The Best Dr. Seuss Books, Ranked Worst to First
You’ve probably heard of “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham,” but you might not know that Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated more than 60 children's books over his lifetime.
Born Theodor Seuss Geisel (he wasn’t a real doctor, but thought the pen name would make people take him more seriously in college), he used wordplay, rhyme and charming characters to inspire millions of young readers, both at home in the U.S. and internationally. Some of Seuss’s classic stories teach important lessons (“The Lorax,” “Yertle the Turtle”), while others have been adapted for big-screen success (“The Grinch, “The Cat in the Hat”).
Every Seuss fan has their own personal favorite, but these 16 are ranked from worst to best as the most popular Dr. Seuss books on Goodreads, making any of them a pretty good place to start your collection. But you don’t need to stop there. As Seuss wrote in “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
16. Horton Hatches the Egg
Horton the elephant, one of Dr. Seuss’s most-loved characters, was first introduced to readers in the 1940 release “Horton Hatches the Egg.” Unfortunately, his kind-hearted, dependable nature (“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant … An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent!”) means he’s easy to take advantage of.
In this case, poor Horton is persuaded to sit on an egg while the lazy bird Maysie takes a very extended break. The verse is inspiring, the illustrations are charming, and the message is clear: Patience pays off.
15. And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
Published in 1937, Dr. Seuss’s first children’s book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” remains one of his most popular of all time.
Despite the controversy around one of the book's illustrations stereotyping Chinese culture, the book can still teach younger generations about the power of imagination. Plus, it can be used as a tool to start a dialogue with children about racial stereotypes and how they've changed throughout history.
14. Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories
It’s never too early to teach kids important lessons about how to be good people, and Dr. Seuss makes it easy. “Yertle the Turtle,” “Gertrude McFuzz” and “The Big Brag” — featuring foolish King Yertle and his loyal subjects, a wild-eyed worm, a boastful bear, a proud rabbit and a whining bird — are tales about greed, vanity and pride.
Seuss’s trademark rhythm and rhyme help those messages hit home: “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down on the bottom we, too, should have rights!”
13. Dr. Seuss's ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book!
The world of books is awash with alphabet primers for babies and toddlers, but “Dr. Seuss’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book!” is arguably the best out there. Aunt Annie’s alligator kicks off a cast of eccentric characters who keep little ones entertained right through Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz.
It’s the most fun a kid can have learning the letters and sounds of the alphabet, and a must for every family bookshelf.
12. Hop on Pop
“Hop on Pop” (the “simplest Seuss for youngest use”) was a hit when it was first published in 1963, and it remains a firm Dr. Seuss favorite.
The monosyllabic rhymes and brilliant illustrations work in perfect harmony. “THREE TREE/Three fish in a tree/Fish in a tree?/How can that be?” comes to life thanks to three well-fed, smug fish sitting on the branches of a tree, while two weird and wonderful creatures (are they dogs, rabbits or humans?) watch them with trepidation.
11. Fox in Socks
Some of Dr. Seuss's books, like “Fox in Socks,” were written specifically to be read aloud. The crafty fox in socks likes to play games on his cross companion Mr. Knox with a series of tongue-twisters that get progressively trickier throughout the book.
For young readers, the funniest part of “Fox in Socks” is listening to adult readers trying to get their tongues around “a tweetle beetle noodle poodle bottled paddled muddled duddled fuddled wuddled fox in socks, sir!”
10. The Cat in the Hat Comes Back
The huge success of “The Cat in the Hat” more or less guaranteed the return of the troublesome kitty. Published in 1958, the sequel, “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back,” is a fabulous story about what can go wrong when kids (and cats) are left to their own devices and how you can make things right again.
It ends on a high with a metrically perfect, rhymed quatrain that’s designed to teach young readers their ABCs.
9. The Foot Book: Dr. Seuss's Wacky Book of Opposites
Dr. Seuss brings his trademark whimsy to the world of opposites in “The Foot Book,” which is a wonderful way to introduce little ones to the world of feet: “Wet feet/Dry feet/Low feet/High feet.”
It’s an entertaining book to share with young kids, who’ll get a kick (pun intended) out of the snappy rhymes — accompanied as ever by Seuss’s delightful illustrations. It’s super simple and completely brilliant.
8. The Sneetches and Other Stories
Published in 1961, “The Sneetches and Other Stories” consists of “The Sneetches,” “The Zax,” “Too Many Daves” and “What Was I Scared Of?” They’re all easy-to-read, they all teach subtle yet important moral lessons, and they’re all guaranteed to give young readers the giggles.
Mrs. McCave is particularly silly after having 23 sons and naming them all Dave. She even acknowledges that life would be far easier if she’d given them different names, like Bodkin Van Horn, Hot-Shot or Sunny Jim.
7. Horton Hears a Who!
The second story featuring everyone’s favorite elephant came in 1954 with “Horton Hears a Who!” Deep in the multi-colored Jungle of Nool, Horton stumbles across the miniature, magical world of Whoville and takes it upon himself to stand up for the Whos.
The lesson at the heart of this timeless tale is that anybody, of any size, can choose to stand up for what is right, as captured in the famous Seuss quote, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
6. The Lorax
A tale of caution long before we realized how much damage our behavior was doing to the planet, “The Lorax” and its eco-warrior protagonist who “speaks for the trees” warns about the dangers of destroying our forests.
The book’s message — “UNLESS someone like you … cares a whole awful lot … nothing is going to get better … It’s not” — is one everyone needs to hear, not just the youngest generation. It even manages to get that message across without preaching.
5. Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
“Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” was the last Dr. Seuss book to be published before his death in 1991, and it’s widely considered to be one of his best. As an inspirational expression of how life can be wonderful one day and challenging the next, it’s the perfect gift for anyone going through a life transition, whatever their age or stage.
Not surprisingly, it sells like hotcakes around graduation time every year and remains Seuss’s top-selling book. Some of the author’s most quoted words are found here, such as “You have brains in your head/You have feet in your shoes/You can steer yourself/Any direction you choose.”
4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” was a festive classic long before it was adapted for the big screen in 2000 with Jim Carrey playing the role of the small-hearted, long-legged green holiday grouch.
The Whos of Whoville, last seen in “Horton Hears a Who!” return to remind readers that kindness, compassion and a large dose of Christmas cheer can warm even a heart that’s “two sizes too small.” As well as the Grinch himself, his loyal dog Max and unlikely friend Cindy Lou Who have become some of Dr. Seuss’s most iconic characters.
3. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
A child’s imagination can go anywhere, and the classic “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” is a celebration of that. Questions like “Did you ever fly a kite in bed?” and “Did you ever walk with 10 cats on your head?” are exactly the kind of things kids want to ask — and are always ready to answer.
It’s yet another example of Dr. Seuss’s entertaining approach to education — one that never dates, because what kid isn’t enthralled by a winking Yink who drinks pink ink or a yellow Zed with one hair on its head?
2. The Cat in the Hat
If a giant cat in a giant hat doesn’t turn up to relieve your kids of boredom, at least they can read about what happens when Dick and Sally’s rainy day indoors turns into a crazy adventure with a frivolous feline at its helm.
Dr. Seuss wrote “The Cat in the Hat” as a response to the concern that “pallid primers [with] abnormally courteous, unnaturally clean boys and girls” were leading to growing illiteracy among children, and it transformed the way kids learned to read. It was goodbye Dick and Jane, and hello Dick, Sally and the inimitable Cat in the Hat.
1. Green Eggs and Ham
According to legend, Dr. Seuss's best-selling “Green Eggs and Ham” was originally created when Bennett Cerf, the co-founder of Random House, bet the author $50 that he couldn't write a book using only 50 unique words or less. Seuss not only rose to the challenge (the book uses exactly 50 words), he surpassed it, producing one of the most instantly recognizable children's books of all time.
Persistent question-asker Sam-I-Am asks all kinds of questions — “Do you like green eggs and ham? In a house or with a mouse? In a boat or with a goat? On a train or in a tree?” — eventually winning over the reluctant narrator, who ends up loving the curious meal.
Related:Most Controversial Dr. Seuss Books for Kids