The worlds of Little Women: LMA challenge reading list

By Trix Wilkins

As those who’ve read The Courtship of Jo March have probably worked out, I have a penchant for alternate histories, parallel universes, alternate realities – things I enjoy with my history-teacher husband, whose sense of humor is very much embedded in the “what if.” Thus the books on this list explore some of the worlds of Little Women from its publication through the century and a half since – books I hope to read for the Louisa May Alcott reading challenge.

Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge ... JUNE 2017

The real world: Little Women (Part 1) by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women PIC

I have lost count of the number of times I have read this favorite novel of mine, but this time I’m reading to pay particular attention to Marmee and Beth. Marmee because she represents Louisa’s own affectionate, intelligent and resourceful mother Abigail, and there’s much to learn from her example. And Beth – the more I read Little Women, the more she shines to me as the strongest and possibly the most interesting of the four sisters, with so much unrealized potential.

The meeting of worlds: Little Women and me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Little Women and me PIC

Being a great fan of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series where it is possible to physically travel into the world of fiction, I’m intrigued by the premise of this novel: young Emily from modern times finds herself entering the world of the March sisters! What fun it must have been to imagine interacting in person with Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. I’m looking forward to seeing Lauren’s depiction of the meeting of our two worlds.

The future world: The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly


This is probably the book I’m most excited to read as it is set in a parallel universe in which Little Women is real history. Jo March is a real historical figure, thus she has a real family tree and real descendants who live in our time – sisters who then discover some long lost letters written by great-great-grandma Jo! I am especially looking forward to reading those letters, as reviews I’ve read of this novel testify to their being very true to Louisa’s voice and Jo March’s character.

The world outside: The woman behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen


I’m hoping to like this biography of Louisa as much as I do Eve LaPlante’s Marmee and Louisa (Eve, incidentally, really is a descendant of the Alcotts, and actually did find a trunk of letters and journals of the real ‘Jo’ and ‘Marmee’). I have the impression that it contains significant details of the romance between Louisa and Ladislas Wisniewski, and her friendship with Alf Whitman (both of whom were Louisa’s avowed inspirations for the character of Laurie).

The world unseen: Little Women illuminated by The Message by Susan Bailey

Little Women The Message PIC

I’m aiming to simply start reading this month, as this book is designed for personal reflection – a compilation of quotes alongside related passages from The Message (a translation of the Bible in modern English that reads like a narrative). I’m looking forward to discovering new gems from Louisa’s writings, and perhaps some unfamiliar yet insightful pieces of scripture.

For all keen to join the Louisa May Alcott reading challenge, hop on over to In the Bookcase!

Author and book sale PIC

7 thoughts on “The worlds of Little Women: LMA challenge reading list

  1. Ambitious! You must read like the wind. 🙂 I’m in my third read of Harriet Reisen’s book (I have it on audio book — makes a great traveling companion) so that tells you how much I love that book. BTW, she makes a particular remark about Lizzie during her illness that acted as the catalyst for my research on her — I think you’ll recognize it when you read it. 🙂

    Gabrielle’s book is totally charming and fun, just like the author — we became good friends when she’d come to the Summer Conversational Series at Orchard House in Concord every year — the highlight of my summer! 🙂

    And you will like Beth’s treatment in Little Women and Me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Still waiting for the book to arrive, it looks like it’s not going to get here in time for the end of the challenge 😦 Would still love to write a post about it though, would you be willing for me to grill you about the writing process that went into putting it together? Is there a passage from Little Women that is your particular favorite that was included in the book, and why? (Or two or three, if it’s hard to narrow down to just one?) Thanks Susan, and when the book arrives hopefully I’ll get to review it in time for Summer Conversations! Will you be attending?


  2. I’m in love with your book list, Trix. Wow! You put some serious thought into this, (and will be putting serious reading time in). Right now, I’m interested in each of the books you mentioned here. I’ll wait to hear your thoughts on them to see if they’re worthy looking into. I do recommend Susan Bailey’s devotional; I was blessed by the beautiful pairings of literature and scripture, and hope you will be too.

    Excellent picks!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Plus, I’ve GOT to find out more about this Jasper Fforde author that you mentioned. The premise sounds amazing… being able to travel into the world of fiction?! What a dream.


      1. Yes I’m so grateful to the woman who introduced me to Jasper Fforde! I was given the first book in the series as a Christmas present, The Eyre Affair. The rest of the series is great fun too, though I especially like The Eyre Affair, Something Rotten, and First Among Sequels.


    2. Thanks for the tip about the devotional, glad to hear it’s been a blessing to you 🙂 Looking forward to my copy coming in the mail. Little Women Letters and Little Women and Me just arrived! Just finished The Woman behind Little Women – very compelling read, I got up out of bed at 11pm and kept reading till like 2 to finish it (I had gotten up to the chapter called “A little romance” and of course I had to get up and see what all that was about, and then just kept going!).. I love your pick of Invincible Louisa, really love that biography, Cornelia’s writing style is lovely and she portrays the life of Louisa in narrative form so well.


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