44 thoughts on “Favorite Fiction for Every Letter of the Alphabet

  1. There are a lot of good As, but I’ll go with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

    Also-rans: The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, Another Fine Myth by Robert Asprin, Animal Farm by George Orwell, And to Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss, Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry, All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, The Alienist by Caleb Carr, All Alone in the Universe by Lynne Rae Perkins, The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations by Ellen Conford, and A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton, all of them quite terrific.

    🙂

    1. I felt I probably missed a lot of other good candidates, and while there are some good ones on your list, none of them make me want to change my pick.

      For what it’s worth, I re-read Huck Finn recently, I came away less impressed.

  2. B

    The Book of Disquiet
    I haven’t finished this, but this is a serious candidate for one of the greatest “novels” I’ve read. (I have novels in quotes because it feels more like a collection of poetic-philosophical aphorisms–but it’s fictional.)

    …Oops, while The Book of Disquiet is great, I probably have to choose The Brothers Karamazov.

    (Man, I’m wondering if I’m forgetting other books.)

  3. Here are some really good B fictions!
    B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton
    Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss
    A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
    Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
    Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban
    Bearing an Hourglass by Piers Anthony
    A Bell for Adano by John Hersey
    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever* by Barbara Robinson
    The Black Stallion by Walter Farley (all titles in series begin with B)
    The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
    Blu’s Hanging by Lois Ann Yamanaka
    Blubber by Judy Blume
    The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    Bridge to Terabithia** by Katherine Paterson
    The Bridges at Toko-Ri by James Michener (underrated)
    The Bronze Bow** by Elizabeth George Speare
    Bud, Not Buddy** by Christopher Paul Curtis

    These are all outstanding books, but for my favorite I have to go with The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander and for best, I take Beloved by Toni Morrison, which may be the best novel I’ve ever read.

    * I was just reminded of this book while making this list, and if you haven’t heard of it, I recommend taking a look. It would make really good reading aloud for your kids around Christmas time. Delightfully naughty children. In the novel, not in your homes.

    ** Newbery Medal recipient

    1. I really liked The Bluest Eye. I need to get to Beloved.

      I also liked the two Lloyd Alexander picks.

      I will try to remember The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. (I’m looking for book recommendations to read to my kids. They’ve finally gotten into Holes, and we should be finishing it soon.)

  4. C

    I had a hard time thinking of a title that starts with “C.” The first one that came to mind that I read and liked was Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins.

    1. There are some excellent C fictions, such as

      C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
      Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson
      Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice? by Paula Danziger
      Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
      Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys, and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina
      Carry On, Mr. Bowditch* by Jean Lee Latham (surprisingly engaging)
      The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander
      Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings
      The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
      The Cat in the Hat and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss
      The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
      Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
      Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
      Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
      The Chosen by Chaim Potok
      Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
      The Color Purple by Alice Walker
      A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty
      Crispin: The Cross of Lead* by Avi
      The Crossover* by Kwame Alexander
      Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

      But hey, we’re only on C and we’ve already found one in common. My favorite is Criss Cross* by Lynne Rae Perkins. This is an interesting list because I’m fairly certain Penny has read and enjoyed five of the novels, and when I made this list yesterday, I was reminded of the Spider Robinson book, which I immediately recommended to Penny.

      * Newbery Medal recipient

      1. Oh man, I missed Catcher in the Rye (for shame), and I’m switching my pick to that. (Sorry, we’ll have to wait to find another mutual pick. I really like Criss Cross, though, so that should count.)

        I also really enjoyed Cloud Atlas. If it’s on your list, I assume your read it. Did you like it?

      2. I liked this line,

        …not finishing this one would be sort of like making all those folds in a piece of origami paper and never opening it up in its last step to reveal the crane.

        Perfect for the novel, without really spoiling it.

        It’s not all enjoyable to read, but I forced my way through parts I didn’t enjoy…

        Huh. I don’t remember reacting this way, but maybe I just forgot those parts. What I remember is that it was a very well-written, entertaining, and clever book. Mitchell’s ability to write in different genres and voices was also impressive. (He’s a good writer in my opinion.)

        It’s a very difficult novel to write about without spoiling it, but what’s going to give anyone a handhold on it if I don’t write something about it?

        Hey, I thought you were against writing sentences in the form of questions?

  5. D isn’t as common a first initial, at least in my experience, but there are some really good ones!

    D is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton
    Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint* by Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin
    Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
    Daughters of Eve by Lois Duncan
    A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
    Dear Lovey Hart, I Am Desperate by Ellen Conford
    Dinosaur Tales by Ray Bradbury
    Divergent by Veronica Roth
    The Divorce Express by Paula Danziger
    Double Trouble in Walla Walla by Andrew Clements
    Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey

    I’m going with Cynthia Voigt’s Dicey’s Song, the 1983 recipient of the Newbery Medal. Its predecessor, Homecoming was a Newbery Honor recipient and a really good novel too, but Voigt really kills it with this sequel. At her best, she has a way of establishing connections between characters that makes me question everything I think of myself as a writer.

    * There are fifteen short novels in this series, all beginning with Danny Dunn…. I read them all, multiple tmes, between grades 4 and 6. The first books I ever bought myself with my own money were Danny Dunn books, and they recently became available in Kindle editions. I’m re-reading them now, and while they don’t take me away the way they did when I was 11, I’m still rather enjoying them.

    1. Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

      This was a terrific recommendation you gave me. I enjoyed this, and I’d probably choose this over Dune.

  6. Not as many Es as Ds, even. But some good ones:

    E is for Evidence by Sue Grafton
    Elbert’s Bad Word by Audrey Wood (one of my favorite read-aloud picture books)
    Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
    Enchanter’s Endgame by David Eddings
    Encyclopedia Brown (series) by Donald J. Sobol
    Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

    As (slightly) flawed as it is, my favorite is East of Eden by John Steinbeck, a novel I read in one long day in tenth grade so I could do my book report for Miss Long. It was a long read, and I’m a slow reader, but I pulled an all-nighter to get it all done, and scored a 98.

  7. F

    First one that came to mind: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. I liked this books, but I wouldn’t call it a favorite. There’s a decent chance there’s a title out there I’d choose over this one.

    1. Here are some also-rans.

      F is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton (and no, I don’t plan to name them all; there were a couple of yawners in this series)
      The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (seriously flawed but also laugh-aloud funny)
      The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
      First Light by Rebecca Stead
      The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop. Not a very PC book now; I wonder if it’s even still on shelves.
      Fletch and others (but not all) in the series by Gregory McDonald.
      Flunking Out by W. E. Butterworth. The writer died this year; he’s better known as W.E.B. Griffin, writer of detective and crime fiction. He wrote three really good books for younger readers uner W. E. Butterworth and this is the best of them.
      Fly Like an Eagle by Barbara Beasley Murphy. I don’t know why this novel didn’t get more attention.
      Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers. Both film versions were better than this novel, but it was still quite a good novel.
      Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel.

      That last one is SUPER good and almost gets my pick, but the 1968 Newbery Medal recipient is my favorite (better when I read it in my late 30s than when I read it in my early 20s), From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I thought it was pretty good the first time I read it; I thought it was brilliant the second time. Interesting trivia: The 1973 film adaptation starred Ingrid Bergman in the title role. The 1995 film adaptation starred Lauren Bacall in the same role. Bogart connection!

  8. G

    I’m having a hard time thinking of a title.

    I think The Great Gatsby is a really good book, but I wouldn’t consider it a favorite.

    1. Probably the two greatest American novels are G titles. The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath. I have said since my undergrad days that there are two kinds of lit majors: Great Gatsby people and Grapes of Wrath people. Nobody ever had to ask which I was. 🙃

      1. Stylistically it reads more European. I think Fitzgerald and Steinbeck had distinctly American voices. That may be a small quibble, but it’s not irrelevant.

        1. I have a vague sense of what you mean by “reads more European,” but I’m interested in hearing specifics from you about this.

          One difference between Melville and the other two: the sentences and language might be longer, more complex, and more ornate. The sentences of the the other two might be shorter, simpler, and plainer in comparison. Generally speaking. Also, I believe Melville in, Moby Dick writes in a more poetic style I think, at least at times.

        2. I think it was also serialized in periodicals before it was a novel, which affected its length. It’s been decades since I last looked at Moby-Dick, so I’ll have to look at the text again if you need examples related to voice and style. Which I might not do.

    2. The Grapes of Wrath, how could I forget? I’ve re-read Gatsby, and thought better of it. I wonder how I’d feel if I re-read Grapes.

      And why these two books and not Moby Dick? Of the three, I’m choose MD.

    3. Here are some very good to excellent G fictions.

      G is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton
      A Girl Called Al by Constance C. Greene
      The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
      The Giver* by Lois Lowry
      The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
      The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
      The Goof That Won the Pennant by Jonah Kalb
      The Graveyard Book* by Neil Gaiman
      Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
      The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
      Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

      But yes, I think it’s pretty obvious what my favorite is. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. What a novel, and what a writer.

      * Newbery Medal recipient. There are six Newbery winners whose titles begin with G, but only the Gaiman and Lowry books make this list. One came close, one is only so-so, and one is awful.

      1. For what it’s worth, my advisor at UHH was working on a book when he died about the five greatest American novels, and they were Moby-Dick, The Scarlet Letter, Huck Finn, All the King’s Men, and The Great Gatsby. So at least in his eyes, you’d be closer than me. He considered The Great Gatsby the greatest American novel.

        1. I’ve never read The Scarlet Letter, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read All the King’s Men. Based on what I remember, it wouldn’t be a top candidate. I would be more inclined to choose My Antonia by Willa Cather over it.

        2. If you don’t already know the story of The Scarlet Letter, I would cautiously recommend it for you. I’ve never cared much for it, but I think you would really like the themes.

          Or you could see the excellent sort-of adaptation starring Emma Stone, Easy A. Although that one lacks the religious themes I’m specifically thinking of in recommending the novel.

    4. I think it was also serialized in periodicals before it was a novel, which affected its length.

      I meant length of the sentences, not the entire book.

      It’s been decades since I last looked at Moby-Dick, so I’ll have to look at the text again if you need examples related to voice and style. Which I might not do.

      I didn’t expect examples–just comments or your reasons for saying what you said. And if you can’t really remember, then don’t worry about it.

    1. I’ve read a lot of Atwood stuff but only one novel, and not that one.

      Some that I’ve enjoyed:

      H is for Homicide by Sue Grafton
      Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
      Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
      Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
      Harvey, the Beer Can King by Jamie Gilson
      Henry and Beezus, Henry and Ribsy, Henry Huggins, and Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary
      The Hero and the Crown* by Robin McKinley
      The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
      Holes* by Louis Sachar
      Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
      Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
      Hop on Pop, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Horton Hatches the Egg, and Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss
      The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
      The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
      The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

      It’s a great list; if it weren’t for The High King* by Lloyd Alexander, it would be tough to pick a favorite. It’s so good I’ve only read it three times, and the third time unwillingly; I had to do it for my Master’s thesis.

      * Newbery Medal recipient

      1. Just realized that “favorite fiction for every letter of the alphabet” covers drama and short stories too, but I don’t have any kind of list of stuff I’ve read in those genres. Might try to think of some for each letter here on out, though.

  9. I

    If we can put graphic novels in here, I think I would choose Incognito by Ed Brubaker, art by Sean Phillips.

  10. Of course graphic novels count as fictions. Heck, I’m putting picture books on here that have maybe 25 words in them, total. I’ve avoided putting them on here because I read a ton of comic strip anthologies, and I didn’t think I wanted them on the same list as A Wrinkle in Time, and while graphic novels have narrative flow (usually), I decided they’re closer to comic strip anthologies than Cloud Atlas. Plus I haven’t read that many.

    Because of the first-person pronoun “I,” there are a lot of books whose titles begin with this letter. Not necessarily a lot of great ones, but a lot to have read. Here are a few of the very good or great ones.

    I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier
    I is for Innocent by Sue Grafton
    I Know You, Al by Constance C. Greene
    I Sing the Body Electric & Other Stories and The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
    I, Juan de Pareja* by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño
    If I Ran the Circus and If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss
    Iggie’s House by Judy Blume
    In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck
    Island of the Blue Dolphins* by Scott O’Dell

    This is probably my least-favorite of the favorite-of-the-letter titles so far, but it looks like my pick is It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume. Among young Judy Blume fans of our era, it was “the one about divorce.” I actually read Iggie’s House more times (“the one about the black kids moving into a white neighborhood”), but It’s Not the End of the World was slightly better written, and felt a lot more serious to me at the age when I read it.

    * Newbery Medal recipient

    1. Of course graphic novels count as fictions. Heck, I’m putting picture books on here that have maybe 25 words in them, total. I’ve avoided putting them on here because I read a ton of comic strip anthologies, and I didn’t think I wanted them on the same list as A Wrinkle in Time, and while graphic novels have narrative flow (usually), I decided they’re closer to comic strip anthologies than Cloud Atlas.

      This basically describes my reluctance to include graphic novels or comics on this list.

    1. Some good ones:

      Jason and the Money Tree by Sonia Levitin, a book I’ve mentioned in this space before
      Johnny Tremain* by Esther Forbes
      Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices* by Paul Fleischman
      Julie of the Wolves* by Jean Craighead George
      Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume

      The clear winner for me is Jacob Have I Loved* by Katherine Paterson, the writer’s second Newbery Medal winner. I’ve met a lot of people who said they disliked this book when they were young; I always encourage them to look at it again now. The writing is superb.

      *Newbery Medal recipient

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