• History
  • Books

Read TIME’s Original Review of Nineteen Eighty-Four

3 minute read

George Orwell was already an established literary star when his masterwork Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on this day in 1949, but that didn’t stop TIME’s reviewer from being pleasantly surprised by the book. After all, even the expectation that a book would be good doesn’t mean one can’t be impressed when it turns out to be, as TIME put it, “absolutely super.”

One of the reasons, the review suggested, was Orwell’s bet that his fictional dystopia would not actually seem so foreign to contemporary readers. They would easily recognize many elements of the fictional world that TIME summed up as such:

In Britain 1984 A.D., no one would have suspected that Winston and Julia were capable of crimethink (dangerous thoughts) or a secret desire for ownlife (individualism). After all, Party-Member Winston Smith was one of the Ministry of Truth’s most trusted forgers; he had always flung himself heart & soul into the falsification of government statistics. And Party-Member Julia was outwardly so goodthinkful (naturally orthodox) that, after a brilliant girlhood in the Spies, she became active in the Junior Anti-Sex League and was snapped up by Pornosec, a subsection of the government Fiction Department that ground out happy-making pornography for the masses. In short, the grim, grey London Times could not have been referring to Winston and Julia when it snorted contemptuously: “Old-thinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc,” i.e., “Those whose ideas were formed before the Revolution cannot have a full emotional understanding of the principles of English Socialism.”

How Winston and Julia rebelled, fell in love and paid the penalty in the terroristic world of tomorrow is the thread on which Britain’s George Orwell has spun his latest and finest work of fiction. In Animal Farm (TIME, Feb. 4, 1946,) Orwell parodied the Communist system in terms of barnyard satire; but in 1984 … there is not a smile or a jest that does not add bitterness to Orwell’s utterly depressing vision of what the world may be in 35 years’ time.

Decades later, as the real-life 1984 approached, TIME dedicated a cover story to Orwell’s earlier vision of what that year could have been like. “That Year Is Almost Here,” the headline proclaimed. But obsessing over how it matched up to its fictional depiction was missing the point, the article posited. “The proper way to remember George Orwell, finally, is not as a man of numbers—1984 will pass, not Nineteen Eighty–Four—but as a man of letters,” wrote Paul Gray, “who wanted to change the world by changing the word.”

Read the full 1949 review, here in the TIME Vault: Where the Rainbow Ends

LIST: The 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. A coming-of-age novel (illustrated by Ellen Forney) illuminates family and heritage through young Arnold Spirit, torn between his life on a reservation and his largely white high school. The specifics are sharply drawn, but this novel, with its themes of self-discovery, speaks to young readers everywhere. Buy now: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianLittle, Brown
Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling. What more can be said about this iconic franchise? How about this: seven years after the final volume was published, readers young and old still go crazy at the slightest rumor of a new Potter story. Buy now: Harry Potter (series)Bloomsbury Publishing
The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. For many young readers, this novel provides their first in-depth contemplation of the Holocaust. Although terror surrounds Liesel, a young German girl, so too does evidence of friendship, love and charity—redeeming lights in the darkness. Buy now: The Book ThiefAlfred A. Knopf
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. This surrealist adventure has provided generations of children with their first-ever mind-blowing experiences, as Meg travels across the fifth dimension in search of her father. But the sci-fi also has a message: Meg learns self-sufficiency and bravery in the process. Buy now: A Wrinkle in TimeFarrar, Straus and Giroux
Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White. Readers are still drawn to the simplicity and beauty of arachnid Charlotte’s devotion to her pig pal Wilbur. Though family farms may be less common than they were in 1952, E.B. White’s novel remains timeless for its enduring meditation on the power of friendship and of good writing. Buy now: Charlotte's WebHarper & Brothers
Holes, by Louis Sachar. A story of a family curse, fancy sneakers and poisonous lizards moves forward and backward through time, telling of how Stanley Yelnats IV ended up in a juvenile prison camp. It’s an introduction to complex narrative, suffused with fun, warmth and a truly memorable villain. Buy now: HolesFarrar, Straus and Giroux
Matilda, by Roald Dahl. With apologies to the lovable Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this may be Roald Dahl’s most compelling read for young people. Poor Matilda feels thwarted and ignored by her family—a sense that many preteens share. They don’t share her magical powers, but that’s the enduring appeal of this escapist frolic. Buy now: Matilda Jonathan Cape
The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. Published when the author was just 18, this coming-of- age novel offers proof that even the youngest writer can provide valuable insight. Her striking look at Ponyboy and gang life in the 1960s has resonated for decades with readers of all kinds, whether they identify more with the Greasers or the Socs. Buy now: The OutsidersViking Press, Dell Publishing
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. In a witty, sharp fairy tale that illuminates language and mathematics through a picaresque story of adventure in the Kingdom of Wisdom, Jules Feiffer’s whimsical drawings do as much as Juster’s plain-language interpolations of complex ideas to carry readers through Digitopolis and the Mountains of Ignorance. Buy now: The Phantom TollboothRandom House
The Giver, by Lois Lowry. This tale of self-discovery in a dystopian society has a memorable central character, Jonas, and an indelible message— that pain and trauma have an important place in individual lives and in society, and to forget them is to lose what makes us human. Buy now: The GiverHoughton Mifflin
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume. Twelve-year-old Margaret, whose mother is Christian and father Jewish, explores her religious heritage while overcoming the general social and personal challenges of a preteen girl. Buy now: Are You There God? It's Me, MargaretYearling
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Scout Finch grows up in the racially charged Depression-era South where her father, the lawyer Atticus Finch, is defending a black man accused of raping a young white woman. Buy now: To Kill a MockingbirdHarperCollins
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor. A black family in the depression era American south grapples with racism. Buy now: Roll of Thunder, Hear My CryDial Press
Anne of Green Gables (series), by L.M. Montgomery. Young spirited Anne moves in with foster parents and adapts to her new home in Green Gables. Buy now: Anne of Green Gables (series)L.C. Page & Co.
The Chronicles of Narnia (series), by C.S. Lewis. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, four siblings evacuated from London during World War II, enter the magical world of Narnia where they are charged with saving the realm from the evil White Witch. Buy now: The Chronicles of Narnia (series)Geoffrey Bles
Monster, by Walter Dean Myers. A fictional account of an African American teenager on trial for felony murder in New York, written in a mix of first-person journal entries and a third-person screenplay. Buy now: MonsterHarperCollins
The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman. Young Lyra Belacqua leads a battle in the arctic to save children who were kidnapped and severed from their animal soul mates in this fantastical world that spawned a trilogy and a 2007 feature film. Buy now: The Golden CompassScholastic Point
The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank. Frank's innocuous and relatable musings while hiding under Nazi occupation capture the tragedy of the Nazi regime. Buy now: The Diary of a Young GirlBantam
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg. Claudia Kincaid, a precocious sixth-grader, and her 9-year-old brother Jamie run away from home in the suburbs of New York City and head for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they explore the exhibits and research the mystery of a newly acquired marble angel whose sculptor is unknown. Buy now: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerAtheneum Books
Looking for Alaska, by John Green. Miles Halter attends boarding school in Alabama for his junior year, where he navigates the alcohol-infused social scene of high school and falls in love with an enigmatic girl named Alaska. Buy now: Looking for AlaskaSpeak
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon. A young boy with autism investigates the murder of a neighbor’s dog and in so doing explores the travails and contradictions of everyday life from an outsider’s perspective. Buy now: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeDoubleday
Little House on the Prairie (series), by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The books that spawned a literary and television franchise were based on Wilder’s own experience growing up in the Midwest in the late 19th century. Buy now: Little House on the Prairie (series)Harper and Brothers
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo. A doll rabbit’s misfortune-plagued journey from one owner to another teaches him to care for and love others. Buy now: The Miraculous Journey of Edward TulaneCandlewick
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. August Pullman, who has a rare cranial deformity, decides to stop being homeschooled and attend Beecher Prep for middle school, but he is forced to overcome bullying and name-calling from some of his peers. Buy now: WonderKnopf Books
The Sword in the Stone (The Once and Future King series), by T.H. White. White gives the untold story of the legendary King Arthur’s childhood and his training under the wizard Merlyn in this 1938 classic. Buy now: The Sword in the Stone (The Once and Future King series)Collins
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. The eternal cynic Holden Caulfield, expelled from his boarding school and wandering New York City, grapples with his own disillusionment in this timeless rendering of teenage angst. Buy now: The Catcher in the RyeLittle, Brown
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. The four March sisters grow up in an impoverished New England household during the Civil War. Buy now: Little WomenRoberts Brothers
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. Huck Finn and the escaped slave Jim travel down the Mississippi in this literary classic. Buy now: The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnChatto & Windus
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Bilbo Baggins sets off on an adventure through Tolkien’s ingenious world in the prelude to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Buy now: The HobbitGeorge Allen & Unwin
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by Frank L. Baum. Dorothy is swept from her Kansas home to the Land of Oz in Baum’s 1900 novel that was successfully adapted for Broadway and film. Buy now: The Wonderful Wizard of OzGeorge M. Hill Company
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. The behavior of a group of boys marooned on an island devolves into primitive terror in this boundary-pushing classic. Buy now: Lord of the FliesFaber and Faber
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl. Charlie Bucket explores the wonders of Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory. Buy now: Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryPenguin Books
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. Alice wanders through a fantasy world of talking rabbits, royal playing cards and smoking caterpillars. Buy now: Alice's Adventures in WonderlandMacmillan
Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson. Jesse becomes close friends with a new girl and fellow runner at school, but a heartbreaking tragedy in their secret invented world in the forest leaves him and the reader suffering. Buy now: Bridge to Terabithia Crowell
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London. Buck, a domesticated dog in California, is stolen and forced to become a sled dog in Alaska, where he ultimately must decide whether to remain with humans or enter the wilderness. Buy now: The Call of the WildMacmillan
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles. Competition between two friends at an elite prep school reaches a climax when one of them impulsively shakes a tree branch the other is standing on and knocks him off, changing both of their lives forever. Buy now: A Separate PeaceSecker & Warburg
Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. Eleven-year-old Harriet records her observations about friends and classmates in a notebook as training in the hopes of one day becoming a spy. But when her friends come across the notebook, Harriet must confront their anger over her sometimes too honest notes. Buy now: Harriet the SpyHarper & Row
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier. A New England Catholic school student tries to "disturb the universe” by challenging the school hierarchy and is forced to face his subsequent isolation. Buy now: The Chocolate WarPantheon Books
Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson. Sara Louise “Wheeze” Bradshaw struggles to escape the shadow of her sister Caroline. Buy now: Jacob Have I LovedCrowell
A Series of Unfortunate Events (series), by Lemony Snicket. Three orphan siblings attempt to escape and outwit an evil relative who is trying to steal their parents’ fortune. Buy now: A Series of Unfortunate Events (series)HarperCollins
Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen. After his single-engine plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness, 13-year-old Brian Robeson must survive with the hatchet gifted to him by his mother. Buy now: HatchetSimon and Schuster
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Hobbits, elves, wizards and men battle for control of the ring that will rule all of Middle Earth in this classic that all lovers of fantasy must read. Buy now: The Lord of the RingsGeorge Allen & Unwin
Feed, by M.T. Anderson. A dystopian critique of consumerism and reliance on technology. Buy now: Feed Candlewick Press
The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott. The most famous alchemist in the world, Nicholas Flamel, supposedly died in 1418—but his tomb is empty. Could he have discovered the elixir of life? Buy now: The AlchemystRandom House
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. Before the beloved movie, there was Goldman's book-within-a-book recounting the misadventures of a pair of starcrossed lovers, a righteous outlaw, and the scoundrels who get in their way. Buy now: The Princess BrideHarcourt Brace Jovanovich
Beezus & Ramona, by Beverly Cleary. Beezus and her younger, animated sister Ramona navigate a bumpy relationship. Buy now: Beezus & Ramona William Morrow
Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tarzan, an orphan, is adopted by apes in this classic adventure novel that led to more than 20 sequels. Buy now: Tarzan of the ApesA. C. McClurg
Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes. Young Johnny Tremain is caught up in the fervor of the American Revolution. Buy now: Johnny Tremain Houghton Mifflin
The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin. In his will, the millionaire Sam Westing challenges 16 heirs to solve the mystery of who murdered him. Buy now: The Westing GameE. P. Dutton
Best Children's Books: The Wind in the Willows
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. Four friends—a mole, toad, badger, and rat—seek out adventure in this elegantly written British classic. Buy now: The Wind in the WillowsSterling Children's Books
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. Melinda, an incoming freshman, is raped by an upperclassman at a high school party, but she struggles to communicate the trauma to others. In her pain and growing isolation at school and at home, she turns to her art for expression. Buy now: SpeakFarrar Straus Giroux
Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers. Mary Poppins, nanny to the Banks children, reveals a magical world to the unsuspecting children in her care. Buy now: Mary PoppinsHarperCollins
The Fault in Our StarsBy John Green. Hazel, a 16-year-old cancer patient whose prognosis is dim, has her life transformed when she falls in love with a young man she meets at a support group.
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. Hazel, a 16-year-old cancer patient whose prognosis is dim, has her life transformed when she falls in love with a young man she meets at a support group. Buy now: The Fault in Our Stars Dutton Books
A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly. Against the backdrop of the real life 1906 murder of Grace Brown in upstate New York, fictional Mattie Gokey struggles to decide between staying in her impoverished farming community or escaping to college in New York City. Buy now: A Northern Light
The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. A young boy’s attachment to his pet deer becomes a problem for his impoverished family living in the Florida backwoods in the late 19th century with hardly enough to feed themselves. Buy now: The YearlingCharles Scribner's Sons
The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins. In a dystopian society where a group of children is annually required to battle to the death in a televised spectacle, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to fight in her sister's place. Buy now: The Hunger Games (series)Scholastic
For Freedom, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. A teenage aspiring opera singer in occupied France becomes a spy for the resistance. Buy now: For FreedomLaurel Leaf
The Wall, by Peter Sis. An illustrated memoir of the author’s youth depicting what it was like to grow up in communist Czechoslovakia. Buy now: The WallFarrar, Straus and Giroux
A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. A monster helps a boy cope with his mother's terminal cancer. Buy now: A Monster CallsCandlewick
Percy Jackson & the Olympians (series), by Rick Riordan. Percy, a demigod son of Poseidon, must go across the U.S. in search of Zeus's stolen lightning bolt, adventuring with humans and gods along the way. Buy now: Percy Jackson & the Olympians (series)Puffin
The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury. A collection of Ray Bradbury’s short stories, some as hair-raising as others are imaginative. Buy now: The Illustrated ManDoubleday and Company
A Wreath for Emmett Till, by Marilyn Nelson. A narrative poem explaining and memorializing the death of Emmett Louis Till, the 14-year-old African American boy who was lynched for supposedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. Buy now: A Wreath for Emmett TillHoughton Mifflin
Every Day, by David Levithan. A teenager called A wakes up every morning in a new 16-year-old’s body, a fact he adjusts to until he falls in love with Rhiannon and grapples with trying to stay with her. Buy now: Every DayEmber
Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley. Whaley weaves together the stories of a depressed 17-year-old birdwatcher in Arkansas and a young missionary in Africa who has lost his faith. Buy now: Where Things Come Back Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry. Annemarie Johansen risks her life to help Jewish families escape from Nazi-occupied Copenhagen. Buy now: Number the StarsHMH Books
Blankets, by Craig Thompson. An autobiographical graphic novel that chronicles Thompson’s childhood in an Evangelical Christian family. Buy now: BlanketsTop Shelf Productions
Private Peaceful, by Michael Morpurgo. A soldier recounts his life from the trenches of WWI, eventually shifting into the present tense and encountering the realities of battle. Buy now: Private PeacefulHarperCollins
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare. The ever spirited and goodhearted Kit Tyler is sent to colonial Connecticut in 1687, where her manners—and her friendship with an old woman known as the Witch of Blackbird Pond—make her suspicious to the townspeople. Buy now: The Witch of Blackbird PondHMH
Dangerous Angels, by Francesca Lia Block. A seven-book series about Weetzie Bat and her magical adventures in Los Angeles with friends and family. Buy now: Dangerous AngelsHarperTeen
Frindle, by Andrew Clements. Fifth-grade prankster Nicholas Allen invents a new word for a pen to defy language teacher Mrs. Granger. But the word, “frindle,” quickly gains traction and spreads beyond Allen’s control. Buy now: FrindleAladdin Paperbacks
Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen Yang. Two companion graphic novels that follow the divergent political and religious paths of Little Bao and Vibiana during the divisive time of the Boxer Rebellion. Buy now: Boxers and Saints First Second Books
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. Bod, who was adopted by ghosts and has become a part of the community of supernatural beings living in a graveyard, faces adventures and obstacles in the graveyard and natural world alike. Buy now: The Graveyard BookHarperCollins
City of the Beasts, by Isabel Allende. Alex and Nadia are pulled into an adventure together in the mystical Amazon. Buy now: City of the BeastsRayo
American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang. A graphic novel that jumps back and forth between a Chinese folk tale and the stories of a young Asian American and his white alter-ego growing up in a San Francisco suburb. Buy now: American Born ChineseFirst Second Books
The Lost Conspiracy, by Frances Hardinge. In a fantastical and harsh world of jungles and colonists, Hathin—who has grown up in her sister’s shadow—must endeavor to save them both. Buy now: The Lost ConspiracyHarperCollins
Dogsbody, by Diana Wynne Jones. Sirius, the guardian luminary of the Dog Star, is sentenced to a lifetime as a dog and must overcome worldly obstacles to find the supernatural Zoi tool. Buy now: DogsbodyMacmillan
The Pigman, by Paul Zindel. John and Lorraine’s prank call unexpectedly leads to an enduring friendship with widower Angelo Pignati, whose care for the children transforms their lives. Buy now: The PigmanHarper Trophy
Alabama Moon, by Watt Key. Ten-year-old Moon leaves his sheltered home after his father dies and must adapt to the outside world. Buy now: Alabama MoonSquare Fish; Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan. Mexican farm workers adapt to life in Depression-era America and post-Revolutionary Mexico. Buy now: Esperanza RisingScholastic
The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness. In a dystopian world where everyone can hear each other’s thoughts as “Noise,” Todd comes across an area that is entirely silent and is forced to flee with his newfound knowledge. Buy now: The Knife of Never Letting GoCandlewick
Boy Proof, by Cecil Castellucci. A geeky girl in Los Angeles who proudly considers herself “boy proof” falls for a boy at school. Buy now: Boy ProofCandlewick
Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers. A young man from Harlem can't afford to attend college and instead joins the Army just as the Vietnam War is escalating. Buy now: Fallen AngelsScholastic
A High Wind in Jamaica, by Richard Hughes. A dark 1929 novel about children who are kidnapped by pirates and develop complicated, nuanced relationships with their captors and each other. Buy now: A High Wind in Jamaica New York Review Books
The Tiger Rising, by Kate DiCamillo. Rob, sickly and devastated by the death of his mother, moves to a motel with his father for a new start. But after he comes across a caged tiger in the woods outside the motel, the unexpected find helps him overcome his sadness and open up to a new friend. Buy now: The Tiger RisingCandlewick
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead. Life in 1970s New York City takes a turn for the bizarre for young Miranda Sinclair. Buy now: When You Reach MeYearling
Saffy's Angel, by Hilary McKay. The eccentric Casson children set off on separate adventures that are filled with hilarity and human emotion. Buy now: Saffy's AngelHodder
The Grey King, by Susan Cooper. Will Stanton, sent to Wales by his mother to recover from an illness, finds himself a protagonist in Welsh legend and must awaken other immortals to join him in a fight between good and evil. Buy now: The Grey KingAtheneum
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O'Brien. The extraordinary rats of NIMH come to the rescue of Mrs. Frisby and her endangered mouse family. Buy now: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMHAtheneum
The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke. Brothers Prosper and Boniface escape home and flee to Venice, where they join up with a gang of street children while on the run from a detective hired by their cruel guardian aunt and uncle. Buy now: The Thief LordScholastic
The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart. Four intellectually gifted children are sent to investigate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, a mysterious organization suspected of sending out cryptic, mind-controlling signals over television waves. Buy now: The Mysterious Benedict SocietyLittle, Brown
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. A boy who lives in a Parisian train station investigates a hidden message from his late father in a story that was the basis for the Martin Scorsese 2011 film Hugo. Buy now: The Invention of Hugo CabretScholastic
Sabriel, by Garth Nix. Sabriel travels into the depth of the mystical Old Kingdom to save her father, where she confronts a dark world of spirits and the undead. Buy now: SabrielHarperCollins
Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson. In a prequel of sorts to Peter Pan, Anderson uses Tinkerbell to tell the story of Peter’s relationship with Tiger Lily before he falls for Wendy Darling. Buy now: Tiger LilyHarperTeen
Secret (series), by Pseudonymous Bosch. Three children must protect a mysterious secret in this layered series written by the equally mysterious Pseudonymous Bosch. Buy now: Secret (series)Little, Brown
A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin. The first novel in the Earthsea series, the book follows the adventures of Ged in his youth before he became Earthesea’s greatest sorcerer. Buy now: A Wizard of EarthseaParnassus Press
Tales of Mystery and Imagination, by Edgar Allan Poe. A classic compilation of some of Poe’s wildest stories. Buy now: Tales of Mystery and ImaginationCalla Editions
Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher. A high school senior with a diverse background (black, Japanese and white) challenges the establishment by forming a swim team compiled of school misfits. Buy now: Whale TalkHarperCollins
The Chronicles of Prydain (series), by Lloyd Alexander. Taran the Assistant Pig Keeper sets off to become a hero and joins a battle between good and evil in this exemplar of fantasy fiction for children. Buy now: The Chronicles of Prydain (series)Square Fish
Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl. Danny and his father attempt to foil a wealthy landowner's pheasant hunt by poaching all the birds from his property. Mischief and mayhem ensue. Buy now: Danny the Champion of the WorldPuffin
Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer. Bella Swan discovers her crush comes with more complications than the average teen romance—her beau, Edward Cullen, is a vampire. Buy now: Twilight (series)Little, Brown

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com