Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is a bestselling and timeless book that inspires readers of all ages by teaching lessons about love, family, and sisterhood. Below are 20 similar must-read books like Little Women that will transport you to the past!
About Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Published in 1868 and 1869, Little Women is the triumphant classic coming-of-age novel about the March sisters: Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy. The book takes place in 19th-century England during the beginning of the Civil War and chronicles the ever-changing lives of the four sisters: Jo, the free-spirited and bold writer; Meg, the proper and pretty oldest sister; Beth, the shy and musical girl; and Amy, the artistic and somewhat spoiled youngest sister.
Told in two parts, the first book of five begins with the girls and their mother living with little means as their father fights in the Civil War for the Union. It is in their new town that they meet a wealthy family, the Laurences. The grandson of Mr. Laurence, Laurie, befriends the sisters, namely Jo, and the book unfolds as the sisters and Laurie grow, finding their identities and living in a world not made for little women.
This triumphant and moving story has captured readers across generations and inspired multiple films. With lessons of familial love, duty, and goodness, this book about a family growing together and navigating the world around them was a massive success upon its release and continues to cement itself as a timeless classic readers will enjoy for centuries to come.
About Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott loosely based Little Women on her own life with her sisters, and the book is classified as semi-autobiographical. She bases Jo, the whimsical writer of the family, on herself.
The plan for Louisa Alcott was never to publish a book about young girls growing up, but after the persuasion of her publisher and father, she quickly wrote what would become Part One of Little Women, more for money at the time than anything else. Even though she originally found no pleasure in writing the first draft and thought it rather boring, after her publisher’s niece got ahold of the draft and enjoyed it, they continued on with the project.
Never expecting its massive success, Louisa May Alcott quickly wrote and published Part Two of Little Women, which was met with just as much success. Written on the cusp of the Gilded Age, not many books were published with young women in mind as the sole target audience, and many believe this helped propel Little Women’s success.
Louisa May Alcott continued writing and publishing throughout her life and now holds a place in the National Women’s Hall of Fame. It’s undeniable the impact Little Women has had on the literary world for young girls, and this timeless classic continues to ignite a love of literature among young women around the world.
If you are in search of another literary classic with similar themes, values, and impact, peruse this list and settle into your next quintessential classic read!
20 Timeless Classics Like Little Women
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Following the theme of family and coming-of-age classics, Anne of Green Gables is the first book in L. M. Montgomery’s series about an orphaned girl who discovers where she belongs after being accidentally placed in the home of the Cuthberts.
The book takes place on a Prince Edward Island farm and follows Anne as she bonds with the Cuthbert siblings, befriends her bosom friend Diana, and falls in love with her rival classmate, Gilbert Blithe.
Like Jo in Little Women, Anne is a fiery character who speaks her mind and loves her family fiercely. A powerful young girl with a love of poetry, Anne is a character that girls of all ages can relate to, particularly tweens. The book is beloved and everlasting, and you can find the first book in the series here!
The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
In The Watsons Go to Birmingham, the Watsons are a Black family living in Michigan in the 1960s. The novel follows the 10-year-old narrator, Curtis, as he observes the life and people around him. At its root, this novel is a coming-of-age story that acknowledges the Civil Rights Movement through the lens of a child; it is also loosely based on Christopher Paul Curtis’ own experiences growing up.
With historical events represented in this book, The Watsons Go to Birmingham is a great way to start a conversation about the Civil Rights Movement and racism with middle-school-aged children.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Like Little Women, this classic novel explores a story of loss and beauty. Mary Lennox moves from India to live with her uncle after her parents tragically pass away. Unlike the characters of Little Women, Mary doesn’t have sisters, but as she begins unraveling the manor’s mysteries and discovers a secret garden, she makes friends and matures along the way.
Written in 1911, The Secret Garden is a children’s classic with a warm reputation lasting over a century. Often described as one of the best children’s books of all time, you can get The Secret Garden here!
Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott
Published in 1875, Eight Cousins is one of Louisa May Alcott’s other novels and details the story of Rose Campbell, an orphaned girl who goes to live with her aunts. Many of the same themes explored in Little Women are explored in Eight Cousins, and like Louisa May Alcott’s most popular novel, Eight Cousins features an extended cast of characters and a well-liked female protagonist.
All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
Five young sisters experience mundane adventures together in New York at the beginning of the 20th century in this novel published in 1951. Ella, Hunny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie are close sisters who do everything together: chores, getting sick, and even celebrating their favorite Jewish holidays!
Loosely based on Sydney Taylor’s childhood in Manhattan, the characters in All-of-a-Kind Family are named after Taylor’s sisters. This classic is the first in a five-book series about sisterhood; praised for its portrayal of Jewish American families, All-of-a-Kind Family has a lot of heart!
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple is a painfully honest literary classic about Celie, a young Black girl living in Georgia from the early 20th century to the mid-20th century. An epistolary novel published in 1982, the book is told in letters Celie addresses to God and her sister, Nettie, who lives in Africa. The novel details the significant trauma Celie faces from the rape of her father, her husband’s abuse, and the everyday ridicule she faces due to her gender and race. And yet, through all the trauma, this story is, at its heart, about love, sisterhood, womanhood, and race.
Though The Color Purple handles severe topics and is certainly not as lighthearted as Little Women, it is still a coming-of-age story and an important one. Readers can find this moving, own-voices, Pulitzer-winning classic here!
Peter Pan (Peter Pan and Wendy) by J. M. Barrie
A coming-of-age story about a girl, her siblings, and the boy who will never grow up on the magical island of Neverland, this play-turned-novel was published in 1911 by J. M. Barrie.
Wendy Darling is growing up despite her wishes and tells stories of Peter Pan, the mischievous boy who never grows up. When Peter Pan takes Wendy and her brothers to Neverland, they face many dangers and adventures, and Wendy ultimately learns that growing up is inevitable. This adventure book is fun for kids and continues to be a fan favorite. You can get the classic-turned-Disney movie here!
Seven Little Australians by Ethel Sybil Turner
Seven Little Australians, a classic Australian novel for children, was published in 1894 and details the lives of seven siblings, ages 1–16, as they wreak havoc, face adventures, and learn inevitable life lessons.
With a large cast of mischievous, witty, and well-rounded characters, the similarities between the sisters in Little Women and the siblings in Seven Little Australians are abundant. A tough lesson near the end of the novel marks a loss of innocence and life.
You can read this funny and moving classic Australian novel here!
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Another semi-autobiographical novel, Little House in the Big Woods, was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and published in 1932. The novel follows two young girls, Laura and Mary, who grow up in Wisconsin, and the happenings of their home lives as they prepare for the winter.
With a similar theme of hard work and the fun to be had during it, Little Women fans will enjoy Little House in the Big Woods as the characters explore the world around them. This is the first book in the Little House series.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice, the timeless love story about two characters who hold misconceptions about each other at first glance, is perhaps Jane Austen’s most famous novel. Though the story is ultimately about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy falling in love, it is also a story about family and sisterhood.
With four sisters, Elizabeth watches as they grow throughout the novel and, despite loving them, acknowledges the sometimes ridiculous way they act. Both Jo and Elizabeth are characterized as young women with minds and passionate ideas of their own who share a love of literature. You can find the romantic classic here!
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
Written in the 1940s, the Betsy-Tacy books are also semi-autobiographical, taking place in the late 19th century. The first book follows two young girls who live across from each other and become best friends.
The simple happenings in the books, paired with the sweet lessons of friendship, match the comforting feel of Little Women. This American classic series follows readers chronologically as they grow older through adolescence. The heartwarming first book can be found here!
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Frances Hodgson Burnett’s second book on this list, A Little Princess, was published in 1905. The story follows Sara Crewe after her father passes away and a mysterious benefactor takes care of her. Before her loss of wealth, Sara makes several friends in finishing school, reminiscent of a relationship between sisters, and some of those friendships carry on throughout the novel.
Like Little Women, themes of wealth vs. poverty are explored in the text, but themes of hopefulness and innocence pour through the pages. You can get A Little Princess here!
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
The first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Edith Wharton’s novel published in 1920 chronicles the love triangle between wealthy Newland Archer, his beautiful and sweet fiance May Welland, and May’s married-but-separated cousin, Ellen Olenska.
This classic novel explores similar themes and plotlines to Little Women. Like Jo, Newland Archer faces decisions between happiness and society’s expectations.
Marriage by Susan Ferrier
In Marriage, Lady Juliana’s character is reminiscent of Meg in Little Women, as they both marry and struggle with financial issues. After turning down a Duke and eloping with Henry Douglas, Lady Juliana runs away and struggles through her marriage as she has two daughters and moves back to London with one of them.
Intended for an older audience, Susan Ferrier has been described as the Scottish Jane Austen; however, readers should know that Marriage is less of a love story and more of a tale of rich versus poor, the hard choices of life, and nature versus nurture. You can get the 1818 classic here!
What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
Published in 1872, What Katy Did follows twelve-year-old Katy, a tomboy much like Jo, who goes on many adventures throughout the story. However, one day she falls from a broken swing, injures her spine, and becomes bedridden. Though her anger pushes away the love of her family at first, after a meeting with Helen, her cousin who also has a disability, she learns to let her family in and openly show her love and kindness towards them.
Like Little Women, What Katy Did is a classic children’s book with a heart about the importance of family, love, and girlhood. You can get the moving book here!
Four Girls at Chautauqua by Pansy
Four girls go on adventures of faith and love in this beloved novel. Set in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Four Girls at Chautauqua details a conversion trip that four girls go on and their individual experiences as they turn to God. Each character is distinct in their journey, and fans of religious narratives will enjoy this coming-of-age tale.
Ultimately, this feel-good classic novel is a tale about friendship, love, and faith.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
One of the quintessential writers in history, Zora Neale Hurston, writes about Janie Starks through her life as she grows. The book is ultimately about self-empowerment, and the strong female protagonist is the star of this classic. Serious topics are explored, such as racism and assault, but the underlying theme of strength and true love remains.
You can get the powerful, multi-award-winning novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, here!
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
This hilarious classic about growing up and finding love details Linda’s coming-of-age story. With sisters and a cousin by her side, Linda spends her time longing for a wedding and searching for a lover. The story follows her through two unsuccessful marriages before she finally finds true love.
This witty novel was published in 1945, chronicling family and marriage life similar to that explored in Little Women. You can get The Pursuit of Love here!
The Makioka Sisters by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki
A Japanese classic novel, The Makioka Sisters, similar to Little Women, tells the story of four sisters who experience life leading up to World War II. This novel takes place in Osaka and follows Tsuruko, Sachiko, Yukiko, and Taeko. Many of the sisters share similar characteristics to the March sisters, though The Makioka Sisters is intended for an older audience.
Junichiro Tanizaki penned what is largely considered a literary masterpiece, and the novel was translated into English in 1957, though it was originally published in the 1940s. The Makioka Sisters, like Little Women, draw inspiration from reality. You can get this timeless classic here!
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
All of Jane Austen’s novels belong on this list, but we’ll only include two and leave it to you to discover her other literary masterpieces.
Sense and Sensibility follows two sisters—one sensible and the other an impulsive romantic—as they come into their own and struggle with society’s expectations as well as their love lives.
Ultimately a story of love and hope, Sense and Sensibility is a funny but lovely read that will capture hearts and keep you in the story long after it’s over. You can get the Jane Austen classic here!
Classics are books that have left an indelible mark on the literary community and the world at large. The power of words extends across generations and transports readers to a period in history, acting as a time portal.
Little Women is perhaps one of the most beloved classic novels in history and is well-loved by children and adults alike. Its ability to extend across age gaps and time periods to move readers with a message of love, family, and self-growth makes it everlasting.
The 20 timeless classic novels on this list are similar to and different from Little Women. Some of the books deal with more serious topics, while others are more lighthearted, but the impact of each novel both during and after its time cannot be overstated.
These classics are here to stay!
Is Little Women about Louisa May Alcott?
Little Women is loosely based on Louisa May Alcott’s childhood and sisters, with the main protagonist, Jo March, inspired by Alcott herself. Many of the characters or scenes are said to have been inspired by real people or events that Alcott either experienced or witnessed during her lifetime.
What reading level is Little Women?
The lexile level for Little Women is 270, the BL is 7.9, and the book is meant for middle grades. Grades 3–8 and ages 9–12 are best suited for the novel, though all ages tend to enjoy this classic!
Was Louisa May Alcott LGBTQ+?
Louisa May Alcott never married or had kids, and there are no known lovers. There is some discussion over whether Alcott would identify as a transgender man in the 21st century, as there is a quote where Alcott says, “I believe I am a man in a woman’s body, for I fall in love with half a dozen pretty girls, and I have never felt that for a man.” It’s not enough to base one’s entire gender or sexual orientation on a single quote, but this one has led to a lot of discussions in the literary world.
Is Little Women rated R?
The 2019 Little Women film is rated PG for thematic elements and brief smoking.
Is there a 2nd book to Little Women?
There are 4 novels in total (though the first 2 novels are typically published together as one). The titles and order are Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys.