I’ve grown to really enjoy talking and reviewing books on this little corner of the Internet, and I recently decided I had to talk about my all-time favorite books ever written. Since I was eight years old, the Anne of Green Gables books have been a huge part of my life. The characters are quirky and real, the settings and descriptions make me feel like I’m floating on a cloud of beauty, and the whole concept of the stories promotes goodness and loveliness in such a black and white way that now as an adult, reading these books is a sort of escapism into the beautiful world I lived in as a child.
Anne of Green Gables is popularly lauded as a classic, and most people have at least heard of the book, but a lot of people don’t know that there are actually eight books in the series. For me, each of these books holds a special place in my heart and influence in my life. Each one of the eight has been read multiple times, and the people that populate them are real friends of mine. So today, I thought I would rank each of the eight books in the series from my least favorite to favorite. I love each of the books, but there are definitely some I like more than others. If you’ve read these books and disagree with my rankings, let me know in the comments! Also, if you haven’t read these books, I hope this post encourages you to check them out.
8. Anne of Avonlea, Book 2– The second book in the series follows Anne’s teenage years working as a schoolteacher in her hometown and saving money for college. It’s full of charming adventures and funny mishaps, as all of the books are, but the reason I ranked it last is for two reasons. The first is simply just that I like the other books better! The adventures of adult Anne hold my interest a lot more than this one does. The second reason is Gilbert Blythe. You’ll notice this as a recurring theme throughout all of the books, but the older I’ve gotten, the more Gilbert Blythe’s character has bothered me. He’s grossly underdeveloped, and has about two character traits outside of the fact that he’s madly in love with Anne Shirley. There are so many points in the series where I want to hear his side of the story, or what is going on with him (I mean, he is the main love interest, shouldn’t he have more character development than all of the random side characters that populate the books and get a ton of page time?) Anyway, the lack of development of their relationship (purely friendship in this one) and his personality in this book is my main complaint with it.
7. Anne of Windy Poplars, Book 4– Moving on to Anne’s early twenties, in this book she has graduated college and is engaged to her true love Gilbert. The book spans their three year engagement during which he is studying at medical school and she is working as a principal at a high school in a town called Windy Poplars. A lot of the book consists of letters she writes to her fiance, telling him about her various experiences and the quirky old ladies that she is boarding with. It’s a cute book with some fun characters and I have to say I do enjoy reading this one a lot, but once again my complaint in this book is the lack of Gilbert. She’s writing to him the whole time, but we never once see a letter from him to her, and I don’t think he actually appears in one scene in the entire book! If ever there was a time to get to know him better, wouldn’t it be when they’re engaged? Haha, maybe I’m too fixated on this.
6. Anne of Green Gables, Book 1– I feel like this is kind of an unpopular opinion, but Book 1 is not super high on my list. I will always have a special place in my heart for the story of the redheaded orphan coming to change the life of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, but the story of Anne’s childhood and coming of age is definitely not my favorite in the series. It was a wonderful read when I was a kid, but now that I’m older I enjoy the stories of adult Anne and her children a lot more.
5. Rainbow Valley, Book 7– The seventh book in the Anne series isn’t really about Anne at all, which is why I ranked it at #5. The book follows the adventures of Anne’s six children, and more particularly, their friends the Merediths. The four Meredith children move into the town of Glen St Mary when their father becomes the new minister, and they very quickly get into mischief despite the best of intentions. It’s a very cute and enjoyable read as a stand alone, but as Anne and her family are more background characters, it’s not my favorite. I ranked it higher than the other books on the list really for one reason: Walter Blythe. Anne’s second son Walter is my favorite character in the entire series, I have an unhealthy amount of love for him. I adore her other kids too, but sensitive, poetic, intelligent Walter is by far my favorite, and the fact that he’s in this one gives it a higher ranking in my books. (haha I sound insane)
4. Anne of Ingleside, Book 6- There’s something so charming about this one for me. It’s the story of Anne as a young mother raising six little ones to be just as charming and imaginative and delightful as she is. When the book begins, she is pregnant with her youngest daughter Rilla, and by the time it ends, Rilla is about five or six, so it spans several years of her babies’ lives. For as long as I remember I’ve loved to read this book and dream about one day having a family like Anne’s and being the kind of mother that she is. The main reason I love it is because of the sweet, idyllic picture it paints of family life and the hope it gives me that a family like that can exist (never mind that it’s a fictional book, I can just pretend right?)
3. Anne’s House of Dreams, Book 5- This book begins with Gilbert & Anne’s long awaited wedding and follows their adventures as they travel to a new town to begin their new life together. I’ve always loved this one so much, and it’s difficult for me to explain why. I love seeing Anne naturally fall into the role of wife, making it look so much easier than it really is, and make friends and influence the lives of the people she meets. One of the things I love the most about the character of Anne Shirley Blythe is her sensitivity and compassion for everyone around her, the way she draws people in and changes their lives for the better. I’ve always found it so inspiring and wished I was more like that. It’s a trait that’s unique to Anne, that doesn’t really belong to any of L.M. Montgomery’s other characters. Everywhere she goes, in every book and each phase of her life, she makes lifelong friends that she cares for more than she cares for herself, and does everything she can to improve their lives. In this book, she makes friends with another one of my favorite characters, Leslie Moore, a beautiful woman with an incredibly tragic past and the ultimate burden to bear of being trapped in a loveless marriage to a mentally disabled man. She has so many passionate, touching monologues in this book that I feel so deeply every time I read them. I won’t go into too many details about her, but suffice it to say that Leslie’s storyline is one of my favorites in the series and her friendship with Anne is truly touching.
2. Anne of the Island, Book 3- This book covers Anne’s college years at Redmond University. I’ve always loved this one, in large part because of the epic romance plot that begins with a rejected proposal and ends with her rushing to the bedside of the man she now realizes she’s always loved. But I also love the portrait that it paints of her college life, the friendships and parties and enjoyments that finally surround her after all of her hard work to get there. I love Patty’s Place, the charming cottage that she lives in with three of her best girlfriends (I mean really, what a dream!) and I love the vivacious and hilarious Philippa Gordon, Anne’s friend and roommate, who really gets a chance to shine in this book. I feel like Anne of the Island is the book where Anne’s life really begins and I always feel a little bit jealous of the amazing college experience and friends and exciting love life that fills it.
1. Rilla of Ingleside, Book 8- Ironically, the eighth and final book in the series is my absolute favorite. It focuses on the coming of age story of Anne’s teenage daughter Rilla set against the backdrop of World War I. The reason this book is my favorite is because it has a gravity to it that none of the other books in the series have. Set in war-time, it contrasts sharply with the idyllic, honey sweet happiness of the other books in the series, tackling grief, tragedy and sacrifice as it explores how the Blythe family is affected by the war. Rilla’s character arc in the novel is just amazing. She goes from a spoiled, self centered young girl to a strong, courageous woman. She raises a war baby, watches her three brothers and her childhood crush go off to the front, and stays strong through it all. Rilla of Ingleside is heart wrenching, funny, romantic and inspiring. It has everything you could ever want in a book. It’s incredibly sad, but somehow, that makes it so much better than the other books, at least for me.