Aug 13, 2018

Finding Good Books for You and Your Kids: Sources and Lists

By Anna Mussmann

Regular readers of this blog have no doubt noticed that it’s been slow lately. As in, for the last five months. I am still finding it difficult to juggle three kids and my writing time. However, the baby has recently started napping at the same time as the big kids’ quiet hour, which is amazing. And promising!

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading more than usual. The children and I have also been getting to the library fairly regularly. I have fond memories of browsing the local library shelves when I was a kid. Usually I gravitated to my favorite authors--Bill Peet and Beatrix Potter in the early days, then Louisa May Alcott or Eloise Jarvis McGraw, among others. Now that I’m a parent, I’m a bit more leery of browsing.

So many of the picture books are just. . . meh. Many are filled with badly-behaved children trying to figure out how to get their way. There’s a lot of B-level writing and mediocre illustrations. There are weird, well-intentioned allegories obviously intended to help kids process various tragedies.

For us, it works best to find most of our new reads by consulting book lists and then putting those titles on holds. We have been able to enjoy a wealth of wonderful stories this way.

Here is a compendium of sources I find helpful as I select books for my children (and, later in the post, you'll find sources I use for my own reading life too). I thought it might be useful to you as well.

For the Children

I’ve written elsewhere about choosing good children’s books and teaching our kids to be discerning readers. I’ve also prepared lists of quality Christmas books and written about teen girls and romance novels.

Here are more resources:

Sarah Mackenzie’s popular Read Aloud Revival site is full of book lists, conversations about books, and guidance on reading aloud as a family. You’ll find a lot of fun recent titles here mixed in with some older classics. Sarah is Catholic and her recommendations are family friendly.

The 1,000 Good Books list includes what I consider to be a mix of vintage and classic titles.

This list from Crisis Magazine includes a number of nineteenth-century books and a few I consider odd choices (Water Babies is just weird, people). However, the list’s strength lies in being compiled by a man. So often book lists are compiled by moms and female teachers--it’s good to maintain a healthy balance between male and female tastes.

If you are looking for stories with solid, consistent literary quality, check out Memoria Press’ Read Aloud Packages and the Five in a Row book lists.

We've enjoyed many of the books on this list of nature-related titles.

I also keep an eye on Redeemed Reader. The site’s reviews are written from a Christian perspective and flag material parents may find concerning. Because it’s a review site instead of a "best of" list, you’ll find a wider mix of quality.

Mary Moerbe has compiled a list of books for young Lutherans of different ages.

It’s also helpful to check out lists of Caldecott and Newbery Winners. HOWEVER, please note that lately these awards have become highly political and driven by progressive social goals. I would not necessarily recommend recent winners. Instead, skip down to the books that were honored in the Twenties, Thirties, Forties, and Fifties. IMHO the Twenties and Thirties were especially good decades for children’s literature.

For Adults

I haven’t quite decided how many as-yet-unread books I’m allowed to have on my Kindle before I should stop adding new ones. Hearing about new titles isn’t really the problem! However, what is hard is maintaining a balance between the fun and the truly great; older titles and newer ones; and books that teach me about aspects of life I might not notice I need to learn about. Lists on the internet are helpful with those things.


I post regular on Goodreads. Feel free to follow my reviews. I myself find that following others and seeing what they are reading is immensely helpful in discovering new titles. Don’t forget that we occasionally review books here at Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife!

If you are looking for theological reading, check out some of Dr. Veith’s Reading Lists for Lutherans. Dr. Veith also sometimes also links to other lists.

If you hope to become politically educated, check out the Notable Books of the Year lists compiled by authors at The Federalist. Reviews of cultural, religious, and political titles are also sometimes posted on the First Things blog (First Thoughts).

The Internet is full of lists of great classics every adult should read, but also take a peek at Anthony Esolen’s list of the Top Twenty Books Nobody Reads.

What about you all? What are your favorite book list sources?


  1. There's a neat little movement called #RebelliousWriting going on right now, with conservative people calling for more clean YA fiction. The official website is right here, and they do a lot of book reviews that discuss content and so on. I've found that really helpful and encouraging. So much so that I have a page here on my book blog where I list my reviews of clean books -- I don't limit my list to YA, I include adult books and classics too.

    1. I missed this comment until now--sorry for not approving it earlier! Thanks for the link. I look forward to checking it out. Sounds like a useful tool.


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