This is my favorite way to learn about people from other times and places. Biographies, like historical fiction, introduce us to the time and place we are studying by seeing it through the eyes of one person, the subject of the biography. When I close a biography, I feel like I have a new friend. Of course, usually this new friend lives somewhere far away and is no longer alive! When I was a little girl I read every single Childhood of Famous Americans, a series of biographies written for children, that I could get my hands on. Soon after he learned to read, my son Jimmy gobbled them up too. Autobiographies are biographies written about the author. Two autobiographies that our family enjoys are Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin. Closely related are diaries and journals. We read The Log of Christopher Columbus in US History class, his personal account of his famous voyage across the Atlantic in 1492.
These books are for all ages and help us grow closer to the Lord. Purpose Driven Life and Prayer of Jabez and wonderful examples of this category of books. My children have a deep desire to grow in their walks with Jesus in their teen years. They have enjoyed some of my favorite books and have discovered their own favorites. Here are some more Curtis favorites, both classic and modern, to inspire spiritual growth: A Christian's Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whittal Smith, Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hannard, Authentic Beauty by Leslie Ludy, I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Josh Harris, Prison to Praise by Marlin Carothers, Improving Your Serve by Charles Swindoll, Victory over Darkness by Neil Anderson, and Search for Significance by Robert McGee.
Cookbooks are always fun, especially historical or geographical ones with recipes you can use to supplement history class. We have enjoyed The U.S. History Cookbook: Delicious Recipes and Exciting Events from the Past by Joan D'Amico and Karen Eich Drummond. I have created a cookbook to go along with Ancient Times for those studying world history, Time Travel in the Kitchen: Ancient History Cookbook. Another great E-book cookbook is Aunt Sarah's Alaskan Cookbook. Cookbooks usually have interesting food facts and history tidbits to spice them up. Don't underestimate their value in the homeschool library.
Non-Fiction Living Books on Academic Subjects
These books make learning fun! Instead of dry facts and information, living books breathe life into learning about whatever topic they are about. Your child will enjoy these books and becoming fans of learning! Landmark books, Genevieve Foster history books, and Greenleaf Press's Famous Men series are all painless ways to learn history. For Science, we have enjoyed Exploring Planet Earth: The Journey of Discovery from Early Civilization to Future Exploration by John Hudson Tiner and Dry Bones and Other Fossils by Gary E. and Mary M. Parker. A "living book" is one that seems to breathe life into the subject that it's about, so read a page or two before you purchase the book. If it doesn't spark your interest, chances are that it won't spark your children's interest either.
Have several Bibles in the house so that there is always a Bible handy to look something up. We like to have several different translations. Our favorite translations are the NIV (New International Version), the NASB (New American Standard Bible), the RSV (Revised Standard Version), and the NKJV (New King James Version). Of course, every home should have a King James Version and a Geneva Bible. I don't like The Message, though it is extremely popular right now. One reason we don't use it is that The Message is a paraphrase, not a translation. Also, many passage translations are not true to the original text and have adapted to the culture around us, rather than being true to Biblical principles.
These books can be wonderful, such as City of God by St. Augustine or terrible, such as Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. What makes a book "great" is that it has impacted the world. Most of these books cannot be read and understood until senior year or college, but pick them up as you find them. You can use my Great Books List on my website, Joyful and Successful Homeschooling.You may find yourself making a list of great books that you want to read too. Maybe you can read them together with your son or daughter.
Yes, I know that you can use your online dictionary, but there is nothing quite like having a large Webster's Collegiate Dictionary of your own. Place it next to a Merriam Webster's Collegiate Thesaurus and you are ready to do school right!
Happy book shopping and library building! (I love book shopping--hope you do too!)
Merey (Meredith Ludwig Curtis)