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17 of the Best Books to Read as Children (and Adults)

Twilight and The Lorax aren't the only books meant for younger readers that adults can enjoy too. Our staff selected incredible kids' stories that also appeal to grown minds.

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

My boys are older now, but when they were little we would read this classic story a lot. It was wonderful for boys, especially since it was all about adventure and travel; and the characters that the main character meets along the way were so vivid.

Another favorite: In the Night Kitchen, a kooky, wonderfully illustrated book by Maurice Sendak, the same author of the more well-known Where The Wild Things Are. It was my older son’s favorite and he could recite the whole book verbatim! —Dean Abatemarco, Art Director

Buy James and the Giant Peach
Buy In the Night Kitchen

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gertstein

A fairytale-like presentation of Philippe Petit’s historic tightrope walk between the Twin Towers, this book was a total tear-jerker for me, since I lived seven blocks from the World Trade Center and watched the towers fall from my apartment window in 2001. But while I cried reading the story to my kids, they loved it so much we read it over and over. Even with the ending: “Now the towers are gone.” —Marti Golon, Art Director. Find out the most popular book the year you were born.

Buy The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

This classic, beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a delightful country home that becomes engulfed in urban sprawl—until someone recognizes its value. I loved it as a child, loved reading it to my children, and still appreciate its message of reclaiming nature’s pleasures. —Dawn Raffel, Features Editor, Books

Buy The Little House

I’ll Teach My Dog 100 Words by Michael Frith

I was obsessed with this book when I was a kid and actually spent most of my days as a five-year-old memorizing the pages (I can still recite a few lines from memory). As an adult, I realize that the story talks about the importance of vocabulary, and the desire to constantly learn more and push your thinking to the next level. As a child, however, I just loved it because everything rhymed. —Alison Caporimo, Associate Editor. Don’t miss the best books for grandparents to read to their grandkids.

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The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

This is about a little girl who goes to school everyday wearing the same dress, and the other girls make fun of her. She always tells them that at home she has 100 dresses. When she stops showing up at school, her schoolmates go to her house and see that she really wasn’t lying—a very good lesson in how to treat others.

I also adore Half Magic by Edward Eager: Several children find a magic coin that grants a wish—except only half of it! In wishing you were already home, the coin would bring you halfway there. Delightful. —Tara Zades, Magazine Rights Manager. These secrets from Sesame Street employees will surprise you!

Buy The Hundred Dresses
Buy Half Magic

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Every day I have a Wilbur moment, Lurvy moment, a Templeton moment and a Charlotte moment. It’s universal. And I still cry. —Liz Vaccariello, VP, Editor-in-Chief, Chief Content Officer. These are the high school English class books you should read again as an adult.

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Matilda by Roald Dahl

I love rereading children’s books. My favorite? Matilda. Miss Agatha Trunchbull, the wicked headmistress who terrorizes Matilda, is one of the most colorful villains in children’s literature, capable of inspiring both fear and delight. —Caitlin O’Connell, Assistant Editor

Buy Matilda

Richard Scarry’s Best Books Ever by Richard Scarry

It’s a pretty big brag, but this collection of original tales and classic Mother Goose rhymes makes good on its title and then some. A favorite of mine as a child—and now a winner with my own kids—Scarry’s signature busy, colorful illustrations and smart, humorous text offers something for all ages to love, from the lulling rhythms of “I Am a Bunny” and “Chipmunk’s Birthday Party” to the faster-paced travel-themed pieces like “Pip Pip Goes to London” and “Pierre, the Paris Policeman.” —Diane Dragan, Executive Editor

My daughter LOVED Richard Scarry’s Funniest Storybook Ever, and it was one of the few children’s books I actually enjoyed. And now she reads Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever to my 7-year-old grandson. —Janice K. Bryant, Copy Editor

Buy Richard Scarry’s Best Story Book Ever

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I loved this true story of an American pioneer family, and first read it when I was the same age as the author had been in her story. I was fascinated by all of the challenges the Ingalls’ encountered on their way to a new life and a new home. My most vivid memory is of the children making candy by pouring maple syrup on fresh snow. Recently, I reread this book and the entire series, and have passed them along to my nine-year old niece. —Kirsten Rohrs Schmitt, Assistant Research Editor

Buy Little House on the Prairie

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

His nonsensical poems are actually quite sensical (if that is even a word, and if not, Shel would probably have used it) and appeal to both my nine-year-old daughter and the nine-year-old boy in me. —Andy Simmons, Humor Features Editor. Check out the 10 surprising books every teen should read.

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A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

This collection of wonderful poems includes “The Twistable Turnable Man” and “Almost Perfect But Not Quite.” I haven’t read the book in years, but remember a lot of the verses: “When the light is green you go, When the light is red you stop. But what do you do when the light turns blue with orange and lavender spots.” Absolute best book ever! —Adrienne Farr, Executive Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief

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The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

I rediscovered the book when I saw the play Wit. In it, the main character (a professor of literature) lies dying from ovarian cancer as her mentor reads her The Runaway Bunny,and says the book can be read as an allegory of the soul’s search for God.  It’s such a moving scene and message, and now I see the book in a whole new way.

And in a wildly different note, I also love Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham!  Even as a young kid I was always a foodie and just loved to eat! —Courtenay Smith, Executive Editor. Find out the most iconic book set in every state.

Buy The Runaway Bunny
Buy Green Eggs and Ham

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

I’ll never forget when a my mom’s friend gave her this book when I was a teenager, and it was one of the first books she gifted to me after my son was born. This touching story depicts how a mother’s love never falters as her baby boy grows into a man—and how that love ultimately affects him as a caregiver to her and his own little girl. It’s hard for me to type about it without tearing up, forget about reading it out loud! It’s a must-read for any mom, especially one of a little boy. —Lauren Gelman, Features Editor, Health

Buy Love You Forever

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

A whimsical book with fanciful pictures that I remember paging through in the days where anything (The tooth fairy! Winning gymnastics medals! Starring in a Broadway show!) seemed possible. Fifteen years later, the book still reminds you: It is. —Perri Blumberg, Assistant Editor. Don’t miss the top 10 books everyone lies about reading.

Buy Oh, the Places You’ll Go

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This is a fairy tale with big, grown-up questions that make you think about how to live your best life. I didn’t actually read it until I was in high school, but I’ve been giving it as a graduation present ever since. —Rachel Mount, Senior Editor, Food

Buy The Little Prince

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

This was always one of my favorites as a child. It is the story of a family of mallard ducks trying to find a place to settle down in Boston to raise their young, a travelogue of the city from a duck’s eye view from the Charles River to the Public Gardens. It has wonderful illustrations that always captivated me. Being a native Bostonian, I always feel like I am back at home reading this book. I still own my childhood copy. The Public Gardens feature a sculpture of the duck family in honor of McCloskey’s book. —Ann DiCesare, Head Librarian. These are the best children’s books ever written.

Buy Make Way for Ducklings

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

One of the first books that made me feel like a real literary young adult, The Secret Garden captures my imagination just as much now as it did back then. Every adult could stand to remember the triumph of children’s hearts over the societal opinions of adults.

I also love The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. What caught my eye about this book as a kid was the glittery foil of the Rainbow Fish’s scales. As an adult, what stands out is its cautionary tale of vanity and its universal message of how sharing brings happiness. —Drew Scarantino, Editorial Assistant, Magazine Rights. Next, check out the 20 books you really should have read by now.

Buy The Secret Garden
Buy The Rainbow Fish

Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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