What are the best Dr. Suess books from among the 44 written and illustrated by the remarkable Theodor Geisel? It’s tough to declare just one as superior to the rest, though we’ve taken a stab at it. Each of Dr. Suess’s 44 titles includes the same blend of unmistakable illustrations, conjured creatures, tongue-twisting poetry, underlying lessons and nonsense.

You’re probably most familiar with Dr. Suess books that were made into movies — classics like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and “Horton Hears a Who!” Those are most certainly on the list. But we’ve also highlighted some of Suess’s lesser-known works that will delight children and parents alike.

See below for our list of the 10 best Dr. Suess books, and get snag a few for bedtime reading that your kids will adore.

This goes without saying, but: This is a highly subjective list. The books that are best known are likely to be the ones declared Dr. Suess’s best — titles like Green Eggs and Ham and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! But I’m excited to introduce you to some lesser-known Dr. Suess books that are just as entertaining and that hold powerful lessons for you and your children.

 

1. If I Ran the Zoo — Our Top Pick!

Dr. Suess published his first book in 1937, and he followed with a steady stream of follow-ups through his death in 1991. Many of his best-known works came toward the middle and end of his career. If I Ran the Zoo was published much closer to the start.

The book starts with a boy named Gerald McGrew declaring that the animals at the zoo simply are “not good enough.” He then describes in vivid details all the exotic places he will visit to find an untold number of exotic animals. As with all Dr. Suess books, both the places and animals have tongue-twisting names, and the descriptions of each come complete with beautiful illustrations.

While If I Ran the Zoo may not have the name recognition as Green Eggs and Ham or other Dr. Suess titles, it earns the title of top pick for several reasons:

  1. It shows a young man dreaming about what he can do with his life. While all Dr. Suess books have some sort of moral to take away from the story, encouraging kids to dream about where they can go and what they can do is one of my favorites.
  2. It features Dr. Suess at his name-inventing best. In this story, Gerald McGrew talks about visiting Motta-fa-Potta-fa-Pell, Yerka and Zomba-ma-Tant, and he describes capturing animals like the Joat, Bustard and scraggle-foot Mulligatawny. This is quintessential Dr. Suess. Kids squeal with delight when hearing these creatively conjured names.
  3. If reads as fast or slow as a parent likes. This book is less a story and more Gerald McGrew listing where he will go and what he will find. For that reason, a parent can get away with reading just the first sentence of each page — without compromising the book’s flow. This is perfect if you’re on your last pre-bedtime book, and you’re looking to hurry through it.

No, If I Ran the Zoo may not have the cache or name recognition of other Dr. Suess titles, but it’s our choice for top pick. You’ll love it, and your kids will, too.

 

2. Horton Hears a Who!

Horton Hears a Who! is well known for several reasons. First, the book was made into a major motion picture in 2008. Second, the Whos are the same people from whom the Grinch steals Christmas in another Dr. Suess classic.

But Horton Hears a Who! isn’t even the first book to feature Horton the elephant. Horton first appeared in the pages of a Dr. Suess book called Horton Hatches the Egg. In this second story to feature Horton, the friendly elephant hears a tiny voice while playing in a pool. He discovers that the tiny voice belongs to a tiny person residing on a minuscule planet that’s located on a speck of dust.

The Whos ask Horton to protect them, and he obliges. Horton’s refrain throughout the book is “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” While the story is fun and entertaining, it’s this overarching message and lesson that makes it one of Dr. Suess’s best.

 

3. The Lorax

As you know, Dr. Suess’s books always offer some lesson to be learned or some word of warning. The Lorax is his message on environmental protectionism. In it, a boy listens as a man called the Once-ler tells about transforming a beautiful valley into an industrial wasteland, all in the name of commerce and economic advancement.

This sounds like a heavy storyline, I know. But Dr. Suess excels at making interesting and entertaining even the most pointed of societal criticisms. The Lorax certainly fits that description.

So, who is The Lorax? He is the tiny speaker for the trees who is present all along, disapproving of how the Once-ler and other humans are tearing apart the valley for economic gain. The story does end on a high note, though, as the Once-ler gives the boy a seed and invites him to grow a forest that may inspire The Lorax to return.

 

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Does this book need any introduction? Perhaps no Dr. Suess story has been so widely spread and consumed. In How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, a mean-spirited hermit who despises the holidays vows to “steal” them from Whoville, the town just down from the mountaintop cave where the Grinch lives.

Of course, to the Grinch’s surprise, he finds that Christmas can’t be stolen by taking gifts and decorations. He realizes that Christmas “means a little bit more,” and his too-small heart grows 3 sizes as he returns all of the gifts and decorations to Whoville.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is a wonderful book, one that has been made into an animated short and a major motion picture. But kids get their fill of the Grinch in November and December, and there are so many other wonderful Dr. Suess stories to discover. While it’s worth a read, it’s not our choice for top pick.

 

5. Green Eggs and Ham

Here’s something you may not know about Green Eggs and Ham: Dr. Suess wrote it after making a bet with his publisher that he could craft a story that uses only 50 total words. Of course, Dr. Suess won the bet and, in the process, delivered perhaps the most widely read and beloved children’s book in history.

Green Eggs and Ham is undoubtedly a classic. Thanks to its simple and repetitive language, it’s best suited for young children and early readers. You could make a case for Green Eggs and Ham as the greatest of all Dr. Suess books, and no one could prove you wrong.

But If I Ran the Zoo has a creative quality and fast-paced breathlessness that Green Eggs and Ham lacks. I love Green Eggs and Ham — but it falls just short of taking our top spot on this list.

 

6. The Cat in the Hat

The Cat in the Hat is Dr. Suess’s most recognizable character, one that inspired a major motion picture starring Mike Myers. The Cat in the Hat is also a story that features humans rather than just made-up creatures.

It follows an archetype story. Two children are sitting at home, bored on a rainy day. A Cat in a Hat shows up at their home and proceeds to entertain them with a little help from his two friends — Thing 1 and Thing 2. The Cat makes a mess in the process, but he saves the day by producing a cleanup machine just before the children’s mother arrives back at the house.

If your child loves The Cat in the Hat, he or she might also enjoy the animated television show that airs on PBS.

 

7. Hop on Pop

Hop on Pop is a little bit different than If I Ran the Zoo. It includes the same type of illustrations that Dr. Suess is known for, but the text is far less complex. That’s because Hop on Pop is for the earliest of readers.

If you have a little boy or girl who is just starting to read, and they want something interesting to plow through, Hop on Pop is an excellent choice. Because of its simple language, it’s not quite as fast-paced or humorous as a title like If I Ran the Zoo, but it’s a delight for young readers who are just learning to make their way through books.

Strangely enough (or perhaps not so strangely), some have complained that Hop on Pop encourages abuse and violence toward fathers. Some even tried to get Toronto libraries to ban it. If this is an issue for you, there are plenty of other Dr. Suess books to choose from. But I think we can all see Hop on Pop for what it is — a lighthearted Dr. Suess book that is in no way encouraging kids to do harm to their parents.

 

8. Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!

There’s a myth that Dr. Suess wrote Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! as a means of encouraging Richard Nixon to resign the presidency in the midst of the Watergate scandal. In fact, Dr. Suess had already written, illustrated and published the book before news of Watergate broke.

But Dr. Suess did give Art Buchwald permission to cross out Marvin K. Mooney and write in Richard Nixon for a newspaper column that ran in late July 1974. Nixon would indeed resign just a few days later.

This story is a little more like Hop on Pop and a little less like If I Ran the Zoo. Its language is relatively simple and repetitive, which makes it suitable for your earliest readers and youngest children.

 

9. Fox in Socks

Dr. Suess used a template similar to Green Eggs and Ham when writing (and illustrating) Fox in Socks. This story includes two characters, Fox and Knox. Fox leads Knox through a series of increasingly complex tongue twisters, and Knox begins to complain at how difficult they become.

This is like Green Eggs and Ham in that it pits two characters against one another — a funny, antagonistic character, and one that is more stubborn and reserved. In the end, Knox stuffs Fox into a bottle. The reason this book doesn’t rank higher on the list is that it is so similar to Green Eggs and Ham — only it’s not quite as good.

Fox in Socks is a great addition to a larger Dr. Suess collection, but it’s not the one book you should get if you’re getting just one.

 

10. Dr. Suess’s Sleep Book

The best bedtime books are the ones that have a bedtime theme. I love reading Goodnight Moon and even Where the Wild Things Are with my kids before bedtime, because they both finish in a quiet bedroom. In short, they get my kids ready to close their eyes and go to sleep.

The same is true of Dr. Suess’s Sleep Book. It’s certainly not the greatest of all Dr. Suess stories, but it’s a perfect complement to your collection — one that should find use as the last book in a series of 4 or 5 read just before time for lights out.

Some of these “goodnight” books are better than others. There’s a lot of junk out there in the children’s literature world. Also, what makes a good book is highly subjective, as mentioned — I’ve even heard people trash Goodnight Moon, which breaks my heart. But, for my money, this is about as good of a “goodnight” book as you’ll find.

 

Final Thoughts on Finding the Best Dr. Suess Books

I’ve found that with movies, books, television shows and other media, what you experienced as a child greatly influences what you think is best. I read many Dr. Suess books growing up, and I must admit that the ones I’m most familiar with have the best reputation in my mind.

I did not read If I Ran the Zoo when I was a kid, though I wish I had. It’s one that I discovered (and fell in love with) as a parent. If you’re looking for a great Dr. Suess book to help your children make wonderful memories, you can’t go wrong with any of the books on the list — but I recommend If I Ran the Zoo above all else.

Is your favorite Dr. Suess book missing from this list? Let us know about it in the comments section below, or reach out to us directly via our contact form.

 

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