Anne is a lovable, chatty Cathy who loves big and dreams with child like faith. She rides the emotional roller coaster of high highs and deep despairs. She’s part of a tight knit community. She’s longing for belonging, to be part of a family, to have a home and people to call her own.
If you loved Anne of Green Gables, and you’re looking for a read alike, my top picks are Hannah Coulter and Pride and Prejudice for adult fans, Pollyanna and A Little Princess as stories with belonging themes and The Chronicles of Narnia or The Penderwicks for a family read aloud that pleases all ages.
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To those of us who fell in love with Anne growing up, I have good news. There’s wholesome classics with that are as engaging and compelling to adult readers as Anne is to young people.
These are well-written novels with relatable protagonists that don’t trample on traditional values.
Wholesome Classics for Adult Fans of Anne of Green Gables
Pride and Predjudice by Jane Austen
It’s hard not to like Lizzie Bennet. She speaks her mind, she’s unfazed by social regulations, she’s fiercely loyal. And no one can articulate matters of the heart like Jane Austen.
Five girls growing up in one household is certainly a recipe for matchmaking dilemmas.
Certainly other Austen titles have won hearts, but Pride and Prejudice often is recognized as standing above the rest.
Peace Like a River by Lief Enger
Told through the eyes of an eleven year old boy, the novel is not about a span of time, it mostly just covers one year.
Rueben is the eleven year old, Swede, his younger sister, and Davy their older brother. They live with their father out west, growing up in a modest life.
Circumstances dictate a quest to the west, search for answers to a reality that doesn’t add up.
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
“The unforgettable story of four orphans who travel the Mississippi River on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression.”—from Amazon
The story is told through Odie O’Banion’s adolescent eyes.
It’s his quest for home, family and the meaning of life. Along for the ride are his brother Albert and his friends Mose and Emmy.
The human experience is more complicated than most novelists are able to express. There’s the complexity of human nature and relationships, the complexity of our belief system and how our experience influences our beliefs. I feel like This Tender Land wrestled with that complexity and won.
It doesn’t downplay the true depravity of man. It has lots of plot twists.
It reminded me of Peace Like a River. I’ll want to read it again and again.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I made it 49 years without reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer.
Scout and her brother have a front row seat to watch their attorney father stand for his principles against prejudice in the South.
So glad I finally made time for this classic.
I’m not sure if I’ll tackle the sequel or not, since reviews were mixed and many negative.
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
Hannah Coulter takes the panoramic view of a person’s life, the progression of a lifetime.
Sometimes when we sit down to a novel, we are looking for perspective, to find meaning for the daily grind. We need to see that what we do day after day matters. Hannah Coulter gives us a clue. For many women, all those meals cooked, all the time serving and caring others adds up to a lifetime of meaning.
Then there’s the small town, rural community. I think our deep longing for community resonates with what happens in small, rural towns where people know each other and care for each other, where lives intertwine in romance, conflict, partnership, friendship and commerce. And no man lives as an island, no matter how solitary they choose to live their lives.
Finally, there’s the strong female protagonist in Hannah Coulter. You might not realize she’s strong. Not at first. She’s the type of woman that is the glue of a community. Keeping her family together. Working the long hours to grow, process and prepare the food that keeps the whole engine running. She tends to the sick, stands by her man and brings up her children. She’s the backbone, the unsung hero. Being unassuming makes it hard to recognize her as strong.
Check out more books like Hannah Coulter.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A classic for a reason, generations have grown up with the escapades of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.
Patterned after the author’s own home life, the stories of the four sisters ring true. Each sister is endearing in their own way.
The book contains not so much a plot as a journey as each one reaches to fulfill their destiny.
Several years ago when I was noodling about what quality of the Anne story fans find universally compelling, I concluded it’s her desperate urge for home and family, a place to belong. She found it all in Green Gables, in Avonlea, with Matthew and Marilla, and, as an added twist, they found it with her. Three people essentially alone in the world created a family as endearing as any in fiction.
Tapping into that primal human drive builds a foundation for a novel that connects at an emotional level.
Top Reads with Belonging Themes for Anne of Green Gables Fans
Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
Pollyanna’s story parallels Anne in many ways.
She’s sent to live with sour old Miss Polly and sweet hard-working Nancy. She’s a captivating motor mouth who’s learned to look on the bright side. I forgot how much I liked this book and got sucked in recently. I have to admit the ending is a little trite, but that’s a small price to pay for enjoying Pollyanna’s company.
Start reading the story immediately by clicking on the link to the full text at Project Gutenberg.
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett
One of my lifetime favorites, A Little Princess tells the story of Sara Crewe leaving India and her beloved father to go to boarding school in England. A girl of vivd imagination and story telling gifts, she leans on those gifts to survive heartbreak and tragedy.
Begin reading this book immediately following this link to the complete ebook at Project Gutenberg A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett
Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter
Another of my top picks is the story of Freckles, a handicapped boy who found his purpose and meaning living close to the earth.
Butterflies, birds, trees and plants. These are all Gene Straton Porter’s domain and she is a master at making them as much a part of the story as the humans and animals themselves.
Clearly a student of human nature as well as a naturalist, she is able to capture the emotions and relationships in clear detail that is a joy to read.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Nine-year-old Ada’s twisted foot is the shameful secret that causes her mother to confine her to their small apartment. When her little brother Jamie is sent out of London to escape the war, Ada plays stowaway to escape her own life.
Her life in the country and her relationship to the mistress of the farm opens her eyes to new ways of living and believing.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
I can’t remember the last time a novel made me cry. This one did.
Ove is near the end of his life, but this novel takes us back to his family, his first love and his losses. It is a bittersweet exploration of what really matters in relationships and what gets in the way.
Love, friendship, community and social awkwardness. It’s the recipe for a great novel.
It demonstrates in brilliant colors that no man is an island.
Every adult on the planet has their own coming of age story.
And every human in the formative years is creating their own.
Experiencing novels as a family read aloud enriches the experience. The Anne series aren’t the only books that can make that magic. I’ve listed some of my favorites that serve to “make lasting and meaningful connections with your children through books” as Sarah Mackenzie says.
Top Family Read Alouds for Anne of Green Gables Fans
Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr
Lena and Trille are next door neighbors and best friends, coconspirators in mishaps. While getting in and out of scrapes, they learn a lot about friendship, family and life.
Although recently published, this book has the timeless feel of a classic.
I enjoyed it even without kids in my life right now to read it to.
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
What if you grew up in family of twelve children?
The authors of Cheaper by the Dozen draw from the memories of their childhood days in a big family.
Laugh out loud funny, winsome characters, appealing for all ages beginning around age 8.
The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald
Hilarious antics and adventures of a clever boy growing up more than a century ago.
His ability to connive, wheel and deal, get in and out of scrapes and come out on top is impressive and amusing.
Based on the memories of the author and his older brother, Tom’s childhood days growing up in Utah.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I consider C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia to be the pinnacle of children’s literature. These stories can be appreciated at all ages (beginning around age 5), maturity levels and intellects. They can be classified as fantasy, yet the truths they portray are real. In the midst of stories of talking animals, Lewis manages to paint realistic pictures of human nature and personality. They can be reread multiple times.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the first in the series that Lewis wrote, though some people like to start with The Magician’s Nephew which tells the story of the creation of Narnia. I recommend starting with Wardrobe and view The Magician’s Nephew as a prequel.
If you’re curious about Christian themes and symbols in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, read my post Are The Chronicles of Narnia Christian?
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
5 Stars! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this whimsical story. (That’s a lotta love.) I read it to the teens in my carpool, and gave it to my nieces and nephews.
Four motherless girls on vacation with their father. Their romps with pets, neighbors and each other: a simple, but satisfying plot.
I loved the uplifting, engaging characters. Real heroes. Great values. Whimsical.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
I’m fond of E. B. White’s classic, Stuart Little, but Charlotte’s Web comes out on top for me. Maybe it’s that (spoiler) Charlotte’s death made me cry when I first read it as an eight year old.
It never occurred to me before that this is a redemption story, but so it is. Charolotte the spider’s mission is to save her friend, Wilbur the pig, from the butcher’s block. Warm and wise and full of truth just like all the best children’s literature. One of my favorite scenes is when Fern’s mother seeks out the doctor’s advice because her daughter claims to have conversations with the barnyard animals and the doctor is open to the possibility that maybe she does communicate with animals.
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
It’s almost hard to imagine why the story of a shipwrecked family on a deserted island is so fascinating, but it is. The mom and dad and four boys survive, they build, they entertain themselves. Simple and satisfying.
Follow this link to begin reading the free ebook version on the Project Gutenberg site Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
For more book recommendations for reading with (or without) kids read Best Family Read Alouds and Where to Start
For more great books for adult readers, read Books Like Pride and Prejudice.