always shocked and appalled when my students claim they have never even heard of it!

    • Ben W says:

      Yeah, as soon as I finished the list I realised I’d missed some fairly BIG novels/stories out.

      I’ve never read the Wizard of Oz and think I should.

      I’ve read Wicked and Son of a Witch and enjoyed those.

      • Mo says:

        You REALLY should read The Wizard of Oz! It is VERY different from the movie. The first time I saw the movie (as a kid) I was bitterly disappointed.

      • Christine says:

        And don’t forget…Baum wrote 14 Oz books. So it isn’t just the Wizard of Oz, but 13 more, before he handed the torch to Ruth Plumly Thompson to write either twelve or fourteen more!

        If you want to encourage a love of reading in your child, surround them with books, read to them each day, and avoid those who would DICTATE reading standards as if they have the plague.

  3. Great suggestions.No Twain or Hemingway, I would’ve loved this as a kid.

  4. Lakia Gordon says:

    I love Roald Dahl!!! When I was in elementary school I read so much! Its sad that kids aren’t reading as much anymore.

    • Ben W says:

      I don’t know that kids aren’t reading as much, I think the ways they consume stories are changing. I also think that they sometimes don’t see the distinction between books/tv shows/movies/fan fiction etc. They’re all extensions of one narrative and they consume that story rather than the format.

  5. Maggie says:

    Your list is great! I’d suggest The Giver by Lois Lowry.

  6. Great list! What about the rest of JRR Tolkien’s books? I found the first one most difficult to read.

    • Ben W says:

      I vividly remember being given the Hobbit when I was 8 and struggling my way through the book and being determined not to check words I didn’t understand in a dictionary. I revisited it as an adult and just sailed through.

  7. Katie Gou says:

    All great books, many of which I read as a little one! Lord of the Flies is a particular favourite. I also like Dr Suess for younger children. I think reading to children is a great way to teach them lessons.

    • Ben W says:

      My English teacher, Mr Griffin got us to read aloud from Lord of the Flies and I can still hear his voice in my head 15 years later doing the voice for Piggy or the languid way he would read the sections with Simon in.

  8. Jason Kees says:

    Thanks for the link and reference to many great books!

  9. enjoibeing says:

    so many good books to choose from, it sucks because a lot of people are turning these titles into movies so it stops people from reading them. but i skimmed through the list and these books are good. nice post

    • Ben W says:

      I must confess I’m getting to the point where I’ll buy a book because it’s being turned into a film and read it before I see it so the film doesn’t cloud my reading of it.

  10. bakinagili says:

    Thankkkk youu for this list

  11. ecozonic says:

    Me parece estupendo que los niños lean. Los niños pequeños que hay en mi familia no tienen ese buen hábito. Y creo que en general, los niños españoles no son muy dados a la lectura. Ahora todos quieren ordenadores, juegos, etc. Esta moda es horrible. Espero que con el libro electrónico se animen muchos más. Genial el post.

  12. pen2sword says:

    I’ve read and loved quite a few of your suggestions. And your post brought back memories of third grade, one of my best school years, when our teacher would read to us. Not that we couldn’t read, but it was so great to just sit at our desks and listen. Everyone would be quiet and sit still. Like magic.

    • Ben W says:

      Animal Farm was read to us as an English class (again by Mr Griffin) and the story inspired me, stirred me politically and broke my heart. Reading aloud is vital!

  13. What an interesting list! I wonder if I would make the same list, myself.
    I feel a little sheepish that I have not read some of the classics on your list. Never did Lord of the Flies, or Brave New World. Or On The Road.
    And there are some I’ve never heard of. The Go Between by LP Hartley?
    I was definitely an “only 50???” kind of kid. Still am, time permitting. (Being a book reviewer helps in that regard.)
    But as much as I read, I know I’m missing a few of the classics.

  14. Liz says:

    Great list! I would add (for around 9 or ten year olds)the Black Stallion Series, Anne of Green Gables Series, Where the Red Fern Grows, Pippi Longstocking, The Swiss Family Robinson, and The Secret Garden.

    My nine-year-old definitely reads more than 50 books a year. She is an avid reader who mostly reads chapter books, but loves visual dictionaries and scientific magazines as well. It’s not forced reading, maybe that’s the difference.

    Congrats for being featured on Freshly Pressed!

    • Ben W says:

      I’ve always wondered what it’d be liked to be featured and it’s lovely but a little scary. I can’t keep up with the comments. 😀

      Unforced reading is lovely but I also understand that there’s a discipline behind reading books at a certain pace.

      • Liz says:

        Well, you are doing a good job of keeping up. I don’t think everyone expects a responce right away.

        I was taught how to speed read in third grade (for reading comprehension issues) and that sure helped to breeze through books while still comprehending what I’m reading!

  15. letsot says:

    honestly, i have not red a single book from this but i set a challenge for myself to read all the books before i turn 26…..

    • Ben W says:

      My challenge to myself at the age of 18 was to see all of Shakespeare’s plays in performance by the time I turned 30. I managed all but one play by the time I was 30 and managed all plays by the time I turned 31. Having these kinds of challenges with yourself is a nice little game but don’t force the reading if you don’t want to. Also, don’t feel you have to finish reading something if you’re not enjoying it. You’ll eventually hit on something you love.

  16. aka gringita says:

    The only thing worse than “forcing” a set number of books, is forcing a book report on them. I was totally the “Only 50?!?” kid (and am still a lover of books) but there is nothing like the forced recap that would suck all the joy out of it for me.

    • My father used to assign me reading lists in the summers, and I had to write reports, though the reports were mostly because he wasn’t there so we couldn’t talk about them, which he would have preferred.

  17. I have a granddaughter who is 11 yrs old has gotten that reading bug in her. Recently we saw her and she had a book in her hand that was several hundred pages long and we couldn’t get her attention she was all wrapped up in what she was reading. I thought it was great!

  18. Lizzy says:

    How about The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart, The Stand by Stephen King and Interview With a Vampire by Anne Rice. Probably all for the older child.

    • Ben W says:

      I don’t know that any of those books would be suitable for older children. I’d say for over 18’s. They’re all books that I’ve enjoyed as an adult but would be reluctant to hand to a young person. I guess it’s your own judgement call and you know the young person better.

      • Lizzy says:

        If someone can get married at 16 and leave school at 16, they can surely read these books. The Stand is as good a modern study in good vs evil as I can think of.

  19. Aiman Amani says:

    Another two books that would fit into the list would be ‘A Little Princess’ and ‘The Secret Garden’ both by Frances Hodgson Burnett. They would be more suitable for younger girls (maybe ten?) but I keep on reading them anyway although I’m now 16. Another book that is my favourite (and had already been added onto your list) is ‘The Railway Children’.

    For a good thriller, you can add ‘The Phantom of The Opera’ by Gaston Leroux. You can’t let that book down once you hold it.

    Books by Robin Cook are wonderful too. He writes thrilling science fictions. My favourite is ‘Contagion’.

    ‘Growing Up In Trengganu’ is one of the most beautiful books I read. The writing is simply beautiful. Read it and you’ll see that I’m telling the truth.

    Although I had read almost (or more than) a thousand books – more than a hundred of them are Enid Blyton’s only – I realised that only two of the books that I read are on your list 🙂 . However, I still have almost 2 years before my 18th birthday for me to search for (and read) the other 48 books.

  20. wadingacross says:

    There is a problem with the idea; what are the parameters? Some families and children might think that a Manga book should apply. Some children might not want to read at or slightly above their reading level, preferring smaller, younger books. Does Thomas the Tank Engine for a four year old read by a five year old apply? Get the gist?

    I wholly agree with the concept of encouraging reading, but it shouldn’t be forced. I come from a family of readers but for several years while I was in junior high, I couldn’t stand to read. There was a time when I was forced to read beyond standard school reading curriculum and I balked. It took three years for me to decide to read for enjoyment, on my own.

    Our problem now is that while I want to read, I cannot for lack of time! And, our eldest child, almost 5 reads at a level far beyond his maturity, meaning it is harder to find age appropriate books for him to read… and keep him supplied, as he’ll devour a stack of books in a day if given the chance.

    • I think the parameter of age 11 through 18 was clearly set early in the posting. Secondly, it sounds like you need to work with your local librarian to find books for your child. Perhaps, you need to creat your own list that is fitting for your kids. It would be interesting to see what shows up.

      • si says:

        but what are gove’s parameters?

        reading ‘where the wild things are’ for example is a different thing to reading ‘lord of the rings’, which i think may have been the gist of wadingacross’s comment.

        i used to teach and if kids in my year3&4 class were only reading 50 books a year i’d have been a little bit disappointed, given that some of the books were still fairly short and well-illustrated.

        but by year 6 50 books is more of a tall order – it’s effectively it’s a book a week.
        it’d be an especially difficult target for a kid who’s tackling more challenging stuff. i had kids in my class reading the hobbit for example. no way they were going to get through that in a week and you wouldn’t want them to have to try…

        as ever, i don’t think it’s about quantity, but quality…

      • Benjamin Whitehouse says:

        Gove’s parameters? He’s not going to get caught up in silly little things like parameters. 😉

        I think Gove’s policy is going to be mapped onto 11 year olds. (Year 6/7 in UK schools)

        As I’ve talked somewhere else in the comments… *waves hand airly towards the comments section* Quality and Quantity sometimes don’t have a place in this sort of discussion. There’s something noble in wanting people to just read the Classics but there’s much to be said to getting kids to read rubbish books, rubbish poetry and crappy fiction. A dissatisfying experience with a book could potentially sharpen an understanding of what works. It’s not a hard and fast rule nor am I advocating “Crap Books for Kids”. Some kids/young people/readers may get put off by crappy books others will have their hunger for good fiction deepened. My experience with Crappy Theatre I saw as a teenager was that it enabled me to pull the mechanics of it apart and work out how I would resolve issues in staging myself. (There’s a little part of me that can’t believe I’m defending Crap with such passion)

      • si says:

        maybe i don’t mean quality then, ben, as i sort of agree with you i think. maybe what i mean is relevance.

        i guess i’d just rather my kids read a few books that they really escape into or kick against than fifty that they sail through merely to keep their gove-ordained average up and which leave no mark on them at all [good or bad]

        [and i have to be honest here and say that whilst my teenage son is very literate and writes beautifully, he’s been off reading for a while, whilst our youngest reads perfectly well, but has never really been into fiction. give him a football magazine or website though and he’s absorbed for hours…]

  21. That is a great recommended reading list! I am going to go back and read all of the books on your list that I missed for sure. Nice blog post!

  22. Football, Simple. says:

    No ‘Harry Potter’ is fairly striking, great books for any kid albeit obvious. As a 16-year-old I read ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, a great read for someone about to embark into the adult world as it allowed to me to see just how low freedom and money would be able to take anyone and ‘On The Road’ is a sensational choice, absolutely must have.

    • I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at 16 also, since that’s how old I was when it was serialized in Rolling Stone. I didn’t completely get it at the time (for a variety of reasons), but that’s what re-reading is for. And you’re right, it is in its way a cautionary tale about excess, not a celebration of it (which was not generally understood at the time). That’s why it starts with the quote: “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

      • Ben W says:

        On the Road at 16 was brilliant but it’s one of those novels that probably needs to be read by anyone but a 16 year old boy. 😉

      • Football, Simple. says:

        ‘(which was not generally understood at the time)’, this is something I have not picked up in my research for my dissertation on ‘Coming of Age in America in the 20th Century’ so thank you for some insider knowledge! As a Brit the story only adds to the mystery for me that is held within the American road story and the fantasy that surrounds the ‘paradise’ that is the American west. It is the idea that such a place actually exists that makes the story so wonderous for me, much more so than anything set in a make-believe world.

    • Ben W says:

      I didn’t approach the list thinking “No Harry Potter”. The list is flawed, fractured and incomplete. The list only really represents a snapshot that I came up with a few hours ago and will probably want to change it later.

  23. lagabbianellaeilgatto says:

    Great list!I think Momo by Michael Ende should be on it, too.

  24. Your list is wonderful…but my list would have to contain
    – Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt,
    – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
    – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
    – Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
    – Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
    – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
    – David Copperfield and/or Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
    and really anything by Chris Van Allsberg is amazing.

    • Ben W says:

      I tried my best not to repeat books. I used to use the Mysteries of Harris Burdick as stimulus material for my GCSE Drama group. They’d have an hour to create the start of a performance using one of the pictures. Their imaginations would be fired and they’d want to continue using the book week in and week out to tell different stories.

    • deenie12 says:

      I think we must have read the same books growing up; I was going to leave a comment suggesting Tuck Everlasting, Bridge to Terabithia, and Little Women. 🙂

  25. justiceworldwide says:

    You’re an inspiration to the unread, too.

    • Ben W says:

      Thanks, that’s really sweet. 😀 I’m really passionate about books which is why I love being the literature coordinator for Greenbelt Festival (www.greenbelt.org.uk). I get to book authors I love and have admired for years.

  26. Dev says:

    NO. Children should not read so many books a year. They better start living their lives instead of just reading about it. 😉

    • Ben W says:

      Of course kids should be encouraged to do a wide range of activities, it’s why my list isn’t what should be read in a year but what should be read through to 18.

    • How can you say that reading improves kids imagination and builds their vocabulary. 50 books between the time they can read until they are 18, is nothing. That isn’t encouraging kids to do nothing many kids myself included were encouraged to read, we were also in sports and community organizations like 4-H and scouts. Reading takes the mind so many places and helps kids learn about the past, if kids learn to love reading, it will continue into adulthood. It is a nice rainy day activity rather than playing video games. I would add Where the Red Fern Grows by: Wilson Rawls. It teaches about wanting somthing, saving for it, and taking care of it. What great lessons come from books. 🙂 Thanks for a great post.

  27. wittybizgal says:

    I don’t think I saw Cheaper By the Dozen on the list–great book! I don’t really put a number on the books that I expect my 12 & 9 year old to read each year, but I quantify the amount of time I expect them to spend reading each week. This puts the focus on the joy of reading rather than just getting through a certain number.

    Our library system here in Florida has a fabulous reading program for kids. They do set the number at 50 books for each of the three reading levels of the program and they give little prize rewards for every 10 book milestone along the way. Then, at the end of the 50 in each level, they give the child a trophy with their name engraved on it, a certificate, and also take their photo to put on the wall. My boys love this! We’ve also sweetened the pot for them by giving them a certain amount of cash to spend at ToysRUs when they complete a level. When my oldest began this program he didn’t like reading and did everything to get out of it. With the incentives to motivate him, he read anyway. Now, he’s completed the intermediate level and only has a few books left to complete the advanced. And guess what he says these days? “Mom, I LOVE reading now!” Sometimes ya gotta give them a little push, I think. Oh, that reminds me, he’s really into the Percy Jackson series now, which would be a good addition.

    • Ben W says:

      Cheaper by the Dozen isn’t on the list because I’ve never read it.

      That’s so lovely about your son loving reading.

      I must confess I was worried my list didn’t have enough female writers or writers who weren’t already dead. I think there’s something special about young people being able to read something and then meet the author or engage with them at some point. That’s a really special bond.

      • wittybizgal says:

        Here’s some info on Cheaper By the Dozen: http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=9780060084608 Definitely worth checking out…

        Yes, that would be wonderful for kids to meet the authors they love! But, of course, not always possible–especially with the classic works.

        My younger son absolutely loved the Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne a couple of years ago: http://www.magictreehouse.com/ These are highly entertaining and educational as well. Each adventure book has an accompanying separate research guide too, which provide factual information regarding the adventure that the fictional characters went on in the book. These are amazing for young readers (1st, 2nd, 3rd grades) because they really underscore the fact that reading can take you anywhere you want to go. This provides a springboard for young people to a lifetime love of books.

      • a great, modern trilogy, for the older child (probably 13 at least, maybe older, depending on the child) would be The Hunger Games. just published in the last few years and really great. i tore through it and everyone i know (mostly adults in our 30s) who has read it has LOVED it. it’s written an author who is both alive and a woman. 🙂

  28. terii says:

    Oh, I loved ‘Island of the Blue Dolphins’ and ‘Secret of Nimh’. I liked ‘Book of the Dun Cow’ too though it can be quite heavy and a bit depressing.

    For some reason, those three books stand out very sharply along with ‘Duncton Wood’ and ‘Watership Down’.

  29. Bookspread says:

    Excellent! I love that you included “Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”. It is a success whenever my friend’s kids come to visit -they just love to scream NOOOOOO.

    • Ben W says:

      I LOVED teaching my little relatives to scream NOOOO at the pigeon. I’m the subversive Uncle.

      Last year for Easter I gave my nephews Book Tokens instead of chocolate and they had a wonderful hour and a half “umming” and “ahhing” in a book shop over which particular book to buy. There was also a lovely moment when I pointed out that they could have more than one book. It blew their minds.

  30. bekkacollins says:

    I’ve just turned eighteen, so I guess I’m no longer classed as a child, especially not one of age 11. I set myself this exact goal this year actually, to read 50 books. It also actually disgusts me how much I am failing, reading only 3 so far. I hope I get better, and will definitely look at some of the books mentioned above. Thanks for the suggestion! 🙂

  31. Tooty Nolan says:

    A laudable idea indeed. Sadly, though I would love to, I can’t recommend any of mine.Well perhaps Silent Apocalypse. Of course anything by John Wyndham is perfect. I discovered science-fiction through his The Chrysalids.

  32. aspiringtobesomeone says:

    I’m 19 and while I’ve read some of these… most have been completely missed. I had always read pretty new fiction, mysteries, supernatural-based, horror, historic event-based, and even chiclit (though that took some convincing).

    I was only convinced pretty recently by my AP English teacher to give some classics a try… well… beyond Mark Twain.

    All of the books I’ve read on your list have been a lot of my favorites.

    I want to finish your list by 20. I think I could do it. I think your goal to have seen all the shakesphere plays in person by 30 is a fantastic one too. Something about seeing it performed gives a wider understanding then if it’s originally read.

    congrats on being freshly pressed and a busy biblophile.

  33. girlonthecontrary says:

    A Farewell To Arms featured very heavily in my teen years so I would definitely add that. Also, anything by Mr. Kurt Vonnegut is essential.

  34. Great post! This is a subject close to my heart. Too many kids are illiterate or, if they can read, don’t care to read.
    The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, is one of my favorite kids books. Here There Be Dragons (and the rest of the Imaginarium Geographica series), by James A. Owen is also a great one for stoking the imagination of kids. Rick Riordian’s books are fun and insightful, too.
    -C. Michael McGannon

  35. Meanderer says:


    How about ‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder. It’s a wonderful introduction to Philosophy for all ages.

    All the best!

    • Ben W says:

      If you’d suggested this to me ten years ago I would have leapt at the chance to endorse it. I used to be a fanatic at lending out Sophie’s World but no, I prefer to point people to the orginal thinkers. It’s a bit like offering someone chicken nuggets when there’s a yard full of chickens outside. Maybe as a signpost to get into those thinkers but people mustn’t read Sophie’s World and think they understand or grasp the Big Concepts.

      I like that understanding some of the Big Thinkers is hard, it’s meant to be hard, it’s meant to be a slog sometimes. That’s how you gain understanding and broaden your horizons.

  36. I’m so pleased that you encompassed all of Roald Dahl – he was my all time favourite author as a child and whenever I’m forced to pick just one it’s a torment! If I was writing the list, I think I’d expand “The Sheep Pig” to include anything by Dick King-Smith. He wrote so many fabulously inventive and hilarious gems – Ace, Dragon Boy, Triffic and Saddlebottom, to name but a few! Other than that, I think your list is a great one for any reader, young or old, to aspire to 🙂

    • Ben W says:

      I vividly remember Dick King Smith visiting my primary school when I was 6 or 7 years old. He wore a brown suit and had a red handkerchief in his top pocket. We’d just read the sheep pig in class together and was fascinated that he stayed for lunch in the school hall. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Here he was: a REAL AUTHOR. I don’t remember what he said or if I talked to him, I just remember that he was there.

  37. Loved this post (coming from a librarian, I think kids should, and can, read 50 or more books per year.) Some of my faves which I don’t believe were on your list:

    Redwall by Brian Jacques

    The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

    The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Patterson

    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

    The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

    Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

    There are really too many good “children’s” books which aren’t kid-lit at all. Thanks for the post!

  38. idahavn2808 says:

    I personal think that it is a lot of books! At the time i read about 5-10 books at year. Thats way under your minimum of 50 books.
    -But I am one of them that reads a lot in my network of friends, some of them are never reading the books we are meant to read, so they only read about 2 or 3 books at year.

    Maybe you don’t read so many books in Denmark, or in the danish schools, because I have never heard of some kids, that are reading that much at year.
    -My mom also think I should read some more, and I even got a job on a library, so it is a bit weird that i don’t read more than I do.


  39. invaderjel says:

    I’ve read about…Ten long, long books this year.
    I’m currently reading Gone =D

  40. I would also have to agree with The Giver by Lois Lowry, I still read it as an adult.

    Also, not just A Wrinkle in Time, but the entire series including Many Waters, which I feel is underrated and the best one.

    Great list over all, it took me back and made me want to read them again.

    Oh! Also The Hatchet by, Gary Paulson.

    • chavisory says:

      I also thought Many Waters was the best of that series!

      And I loved The Hatchet when we read it in 5th grade–I’ve heard other girls say that it’s a boy story and they couldn’t get into all the killing and building and hunting, but I loved that stuff.

      • Megan says:

        I was going to suggest Hatchet as well. I can’t remember a time when I’ve recommended it to a young boy and they didn’t love it. I loved it myself as a grown woman! 🙂

        I would also add “Eragon” to the list. My eldest daughter loves fantasy novels and she devoured this series (as well as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, already mentioned). I can’t get over the fact that the author was only a teen himself when he wrote it!

  41. happypoppeye says:

    May be a good idea, maybe not. I can say one thing – there should be no “list” that a person should read. Everyone has different likes and enjoys different topics when reading so if someone has to read, they should be able to choose. I know that if someone told me I HAVE to read these particular books, I would probably never read again. It’s all opinion, you just need to design it so it fits everyone’s, or at least as close as possible.

    PS: when I say “your” up there, I am talking in general and not about your’s in particular. Good post. Made me think.


  42. The Bible is always a great book for children to start reading.



  43. Delorfinde says:

    I think kids who read should be encouraged. Kids who don’t read shouldn’t be forced – it’ll just make them hate it.

    I’m the sort who reads a lot. Like, I’m aiming for 150 books in 2011, and I’m 57. And about six of them were classics. The rest were mostly long.

    People are astounded that I can read a book in a day. It seems natural to me. If I’m reading a book, I’ll sit there and read it until I’ve finished it, and then I’ll read something else. What’s all this about taking a month to finish a book? 😉

  44. I am surprised you do not have the Harry Potter series on here. It goes through the themes of bullying, good vs. evil, what you learn from teachers and what you learn from experience. With each book in the series, the reading level gets a little higher. Plus, there are interesting little reasons behind some of the names used. (Peverell is actually the surname of an illegitmate son of William the Conquer)

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  45. chavisory says:

    I concur on Ender’s Game. Also I would add The Little Prince, and Like Water for Chocolate. Obviously, The Little Prince for those closer to 8, and Like Water for Chocolate for those closer to 18.

    More, as I peruse my own bookshelves:

    -The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
    -Caucasia, by Danzy Senna
    -Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, by Gregory Maguire
    -Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradury
    -The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman, if you’ve never had a chance to see the play

    • Kim says:

      The Neverending Story by Michael Ende is totally great. I agree to that. In fact I read it as a young adult and I still found it to be fantastic!

  46. eva626 says:

    my little brother who is 12 can read more than a hundred in a year!!!! lol hes a book worm ! it makes kids smart!!! true that! great post btw!

  47. pkg says:

    Just the idea that kids should read 50 books in a year is great and then you have given the list as well. I am sure this list can be much bigger with lot more books. I think it is more important for kids to start enjoying reading as a hobby or habit. what they read will undergo many changes throughout their life.

  48. Kristi says:

    Great list! I would add The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling, The Little Prince by St. Exupery, and Stuart Little by E.B. White. Oh, and Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. I also LOVED Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury when I was about 16. Okay, I love it still. The only one on your list I really couldn’t get through was The Water Babies. Just couldn’t like it, try as I might.

  49. pictfamily says:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your post and all the comments, my daughter aged 12, wants to be a prolific reader but finds it heavy going, my son aged 15 is more of a devourer. he set himself a target of 200 books last year and you can see how he got on on his blog http://bookboyblog.wordpress.com

    He’s worked his way through some of these so far, and we all still enjoy bedtime reading, at the moment we’ve got Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Eagle of the Ninth, which I would definitely recommend. We’ve also enjoyed Around the World in 80 Days this year, and I would certainly want to include something by Eva Ibbotson – Journey to the River Sea of The Star of Kazan, ideally.


  50. shinypigeon says:

    As an ‘only 50?’ child, with a librarian mother….I have read 90% of these books.

    Thinking back to books that have inspired me I have to list just a few more…

    Rebecca and Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier, thrilling and uncomfortable reads for 14+.
    The Famous Five/ Secret Seven series – epic adventures for the young (7+).
    The Narnia Chronicles by C.S Lewis for 7+.
    The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett for 12+.

    That’s over 30 books right there!


  51. visaisahero says:

    Reading is the most important thing a child can do for his future. I got into the Gifted Education Programme in my country, but there’s nothing “Gifted” about me- I simply read voraciously as a child.

  52. Sonia M. says:

    Great list!

    I love reading and it seems like I’ve passed my passion on to my children (as my parents passed theirs on to me). I usually have to tell my 8 year old daughter to put the book down, turn out the light, and go to bed! 😀 My son isn’t reading entirely on his own yet, but he loves to be read to.

    I loathe the idea of forced reading. It doesn’t foster a love of reading or of the material. I’m not talking about encouraging a reluctant reader to find something s/he likes or to give a book a chance before putting it down…I’m talking the page quotas and such. I think it’s quite possible to turn a person off to reading for life.

    If a particular book is distasteful to a child, that’s an opportunity to get creative rather than attempt to ram it down the child’s throat. Turning it into a play or watching the movie or making their own versions may be ways to help the situation.

  53. Great reading list. How about Tolstoy? The more reading a children does, the better she/he tends to do in school.

    • Sonia M. says:

      Is there a causal relationship there though or just a correlation? With regards to “the more reading children do, the better they do in school.” Perhaps children who do better in school also read a lot. Just enforcing a reading policy might not help children do better in school. It’s also important (in my opion) that the reading material is understood and that the reader can then connect that understanding with everything else s/he is learning. Having just read the material doesn’t guarantee an understanding of it…even if the material is on a test.

      • Troutwort says:

        I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the statement “the more reading children do, the better they do in school.” While I am sure that reading provides many benefits to education, I would argue that there are many students who can excel at their education without “extra” reading.

        As a child I would read books at home that I enjoyed. Once reading became part of the curriculum and I was “forced” to read books, my interest in reading really took a nose dive. Even some of the books on this list made me cringe just seeing their titles again. I would have stopped reading some of these just a few pages in if not for the chapter tests that would occur the next day in class. This was not all the titles, but I can easily list off my least favorite books and all of them were part of my “forced” reading.

        I did very well in school and went on to college with academic scholarships. But where I excelled was math and science and the classes that prevented me from achieving perfect academic records included “forced” reading. Being scientifically minded, I felt that The Scarlet Letter and The Prince did not add value to my academic achievements instead created a loathing for reading novels.

        What I would suggest is that it’s not so important that your child read books, but instead read published works that interest them. I would have enjoyed reading a National Geographic or a book on plate tectonics, the solar system, or Serengeti migrations far more than I would have enjoyed reading Brave New World.

        Encouraging reading can be accomplished in many ways beyond books. It’s important to make sure reading is enjoyable, because if you don’t enjoy it, it is less likely that you will do it again.

  54. Kim says:

    What about adults?

  55. fluffinear says:

    I loved to read growing up, still do. The book that stands out most from school is Fahrenheit 451. The thought of reading or even owning a book being illegal was just so interesting and thought provoking to me.

  56. Congratulation on being Freshly Pressed!

    Reading your post and the comments after, I believe more and more that there can’t be a list everybody can agree upon. We had summer reading lists in school and we had to write reports and to keep a spreadsheet (in a note book, no computers back then:-)) of the main characteristics of the book. It was boring at times, now I am very glad we had to do that, since I feel that a lot of books off the summer list would not attract me and I would have dismissed them before discovering how wonderful they are.
    What about Jack London, Mark Twain,A.Dumas,Mayne Reid, Fenimore Cooper?
    I would also like to see kids read translations of classics from all over the world!

    Sometimes schools set goals that are discouraging by being so easily achieved.One year (5th grade) the teacher challenged the kids to read 15 minutes a day.One can’t even “get into” the book in 15 minutes!

    One more observation, I strongly believe that kids read more if they see their parents read.

    Thanks for your post!

  57. I loved Alexandre Duma as a child. I could get lost for hours in any of his books.

  58. The Watchmen – Alan Moore
    The Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
    The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
    The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Fin – Twain
    Dance of the Happy Shades – Alice Munro
    Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
    Aesop’s fables
    The Stranger – Albert Camus

  59. Planet Mom says:

    Well said and I couldn’t agree more! All things considered, I deem my children’s journey as emerging readers to have been nothing short of remarkable, and I can’t help but feel indebted to those who’ve helped cultivate their enduring love of books—during this National Reading Month of March, and always.

    Please check out: “Have you Hugged a Book Today” (http://melindawentzel.com/2011/03/02/have-you-hugged-a-book-today/) if you feel so inclined. I, too, think it is inordinately important to encourage our youth to read, read and read some more. ;-D

  60. Abbi says:

    I have read quite a few of the books on your list but by no means all of them. We do read in our house however! I was one of those booksworms as a child and I still get in some reading everyday. My oldest two children (11 and 9) are now bookworms. My 11 year old quite often will read 50 books a month. When we go to the library she will get around 10 (chapter) books and be done in a few days. It is good that we have a lot of books here at home too!

    I have never required my kids to read a certian amount they just do. We do encourage reading by reading outloud to them everyday, not watching TV and rarely movies and by having books available.

    I second the recommendation for “Cheaper by the Dozen”. That has been one of my all time favorites. One that I am reading aloud to the kids now that is similiar (and we are loving it!) is “The family nobody wanted”. My nine year old son loves Mark Twain’s books and he also regularly reads the Bible just for fun (especially the stories about David). My 11 year old Daughter’s favorites (that she has read over and over) are The Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Toilken’s books.

  61. What an impressive list of books you have there! I was always a voracious reader as a child, and encouraged by my mother I read many of the classics, at a very early age, at times I have thought it might’ve been better for me to read some of them at a later date with the insight that adulthood brings… ;o)… Definitely children should be encouraged to read more- however, it should not be a chore- don’t knwo if putting a number on a target is the best way to go about it.

  62. Melissa says:

    SO many great suggestions here! I’d love to add one of my favorites as a kid, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It’s very imaginative and made me want to read even more than I already was.

  63. great post and fantastic list! i’d add smith’s A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, but you’ve made me want to go back and rediscover tons of the required reading of my youth. thanks!

  64. Kate says:

    Good post and a great list. I read daily with my 2 children. My daughter is 8 and prefers non-fiction. I adore her fascination with learning all she can about her world. Some additional works for your list include:

    – Anything by Judy Blume (My fave is The Tale for the Fourth Grade Nothing – this book still makes me giggle)
    – The Count of Monte Cristo
    – The Book Thief

  65. ninjamechanic says:

    -“Sideways Stories From Wayside School” by Louis Sachar

    “Sideways Stories” because it suddenly made elementary school less weird. Also, anytime someone points out that there is no 13th story I still crack up.

    -Anything by Jon Scieszka
    Laughing is such an important part of being able to get through the day and Scieszka has a way with words that keep kids and adults laughing from start to finish.

  66. Stacey says:

    The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery is also a fabulous book appropriate for most ages. I haven’t read it in 15 years and still remember it vividly.

  67. The forced reading doesn’t really work for me. At least not in the way stated here. I could whip through 50 books in a day if picture books are allowed. Would I enjoy it? Maybe. Would it make me want to read more? Maybe not.

    I am all for encouraging young people to read. I just don’t think it is as easy as putting a number on it. Kids are individuals and motivate in different ways. That is important to keep in mind.

    I like the list. There are a few on there I have not read yet and will check out.

    Nice post.

  68. Liz says:

    The Giving Tree is a must! Sorry, I cannot remember the author’s name, but one of the best children books I’ve ever read.

    • C. Michael says:

      Shel Silverstein! (The author of The Giving Tree.) Brilliant, crazy, genius man. His other works, especially Where the Sidewalk Ends, are some of my favorite memories.

  69. Mehul Sharma says:

    Have read a few but will definitely read a LOT more before I turn 18. The list is brilliant. Will definitely try to read all. 🙂

  70. Skye says:

    I would add Little Women, Tuck Everlasting, Cheaper by the dozen, Percy Jackson books,The Giver (I just read it this year, but I`m in 8th grade), and Chains:Seeds of America (which was reccomended by my social studies teacher and is really good!)

  71. Your list and the comments will definitely help a native French speaker now mother of 3 girls (12 to 14) who can’t stop reading in English, when ordering books for them, thanks! I’m trying to get them past the recently published kid/youth series and into more classical ground, and that is a bit of a challenge, even with such avid readers.

    I miss non English litterature on your list though. Sure, translation might not be as good as the original, but it opens new doors. Translation allowed the “only 50? kid I was to first discover Mark Twain, Jack London, Hemingway and Steinbeck. I loved Gone with the Wind, curiously absent here, and Sci-Fi: Asimov’s I, Robot and the Foundation series, Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 and the Martian Chronicles. Oh, and “To Kill a Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee?

    I’m not sure if the books I grew up with would be translated into English, but at least one author is, and kids of all ages love his books: Jules Verne!

  72. mickthornton says:

    My wife would be on the side of “Only 50” whereas, I don’t think I read 50 books by the time I was a sophmore in college! To me, reading was work that kept me from playing with friends. I hate that in elementry school, recess was right after reading/comprehension subjects. So, when I was slow, I was delayed from recess time. Same for mathmatics, it was before lunch.
    To this day, I hate math and read slow. Maybe a book or 2 per month. My wife will read about 150 pages per hour. So…I would encourage parents to encourage their children to read more!

  73. FANTASTIC list!
    Love it!

    I am new here on wordpress, coming from blogger!
    It’s such change, and Im having trouble adjusting!
    If you could spread the word about my new blog that would be fantastic:)



  74. Sorry. I’m a writer, a reader, and a big fan of words everywhere. I raised two boys, they both are marginal readers, despite reading to them all the time, exposing them to great stories and great writers. And, even though they are young men now, I still work to get them to think about reading – traditional books, ebooks, Kindle editions, web posts, anything.

    But – honestly – 50 books a year? That may be a great goal, but at the risk of sounding defeatist, it’s unrealistic. A book a month sounds more do-able. Mix it up – humor, fun, how-to, combined with the great works of literature and the new works.

    Fifty books, to me, sounds like a flood of words that will drown them and they’ll never want to get back in the water. Sure, some kids are going to embrace the idea, even take it on as a challenge, but they are the rare types. I think it’s better to stay real.

    David W. Berner
    Author, Accidental Lessons

  75. Shouldn’t “Moby Dick” be included?

    • Ben W says:

      In my head the list has extended by adding all the suggestions from the comments section.

      I’d also like to include Moby Duck by Donovan Hohn. Wonderful and whimsical.

  76. l0ve0utl0ud says:

    I agree with what you say about being forced to read certain books; it is no longer a pleasure, but a chore, and I spend more time calculating how many pages I have left, than reading. Thanks for the book list, there are some books up there that I still need to get through myself 🙂

  77. I loved reading books like ‘Charlotte’s Web’ or various Roald Dahl books when I was younger and I would hope every child is still able to read such charming and innocent (although by no means ‘stupid’) books today – especially in this age of violent, misogynistic, shallow, dumbed down and moronic computer games, TV, movies and music blah blah blah…

    BUT let’s be seriously realistic for a minute. The world is changing rather rapidly at the moment and along with the many extremely positive changes we are experiencing (and are hopefully a part of) we also see the world being torn apart and destroyed, blown up, economies crashing, children starving, rights and freedoms being eroded everywhere (the UK is certainly not immune from this) and massive corruption and crimes being committed at the highest level of all society – not least in all levels of every government, who are supposed to be serving us!

    *IF* our children are to even SURVIVE long enough to reach adulthood, let alone stay safe and well and hopefully have a chance to realize their full potential (including reading lots of great books) in this all-too-short thing we call ‘a lifetime’ then we and they have to start reading not just for the pleasure and ‘nutrition’ it gives us (but that too), but also for the very practical purpose of INFORMING OURSELVES and so wising up to the reality of what’s actually happening in this world *real world*. no matter how terrible that reality is.

    With the ‘tinderbox’ also known as the middle east now being lit we are being led towards a possible WW3 scenario right now – on TOP of the greatest global economic crisis ever, the highest levels of corruption, the greatest degree of globalization (centralization) and surrounded by high tech world wide surveillance police state grid capable of tracking every person’s every move all the time – and none of this is happening ‘by accident’ (Unless, that is, you are one of those nutty ‘coincidence theorists’). Zbigniew Brzezinski even gave some chilling hints recently about what the globalists have in store for the near future and when he talks about such things it is always wise to take heed!

    And our children are going to inherit this INSANE world and they are the ones who are going to have to attempt to sort it all out. And so they HAVE to get informed and streetwise as to what’s really happening in the real world, how the world really operates and what has really been happening throughout history. They have to get informed in a way no previous generation ever did before.

    And the good news is that FOR THE MOMENT in this internet age of free flowing information they *CAN* get informed very easily. How long this ‘information window’ will last is anybody’s guess.

    Not only is there a lot of good information out there now but there is also (inevitably) a lot of very questionable information out there too. But THIS IS A GOOD THING because it teaches us all to DISCERN for ourselves, to critically think for ourselves and to take EVERYTHING we read, hear or see with a pinch of salt.

    And so bearing all that in mind here are a couple of book recommendations ….

    For a start how about some books which ARE NOT based on *official (censored) mainstream history*?

    A fabulous example – and a really great read no matter what you might think of it – is ‘The Biggest Secret’, a book which explores everything from ancient Sumer to the murder of Princess Diana and beyond!

    Or the latest book from the same author is, ‘Human Race Get Off Your Knees – The Lion Sleeps No More’

    Another must read is Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time

    This youtube video gives some background on this paradigm shifting book and includes some quotes from it.

    Finally, for older, more emotionally mature teenagers only (**ie late teenagers at least**) I would recommend Cathy O’Brien’s ‘Trance – Formation of America’ The autobiography of an MK Ultra trauma based mind control victim (who escaped in the late 80’s when aged 30) who suffered horrific abuse from birth and was prostituted out to the likes of Ford, Reagan, both Clintons etc. It includes some very sick and depraved details but ultimately is a story of the triumph of the human spirit and healing power of love.

    This youtube video is a talk given by Cathy herself which I’d recommend anyone to watch watching before reading her book.

    I expect some people will think this unsuitable for teenagers due to its shocking and disturbing subject matter … my response is that (as long as appropriate age as well as the individual child/ teenager has been properly considered) if real life is disturbing then we should try and change real life rather than censor it and lie about the world we live in. What allows such evil to flourish is denial. ‘Our’ entire western culture is built ENTIRELY of denial when you think about it! This has to change if we are to survive! 🙂

    Personally, I would rather they read about *real life* than watch five minutes of ANY of the ‘socially acceptable’ poisonous mass entertainments that intrude upon most children’s lives 24/7 courtesy of Disney/ Hollywood/ ‘TV’ and any other giant corporations.

    See here for the low down on exactly how our kiddies’ minds are being brainwashed, subverted and indoctrinated by today’s mass entertainment. THAT’s what is sick… not the truth!

    Everything in society is back to front – there is no innocence yet there is no realism either. Instead kids today are fed unrealistic corporate indoctrination in the guise of ‘entertainment’.

    A really good book (fiction or non fiction) is NEVER entertainment. It is far, far more than that.

    ps thank you for not putting ‘Harry Potter and the Lowest Common Denominator’ on that list 😉

  78. zanyzigzag says:

    Just had to comment and say that I LOVE the face that you included a Willard Price book on your list! I have only ever found one other person who had heard of these books, which I think is such a shame. They were one of, if not my favourite books series as a child, and helped to inspire a lifelong fascination with natural history. I also think they are ideal for boys who might not be very interested in reading – the plots are fast-paced and packed with adventure and excitement!
    I haven’t read all of the books on your list, but I would probably add “Redwall” by Brian Jacques (any and all of the whole Redwall series, in fact) and also Gary Paulsen’s “Hatchet”, another good one for boys too.
    I am also very happy to see you have Terry Pratchett’s “Nation” on your list – I love all of his books, but I think that one is definitely one of the best.
    I’m trying to think of other books I was reading at primary school…I loved the James Herriot books and also Gerald Durrell – “My Family and Other Animals” would definitely be on my Top 50 list! Oh, also, the Just William stories. And “The Silver Sword” by Ian Serraillier, because we had it read to us by our English teacher in year 6 and it was such a joy to just sit and listen to it.
    I was definitely an “only 50??” child 🙂

  79. zanyzigzag says:

    FACT, even! Not watching my typing, so sorry about that!

  80. A child of 11 should read two books three times: Hegels “Phenomology” and Marx “Das Kapital”.
    That’s enough. Seriously, 50 books, what should an 11 year old do with Heideggers collected works? Or Derridas elegies? No need for that until its 15.

    Oh, you’re talking about THAT kind of book. Well, lets see, 360 pieces of Enyd Blyton and the like will do to make it halfway smart.

  81. mikebritton says:

    I did not read all of the suggestions here but I browsed them and there are a lot of good ones. A couple that I did not see listed were “Where the Red Fern Grows”, “White Fang”, and the “Outsiders”. They were all three favorites of mine. I also think the “Diary of Anne Frank” is still an important book to read. As well as, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Bridge to Terabithia”

  82. The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo is a wonderful story, it was published in 2009 so it doesn’t have the legendary status of some of the titles/authors mentioned in your list, although it has the potential to be a classic. It provides a challenge without being an overwhelming text such as Tolkien would do. Neverwhere by Gaiman is also wonderful, it’s very popular with the teenagers in the bookshop that I work in.

  83. Emdubs says:

    I was an “Only 50?” child as well, but I also never gave up my love for children’s books & YA fiction. Here are some new classics that I think are definite should-reads:

    Anything by Sharon Creech (specifically, Walk Two Moons and Love That Dog)

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

    The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

    Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky – my favorite “Forced Upon Me” book that I was shocked I enjoyed

    The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is a *MUST*. I will say, reading that is one of the few things that I can use to keep my rowdy, hormonal class of 8th grade boys quiet for some time.

    Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, especially for teenage girls

    Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

    Alas, another incomplete list. But definitely anything by Sharon Creech’s stuff.

  84. Melme says:

    I was an “Only 50?” child and I’m so pleased to see Dick King Smith on your list. He was one of my favorite authors growing up and I rarely find anyone anymore that remembers his work or even knows that “Babe” was based on anything.

  85. 1. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
    2. Swiss Family Robinson
    3. A Wrinkle in Time
    4. Orthodoxy
    5. The City of God

  86. eccentricaesthetics says:

    I wish I could read 50 books a year, life seems so fast paced. It seems like a good goal to reach though. I should start checking up on my local library more often huh?

  87. Ani Sharmin says:

    I absolutely love to read, and I love your list! There are several books on there which I also enjoyed, but many which I have not read (which I’ll definitely add to my list).

    Here are some books that I’d suggest.

    *Mildred Ames’ Anna to the Infinite Power (I think this might be out of print, but it had a big effect on me when I read it in elementary school.)
    *Isaac Asimov’s short stories (at least some of them)
    *Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451
    *Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama series
    *Dante’s Inferno
    *Anne Franks’ Diary of a Young Girl
    *Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land
    *Frank Herbert’s Dune
    *Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth
    *Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven
    *William Shakespeare’s plays (at least a few of them)
    *Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels
    *J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings
    *Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
    *Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic

  88. whatsaysyou says:

    Wow you included CS Lewis and Roald Dahl and keep it up. I also recommend Adeline Yen Mah’s Chinese Cinderella too.

  89. I would have been on the “only 50?” side when I 11, but fast forward almost 30 years and I have read only a handful of books in the past 10 years (I know, the shame!)

    Here are a few more for your list:
    The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
    Steppenwolf – Herman Hesse
    Watership Down – Richard Adams
    The Good Earth – Pearl S. Buck

    Thanks for the post and reminding me to brush off my dusty library of sad and lonely novels waiting to be opened.

    The Outlaw Mom

  90. I feel like I need to go back and read some of the books I’ve missed on this list now!

    I full agree with the Roald Dahl – his were some of the first novels I ever read as a kid. 🙂

  91. beyourselfalwayslove says:

    There are so many good comments that I don’t have time to read them all, so if I have repeats, I am sincerely sorry. I just wanted to add a few books that influenced my childhood/adolescence. I, like you, was on the side of “only 50?” Now that I’m in college, I don’t have as much time, but I am trying to read “1984” right now.

    The others:

    Tuck Everlasting- Natalie Babbett
    Anne of Green Gables- L.M. Montgomery (the whole series is actually quite amazing, and I find myself rereading them as a 20-year-old college sophomore)
    A Prayer for Owen Meany- John Irving
    The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle- Avi
    The Glory Field- Walter Dean Myers

    • callie3 says:

      The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is a great story and kept me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what had happened.

      • beyourselfalwayslove says:

        We were required to read it when I was in 7th grade, but I asked my mom to buy me a copy, and I’ve reread it several times since then. It was so interesting!

  92. They damn well should!

  93. emjayandthem says:

    wonderful list with many I’ve heard of but not read .. thanks for the reminder! MJ

  94. eileensaunders says:

    I don’t think I’d give Lord of the Flies to an 8 year old.

  95. elenafultz says:

    Wow, what an inspiring list! You hit a lot of great ones–brings back all the memories of the first time I read them.

    Of course I’m just as eager to share books that weren’t on the list, and since you included children’s books…
    My favorite children’s book ever is Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch. Every child should have this read to them…

  96. SWK says:

    Great list. I don’t think 50 books is a LOT of books, but you’re right that enforced reading can make it seem as if 50 books is a TON of books to read. When the kid really loves reading and is excited about it, those 50 books can go by really fast.

  97. uforicfood says:

    When I was about 13 or 14, I got introduced to Australian author John Marsden and his Tomorrow When the War Began series – which after so many years – just got made into a fantastic movie.
    All young people should read this series. He also has other books too – which focus on issues young people face as they grow up.
    I have met the author several times and he is an amazing person that is really able to get on the level with young people.
    I was so in love with his books, I gave them to my dad to read. He was pretty skeptical – but he loved them too! I am 28 now, and decided to read The Tomorrow series again. It was still as wonderful as the first time I read them as a teenager. They are books I will no doubt pass on to my children when they are old enough.
    Thanks for the post and congrats on Freshly Pressed. It’s great to be talking about books, rather than just technology all the time!

  98. Pingback: You HAVE to Read This « Tracking the Words: a yearly cycle

  99. maryct70 says:

    Some great suggestions here! Unfortunately I have not read enough of these myself, but I plan on catching up on several of them.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  100. Pingback: Obligatory Reading | stufflizreads

  101. John says:

    Greetings and thanks for the timely article. I really appreciated the list as I often try myself to recount what are the important things that I have done and achieved. One great article that supports the research that you presented is the Risely-Hart study at the University of Kansas that documents that the more a child reads or is read to by the age of 5, the higher the placement and scores for achievement tests. Sadly, the research also points out that the disparity between low and high readers is directly related to the income level of the parents. I enjoyed you article. If you have the time, please enjoy my postings at http://thehistoryguru.org/

  102. I agree with so much of what you’ve said, and listed, and others’ suggestions, as well. I was an incessant reader and have raised three more, so herewith my suggestions for creating readers:

    1. Read aloud every day. From early infancy and up until they’re old enough to read complicated works by themselves (when each child was 12, I announced the very last read-aloud: Watership Down. They complained – “why do I have to?” – yet they enjoyed this last book over several weeks, a bit at a time, sitting close beside me and reading the words silently as I said them and acted out the parts. It was a defined coming-of-age.). Let them see you reading for pleasure. Talk about how much you’re enjoying your latest book, and perhaps quote something interesting/amusing from it. Go to the library/bookmobile as a family. Let them load up with books. Make sure they have a bookshelf in their room – better a bookshelf than a TV or computer!

    2. When kids are small, use your finger to trace under each word as you pronounce it. With long words, point out each syllable. They’ll learn that words are built piece by piece.

    3. Encourage all sorts of reading. With fiction, girls have no problem reading “boy” books, but the reverse is rarely true. If you have to, pay your sons a small sum to read “girl” books, whether they have sisters or not. They’ll learn so much, and be better citizens for it.

    4. Give books as gifts. In our house, the children were (and still are) allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve – but those gifts are in a special pile, and are always books.

    5. It’s never too late to start. There are wonderful books about read-aloud (we used Jim Trelease’s), and incorporating reading into the family. Go ahead and check them out.

    All the best,

  103. katblogger says:

    I have NO idea how many books I read a year. Over fifty. Probably over a hundred. I’m a bit of an addict, actually, although my reading level has fallen a bit now that the IB program is sucking the life out of me.
    I’m glad to see Leviathan, by *Scott Westerfeld. That’s a book that’ll engender a love of history. I’ve become obsessed with WWI thanks to that. But I’d say anything by Westerfeld, honestly. Uglies is a really good book to make you think, and his other series are amazing!

  104. callie3 says:

    I was a child who didn’t love to read and hated when a teacher required us to read a book that I wasn’t interested in. However once I started to teach 4th grade I realized the importance of reading and getting students excited to read. Some students need more motivation than others but as long as you find something that excites them they will at least enjoy reading. I often found my self reading the books my students were just so that I could keep up on their conversations about the book and have found a lot of great books in the process. I have also found ones that were a favorite to me as a child like Island of the Blue Dolphins and many of the other books you mentioned. Thanks for you wonderful post about reading!! Everyone reads something every day of their life even if it isn’t a book and that is why reading is such an important skill to have!

  105. I’ve read about 6 on that list of yours but theres more I own but haven’t gotten around to reading yet… or I’ve seen the movie >>; lol (not that thats in any way the same thing or an equal substitute)

    This – “Children should read 50 books a year” – just kinda annoys me, really.
    I’ve always loved books and loved reading.
    It makes me frustrated seeing people that ‘hate’ books, the kids in my class that could barely read at all.
    But is trying to MAKE children read books, especially so many books, the way to go?
    And is it QUALITY or QUANTITY?
    Are these kids going to even take anything in from these books, and really read them, or just blast through to get to the end?
    Someone I know wanted to read like 100 books a year – and I was thinking, “what are they? Hop On Pop? Clifford The Big Red Dog?”
    And are you going to be spending ALL of your time reading just to do this? I reckon the kids would get bogged down and start neglecting other things (which I sometimes do when reading for FUN, would it be less or more if reading for a goal?)

    In Australia they have the Premiers Reading Challenge, which is 12 books chosen from a specific list (but as you get older you can pick your own books), and they encourage this in schools, and you get sent little awards for completing it.
    I did it but never sent it in – I read 30 books, but that was just about in the first half of the year and I kinda lost interest by the second half.

    • Ben W says:

      Quality and Quantity are misleading words. I think enjoying reading and getting kids to read is a fantastic thing. (And clearly there’s a depth of passion right across WordPress Bloggers) One of my favourite books I’ve read so far this year is a book called Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder. It’s not a classic, it’s not going to join the canon of classics. It’s a pot boiler, thriller, throwaway novel. I got it because it was cheap for my kindle and wanted something pulpy to read. It’s brilliantly absurd and lots of fun to read. It won’t win any awards but it was right for that moment.

  106. Vasare says:

    Brilliant post thanks, I should read most of them myself…;/

  107. notesonafilm says:

    “Brave New World” and “1984” constantly come to mind as recommendations to most young readers and for good reason too, but I think Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian masterpiece “We” is just as shocking and intriguing. Also, Zamyatin’s novel was published in 1921, I wonder if Huxley or Orwell had any influence from this previous work…

    • Ben W says:

      “We” did cross my mind as an option for the list but I dropped in as I’d already included BNW & ’84. I suppose another list to create would be “50 Dystopian Masterpieces for Children- because Children need to know that life isn’t always great”. 😉

  108. You made me nostalgic for the hours and hours of spare time that only belongs to youth and retirement. I was an “only 50?” kid. I read now when I can, which is not nearly as often as I would like. I would add A Little Princess; I read and reread it often as a kid. And some Judy Blume. And as for “forced reading,” if I had not been forced to read A Tale of Two Cities in 10th grade, I might have missed out on discovering one of my favorite writers. That being said, I was also forced to read Old Man and the Sea and hated every page. But hating one forced book certainly didn’t put me off reading or any such nonsense like that.

  109. Thank you so much for posting this! It’s a great list. I also like a lot of the recommendations supplied by my fellow comment posters. I like the idea of a list to finish by a certain age as more of a personal goal than as a state mandated thing. Not only do school age kids have a lot of mandated reading on their plates already, but I strongly agree with the opening poster that being forced to read something sucks the joy out of actually reading it, especially if one is busy and confined to a strict time table.

    As far as maturity levels go, I think that varies from child to child. There’s no way to tell what’s appropriate literature for any one age group, as every child is different. Someone mentioned Interview with a Vampire as inappropriate for a child, but I remember reading it when I was 13 or so. I knew that a lot of the content was mature, and that gave me a bit of a thrill. It probably made me enjoy the book that much more. In hindsight, I wish I’d read Dracula first, but oh well. Live and learn. My point is that it’s not always a terrible idea to expose kids to content just beyond their maturity level. I can definitely think of worse ways for kids to test those boundaries.

  110. xoxofrets says:

    Haha! I remember myself reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books when I was a kid! I also started reading Harry Potter by the time I was 11. I loved books but I guess I can’t do 50 books a year if I was still at that age.

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  112. maxgames.me says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! It’s a great list.

  113. WordShock says:

    Children should be encouraged to read if they wish to read. Sitting down your child and opening a classic and expecting them to be absorbed by the text is a long shot.

    Most adults haven’t read the books on that list let alone children and the language is not accessible to everyone. It’s great that in recent times there have been books that have engaged younger readers and made the task of reading a novel less of a daunting thing to approach. But get rid of the list, we all have our own tastes and children like and dislike what they will too.

  114. Adam says:

    Interesting list, I’d probably suggest adding The Hunger Games to the list (it’s been said quite a few times, and I agree, I tore through this series, reading all 3 books in about 3 days). I’d also suggest the Xanth series by Piers Anthony, quick stories and they’re all fun books, plus there are about 35 of them in print, so it would give a lot for kids to read.

  115. WordShock says:

    There are some gooduns listed though, don’t get me wrong 😛

    I just think Dickens and Austen (definitely Salinger) etc… save until they’re 12ish maybe?

    (unless they’ve been eating books up like some of the children mentioned in the comments above.)

    • Ben W says:

      The list is a snapshot of books I’ve suggested to be read by the age of 18. I’m not suggesting all the books be thrust into the hands of young children.

  116. Great post!!! I love books and, along with my family, have encouraged my lovely nieces to enjoy reading.. we often will take whole afternoons and sit in the kids section of local book store to read and look at the artwork in various children’s books.

    I would suggest Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I’m rereading the series now and it brings me right back to my childhood!

  117. rubiescorner says:

    I read 32 books in first grade over fifty years ago. I don’t think it is the numbers as much as developing a love for reading.There are some things that parents can do to make sure their children will love to read. Be good models of this, tape stories and let the children follow in their books, read to them, listen to them read. It takes a cute, and good book to get some children interested. Going to the library and exploring the world, research, and reading to each other are all good things to inspire.

  118. realanonymousgirl2011 says:

    I think its sad that there are children out there that don’t read enough. I would read 50+ books every year when I was in school and if I could read all day now, I would.

  119. Im one of those who fall in the category of only fifty..wow, i read 50 books in like 2-3 months. No big deal. I have always been a avid reader and very above my reading level…reading to Kill a Mockingbird in 6th grade. But i know lots of other kids aren’t like that, my sister who is almost to middle school is still reading smaller Judy Bloom and my Wimpy kid book, only adventuring to something like the Chronicles of Narnia when it is for school.
    We are all different people with different reading levels.

  120. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho should be on the list.

    Great list tho’ 🙂

  121. norquiza says:

    Tnx for the post.. very helpful!=)

  122. pinoyleonardo says:

    Well I guess when someone’s in the habit of reading, which means he enjoys so, you’ll get lost counting.

    Sorry I may not be, even at my age, in the “Only 50 books?” side but I guess it really depends. Maybe on your side of the world it is part of the culture that people read books! Sadly, it is not the case in the country where I come from (Philippines). However, it is a good reminder as nowadays, people tend to want other forms of learning/entertainment. I’d like my daughter to be read-savvy but balancing all other forms of activities.

  123. Ryan Brockey says:

    There are a few on there I haven’t read. I need to catch up!

    How could you not include “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card? That is a must-read for every middle or high schooler.

    I think most adults should strive for 50 books a year too.

  124. I am a 12 year old and I don’t read many books, but there is no excuse I travel alot so I could read book in the plane, my mum is ALWAYS nagging me to, so I should, maybe not 50 this year but I’ll make a start.

  125. I remember our house filled with books when I was growing up. And way back in 1970, when I was 7, I won 50 more books in a kids’ short story contest. Including some of the titles above.

    For me the pick of them was the Narnia septet. Later I read “The Hobbit” (now being filmed in my own town, Wellington).

    A theme? It seems to me that enjoyment of the written word begins early – it’s fabulous, and it seems that people the world over share a fair number of common titles which, I suspect, essentially defined literature as a social phenomenon, for kids and adults alike, in the twentieth centuries.

    And to me, an enthusiasm for reading is the greatest gift children can receive from their parents. I hope it continues into our twenty-first century e-world.

    Matthew Wright

    • Ben W says:

      You raise an interesting point. I think with the advent of e-readers, iphones and tablet computers will encourage new ways of engaging with stories/narratives. I also hope it’ll encourage writers to develop new ways to tell stories.

  126. anghuiling says:

    Indeed it doesnt feels good to be forced to read when all you can think of is to play during our childhood days, however, the ultimate beneficiary from these forced activities by our loving parents are ourselves, the readers.

  127. From the other end of the educational spectrum, at my school if the students read ONE book it would be a result. And yet, Gove’s government are cutting funding and denigrating libraries. Sad.

    • Ben W says:

      It is indeed sad how Gove is funding free schools and saying children should be inspired but then another part of his own party are slashing spending on school buildings and libraries. We should have libraries and schools that are the envy of the world!

  128. leadinglight says:

    The Journey to the Centre of the Earth, the Swiss Family Robinson and Lorna Doone were my favourites when I was about nine or so. But I was a very voracious reader. I’d also fall into the “only 50?” category.

  129. richannkur says:

    A very good advice for young children.

  130. Hi. Little Women by Louisa M Alcott. And Rudyard Kipling –
    Jungle Book. List is inspiring.


  131. Antara says:

    I am 17 and i absolutely and truly fall into the “Only 50!” category.
    I might add Archer’s novels because I just love them so much 😛

    A little of Holmes…atleast ‘Hound of Baskervilles’

    ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Philip Pullman

    Oh and ‘Kite Runner’!

    And ‘Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman’

    ok there are many more but I should probably stop here 😛 Thanks so much for the list! I can add some new books to my ‘to be read’ list 😀

    • Ben W says:

      Hound of the Baskervilles got edged off my list by a couple of other books. I think I dropped it for an Agatha Christie. I absolutely LOVE Sherlock Holmes. Have you seen the BBC reboot of the stories?

      • Antara says:

        Murder on the Orient Express maybe? i thought that book was just too wonderful. I am a HOPELESS Poirot fan. I have this obsession to buy every single Poirot. 😛
        No I haven’t. I have this habit of not watching movie adaptations of books…at least most of them. Ruins my imagination. But if they’re good then I’ll watch. 🙂

  132. Did 34 years Miami Dade Schools, 11th grade American History. If you take the college bound out of the equation at least 50% of these kids HAVE NEVER READ A SINGLE BOOK COVER TO COVER. My 88 years old mother bangs out at least 3 novels a week !

  133. Cams says:

    Reading a lot of books helps us to be more familiar with the terms that is new to you. And with the help of Mr.Webster I can fully understands what the author really wants to emphasis. And it also helps in the enhancing our brain. And in reading a books you can. One of my favorite book is written by Sigmund Freud.

  134. Stephenie says:

    Thanks for the list! I must it’s quite impressive and after scrolling through it, I came to the conclusion that I’ve actually read some of the mentioned books. And after reading your article I’m definitely going to read some more of the listed books, as I’m in a constant search for new reading material. Thank you for the inspiration!

  135. Roda says:

    I think its important for kids to read fairy tales and such stuff till they are about 8 and then Enid Blyton , hardy boys series. There are simply tons and tons of them. They don’t tax a child’s capacity to read allowing him to develop a love of reading which will then be self inculcated needing no parental supervision. Time enough for them to learn of a tough world when they are older. Children should be given the tools to dream, imagine and inspire….its such an important step in their development. Many good habits are picked up from such readings allowing their characters to mold in the right direction.

    • Benjamin Whitehouse says:

      Absolutely. I was reading this morning that Phillip Pullman thinks children should be encouraged to read “as much rubbish as they want to”. Reading bad books/rubbish books doesn’t damage you as a reader it helps you to discover your own tastes and palate.

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  137. I find myself agreeing with your list with the exception of “Z for Zachariah”. I was quite the avid reader as a child and it was often the case that I had to be torn away from the bookshelf and forced outside to play, but the one book that almost stopped me reading entirely was that woefully depressing piece of literature.
    I won’t go into full rant-mode, but I just cannot stand that book.

  138. ivonavander says:

    The books I loved when I was seven were The Star Wars series. When I was eight when I read my first Stephen King novel entitled The Dead Zone. Not being appalled, my mother read the book herself and we discussed it afterwards. SK influenced my eight-year-old self into reading as much as possible, and I still keep a steady pace of 3 or more books a week after all this time.

    I believe that kids should be allowed to read as much as they want, even encouraged to. Developing your imagination from such an early age is vital to later development. Don’t give them lists, don’t force them to read classics, and most importantly don’t treat kids as if they were infants when discussing reading material with them. There are few things more discouraging than that.

  139. kasgarrison says:

    I agree with many of the other comments that 50 books a year is way too small. Kids should be reading at least one book a day, 600% more books than Gove suggests. (And of course, one extra on leap year!) And really that one book/day is a small number. In school, I would expect kids 11 and under to be read a book at least one time each school day by their teacher, librarian, etc. Then, the kids generally get some kind of independent or partner reading time depending on their age. So depending on the book level, they could be reading five plus books before they even make it home from school. Then there is homework. My niece had to read about one to three books each night as a Kindergartner. Overestimating these numbers, we are up to about 10 books per day per kid, translating into 3,650 per year…

    By the way, any list with Mo Willems must include Knufflebunny and his Elephant and Piggie series. They’re plots are so simple and so hilarious! Great gifts for early readers!

  140. Nicole says:

    I’ve been an avid reader for my entire life; so has my husband. Our son, however, isn’t too into reading. He likes it, but nowhere near the level that we had both hoped for. I’m so happy to see some of my favorites on your list! I have one additional suggestion–The Boxcar Children. Loved that book!

    Congrats on FP. Amazing!



  141. menchu4901 says:

    Wow — don’t think I’d read fifty books by the time I was 18!
    An addition to your list — Aesop’s Fables, but only for the 18y.o. who is extremely gifted, has understanding in bucketloads and…well, you know how it goes! :< )

  142. I’m barely 15, and I have read many of these books. I love the classics and I literally read anything and everything I get my hands on. Nice list though, and I agree… Kids should read more… 🙂

  143. lexy3587 says:

    I would add Ann McCaffrey’s Harper Hall of Pern trilogy to that list… but only if the person already likes Sci-fi 🙂
    Also, my work mug has the hungry hungry caterpillar on it, with the smiling sun looking down on him. It might be a book for 5 year olds, but its artwork makes me smile.

  144. 1. First of all, I would like to make the point that the author of this list did NOT say that this list should be read in a YEAR. He said these were books which in his opinion “should” be read by age 18.
    2. Having a list of 50 books by no means limits anyone to only reading 50 books.
    3. The main purpose of a list like this, in my opinion, is to provide suggestions to parents or other readers, of significant and enjoyable literature. It is not to MAKE children read books, but to give them the opportunity to choose from excellent titles, which is why the suggestions in the replies are also wonderful to see!
    4. In my experience as a teacher, I can tell you that children will read “crap” books on their own anyway.
    The purpose in exposing them to good literature is to develop a taste for better things, and expose them to works that are culturally significant in order to help them be culturally literate. (e.g. knowing what someone means when they use “Oliver Twist” or “Fagan” as an example)
    When given the chance to hear or read quality books, children develop a sense of what good writing sounds and looks like, which will influence their own writing.
    5. Some of these books may be difficult to read for the younger crowd, but are quite suitable for an adult to read to them. When an adult reads, it allows the listener to put the effort of decoding aside, and simply enjoy. I always believed that if I only taught children to read, without teaching them to love reading, I had only done half a job.
    Keep reading to your kids even after they can read for themselves!

  145. WI Snowflake says:

    How about some of those censored books: Faulkner – As I Lay Dying

    I am against the censorship. Should we never talk about Hitler because he was a bad guy from another time.

    Some of these books reflect the times and that is how you need to read them.

    If teachers can’t explain the contextual aspect of a book, then they shouldn’t be teachers.

    My child is going to read them and know that people black-listed these books. Contextually I will also tell him to this black listing is about the ignorant side of America.

    Check out this info on Widipedia about banned books:


    Do we really want to be in the company of ‘Nazi Germany’ or Lebanon who banned “The Diary of Anne Frank”

    Sorry for the ranting. I think encouraging people to read is a great thing. I just don’t anyone telling me what I can read. 🙂

  146. fuzzygloves says:

    It does seem to go against the old library closing saga (which, I think is appalling) x

  147. jamieonline says:

    I have only read 8 from that list. I love books and loved reading as a child. I read about 10 books every two weeks. I was always at the library borrowing the MAXIMUM allowance. I love libraries and book shops too.
    I have been writing about the books I’m reading or have read this year. I aim to work through some of the ones on your list.
    Great post.

  148. This is a great list, and I was also one of those children that read a lot. So much so that my College English Professor could see it in my writing.
    I agree with the poster who said children also need to get out and live life. There has to be a balance.
    I didn’t see any African-American literature on the list. I would add Langston Hughes, Phyliss Wheatley, Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Alex Haley, W.E.B Dubois, Walter Mosley, Toni Morrison, Frederick Douglas, anything from the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Tananarive Due, Octavia Butler, Countee Cullen, Dorothy West, Ralph Ellison, and Mildred D. Taylor (I loved, Let the Circle Be Unbroken, as a kid).
    I know that the subject matter and language are too heavy for younger children, but I think they are fine for those in Highschool. It is sad that many are not exposed to these writers, even by their Highschool teachers. I think this quote by, James Madison University English Professor,Joanne Gabin, sums it up perfectly:

    According to James Madison University Engl “Somehow African American literature has been relegated to a different level, outside American literature, yet it is an integral part,” she says.

    I also feel the same is true for other races. I didn’t learn about Japanese American literature until I was exposed to No-No Boy, by John Okada.

  149. fey's diary says:

    I remember when I was 11 years old, I really hate reading English books. But now, I really love reading books. And I probably read books as many as I can.

  150. paulawhidden says:

    I think the stories of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle should be added, but also as a parent who longs to build the brain and body of my kiddos. I tend to disagree with the idea that in a year occupying 52 weeks, a child should read 50 books. For many children, that eliminates the truly thought provoking books with necessitate spending more time to absorb.

  151. adnaral says:

    I like your list, but my favourite one is His Dark Materials! It seems to have a limited following where I’m from but is absolutely a series every body should read. I keep trying to convince my mom who’s now a junior high librarian to recommend it to all her kids. Also I’m an “only 50!?” reader, I’ve been keeping track of my books for 2011 and I just finished my 15th so far, I am definitely on track for more than 50 lol (even if I am 23 😉 )

  152. Sajeevs blog says:

    I agree that reading will always give your children a great foundation in english. Besides it helps them to be good at other subjects like mathematics and science because of better comprehension!

  153. LL says:

    Loved the Susan Price book Sterkham handshake/ Sterkham Kiss. So sad there was no third part.

    House of the Scorpian is also pretty good by Nancy Farmer.

    Both of those are I guess for the mid teens. But I’d definately give I dream a world by Brain Lanker as my non-fiction choice. It is full of possiblities. Opens up the eyes to what black women have done to change the USA. Changes preconceived ideas about what beauty is; what respect is; all sort of things.

    Oh and the Gladys Aylward story – the basis for the film Inn of 6th Happiness – another amazing biography.

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  155. nmgn87 says:

    As a teacher I would have to agree that students should be reading somewhere in the neighborhood of 5o books per year; however, I think that if we are going to attach a number to intelligence, then we are missing the point. I agree with you on the comment you made about encouraging our youth to read by providing them with a wide variety of books that they can be introduced to. I always found that when a book was assigned, I tended to dismiss it as boring without giving it a chance, but when someone talked about a book that I thought sounded interesting I had it in my lap by the end of the week. Are we pushing our kids too hard? No…I don’t think we push them to read enough, and yet if we are going to push, then we also need to help them find the books that they are interested in and will want to read! Just a few thoughts…very interesting topic!

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  157. Great list, I’ve been sitting here racking my brain for things you should have included. All I know is some of the stuff I enjoyed as a kid – like the Nancy Drew series (I guess today you’d say Harry Potter) but I owned every book in that collection. I also loved A Night Without Stars, I think that was around age 11, and The Berenstain Bears. Just some books I remember fondly 🙂

  158. Thank you for the lovely list of books to read. I definitely haven’t read all these books but I have read some of them when I was in my teens. I was a really big book worm back then but now I only have time to read when I’m taking the bus/train to work. It’s sad really. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.Ciao,


  159. For me it would have to be ‘The Silver Sword’ by Ian Serraillier. Remember reading it as a fairly young child and being so completely absorbed and mesmerised with the content. It’s definitely one of those books that helped shape and define my values and optimism.

    Excellent list – well done. Well done on ‘Freshly Pressed’ also.



  160. thetick900 says:

    I simply adore this post and it reminds me of my love of reading when I was young. Why not include anything written by Beverly Cleary, like Ramona The Pest. I loved that book!

  161. sanjitchudha says:

    In my view, and a fact singularly uncommented upon, is that many non-English writers have produced classic literature.

    The writers in question may not have been ‘English’ per se, but the work they produced shares profound insights and has a lot of value, more . . . dare I say, than the list/s posited here.

    Get a hint of what I’m referring to here – http://altbooklist.wordpress.com/

    I should add that whilst I have read at least 63 of the 100 books on the Booklist Challenge, after a while it rather stuck in the craw that a monocultural view was the only one deemed acceptable.

    I do not advocate banning books – I do advocate READING bboks, esp. those too often overlooked in favour of smug comfort.

  162. layoffthebooks says:

    I love the lists, and many of the books suggested in the comments. Nthing The Giver, Wrinkle in Time, Secret Garden, Little Princess. I would add Madeline and anything by Robert Munsch for younger kids. I might have to make a list of my own!

    Re: the 50 books ayear, I definitely would have been one of the “Only 50?” kids. Your post reminds me of a book I read about a literary arts teacher who required her students to read 50 or 60 books a year and it worked really well for her and her students. I can’t remember the name of it, but I’ll come back and post it if I can find it.

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  165. great post and fantastic list! i’d add smith’s A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, but you’ve made me want to go back and rediscover tons of the required reading of my youth. thanks!

  166. I think The Wizard of Oz should be in there. I am always shocked and appalled when my students claim they have never even heard of it!

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  168. You REALLY should read The Wizard of Oz! It is VERY different from the movie. The first time I saw the movie (as a kid) I was bitterly disappointed.

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