What’s on your book list?

What's on your book list?

I like books, and I love book lists. In our homeschool, I try to encourage a love of reading in my children. At least one of my kiddos has latched on to reading whole-heartedly; he’d rather read than just about anything else in the world. He’s my obstinate student who is several years behind in his core subjects, but he’s up to par in history, science, and several strange electives – simply because the kid will read until he falls asleep. It’s great! (And horrible!)

I do prefer to have my kids read quality literature. To coin a phrase from the ever-loved Charlotte Mason, a twaddle-free literature library offers my children the world. If you aim to do the same as I do, then you might also be one who scours the web like I do, looking for fantastic book lists!

I almost never saw a book list I didn’t like. Some are arranged by grade or reading level, or I like the ones that are arranged by interest level. They’re arranged by topic, or by theme, or by what’s most popular at the time. Have you read books that are part of the Great Conversation? There are 100 Great Books, but 1000 “good books,” plus the 1001 books you should read before you grow up.

And all that is without checking the recommendations on Amazon, Goodreads, PBS, or LibraryThing. Why – yes! I’d love to see what you recommend based on my wishlist, thanks to your algorithm. Thanks for asking!

There are even books to tell me which books to read to my kids at what ages. There are countless websites – and literally thousands of book recommendations. I wonder if there are actually any authored books which do not appear on some list, somewhere? I highly doubt it.

Which Book Lists?

So which book lists to trust? Which automatically figured recommendations have anything to do with what I need or enjoy? What books do we read to our children or assign to them for their best education?

Books are like homeschool curricula – there isn’t one perfect recommendation that will fit everyone. There isn’t one perfect list or a specific set of books that is exactly right for everyone.

Part of the lifeschooling journey is to use what resources you have! Of course, there are good books that you’d like for your children to experience, but if they don’t get to do so until they are in high school and reading to younger siblings – or even as grown-ups who read to their own children – then nothing is lost.

They cannot (and neither can you) read all the books. No one will ever read every good book there is to read. None of us is capable of completing the “to be read” pile of perfection. I’ve seen readers who have time for 300+ books every year! (That puts me to shame – fast!) Even if that’s all twaddle, that high rate will still never afford them enough time to read all the things.

I almost never saw a book list I didn't like. Some are arranged by grade or reading level, or I like the ones that are arranged by interest level.


It’s about reading the good literature within your reach. It’s about reading a wide variety of authors, of genres, of styles. Sets of books look pretty, but variety isn’t only the spice of life, it’s the stuff education is made of.

Wide, and deep!

Wide, and deep!

To learn best you must read both wide and deep…

(Oh. Sorry. Stepped into my VBS mode there for a moment!)

Something I learned fairly recently is that there are 17 common genres. 17! I think that in school I was taught there were nine genres or something like that. I went looking for the exact number and – since when are there 17?? I’ve no idea who decides stuff like that. Probably the same people who decide which sky rocks are actual planets.

Our curriculum this year is very literature-focused. I mentioned that I have one kid who will read until he’s blue in the face. I have two kids who will listen to me read for days on end. We’re doing a history program that has book lists for both read-aloud and independent reading. Plus a literature program that includes composition. And I’m adding reading to our science line-up.

I also have one student who is dyslexic. He enjoys stories and doesn’t mind reading, but his eyes get physically tired after much of it.

Know what? Audiobooks count. Books read on YouTube count. (Did you know that Little House on the Prairie has videos?) Kindle will read almost any digital book out loud. That totally counts!

Practical Tips

When it comes down to it, though, we all need to decide what to read eventually. We all know the good literature curricula out there; if you didn’t realize it, most of the books those curricula use are listed on the various websites. Many of them just overlap, even if they aren’t the same year or study in the same pattern.

One of the areas I like to check for twaddle-free literature is the awards lists; specifically, I really enjoy finding and reading the Newbery Award books. I’m working on collecting all of the award winners, but I’ve found that collecting all of the honor books also may be a lost cause because there are so many. This particular list is chosen by “experts,” though, so not all of the books are hits with kids.

Did you know that every state has a kids’ choice book award? Most often, this award is geared toward the 2nd to 6th grade age range, but some states have awards for all of the grade/age levels. I remember growing up that my state’s book award winners were always some of my favorites!

I’ve found it useful to go through the lists of books and pick out books that I specifically remember reading and loving. Sometimes, it’s not to my advantage to actually tell my kids that I loved that book. There are even a few books I remember reading and loving that I haven’t seen on any book lists. A few of those books I still own, myself, but a few I’ve had to dig for online. If you loved it, your kids probably will, too!

Who needs book lists?

But the most practical tip I can give is to use your library wisely. Find those few books from whatever list you like best or is scheduled in your curriculum, and grab a few books on either side of it. Or ask your librarian to recommend some books based on the selections you already know you want. Librarians love to help!

And don’t forget to ask your immediate, local homeschooling circle of friends for loaners and recommendations. Most homeschool moms are pretty type-A personality and would love to share what they have used and loved with others. Plus you all save money this way!

What are some of your favorite book lists? You can check out ours, download the list below 😉

DaLynn McCoy
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