If I could get my kids to read books I recommend, this would be the list for them

Note: This post originally appeared on my old blog in March 2015

I have two kids–one is a reader of sorts, the other hates reading. Naturally. Of course. I’m a book nut and a librarian. I take it personally, though who knows why. If I could get them to read books I recommend, this would be my list of what they should read. No, the Bible isn’t on here–they’ve had it around all their lives and know to read it. No Anne Frank or Corrie Ten Boom–they’ve met them both in school or homeschool. Nope, no Roosevelts or Royals. Not a single Mountbatten, Churchill or any other Brit. No Federalist Papers or wisdom of the Founding Fathers–they should know enough on that to at least appreciate their freedom. No Gone With the Wind or other favorite sagas. No Number One Ladies Detective Agency or William Monk.  No Peace Corps memoirs or travel books. No, not even James Herriot and his wonderful friends and animals–they’ve known him thru his children’s books. Just the books that might get them thru life a little easier–they can find their own books to read just for pleasure.

This book so moved me that I’ve probably recommended it to more young people than any other book. Set in my hometown, it tells the story of racial hatred, racial identity and the power of the human spirit. I think it should be required reading in high schools everywhere. Life on the Color Line by Gregory Howard Williams.


Ok, one child has listened to this one with me. It really captured that child’s imagination. I wish my other child would listen to it, too. Written in the 1940s it is still “spot on.” The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

Practical advice to the clueless before it’s too late is usually ignored. I wish they’d read it and APPLY it. Men are  From Mars…..by John Gray.

I’ve long encouraged my kids to go Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course, but this book is equally important. Stuff can’t fill your heart, but debt can cripple you. This book clearly shows what matters–self respect and hard work. The Millionaire Next Door .

It takes most people half a life time to learn that constructive criticism isn’t about whether or not you are a good person. Nor do you have to be liked at work. You do, however, have to be respected and seen as a willing contributor to the team and for that to happen you must be emotionally mature enough to be part of a team. School has pretty much destroyed this in many, many kids. This is a tough one, but it matters. Working With Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Coleman.


“Life is banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death” may seem the opposite of the self-help books I’ve listed, but they really go hand-in-hand. People “stave to death” getting hung up on popularity, letting others make their life for them and trying to fill holes in their heart by spending money. Autnie Mame, one of the many great books my Mom shared with me, taught me to be my own person and that families are whoever loves us. Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis. I’d also love it if they read his book The Joyous Season.

I had to debate including this one, but it does belong here. Traditions can be stifling or they can be part of the scaffold that holds us up. It’s a choice on how that goes for each of us. Same with family. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham.


Because every generation thinks they’ve invented sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, this reminds us in a fun way that there really is “nothing new under the sun.” Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner’s classic The 2000 Year Old Man.


Don’t like your life? Change it. Get up off the couch and do something different. Go to college, start a business, move to a new town or city–its YOUR life. It will only be what you make of it. She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel.
If they’d read these, I could sleep easier. But, likely they won’t–at least not until they’ve learned most of this the hard way. Before you have children no one can ever tell you how hard it is to watch your kids make choices–even good ones. You can see the outcome, but they must find it out for themselves. That can be brutal. It isn’t any easier though for them to see when you were right and they should have listened.

2 thoughts on “If I could get my kids to read books I recommend, this would be the list for them

  1. I think I remember reading this the first time, but I enjoyed it again. I think one of the frustrations about getting older is that we learn things that we’d like to pass along — but the younger ones don’t always want to take that advice 🙂 I’m going to add a few of these to my own to-read list. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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