My Favorite Sources for Really Good Books


He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust,
He knew no more that he was poor,
Or that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy ways
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings.

Emily Dickinson, The Poems of Emily Dickinson

“Children don’t stumble onto good books by themselves; they must be introduced to the wonder of words put together in such a way that they spin out pure joy and magic.” (Gladys Hunt, Honey for A Child’s Heart)

Each year for their birthdays, we introduce our children to one really great story through the gift of a new book.  When possible, we buy hardcover.  We open the front cover, trace their hand inside, and add their name and age.  They love that part!  I love building the library we’ll share over the years and that, I hope, they’ll one day share with their little ones.  

But there are so many great stories (& so many bad ones too)! How does one choose? How do we find the really good ones? It’s not always easy.  Today, I’m sharing the sources I return to again and again to point me in the right direction.  Using these save me time, money, and bookshelf space that would otherwise be wasted on less inspired (or inspiring) books. 

Honey for A Child’s Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life. Fourth Edition  Annotated book lists (includes a brief description for each book) for children ages 0-14, including, but not limited to first books, readers, novels, poetry, and special occasion books with special mention made for medal and award winners. But, please, don’t just read this book for the lists.  Gladys Hunt shares so much wisdom on “using books to help children grow.”  You’ll simply be caught up in the delight of sharing books with your family.  If your child is older than 14, there’s another edition just for them – Honey for a Teen’s Heart.  

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education At Home  Besides curriculum recommendations, there are suggested audio books, readers, coloring books, biographies, poetry, reference guides, and more.  Books found here are primarily educational, if you will, rather than pleasure reading.

1,000 Good Books List was compiled by a group of homeschooling mothers as books that have stood the test of time.  You can view the list by subject matter and reading level or author.  There are even holiday books and Bible storybooks for early readers listed.

Ambleside Online is a complete, free online curriculum based on Charlotte Mason’s educational ideals.  You can read much about it on their site.  The site strives to list the highest quality books and enlist free options whenever possible.  They often list alternatives to their first choice, which is great for using what you already own or can access at your library.  

Well, I’ve told you mine – now you tell me yours! What are your go-to sources for finding great book titles?



  1. says

    “Books Children Love” by Elizabeth Wilson is another good one I have on my shelf. But mostly these days we are kept plenty busy with Ambleside and the 1000 good book list.

    And it is so true that children don’t tend to stumble onto good books by themselves. I can’t count how many times I have picked up a book from the shelf, was greeted with groans by the children because of the look of the book, only to end up with that book being the new favorite.

    • says

      Yes, that’s true, Christy! Sometimes the look or the title, even the first chapter, doesn’t convince a child that a good book truly is a good book. But, given a little time, the really good book delivers & draws them in! 🙂


  1. […] Amazing, Impossible, Erie Canal, Harness: We have visited portions of the Erie Canal no longer in use and I think this book would help my guys understand its significance in history. A More Perfect Union: Story of Constitution, Maestro: Reviews find this book to be a simple, accessible portrayal of the facts of the constitution.  That description doesn’t excite me, but it could be a good reference book to try from the library. Heroes of History, Benge: Biographies of important historical characters, by the same authors of Christian Heroes Then and Now, told in exciting ways for the 10 and older crowd.  These come recommended from a friend and look like a great set to purchase a little at a time.   In Grandma’s Attic, Richardson: I enjoyed this series of books, where a grandmom recounts her childhood growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan to her granddaughter, as a young girl and I’m excited to share them with my crew.   Little House Series, Wilder: Of course, how could you not include these classic tales of the Wilder family as they settle from place to place in the study of American history? We read the series during our first time through cycle three, but I’m sure my guys would love to read them again.  They loved them!   United States Coloring Book, Dover: Not just a coloring book, but full of information too. Science: Flip Flap Body Book, Smith: Interactive book for learning about digestion, senses, and reproduction for 2 years old and up.  This book is published by Usbourne, which provides many other books for older students too on human anatomy, like The Usbourne Complete Book of the Human Body, Understanding Your Body, Genes & DNA, and What’s Inside You? If you like Usbourne books, check out Melody‘s complete list of Usbourne science book match-ups for Cycle 3. The Boy’s Body Book, Dunham: Oh boy, are you here yet – discussing all the growing up things a 10 year old boy needs? We’re getting close and this book sounds like a good place to start the conversations. Also, a good choice for our time studying human anatomy.  Of course, pleas e use your discretion before giving to your children!  What Are Atoms? Rookie Read About Series, Trumbauer: This series covers a wide range of subjects for the grammar age student, including anatomy and chemistry.   Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia, Walker: A reference guide for the 5-8 year old range, it offers information, photographs, and experiment ideas.  Looking for something with more longevity? Check out The Visual Dictionary of the Human Body, Kindersley for ages 8-12 and anywhere above or below. Human Anatomy Coloring Book, Dover: I have yet to meet a Dover coloring book I don’t like.  I’m sure this one would be great to add to our growing collection for free-time learning or notebooking. The Bones Book and Skeleton, Cumbaa: Looking to add a little interactive fun? Check out this working 12 inch skeleton model and book. Chemistry, Newmark: DK books make me cringe with all the information on each page, but my littles seem to enjoy them.  This could be a library check-out for sure. Fine Arts: Lady Treble and The Seven Notes, Biklock: Introduction to musical notes in story form. Meet the Orchestra, Hayes: This delightful book suggests the sounds of instruments about to be played by an animal orchestra for a concert. Story of the Orchestra: Listen While You Learn, Levine: 96 pages of original artwork and text on instruments, composers, and musical styles with a 70-minute CD offering sounds to accompany the learning.  Can You Hear It? Lach: Art accompanies music as children listen to the accompanying CD and learn to listen closely. Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, Moss: We own this Caldecott Honor winner and my boys often request to read it.  In it, you see the musicians join together to form a duet through an orchestra.  It’s a great way to learn the names of musical ensembles and instruments.  Start Exploring Masterpieces Coloring Book, Martin: Coloring pages of artwork from 60 great artists. Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists, Venezia: A series of little books offering biographical information on the world’s greatest artists. Child Size Masterpieces, Parent Child Press: The first in a series of books offering full color postcard sized reproductions of masterpieces, which are to be punched out and used for fun, learning activities.   First Discovery – Debussy, Babin: Hardcover book and CD provides music and biographical information on famous composers, including stories of their childhood.  One in a series of books. Classical Kids – Volume II: 3 discs with stories about and music of classical composers. There are more volumes too. A small word of caution as I offer this book list to you.  Please don’t over think the idea of matching up specifically applicable books to each subject at the grammar stage.  During this foundational time, the focus should be on memory work and reading – simply reading.  Without any specific direction from you, your littles will surprise you by making connections between their memory work and what they’re learning…through books, conversations, cultural experiences, etc. I simply created this list for myself and for you, if you’d like, as a means of having a reliable resource for those times when you do want to find a topic specific book. If you have a book or author you love, I’d love to hear about it! Please leave your recommendation in the comments! I can certainly grow this list throughout the cycle. Note: I’ve listed all of these books with affiliate Amazon links for convenience. You can read longer descriptions, see pictures, and read reviews there.  While I think Amazon often has a good or the best price, consider shopping around at Rainbow Resource Center, Schoolhouse Publishing, Veritas Press and Classical Conversations.   For more ideas on what to read with your littles, check out:  My Favorite Sources for Really Good Books […]

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