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.
Charlotte's Web. Written by E.B. White. Illustrated by Garth Williams. (Harper & Row, 1952) When Wilbur the lovable pig learns he is to be slaughtered for a Christmas dinner, his true friend Charlotte, a barn spider, saves his life.
Young Adults (Ages 13-17)
The Giver. Written by Lois Lowry. (Houghton Mifflin, 1994) Jonas learns a horrible truth about his society, realizing that he is living in a world that has eliminated all pain, fear, war, hatred, and freedom.
Code Name Verity. Written by Elizabeth Wein. (Hyperion Books, 2012) A young female undercover agent, code name "Verity," is captured by the Gestapo after her spy plane crashes on an unauthorized flight into France during World War II.
Adults (Ages 18+)
Rabbit (series). Written by John Updike. (Knopf, 1960-1990) Four novels follow the life of one-time high-school basketball star Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom over several decades, from young adulthood, through paunchy middle age, to his retirement and death.
Bring Up the Bodies. Written by Hilary Mantel. (Henry Holt, 2012) Set in 16th century England, the book deals with the downfall of King Henry VIII's second wife, the audacious Anne Boleyn. It is the sequel to Wolf Hall and the second part of a planned trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, chief minister and henchman to King Henry VIII.
My other books are The Best Liberal Quotes Ever (2004), What Liberals Believe (2012), Quotes from the Underground (2012) and Quoting Liberally: Why Lefties Are America's Best Hope (2012). A Lifetime of Fiction is not political, unless you subscribe to a political philosophy that views education and literacy as left-wing subversion. Lifetime is just solid advice - uniquely authoritative roadmap for any parent, teacher, or booklover looking for their next great read.