Once upon a time, AOL was the internet (and we had plenty of free-trial discs to go around), hardly anyone had a cell phone (which could only be used for phone calls anyway), and there was no such thing as a tablet or an e-reader. This dark age was known as the ’90s. We were all rocking scrunchies, snacking on Dunkaroos and Surge, and counting our Beanie Babies, while our technological entertainment consisted of pagers, Discmans, and Tamagotchis that we inadvertently killed three times a week. And though trends have come and gone, certain books have remained a constant. Check out 10 of our favorite books from the ’90s that have proven to be utterly timeless.
Paperback $8.99 | $10.99
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling (1998)
Harry Potter has led a pretty miserable existence for the past decade, living in a small cupboard under the stairs in his aunt and uncle’s home. He’s mistreated and neglected by his adoptive parents and tormented by his horrible cousin, Dudley Dursley. But when Harry turns 11, all of that changes: He learns the truth about how his parents died, and that he’s a wizard. Gamekeeper Rubeus Hagrid whisks Harry away to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where a magical new life unfolds for him. But it’s not all butterbeer and quidditch matches, as Harry discovers his true destiny, which will one day force him to face the evil that killed his parents.
Paperback $9.89 | $10.99
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling (1999)
In the second novel in Rowling’s bestselling series, Harry Potter can’t wait to leave behind his tortuous summer at the Dursleys to head back to Hogwarts for another school year. But a determined house-elf named Dobby comes to warn Harry that he must never return to the wizarding school or something terrible will happen. After an unexpected detour, Harry finally does get back to Hogwarts with the help of his friends. However, bad things are indeed happening at the school: Someone has opened the Chamber of Secrets, releasing a monster that is turning students to stone, and some think Harry could be the culprit. The Boy Who Lived must once again face Lord Voldemort to save his friends and clear his own name.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling (1999)
Imprisoned for having killed 13 people with just one curse, Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban, and he’s after Harry Potter. The soulless Dementors are now roaming the halls of Hogwarts in a supposed effort to protect Harry from the infamous fugitive, but the Dementors frighten Harry so much he passes out around them. Harry turns to the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Remus Lupin, who teaches him the Patronus Charm to help protect himself. But can it keep him safe from the traitor in their midst at Hogwarts?
Welcome To Dead House (Classic Goosebumps Series), by R.L. Stine (1992)
Every ’90s kid who grew up to love Stephen King started off with R.L. Stine’s creepy Goosebumps series. In this first-ever Goosebumps book, 12-year-old Amanda Benson and her 11-year-old brother, Josh, have just moved with their parents and family dog into a strange old house in Dark Falls. It’s the middle of July, but the entire town feels cool and dim, shrouded by large trees. Amanda, Josh, and their pup Petey notice something is off right away—Amanda is seeing children in their house, Josh is having nightmares, and Petey can’t bear to be around anyone in the neighborhood. Welcome to Dead House: It will just kill you.
The Giver, by Lois Lowry (1993)
Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a society free of pain and suffering. The seeming utopia has converted to Sameness in order to protect its people—there’s no crime, hunger, poverty, or memory of the past. “The life where nothing was ever unexpected. Or inconvenient. Or unusual.” But it’s also a life without love, music, and color. Jonas, like everyone else in his community, is assigned a job at age 12 by the Elders. And Jonas is chosen for the most important and difficult job of all: Receiver of Memory. The Giver teaches him the truth about his community’s dystopian, mind-controlling reality. Together, Jonas and the Giver come up with a plan for Jonas’s escape, which would restore memories to everyone in the community. Despite being published more than 20 years ago, Lowry’s provocative book remains a timeless classic.
The Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister (1992)
The Rainbow Fish, with his striking blue, green, purple, and sparkling silver scales, is the most beautiful fish in the ocean—and he definitely knows it. His admirers want to play with him, but the proud Rainbow Fish just swims past the other fish. One day, a little blue fish asks the Rainbow Fish for one of his sparkly scales, which glitter on the page thanks to rainbow-colored foil. The Rainbow Fish refuses and then realizes that not only does he have no friends, but he also now has no admirers. Letting go of his vanity, he ultimately decides to share his scales, discovering that friends are more important than beauty and possessions.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, by Dr. Seuss (1990)
“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!” So begins the perennial Dr. Seuss favorite—often gifted to graduates and quoted on inspirational greeting cards. The book offers an enlightening and honest pep talk for whatever chapter in your life you’re about to begin with esteem-boosting declarations about moving mountains and reminders about potential pitfalls like getting “hung up in a in a prickle-ly perch” as you attempt to “soar to high heights.” The whimsical Seussian rhyming and illustrations make this a fun and insightful read no matter your age.
Hardcover $13.79 | $17.99
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (1992)
From the author that brought readers fairy tale parodies like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Frog Prince, Continued comes this collection of more parodied classic tales with an irreverent twist. This thoroughly entertaining read is narrated by Jack of and the Beanstalk fame, who breaks down the fourth wall and the very structure of the book itself with elements like an upside-down dedication page and a haphazardly dropped-in table of contents that ends up squashing everyone in the first tale, “Chicken Licken.” Also included in the book’s 10 stories are “The Princess and the Bowling Ball,” “The Really Ugly Duckling,” and the titular “Stinky Cheese Man,” the odiferous counterpart to the Gingerbread Man.
Holes, by Louis Sachar (1998)
Camp Green Lake is a place for bad boys, and it has but one philosophy: “If you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy.” But Stanley Yelnats is not a bad boy; he just has bad luck. And now he’s been convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and must serve his time at the boys’ detention center. But, as Stanley soon realizes in this funny and quirky tale, the hole-digging isn’t just about improving the boys’ character—the mean and powerful warden is looking for something. Can Stanley actually figure out what it is and clear his name?
Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram (1994)
“I love you right up to the moon—and back.” Posters and prints with this quote adorn many a baby’s bedroom wall and mom-to-be’s nursery Pinterest board with good reason. It’s the heart of this tender story about the immeasurable love between parent and child. Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare engage in a sweet competition about who loves whom more. Jeram’s watercolor illustrations combined with McBratney’s charming prose make this much-loved picture book one that can grow with a child—and one they’ll likely even read to their own children one day.
What’s your favorite children’s book from the ’90s?