Many moons ago, as a new homeschooler, I was introduced to Landmark books, a series of history books for children published by Random House in the mid-twentieth century.
The genius of the series is that authors were assigned a topic that fired his or her imagination. Rather than being subjected to some textbook committee dutifully and drearily “covering” a topic, the reader is treated to a single author delighting in a single topic—loving what he or she loves in front of the reader. These are truly living books, as Charlotte Mason recommended. Authors include such notables as Robert Penn Warren, James Daugherty, Jim Kjelgaard, Ralph Moody, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Armstrong Sperry, and Sterling North.
My boys adored them—they still do!—and we began to collect them. Morning Time (Our Daily Feast) read-alouds were our main history curriculum until middle school, but my boys also voraciously devoured Landmarks. And for the record, this combo worked! They know WAY more than I do about history, and they give a lot of credit for that to Landmark books. Even today, with only my sixteen-year old son left at home (what??), I still find myself regularly re-shelving stray Landmarks from various locations around the house. In fact, there may or may not have been discussions over who gets the Landmarks when Mom dies.
Back in those early days, you could still get Landmarks in used bookstores for a dollar or two. My friends and I kept copies of each others’ lists so that we could snag them on sight, because who wanted to ever pass up a Landmark book, even if you already owned it? My dear friend Beverly, on her regular cross-country road trips to visit family in Nebraska, would take numerous detours to visit dusty little used book stores (probably doubling her driving time) to cross as many off her and our lists as possible. My count is over 100 (with several duplicates to help ease the fight after I’m gone), and they fill that middle bookcase in my schoolroom—always room for a few more, though!
Landmarks may cost a bit more these days, and be a bit harder to find, I promise you won’t be disappointed. There are some republished paperbacks available if you can’t find the old hardbacks, but beware! As far as I know, only Beautiful Feet Books republishes them in their original unedited version. Random House has republished several, and just could not keep themselves from politically-correctifying them. Don’t buy those.
Helps For Landmark Collectors
You will want to bookmark fabulous list of Landmarks in chronological historical order at Pics & Papers.
And you’ll need a list to keep in your purse or on your smartphone. Somewhere along the way, I acquired a color-coded list indicating the scarcity of particular books—very helpful on those occasions when I was faced with the dilemma of whether to spend $25 on that less-than-mint-condition Landmark in an antiquarian bookstore, or better yet, that overlooked treasure in thrift store. Just for you, I made this simple spreadsheet incorporating that color-coding:
Download it here, and then you can customize it to meet your needs. You may even be able to upload this as a .csv file into your Goodreads or Library Thing.