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Millenium | William Heinemann Ltd | HarperCollins | Faber Faber | Paperjacks | Puffin | Dodd, Mead & Company | Avon Books

Happy 50th Birthday to These Books

It’s hard to believe some of these classics and underrated favorites are turning 50 this year. Are you surprised by any of these?
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Some of my absolute favorite reads were published decades before I was even born–and I didn’t even know it. Since realizing how old the classics I’ve read really are, I’ve taken an interest in the books hitting milestones each year – whether that’s a 10th, 50th, or even 100th anniversary. And let me tell you, these books turning 50 in 2022 shocked me.

‘My Name Is Asher Lev’ by Chaim Potok

My Name is Asher Lev Original and New Covers
Penguin Classics | William Heinemann Ltd.

My Name Is Asher Lev follows Asher, a Jewish artist in New York City. Throughout the story, we see Asher grow in both his art and his personal life. It’s a coming-of-age tale following a relatable protagonist that struggles to balance his interests and his family’s dreams for him.

The book will be celebrating its 50th birthday on March 12, so if you’re interested in giving it a read, now’s a perfect time. Potok released a sequel (The Gift of Asher Lev) that shows Asher as a grown man as he travels back to NYC to visit family after his uncle dies.

‘The Gods Themselves’ by Isaac Asimov

The Gods Themselves Original and Newer Covers
Millenium | Doubleday

Before The Gods Themselves, Asimov published the three parts of the novel as stories in Galaxy Magazine and Worlds of If. Since the science fiction novel was published, it has won the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the Hugo Award for Best Novel.

In the 22nd century, radiochemist Frederick Hallam is looking for a way to restart Earth after nature collapses. In part two, Dua (an alien) looks for ways to help Earth and humans from space. After those wrap up, part three follows Denison, Hallam’s rival, on the moon.

‘Julie of the Wolves’ by Jean Craighead George

Julie of the Wolves Original and New Covers
HarperCollins | Harper & Row

I always saw Julie of the Wolves in the library, and I finally grabbed it sometime in my senior year of high school. I was sadly missing out on such an excellent story for so many years. Julie of the Wolves is the first book of a series of three following Julie, an Inuk girl in Alaska.

This novel follows Julie trying to survive in the Alaskan cold after becoming an orphan and having to live with her distant great aunt. While out in the wild, she meets a pack of wolves and learns to communicate and live with them. We also see her struggle deciding between her wolf pack and her Inuk tribe at the end.

‘An Unsuitable Job for a Woman’ by P.D. James

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman Original and New Covers
Penguin Books | Faber Faber

As a die-hard mystery lover, I knew I was going to love this book when I picked it up. And while it’s been a while since I read it, I do remember one thing: Cordelia Gray is one of my favorite detectives in all of fiction. She’s just behind Sherlock Holmes, to be honest.

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman follows Cordelia as she solves the death of Mark Callender. While an autopsy ruled it a suicide, she was hired by his father to investigate. The novel is the first in two of Cordelia Gray’s mysteries. It’s a shame we didn’t get more.

Cordelia’s first mystery was adapted into a movie in 1982. The two-book series was also made into a television series from 1997 to 2001. Helen Victoria Baxendale (who you might recognize as Emily, Ross’s snubbed British wife from Friends) portrayed the private detective.

‘Surfacing’ by Margaret Atwood

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood Original and New Covers
Warner Books | Paperjacks

Before The Handmaid’s Tale was written and adapted into a worldwide sensation, Margaret Atwood wrote Surfacing. In the book, we follow an unnamed woman searching for her father. As she looks, she finds pieces of memories she’d forgotten about.

While it’s not Atwood’s most famous novel, it’s one that will make you rethink what you know about yourself and the world you grew up in. The 1981 movie was based directly on it and was just as beautiful and thought-provoking. I think it’s time for Surfacing to come back to the screen.

‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams

Watership Down Orginal and New Covers
Rex Collings | Puffin

Who else had to read this for an English class and instantly fell in love with it? I did, and I don’t regret a second of re-reading it every few years. Watership Down is broken into four parts and an epilogue. It follows a colony of rabbits on their numerous adventures.

Each rabbit has a distinct personality, and you’ll find yourself in at least one of them. A movie based on the book came out in 1978, and a television show came out in 1999 and ran until 2001. Recently, there was another animated series based on the series that you can find on Netflix.

‘Frog and Toad Together’ by Arnold Lobel

Frog and Toad Together Original and New Covers
HarperCollins | Barnes & Noble

I know my mom read the Frog and Toad books to me growing up, but honestly, I barely remember them. All I remember was there were a lot of animals. Regardless, I look at these books fondly and wish I had remembered them when my nieces and nephews were younger.

This is the second book in the Frog and Toad series and follows the two friends through five of their adventures. Each one reminds me of the Winnie the Pooh stories, and maybe that’s why they’re so popular among children. A movie based on the book was made in 1985.

‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’ by Judith Viorst

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Original and New Covers
Simon & Schuster Children’s UK | Atheneum Books

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (boy, that’s a mouthful) was never a story I read as a kid. I only heard about it when Disney made that okay movie based on it. I only watched it because of Jennifer Garner, but even she couldn’t make me enjoy it.

In addition to Disney’s adaptation of it, there was a play that never made it to the stage created in 2004 and a musical that did make it onstage in 1998. A musical television special based on the book aired in 1990 starring All That actor Danny Tamberelli.

I’m honestly surprised I never got into one of the most popular children’s books of all time. It follows Alexander as his day keeps getting progressively worse as the day goes on.

See also: Children’s Classics That Did Not Age Well

‘The Stepford Wives’ by Ira Levin

The Stepford Wives Original and Newer Covers
HarperCollins | Random House

The Stepford Wives follows photographer Joanna as she tries to prove that the other women in her neighborhood are robots. Since it’s been 50 years since it was first published, I’m going to spoil the ending. She never proves it and becomes another Stepford wife.

I’ll be the first to say I haven’t read the book all the way through yet. But it is on my list, and I will get to it eventually. The novel was adapted into a series of thriller films through the 70s and 80s. In 2004, it was again made into a movie starring Nicole Kidman.

‘All Creatures Great and Small’ by James Herriot

All Creatures Great and Small Original and New Covers
St. Martin’s Griffith | St. Martin’s Press

This novel combines Herriot’s two books, If Only They Could Talk and It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet, and tells his many veterinarian stories. For over 40 years, Herriot traveled around Yorkshire and treated animals and watched the people around him.

I’m not one for memoirs, but I loved this one for some reason. James Herriot’s writing is beautifully poetic in a way that drew me in. And if you’re looking for more of Herriot’s stories, check out the many adaptations of the novel. And yes, there are plenty to choose from.

Two films came out in the mid-70s, with a television series coming soon after that aired for 12 years. Since then, a prequel series titled Young James Herriot came out in 2011. A new series, All Creatures Great and Small, is currently airing and stars Nicholas Ralph as the veterinarian.

‘Elephants Can Remember’ by Agatha Christie

Elephants Can Remember Original and Newer Covers
Dodd, Mead & Company | HarperCollins

I love Agatha Christie, so I will take any chance to talk about her work. Elephants Can Remember was one of the last books published in the Hercule Poirot series.

Elephants Can Remember follows Poirot and Ariadne Oliver as they uncover the 15-year-old mystery deaths that happened at the edge of a cliff. There have been a few adaptations based on the book, but my favorite is the episode from Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

See also: 25 Classic Novels That Are So “Bad,” They’re Good

‘Freaky Friday’ by Mary Rodgers

Freaky Friday Original and Movie Covers
Avon Books | HarperCollins

If you’re like me, you didn’t know this was a book until years after watching Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis switch bodies. And while I loved the movie, I didn’t enjoy the book all that much. Maybe it was because I had seen the movie first, but I might have to give it another try.

If you don’t know the story, Freaky Friday sees Annabel and her mother switch bodies randomly one Friday morning. It’s described as a modern, gender-swapped retelling of Vice Versa: A Lesson In Fathers, which saw the father and son swap places instead.