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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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