It's no secret that my family loves books. Great books can engage budding readers, enrich active imaginations, and encourage godly living. When books like these cross my path, I love to make sure they become not only a part of our home library, but also a part of our family fabric where quotes, themes, and stories pop back up in our conversations.
This post contains affiliate links. See my full disclosure policy for more details.
Classic Books You'll Fall For:
1. Black Beauty
I first encountered Black Beauty as an adult. I'm sure I saw the movie when I was younger, but it surely didn't inspire me to run out and buy the book. Written as an autobiographical memoir from the perspective of a horse, Anna Sewell's novel requires the reader to walk a mile in horse shoes as she brilliantly leads you through a time period where horses were heavily depended upon for day-to-day life, and not always treated with the respect they deserved.
You don't have to be a horse lover to love this book. My sister was always the one who loved horses, and I was either disinterested or scared! I quickly fell in love with this classic tale. This past month, my 6th grader picked it up to read. I loved it because her little sister, who "read" it last year (which is to say she listened to it on audible), came in and said, "Oh! Your're reading Black Beauty? I loved that one. You are going to love it!" They are excited to talk about a book that they both enjoy.
2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Oh Tom Sawyer. If you're looking for a book to keep a reader engaged, this book has action, intrigue, surprise, and everything in between packed into the life of a young boy in the 1870s growing up along the Mississippi River. If you're not from the South, you might want to get the Audible version to get the richness of the dialect that Mark Twain so masterfully captures.
My daughter read it again this year because she loves the adventure. My son read it in his American Literature studies this year, and has had a wonderful time discussing whether Tom should have snuck out of the house with Huck Finn to go to the graveyard with the dead cat to try out the wart-cure spell. There is so much to learn from Tom and his antics.
3. Billy Budd, Sailor
Billy Budd, Sailor, a classic by Herman Melville, does not make it on the list because you will love it. It will not be one of those books that you are not able to put it down, because you are so drawn into the characters and plot. This one you will have to work for, but when you fall for it...it will provide richness of contemplation and insight to human life that will be unexpected.
This was also a book my son read in his American Literature studies. Coming in at a mere 3 1/2 hours on audible, we anticipated knocking this book out quickly on a road trip. Alas, we kept falling asleep as we listened! When we made it home, we got our books, a dictionary, and the audio version out to try again. We paused on words we didn't understand, and then paused at the end of each chapter to sum up what had happened. As we slowly and deliberately made our way through the book, the story was still foggy. It wasn't until several weeks later, and several conversations with others who had read the book also that the characters and themes began popping up in my head at every turn! I am so thankful that I fell for this one. Just make sure you have a friend to read and discuss with you!
If you're looking for a sweet, timeless tale for girls, you'll fall for Heidi. It's a heartwarming tale of a little girl and her grandfather. Heidi learns how to be thankful and realize what she had with her grandfather as she cares for a wealthy sick girl. At first she's attracted to the wealth of the young girl, but she soon realizes that money can't buy you everything. Ultimately she recognizes that the richness of love that she has with her grandfather is all that she needs.
My daughter also loves Shirley Temple movies, so Heidi (free to watch with Amazon Prime) is one of her favorites. Reading the book after watching the movie can be challenging sometimes, but this movie follows the book very closely, which makes both equally enjoyable.
5. To Kill a Mockingbird
A book doesn't have to be old to make it a classic. Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is one such book that everyone should fall for. Set in the 1920s, this book tells the story of a community wrestling with the truth while blinded by racism and hatred. With such a seemingly disturbing premise, the unique point of view of this book makes readers fall for this one over and over again.
I read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school and I was amazed as I read through it again how I related to different characters and picked up on themes and subtle ideas that I had not before. You will want to keep this book on your shelf to read at least once every ten years to appreciate the way Lee masterfully captures the characters of the deep south in the 20s.
Sometimes what keeps us from really appreciating the Classics is that the characters are complex and the language the author uses is too sophisticated to wade through. My children have enjoyed getting familiar with some of these tales through abridged versions of the books. Don't be afraid to let your children read them! Two of my daughter's favorites are:
6. Jane Eyre - Abridged Classic
7. The Three Musketeers - Abridged Classic
Great Books to Spark a Love of Reading:
8. Nate the Great
My youngest reader has fought for every word that she has ever read. Reading has not been a fun pastime for her, but I am so thankful that she has not given up! Nate the Great was on our shelf from her brother's early reading years, and she picked it up to read to me. We sat for about forty-five minutes as she read the whole book cover to cover out loud! What a blessing to us both!
The beauty of Nate the Great is the mystery. Every time we made it to the end of a page, she couldn't wait to turn to see what happened next. In this first book of the series, there are no chapters, so there is no easy ending place. The words in the book are simple enough that she could successfully make it through and finish with pride, and an eagerness to go check and see what other books in the series that our local library held! You'll enjoy this clever little kid and his mystery solving antics.
9. Mr. Popper's Penguins
Mr. Popper's Penguins keeps popping up in my book lists for a good reason - it is delightful! If you want to encourage a love of listening to books read aloud, this is a wonderful place to start with your family. The silly penguins and the zany Mr. Popper have adventure after adventure as they learn to live with one another. We read it aloud just about every year, and someone picks it off the shelf frequently to enjoy on their own.
10. Christmas Bedtime Stories
Another great book to cultivate a love of reading aloud is Christmas Bedtime Stories. This collection of stores is filled with tales that demonstrate great morals to encourage godly character. My daughter's favorite story is about Evan A. Mouse. It's a funny play on words from the poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" (...not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse). It tells the story of a mouse and a man working together to write a Christmas story, and then with a crazy twist, the story is submitted with a typo: "even" not "Evan."
Reading a story in front of the fire at Christmas time can be magical and help your family start it's path to reading great stories together.
Daisy Dawson is on Her Way is another great book to encourage budding readers. Daisy Dawson is about a young girl that pauses to help a butterfly on her way to school and is surprised to find out that she can hear what animals are saying.
This cute little imaginative tale follows Daisy's encounters with animals all around. The first of a series, this young adventurer is sure to charm your children as they fall in love with reading.
12. The River Between Us
Writen by Newbery-winning author Richard Peck, The River Between Us is a historical fiction book during the time of the Civil War. If you're looking for a book to engage your teen reader in history, this is a great choice. One of the best parts of reading stories set in the past is that the reader is transported into someone else's shoes and gets to walk a mile in them without experiencing the heartbreak and sadness for themselves. This story follows the life of a young woman born into a colored family, but fathered by a rich white man. She leaves her hometown with a companion to see if she can pass as white. Peck takes his readers on a journey into the lives of these families during a time when our country was at great unrest. It is truly a fascinating story you'll fall for.
Great Non-Fiction Books You'll Fall For
Great books don't always come packaged as fiction. We read a wide variety of books, and if you're looking for a book to sweep you off of your feet, here are three that might do the trick.
13. I, Isaac, Take Thee Rebekah
In a day and age where people fall in and out of love as often as the seasons change, Ravi Zacharias shares a bold message of lasting love from lessons learned in the story of Isaac and Rebekah found in the book of Genesis. I, Isaac, Take Thee Rebekah journeys through the love story of Isaac and Rebekah and looks at the characteristics of their relationship and how those timeless truths can be applied to marriages today. You can hear the talk he gave on this same topic at the Ravi Zacharias Ministries page. It is posted in five parts and well worth the listen.
14. Strong and Kind
Even though I've never watched an episode of Duck Dynasty, I fell in love with Korie Robertson's book Strong and Kind: And Other Important Character Traits Your Child Needs to Succeed. As Korie shares her wisdom from raising five amazing kids, she mentors her readers with tender grace and wisdom. You can read my full review of this book here, but the quote that has stuck with me is this:
Being perfect parents and raising perfect children should never be our goal. Raising children who believe in a perfect God is.
It is always great to sit at the feet of others who have gone before you and learn from their experience. Korie is a great writer, and you'll fall in love with her strong and kind heart.
15. Through Gates of Splendor
I hope you're still reading, because I've saved the best for last. Through the Gates of Splendor follows the story of five missionary families that serve in the jungles of Ecuador and their amazing story of faith. Elisabeth Elliot wrote this book right after the shocking death of the five men on the beach that tragic day in 1956. The willingness of all involved to give their lives for the sake of Christ made it a challenging yet inspiring book to read. This book doesn't have a happy ending according to some, but when you see lives spent willing to sacrifice completely for the sake of the gospel, the fact that their faith remained strong to the end makes this book worth falling for.