Looking for a terrific read for yourself, family, or friends? There are many first-rate reading lists and book award lists you could consult, each with its own quirks. But what if someone took the time to create a composite of all the major booklists? That is just what I did in A Lifetime of Fiction: The 500 Most Recommended Reads for Ages 2 to 102 just published by Rowman & Littlefield. I created a database with over 23,000 entries culled from 139 of the most prestigious authorities, a who's who of literary and journalistic excellence, including booklists such as the New York Times Notable Books, the Newbery Medalists, Stonewall Book Awards, Time Magazine's 100 Best English-Language Novels, the Pura Belpré Awards, and S chool Library Journal Best Books Lists. The books that made it to Lifetime's lists were the ones upon which most booklists agree.
Organized into five annotated age group lists of 100 books each -- preschoolers, early readers, middle readers, young adults, and adults - Lifetime expresses the opinion of not just one critic, but the aggregated opinions of an army of critics. The result is a best-of-best book guide that is uniquely authoritative - the mother of all booklists. Like the Borg, it has no real competitors it has not assimilated.
Here are the top two books for each age group.
Preschoolers (Ages 2-5)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Written and illustrated by Eric Carle. (World Publishing, 1969) A caterpillar goes from egg to chrysalis to beautiful butterfly, devouring many different foods along the way.
City Dog, Country Frog. Written by Mo Willems. Illustrated by Jon J. Muth. (Hyperion Books for Children, 2010) The picture book features two improbable friends who teach each other new games against the backdrop of changing seasons.
Early Readers (Ages 4-8)
Madeline. Written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans. (Simon & Shuster, 1939) Set in the 1930s, Madeline is a spunky redheaded child who attends a Paris school run by the orderly Miss Clavel.
Sleep Like a Tiger. Written by Mary Logue. Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012) This bedtime narrative deals with the perennial problem of a child not wanting to go to sleep at night.
Middle Readers (Ages 9-12)
Harry Potter (series). Written by J.K. Rowling. (Scholastic, 2007) These seven immensely popular novels chronicle the adventures of a young wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. Harry battles Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard, who wants to rule the wizard world.