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10 Must-Read Classic Books Sorted by Age Group

by Tianze Li

March is reading month! Here’s a list of must-read classic books sorted into two age groups: elementary school age and pre-teens and teens and young adults. Of course, these age groups are just recommendations, and you’re welcome to read any book you’d like to read. Ultimately, having fun is the only thing that matters. As the saying goes, “you can’t buy happiness but you can buy books and that’s kind of the same thing.”

Elementary School Age and Pre-Teens:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Alice sits on a riverbank on a hot summer day, reading a book with her sister. A White Rabbit runs by, looks at his pocket watch, and exclaims he’s late. Alice follows the White Rabbit down a rabbit hole, and discovers a world full of magic.

Don Quixote

A hidalgo from La Mancha named Don Quixote loses his mind after reading so many chivalric romances and sets out to revive chivalry and serve his nation. In the end, Don Quixote gives up all the chivalric truths and dies from a fever.

The Call of the Wild

Buck is half St. Bernard and half sheepdog. He leads a comfortable life in Santa Clara Valley in California, until he’s kidnapped by a gardener and sold to dog traders, who beats Buck with a club. After witnessing the cruelty around him, Buck learns to fight, scavenge for food, and survive. 

The Hobbit

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who lives a comfortable, unambitious life in Bag End. But his life is changed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves visits him one day. Taking his handkerchief, Bilbo ends up going on an adventure with them to raid a treasure hoard guarded by a dangerous dragon. 

The Secret Garden

Mary Lennox is a child raised in colonial India. She is neglected by her parents and becomes spoiled by the nurses. When a cholera epidemic kills both of her parents, Mary comes to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire Moors. There, she finds the key to a secret garden and brings the garden back to life. 

Teens and Young Adults:

Animal Farm

A farm is taken over by its mistreated animals, who set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Eventually, they discover that “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice tells the tale of a romantic clash between the prejudiced Elizabeth and her proud beau, Mr. Darcy, a gentleman from a privileged background. Filled with flirtations and intrigue, this book is simultaneously entertaining and thought-provoking.

The Great Gatsby

Nick Carraway goes to New York City and gets drawn into the world of his mysterious and rich neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Nick soon learns that Gatsby is in love with Daisy Buchanan, Nick’s cousin and the wife of Tom Buchanan. Gatsby buys a house across the bay from Daisy’s house so that he could see the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. Gatsby believed in the green light, but he did not know that it was already behind him.

The Odyssey 

Ten years after the fall of Troy, King Odysseus still has not returned to his home in Ithaca. His palace has been taken over by a mob of suitors, who are after his wife, Penelope. And one of the suitors, Antinous, plans to kill his son, Telemachus.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is an anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The novel depicts the reality of slavery through the story of Uncle Tom, who at the beginning of the novel is being sold down the Mississippi river. On the way, Uncle Tom saves a little white girl named Eva, and Eva’s father agrees to buy Tom. When Eva dies from illness and her father is stabbed to death at a brawl, Tom is sold to a plantation in Louisiana, where he was abused by the plantation owner.

That’s it for today. These books are definitely worth reading and re-reading. Happy reading!

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