Little Women Books in Order, Dive into Louisa May Alcott’s Classic Series

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

Little Women Book Series: Reading Guide

Today, The Little Women book series consists of three books. Originally, Little Women was published in two volumes, called Little Women and Good Wives, respectively. Now, the story is published in one book containing 47 chapters.

Little Women (1868 & 1869)
Little Men: Life at Plumfield with Jo’s Boys (1871)
Jo’s Boys, and How They Turned Out: A Sequel to “Little Men” (1886)

Little Women series, by Hesperus Classics

Discovering The Four March Sisters

The synopsis of Little Women

During the American Civil War, four middle-class girls, beautiful Meg, tomboy Jo, tragically frail Beth and romantic, spoiled Amy, live in Concord, Massachusetts, with their mother and Hannah, a faithful servant.

The sisters are growing up together, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive while their father, a Northerner, is at the front.

The Creation of a classic Coming-of-Age story

When publisher Thomas Niles suggested Louisa May Alcott to write a girls’ novel, she was first hesitant because as she said herself, she “could not write a girls’ story knowing little about any but my own sisters and always preferring boys.”

Alcott drew mainly on her own life to write Little Women. Louisa and her three sisters primarily inspired the characters and their interactions. The themes of sisterhood, individualism, and coming of age in the book are inspired by Alcott’s own experiences growing up in a close-knit family.

One key person disagreed with Alcott: Nile’s niece, Lillie Almy, enjoyed reading the chapters Alcott had provided, and numerous young girls agreed.

Writing for money, Alcott completed the book quickly, and both she and her publisher were quite surprised when Little Women became an instant success.

Alcott quickly completed a second volume and the two volumes were issued in 1880 as a single novel titled Little Women. Alcott subsequently wrote two sequels: Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886). The financial difficulties that had affected the Alcott family over the years were officially over.

The March Sisters and their mother in Little Women (1994)

More about Little Women

The many adaptations of Little Women

Since the release of a silent film adaptation of Little Women in 1917, Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel has been adapted many many times, into films, TV series, stage productions, and other media formats. The most noticeable movie adaptations include:

  • The first talkie adaptation, which was released in 1933, starring Katherine Hepburn and was directed by George Cukor. It was a success among critics and the public.
  • The 1949 version in technicolor with June Allyson as Jo, Janet Leigh as Meg, Margaret O’Brien, as Beth March; and Elizabeth Taylor with a blonde wig as Amy March.
  • The 1994 film was directed by Gillian Armstrong and features Winona Ryder as Jo March, Kirsten Dunst as young Amy and Samantha Mathis as older Amy, Trini Alvarado as Meg, Claire Danes as Beth, and Susan Sarandon as Marmee. It is often considered one of the best adaptations, tied with the 1933 version.
  • The recent 2019 adaptation directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Saoirse Ronan is Jo; Emma Watson as Meg; Florence Pugh as Amy; Eliza Scanlon as Beth, and Meryl Streep as Aunt March

About Louisa May Alcott

Born in 1832 near Philadelphia, Louisa May Alcott was the youngest of four daughters in a family of intellectuals with many money problems. Her dad, Bronson Alcott was a follower of transcendentalism, a philosophy that believed in self-improvement, independence, treating everyone like family, and the inherent goodness of people and nature. Alcott’s mom, Abigail, also known as Abba, was the one who managed the home. She supported the abolition of slavery and women’s rights.

Despite her poverty, Alcott grew up among wealthy intellectuals. Louisa’s family moved to Concord, Massachusetts, when she was eight years old, where she was mentored by her father’s friends Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Alcott believed that freedom was really important and resisted 19th-century expectations of female domesticity. But her family being poor meant she had to always take care of herself. She started working when she was young, doing jobs such as a lady’s companion, a seamstress, a teacher, and a servant.

“Little Women” wasn’t the kind of book Alcott wanted to write, but it ended up being a hit. While the series gave her financial freedom, it also consigned her to a role she disliked, that of a writer of “moral pap for the young”, as she described it.

Before “Little Women,” Alcott was already writing a lot. She started writing poems when she was eight, and later wrote short stories. In 1854, when she was 22, she published her first novel called “Flower Fables.” Her book “Hospital Sketches” (1863), which talked about her time helping wounded soldiers during the Civil War, was an important step in her writing journey. Under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard, Alcott published 30 Gothic thrillers.

Alcott died on March 6, 1888, just two days after her dad. She is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord.