It seems to me that if one were to purchase a Kindle as a gift for a young adult or an older child and load it with all of the following books, the recipient would be happily fixed for reading material for several years. Older adults should enjoy most of these, too.
Alcott, Louisa May. Eight Cousins. My favorite LMA novel, this book tells the story of Rose and her many, many boy cousins who all live on Aunt Hill and grow up together as one big happy family.
Allen, James Lane. The Choir Invisible. Set in Kentucky in the late 1700’s, this romance follows the fortunes of a schoolteacher, John Gray, and his romantic entanglements.
Austen, Jane. Emma. Emaa, like me, rushes in where angels fear to tread and gets herself into all sorts of trouble as a result. Emma is a book about the dangers of trying to run other people’s lives.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Don’t we all have a little pride and a little prejudice to overcome in our relationships?
Barrie, J.M. The Little Minister. The novel was the third of the three “Thrums” novels set in rural Scotland, which first brought Barrie to fame. The other two novels with the same setting were Auld Licht Idylls and A Window in Thrums.
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Emily’s classic romance about Cathy and Heathcliff takes some work to get into, but t is worth the effort. The problem is that neither Cathy nor Heathcliff is particularly likeable, but they did deserve each other. And such passionate, drama-driven creatures do exist.
Burnett, Frances Hodgson. A Little Princess, being the whole story of Sara Crewe now told for the first time. Burnett’s 1888 serialized novel entitled Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin’s Boarding School, was originally published in St. Nicholas Magazine. If you’ve only seen a movie version of this story, I don’t think you can really get the flavor and feel of Victorian poverty and rags-to-riches.
Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Secret Garden. I always wanted a secret garden after reading this book.
Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. From Alice and from Lewis Carroll in general I learned: odd things happen in this world. You just have to go with it, and see what will happen in the end.
Chesterton,G.K. The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare. Another odd duck of a book. Semicolon thoughts on The Man Who Was Thursday.
Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield. My favorite Dickens novel.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. We read Great Expectations out loud when my older children were probably 12, 10, 8, and 6 years of age, so it holds a special place in my heart.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Paris and London are the cities; historical romance and intrigue is the genre.
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. A collection of twelve Sherlock Holmes stories including A Scandal in Bohemia, The Adventure of the Red-Headed League, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, and The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.
Hardy, Thomas. Far From the Madding Crowd. This novel, a “tragedy of errors”, was Hardy’s fourth published novel, and its success enabled him to give up architecture, get married, and become a full time novelist.
Hughes, Thomas. Tom Brown’s Schooldays. This one is the grandaddy of all boarding school books; the setting is Thomas Arnold’s Rugby School in Victorian England. Tom Brown is a typical English boy who grows up to epitomize the virtues of a British public school education and the essence of British manhood.
Hugo, Victor. Les Miserables. My. favorite. novel. ever. Read it all, even the parts about the history of the sewers of Paris and the Napoleonic wars.
Lang, Andrew. The Blue Fairy Book. The others in this series of fairy tale collections—red, green, orange, olive, yellow, violet, crimson— are also available in free Kindle editions or in low-cost illustrated editions.
MacDonald, George. The Light Princess and Other Fairy Stories. A princess is cursed with a complete lack of gravity, both physical and emotional.
MacLaren, Ian. Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush. A collection of stories of church life in a glen called Drumtochty in Scotland in the 1800’s.
Malory, Thomas. L’Morte d’Arthur. “IT befell in the days of Uther Pendragon, when he was king of all England, and so reigned, that there was a mighty duke in Cornwall that held war against him long time. And the duke was called the Duke of Tintagil. And so by means King Uther sent for this duke, charging him to bring his wife with him, for she was called a fair lady, and a passing wise, and her name was called Igraine.”
Orczy, Baroness Emmuska. The Scarlet Pimpernel. Several sequels are also available for free.
Scott, Sir Walter. Ivanhoe. Brown Bear Daughter started reading this one aloud to us, but I guess it will have to wait for us to finish after her return from a month long mission trip to Slovakia.
Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty. Best horse story ever.
Sidney, Margaret. Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. Five children–Ben, Polly, Joel, Davie, and Phronsie— live with their widowed Mamsie in poverty in a little brown house.
Spyri, Johana. Heidi. Read Heidi. It’s a wonderful story about a feisty little girl, Heidi, and her friend Peter and how they are tempted to do wrong, confused about spiritual things, and finally loved and forgiven. The themes of the story—-broken relationships, reconciliation, forgiveness, sin and temptation–-are woven into the story in a way that teaches and entertains at the same time. Modern writers of “Christian fiction” could learn a few things from reading and emulating Johanna Spyri’s classic book.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. A Child’s Garden of Verses. First poems for children and lovely memories of childhood for adults.
Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships. The first and second books of this four-part satire are the best. Parts three and four are extremely odd, and Lemuel Gulliver ends up preferring the company of horses to men.
Tarkington, Booth. Penrod. Just as funny and insightful as Tom Sawyer about a boy’s life and thoughts.
Trollope, Anthony. Barchester Towers. Thackeray isn’t quite as hopeful about life and human nature as Dickens, and Trollope is gently cynical, but all three Victorian novelists knew how to create memorable characters.
“But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”
Wallace, Lew. Ben-Hur, a Tale of the Christ. Judah Ben-Hur = Charlton Heston, however, the book is worth reading.
Wiggin, Kate Douglas. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. I know I’m in a minority, but I enjoyed Rebecca just as much as I did Anne of Green Gables. And I couldn’t find a free Kindle version of Anne of Green Gables, even though several of the sequels were available for free.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde certainly knew how to show that the “wages of sin is death.”
“It is impossible to be unhappy while reading the adventures of Jeeves and Wooster. And I’ve tried.” ~Christopher Buckley.