Classic Books to Read If You Love Little Women

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Wish you could find more books like Little Women by Louisa May Alcott? These classic books for fans of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy will remind you of Little Women, with picks for children and teens as well as adults. If you’ve ever wondered what book you should read if you love Little Women, start here!

Puffin in Bloom cover of Little Women - floral background with drawings of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy

Little Women Readalikes

When you find a book you love, it’s only natural to wonder if there are more books like it. Rest assured, there is. There always is. Sometimes it just takes a little digging (and maybe some guidance from a book blogger) to find them!

Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women is one such book that I–like millions of other readers–fell in love with and couldn’t get enough of. As a twelve-year-old, I was eager to know if there were other books similar to Little Women that would give me that same cozy, inspiring, satisfying feel.

The obvious starting point was to read other books by Louisa May Alcott, and if you’re looking for classics like Little Women I recommend you start there as well! Read An Old-Fashioned Girl, Eight Cousins, and Rose in Bloom. When you’re done with those lovely novels, move on to one of these other classics for fans of Little Women.

Movie still of Jo March reading a book, from the 1994 Winona Ryder version.

I’ve divided up this Little Women readalike list into two parts: books written specifically for children or teenagers, and books written for adults. Also, it’s all classic books on this list. The recent Little Women movie adaptations have already inspired several lists featuring modern retellings and spinoffs of Alcott’s original. This book list features classics with similarities to Little Women, but that aren’t specifically drawing from the novel. 

What makes these books these books compare to Little Women? Because (you’ll be happy to know) I did not just slap up a list of random classics and pretend they’re “alike” because they’re old or have a girl as the main character!

Every book here earned its place. Some of them are direct descendants of the girls’ fiction genre that Little Women helped to launch. Many of them are–like Alcott’s novel–semi-autobiographical stories of girls coming of age, learning to navigate the opportunities and obstacles of their era. There’s one that forgoes the traditional marriage plot and has the heroine earn a living as a writer (something Alcott did herself, and sort-of does with Jo). Perhaps you will fall in love with some of these heroines as much as you did with Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy! Read on and see…

Classic Books Like Little Women for Tweens and Teens

Book cover of What Katy Did - girl in a red checkered dress swinging on a swing.

What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge, 1872

If you can relate to Jo March’s impulsiveness and tomboy nature, you’ll find a kinship with Katy Carr. Katy is the oldest of six children, growing up in a small Ohio town. In absence of a mother, she wants to be a perfect example for her siblings, but she often leads them into madcap adventures instead. Like Jo’s story, there is a lot of personal reckoning and coming-of-age in this book. It makes for a cathartic experience as you put yourself in the heroine’s shoes: witnessing her deep transformation leaves you a little the wiser, too.

There are four more books following the Carr family: What Katy Did at School (Katy and her sister’s adventures at boarding school), What Katy Did Next (featuring a European tour Jo March would’ve loved to take!), Clover, and In the High Valley.

Book cover set for Chautauqua Girls series - yellow background with headshots of four dressed-up women

Four Girls at Chautauqua by Pansy (Isabella Macdonald Alden), 1876

A contemporary of Louisa May Alcott, Isabella Alden (who wrote under the pen name Pansy) was a prolific and widely-read author of girls’ fiction. One of the things that readers love the most about Alcott’s Little Women is the way that the four sisters each have such different personalities and aspirations. Four Girls at Chautauqua captures this personality mix as well, except the four heroines are friends rather than sisters.

Ruth, Eurie, Flossy, and Marion surprise even themselves by leaving the city to spend two weeks “roughing it” in the woods at a Christian retreat. The adventure changes them and further cements their friendship; their stories continue in five more books, finally culminating in their return to Chautauqua as grown-up mothers, twenty-five years after that memorable summer.

Book cover of Caddie Woodlawn - Girl ice skating on a pond

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, 1935

Imagine Jo March leaving the Boston area to settle with her family on the frontier of Wisconsin. Now imagine Jo March out there with brothers, running wild through the fields and forests and making friends with local Indians. This is Caddie Woodlawn’s life, and it’s such a fun read! Caddie experiences a similar character development to Jo, as she faces the necessity of growing up and taking on responsibilities, striving to maintain yet channel her feisty nature.

The novel and its sequel are based off of experiences of the author’s grandmother.

Book cover of All-of-a-Kind Family - parents with five daughters walking a city street

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor, 1951

This book follows the adventures of five sisters growing up Jewish in New York city. The book was written in 1951, but because it’s autobiographical it’s set in the early 1900s, when Sydney Taylor was a little girl. Like the March sisters, the girls aren’t wealthy, but what they lack in worldly goods they make up for with imagination, rich family traditions, and the bonds of sisterhood.

All-of-a-Kind Family is the first in a series of five books, followed by More All-of-a-Kind FamilyAll-of-a-Kind Family UptownAll-of-a-Kind Family Downtown, and Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family.

Books Like Little Women for Adults

Sense and Sensibility book cover - fuchsia-colored flowers on a light blue background

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, 1811

Although it predates Alcott’s novel, Sense and Sensibility is still an excellent book for fans of Little Women. Readers cherish the tight friendship among the March sisters in Little Women, and Austen’s novel gives us the Dashwood sisters to love. The plot of Sense and Sensibility is closely tied to the fortunes of the two sisters as they go from wealth to poverty. And of course, as you have in Little Women there’s a very nice dash of romance in Austen’s novel, too!

Ruth Hall book cover - portrait of woman clad in black

Ruth Hall by Fanny Fern (Sara Payson Willis), 1854

Like Isabella Alden, Fanny Fern was another contemporary of Louisa May Alcott who was a bestselling author in her day, yet receives limited attention in the twenty-first century. Fern was a sought-after newspaper columnist when she published Ruth Hall, her first novel. The book is a semi-autobiographical account of a mother seeking to make a living as a writer, whilst putting up with a pair of awful in-laws.

Fern has her heroine, Ruth, retain the copyright to her work, a forward-thinking move that mirrors Fern’s own choice in real life. (And as the Greta Gerwig movie of Little Women taught us, Louisa May Alcott owned the copyright to her novel as well. Although, the movie edits the fact that it was at her publisher’s suggestion.) Fern’s copyright gamble paid off. Ruth Hall was a smashing success, and within a year Fanny Fern was the highest-paid newspaper columnist in the United States.

The Makioka Sisters book cover - pastel portraits of four Japanese women

The Makioka Sisters by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, 1943-48

(Translated by Edward Seidensticker)

This Japanese classic centers around four sisters living in Osaka just before the start of World War II. But like the Civil War in Little Women, the war here is merely a backdrop for the family matters going on at home. The Makiokas are a declining aristocratic family, clinging to tradition even as their world is tilting into the modern era. The two older sisters are married, and now their aim is to get the (undecisive) third sister settled, while attempting to stifle the headstrong youngest sister.

Clocking in at over five hundred pages, some readers find the novel’s preoccupation with mundane details boring, while others praise the calm prose and subtle symbolism. It’s not a book to rush through, but to savor.

The Fountain Overflows book cover - vibrant painting of woman at a piano

The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West, 1956

Set in Edwardian England, The Fountain Overflows is told through the eyes of precocious, young Rose Aubrey. Like Little Women, The Fountain Overflows explores the dynamics of a talented family living in genteel poverty. There’s other similarities, too–Clare Aubrey is an adored mother akin to Marmee, and both novels are episodic and semi-autobiographical.

And then there’s differences. The father in Fountain is no Mr. March; his gambling and neglect of his family are what ushered in the hard times to begin with. The Fountain Overflows is also darker than Little Women and less orderly. If you’re up for a sometimes odd and rambling–but also subtle and insightful–family novel, settle in with this!

Alright, your turn: What books would you recommend for fans of Little Women?

More posts on the subject of Little Women

And next, check out this list of books like Anne of Green Gables!

Collage of book covers with classics similar to Little Women

Classic Books to Read If You Love Little WomenClassic Books to Read If You Love Little Women
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17 Comments

  1. “Caddie Woodlawn” was one of my favorites as a child. I haven’t read it aloud to Caroline yet. It’s on the list. We’re currently in the middle of reading aloud the “All-of-a-Kind Family” series. This was also one of my very favorites. I can still see where they were on the public library shelf when I was growing up. I read them so many times. We’ve finished two and will start the third this coming week.

    I’ve read lots of Isabella Alden, but not that series!

    I saw the Emma Thompson movie of “Sense and Sensibility” before I read the book. I was pleasantly surprised by how great the book is. It goes far beyond what is in the movie. Sometimes movies spoil the book if you see it first, but in this case I really enjoyed the novel even though I knew what was going to happen.

    Have you read “Understood Betsy”? It’s not exactly like “Little Women” but such a great read.

    I have “What Katy Did” on my Kindle. Now you’ve pushed me to get it out and read it! Thank you!

    Sallie

    1. That Sense and Sensibility movie is a great one, and I also saw it before reading the book! Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are the only books of hers that I read before watching the movies. But I found that to be the case with me as well–watching the movies first for most of the novels didn’t actually spoil the enjoyment a bit! Usually I try to read the book first, but I watched the Austen movies when I was younger, and the movies actually WERE my introduction to the author!

      I’m reading Understood Betsy right now! I had read parts of it years ago to the girls I was babysitting for (because it was their family read-aloud), but I’d never read it cover to cover myself. But, I was actually planning to include it on a different book list…the one for “people who love Anne of Green Gables”! That should be coming out in the next couple months.

  2. I wracked my brain to think of other stories I’ve read that would remind me at all of Little Women. I came up with two : Never Miss A Sunset by Jeanette Gilge. This one also has the Little House feel as well as Caddie Woodlawn. The second is Laddie by Gene Stratton Porter. The title may lead you to think that it’s about a boy, it is but it is also very much about his little sister and their family. If I remember correctly, it is written from the young girl’s perspective.
    I also thought I would mention a book about Louisa May Alcott. It’s called Invincible Louisa The story of the author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs. It is written for grade school age children but I think we have already established that we are not put off by whether the book is ” age appropriate”. I liked it!
    This was a fun exercise!

    1. Thank you so much for putting the thought into more reading suggestions! I’ve never even heard of the Gilge one, but it’s definitely going on my list (if I can track down a copy). We were big Porter fans growing up…read several of her books and went to some Porter-related locales in Indiana. And I have that LMA biography on my bookshelf, but I don’t recall reading it. I certainly should.

  3. Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle has a coming-of-age story, a compelling young woman heroine, a family of several children, and interesting dynamics between the siblings. Noel Streatfield’s book Saplings has these features too. Both books are darker, especially Saplings, than Little Women. That’s probably because these characters don’t have wise parents like Marmee helping them navigate the transition to adulthood, but rather self-involved parents, so they’re having to figure a lot of stuff out on there own. Still they’re fine books, interesting period pieces, and make fascinating reading for adults.

    1. Yessss! I am such a fan of I Capture the Castle! That book is definitely going on a future book list here. I haven’t read anything by Streatfield yet, not even Ballet Shoes, but I’ve been meaning to. Thank you so much for putting these suggestions here for other Tea & Ink readers!

  4. Elsie. Lovely post. I haven’t read Little Women. But until I read your Blog I wouldn’t have read any LM Montgomery either. Now I’ve read all the Anne and Emily series + others.. Looking forward to order some more of the books you recommend. Love being a part of this Elsie. Thanks.
    Mark

    1. Oh, thank you! If I’ve inspired anyone to read Montgomery and Alcott, my work here is done. Just kidding, but it does make me very pleased to hear that!

  5. I have another couple of suggestions. When I was a teenager I loved the books The Keeping Days, and its sequel Glory In the Flower, by Norma Johnston. Set about 1900, they have an intelligent, sensitive female main character, aged 14, not always wise, but growing fast — love books like that! Also a large family of varying interesting temperments and a literary tone to the writing. These books would be entirely appropriate for teenage readers. I’m curious how much I would enjoy them now, many years later, as an adult, but I expect I still would.
    In the same category is the book Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Different, more literary and timeless, than any movie version of it you might have ever seen! Loved it as a middle-schoool girl!

    1. I’ve read Rebecca of Sunnybrook, and adding The Keeping Days books to my list (looks like they’re really hard to find, though!). Thanks for sharing these!

  6. I can only recommend “The Ark” and its sequel “Rowan Farm” by Margot Benary-Isbert. I can’t speak for the English translation, since I read it in the original German, but I think it’s a great story. It’s about a family in post-WW2 Germany. The four children Matthias(15), Margret(14), Andrea(11) and Joey(7) and their mother had to flee across Germany while their father is imprisoned in Russia. Now they have to live with Mrs. Verduz, who isn’t too happy to accomodate a whole family. In this new situation, all the children find new friends, except for Margret who is still grieving over her twin brother, who was shot by a Russian soldier while they were still at home in Pomerania. I have reread this book several times and it has never become boring. It’s more of a childrens book, but it doesn’t hide the gruesome reality of post-war Germany.

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