These classic books like Anne of Green Gables are perfect for L. M. Montgomery fans looking for more books and series written in a similar vein!
Books to Read if You Like Anne of Green Gables
L. M. Montgomery made a huge contribution to the girls’ fiction genre when she published Anne of Green Gables in 1908, although she didn’t start it. Louisa May Alcott had written Little Women forty years prior…and even Alcott was drawing on earlier traditions. Nevertheless, it would be hard to overestimate the impact that Montgomery had on girls’ fiction, and on children’s literature in general.
Lucy Maud and her heroine Anne Shirley mean so much to thousands of us fans–and it’s neat to think that there’s now been over a century of readers discovering and falling in love with their story! Mercifully for us, Montgomery was kind to her readers and gave us seven more Anne novels after the original Anne of Green Gables in 1908.
But what about when you get to the end of the Anne books and wonder, “what next? What should I read after Anne of Green Gables?” Montgomery wrote twelve others novels (find all the best editions and covers here), so you’ve still got many pleasant reading hours ahead of you! And then what about other authors who wrote books similar to Anne of Green Gables? There are lots!
Because Montgomery was writing within an already-growing literary vein, the following list of Anne of Green Gables readalikes includes books that were published before Anne as well as decades later.
As I did with the books like Little Women post, I’m being careful here to give you titles that are truly like Anne…recognizable as being spun from the same thread. I’m not just going to shove random classics at you and claim they’re like the Anne books! The following books each feature a single main heroine who has (or learns) a positive, upbeat outlook on life and overcomes obstacles by drawing on her imagination, sympathy for others, and affinity with the natural world.
Perhaps (to paraphrase our favourite redhead), books like Anne of Green Gables are not so scarce as you used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world!
2022 Classics Reading Challenge
If you’re following along with our 2022 Classics Reading Challenge (and it’s never too late to join!), May’s theme is “a vintage girl’s novel.” Any of the following books would be a great fit for the category!
Books and Book Series Like Anne of Green Gables
(I’ve included the ages of the heroines in these descriptions. Some of the books are geared towards younger readers and some towards older, so this might help you decide if you’re choosing a book for a young reader!)
Heidi by Johanna Spyri, 1880
Although it’s set across the world in Switzerland, Heidi is an excellent pick for anyone looking for books like Anne of Green Gables. Heidi is an orphan like Anne, and like Anne, her sweet way of looking at the world breaks open the hearts of the timeworn, careworn people around her. When she comes to live with her grandfather in an alpine chalet, Heidi feels an immediate connection to the natural landscape around her. Seeing her delight in this will have you wishing to live in the Alps as much as you long for Prince Edward Island! Since Heidi is only five at the beginning of the novel, this book is a good choice for younger Anne fans (although re-reading it as an adult, I’m still charmed by it!).
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin, 1903
With her father dead and her mother overwhelmed with farming expenses and raising seven children, Rebecca is sent away to live with her spinster aunts. The aunts want to do their duty, but they have certain ideas about how children should behave…especially strict Aunt Miranda. But Rebecca is unwittingly winsome, managing to endear herself to almost everybody as she grows from a girl of eleven to a young lady of sixteen.
Fans of L. M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon trilogy may be shocked to see how many similarities exist between the Emily series and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Montgomery didn’t seem to have any qualms about writing a story that matched up with an earlier one in so many obvious ways! However, it is interesting that Montgomery borrows the potential love interest in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and takes it in a completely different direction! So if the romantic subplot in Rebecca bothers you at all, read to see how Montgomery handles it.
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1905
Sara Crewe’s father treats her like a princess, and when she goes away to boarding school at age seven he ensures she’ll have every want and need supplied. The school’s headmistress, Miss Minchin, fawns over Sara, but when Sara’s fortunes change for the worse Miss Minchin turns villainous. Now eleven, Sara is banished to the attic and lives in neglect, with only a few staunch friends who stand by her.
In spite of being privileged at first and mistreated later, Sara is never a brat, nor is she bitter. She persists in seeing the good in life and uses her imagination to brighten the world for people around her. Like Burnett’s The Secret Garden, A Little Princess has a magical feel to it, even though it’s not a fantasy.
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter, 1909
Elnora Comstock lives at the edge of the vast Limberlost swamp in Indiana with her mother, who is embittered by hardship and the loss of Elnora’s father. During her strained relationship with her mother, and her uncomfortable foray into the local high school, Elnora finds solace in the woods and in her scientific studies of the natural world.
A Girl of the Limberlost is a follow up to Stratton-Porter’s novel Freckles, with a male protagonist, but it’s not absolutely necessary to read them in order. Although if you’re not in a rush, go ahead and read Freckles first(:
Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster, 1912
After growing up in an orphanage, teenager Judy Abbot gets a scholarship from a mysterious benefactor to attend a women’s college. The one condition of her scholarship is that she must write letters to her sponsor, describing college life and her thoughts about her studies. Judy once almost caught a glimpse of her benefactor–just a long-legged shadow–so she addresses her letters to “Daddy-Long-Legs.”
This epistolary novel is sparkling with Judy’s spunky personality and lively way of looking at the world. Also a treat are the stick drawing illustrations that Judy includes in her letters (drawn by Jean Webster). If you enjoyed reading about Anne Shirley at Queen’s Academy and Redmond College, you’ll love this book! A follow up book is Dear Enemy, about one of Judy’s college friends.
Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter, 1913
Eleven-year-old Pollyanna is full of sunshine, but it isn’t because she’s lived a charmed life. In fact, she’s an orphan, deeply grieving her father’s recent death, and has grown up poor. She moves from “out West” to Vermont to live with her rich Aunt Polly, in whom she finds little sympathy. But Pollyanna’s spirits can’t be quenched–she persistently plays the “glad game” taught by her father, where she finds the good in any situation. And soon she has the whole town playing it, too!
Although Pollyanna has similarities to her literary sisters Sara Crewe and Anne Shirley, you’ll be refreshed to find that she’s her own unique person, and this is a testament to Porter’s skill at writing and characterization. Porter wrote a sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up, in 1915, and later authors continued the Pollyanna “franchise” with more than a dozen additional novels.
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, 1916
Orphaned as a baby, little nine-year-old Elizabeth Ann lives a sheltered life in the city with loving but cloying Aunt Frances. But when illness comes to the house, Elizabeth Ann is sent to stay with her dreaded relatives on their farm in Vermont. The relatives are not as horrible as she imagined, though, just…very, very different. Elizabeth Ann finds that she has more freedom and more responsibilities than she ever imagined she could handle–as well as a growing appetite for hearty food! Elizabeth Ann begins to blossom as her confidence grows and she learns the delight of living.
Dorothy Canfield Fisher was instrumental in bringing the Montessori Method from Europe to the United States, and Understood Betsy reflects her philosophy of raising and teaching children.
Bright Island by Mabel L. Robinson, 1937
Like Anne Shirley, Thankful Curtis lives on an island…except this one is all her own. She lives and breathes for the sun and sea and storms of Bright Island, a small Maine island settled by her grandparents long ago. But then the unthinkable happens: her family wants her to go away to boarding school! On the mainland she’s a fish out of water, backwards compared to her fellow classmates, which includes her snobby roommate and the school heartthrob. Thankful holds her head high and works to find her place, all the while pining to return to her beloved Bright Island.
I mean this in all seriousness: if you want a very special book that will give you the same resonate thrill as an L. M. Montgomery novel, there is no better choice on this list than Bright Island.
Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright, 1938
One of the key things we fans love about L. M. Montgomery is her depiction of nature. The natural world in an L. M. Montgomery novel is an enchanted space, rich with wonder and transcendence for those who have eyes to see it. Not many authors even come close to rivaling her, but I’ve found that this sweet, evocative current runs through Enright’s novels as well.
In this standalone book, nine-year-old Garnet finds a thimble in a dried-up riverbed, and soon her family’s bad luck begins to change for the better. This summer-drenched novel will have you longing for your own Wisconsin farm, and your own pet pig! (Well, I always wanted one of those, anyway!)
The Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, 1940-1955
Set primarily in Minnesota, these autobiographical novels follow Betsy Ray’s childhood over the course of ten novels, from age five through Betsy’s wedding. If you love this genre of “girls’ fiction,” it’s such a treat to be able to live with a character for so long! (And there are surprisingly few series where we get to do this!)
Betsy’s childhood friend Tacy is the other titular character of the series, and the two share a close Anne-and-Diana style friendship throughout the books. Betsy also enjoys a delightful and loving family life, and her high school years are full of drama and the heights and depths of growing up. The series ends in 1917, just as America is entering World War I.
The lovely HarperCollins reprint of the Betsy-Tacy series groups the books into four volumes:
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, 1948
Isn’t it every girl’s dream to live in an English castle where you have plenty of time left to your own devices to read and write and ramble? Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain does (and loves it), but it’s not always a glamorous life. Her eccentric father is an erstwhile bestselling author facing writer’s block, and the household has to sell off furniture and skimp on food to get by.
In contrast to her father, Cassandra’s pen flows. She’s a “scribbler” like Anne, capturing everything in her journal–including the interesting changes that occur when two handsome American men move to the area and become the Mortmain’s new landlords. Anyone who loves Anne Shirley will appreciate Cassandra’s quirkiness and impracticality, as well as her revelry in rituals and the home she loves.
Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace, 1950
This is one of Lovelace’s standalone novels, although it’s set in the same town as the Betsy-Tacy series and features tie-in characters. The heroine, Emily Webster, is eighteen and just wrapping up her senior year. But while all her peers are busy getting married, going to college, or starting jobs, Emily feels like the odd one out, rather “stuck” caring for her beloved but aging grandfather. In spite of her dwindling dreams, Emily embarks on a plan of self-improvement, finding along the way that she can bloom where she’s planted.
Which of these books do you already know and love? Which will you read next…and what would you add?
More posts for bookworms who love Anne of Green Gables:
- How to Be an L. M. Montgomery Heroine in a 21st-Century World
- The Ultimate Guide to Anne of Green Gables Film Adaptations
- Hilariously Bad Book Covers: L. M. Montgomery edition
- The BEST L. M. Montgomery Book Covers
- Lovely Gift Ideas for Anne of Green Gables Fans
- My Review of GazeboTV (the streaming platform for Anne of Green Gables  and Road to Avonlea)