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Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  952 ratings  ·  247 reviews
In Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Anne Boyd Rioux brings a fresh and engaging look at the circumstances leading Louisa May Alcott to write Little Women and why this beloved story of family and community ties set in the Civil War has resonated with audiences across time.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by W. W. Norton Company (first published August 21st 2018)
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Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a joy to read and I hated to see it end. Even if you’re not a Little Women aficionado, there’s a lot to learn here about societal, educational and cultural trends (just to name a few topics) of the past 150 years. (150 years! It’s hard to believe that a book I started loving as a child and that’s still relevant today was written that long ago.)

The first section, ‘The Making of a Classic’, gives a brief history of how and why Little Woman came to be and of its instant fame. I didn’t th
Diane Barnes
A well-written, interesting and well thought out book about the novel and what it meant to the girls of yesterday, and the new readers of today. Also a surprising mini biography of Alcott's own life and how closely it mirrored the characters and action in her classic. Recommended to anyone who is a Little Women fan.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
2018 marks the 150th anniversary of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, a novel which became a trendsetter best seller, influencing generations of girls.

Anne Boyd Rioux's new book Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: the Story of Little Women and Why They Still Matter celebrates the novel's history, legacy, and influence.

I don't recall when I first read Little Women. I was given a copy of Alcott's later novel Eight Cousins when I was in elementary school. Madame Alexander created Little Women dolls, and in 1960
Beth Bonini
Professor Anne Boyd Rioux makes some bold claims for Little Women, including that it is “arguably the most influential book ever written by an American woman.” This is not so much a work of literary criticism - although Rioux does cite what various literary critics have had to say about the novel - but more an examination of the work’s origins, a study of its relevance and popularity during the past 150 years, and an appraisal of its current status within the canon. Throughout, but particularly in th ...more
This was rather fun, but I enjoyed the first half, about Alcott's life and the immediate reception of her most famous book, a great deal more than the second, which peters out into an examination of pretty much any contemporary work in any medium in which girls are the the main characters (Katniss and the Gilmore Girls get a lot of attention, apparently being literary descendants of Jo March; I was unconvinced). None the less, any fan of Little Women will want to read this, and should. I was ple ...more
(See my Literary Hub article on rereading Little Women in its 150th anniversary year and watching the new BBC/PBS miniseries adaptation.) Rioux’s book unearths Little Women’s origins in Alcott family history, but also traces its influence through to the present day. Multiple generations of heroines, she believes, “owe an obvious debt to Alcott’s pathbreaking portrayal of a spunky young heroine with a literary bent”—everyone from Anne Shirley in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series to Hermione in the Harry Potte ...more
Chris Wolak
One of the best books about a book/books that I’ve read. This is engaging literary scholarship for a popular audience — if you have the slightest interest in Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, 19th century American literature, film adaptations, literary history, reading & pop culture, or young girls’ and boys’ reading choices/experiences (among a host of other issues), this is a book you’ll want to check out.

I'll write a more detailed review soon.
Rebecca H.
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux is a wonderful look at Louisa May Alcott’s novel, including its context, history, meaning, contemporary significance, and more. I loved Little Women and read it multiple times as a kid and teenager (and should read it again as an adult), so Rioux’s book was particularly fun for me, although I think anyone who is interested in literary history would get a lot out of it even if they weren’t an Alcott fan. It’ ...more
Mar 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable; I would have given it more stars if it had been longer and more developed.

I am a guy who loved Little Women when I first read it. I love it now, and have directed the musical based upon it twice. I have seen virtually every iteration of it on the silver screen --- and Rioux is dead on the money in her estimation of Hepburn's performance as Jo --- with a special fondness for the Winona Ryder version, with Sarandon's take-no-prisoners Marmee. In Rioux's universe, I am a unic
This book spoils endings for Little Women, the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games trilogy and the TV shows Gilmore Girls and Girls.
The first half disappointed me, but I enjoyed the second half quite a bit. The book begins with a brief biography of Louisa May Alcott, then continues to describe and analyze the various movie adaptations. It then lists books inspired by Little Women, books in which the characters read Little Women, writers who have found Little Women to be incredibly influe
Jan 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Little Women is one of my favorite books which means sometimes I reveled in this cultural exploration of it and at other times it made me cringe.
Jun 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Anne Boyd Rioux examines the life of Louisa May Alcott and her seminal classic novel Little Women and questions whether the story is still relevant for modern readers. (She argues that it is).

Section I, "The Making of a Classic", provides a brief biography of Louisa and how she came to write the novel. I didn't learn anything new there but when the discussion turned to the different editions of the novel and the illustrations featured within, I was more interested. It would be fun to collect each illustrated ed
Carol Storm
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this whole book in one day while filling in as a high school librarian at the wonderful school where I substitute teach. This book was so much fun and it's absolutely the best companion you could ever have to the wonderful classic novel by Louis May Alcott. It gives a bang-up biography of the author, and shows how she was and wasn't like Jo March. It shows what her career was like as a writer and how she got talked into writing a book for girls almost by accident. It shows the incredible ac ...more
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very unique look at one of my favorite books. Anne Boyd Rioux looks at Little Women in various ways. Why it was written and the parallels between the March girls and Louisa's sisters and family. How the novel was published and of Louisa's writing career after. She also looks at the multi media aspect of Little Women. The different film productions, theater productions and an opera production. Her final focus was on how Little Women influenced other writers, actors and women of all kinds. She t ...more
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rioux's book is excellent! Even if you've never read Little Women and never will, this is a fascinating cultural history of the continuing influence of Little Women. I checked this out from the library, but am going to buy a copy - adding it to my collection of "books about books". Definitely a favorite read of 2018. Thank you to the @BookCougars podcast for selecting it as one of their readalongs for their "Summer of Little Women"!!
Sarah Emsley
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had been looking forward to reading this book for a long time and when I finally got a copy I couldn't put it down. I loved reading about the creation of Little Women and I found Anne Boyd Rioux's analysis of the book's afterlife fascinating, especially the chapter called "Can Boys Read Little Women?" and the long lists of writers who've been inspired by Alcott's novel, from J.K. Rowling to John Green to Simone de Beauvoir.
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Super interesting for any reader of Little Women. Having just read Little Women for the first time since I was 13 and coming away from it a bit disappointed in its Victorian-era gender norms and lessons, this book was such a great help for me to see and appreciate the feminist side of Little Women! I never realized that it broke the mold in several ways: a book written about the lives of girls and women with men on the outside looking in, Jo being the first of a crop of literary girls who live a ...more
Lisa Jass
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found Rioux's book Meg Jo Beth and Amy to be both an informative and entertaining read. She gives an account of how Alcott came to write these beloved characters, but she also gives insight into why this story has endured as long as it has and has resonated with both writers and readers for generations and why some generations have more ties to these characters than others. As someone who is including Louisa May Alcott in my own dissertation, I found this book to be a useful addition to my res ...more
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely overview of Alcott’s life, the publication history of Little Women, and how Alcott’s most famous creation has endured as a beloved work of American literature.

Unless we’re talking about the “canon” and then “ugh, girl cooties” which is the basis for almost an entire chapter about why boys don’t/aren’t expected to/can’t read “girl books” even as girls are fully expected to read “boy books” and I spent almost that whole chapter yelling PREACH SISTER at my iPad.
Kate Howe
Nov 06, 2018 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately I’ve come to realize that books about books have a hard time retaining my interest long enough. I start out interested and then lose interest. I think the problem was me not the book.
Susan Bailey
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most important work on Little Women in years - for the fan as well as the scholar

Disclaimer: I was sent an advance copy by the publisher to review.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of a classic read by millions around the globe. Written by Louisa May Alcott, a writer under duress fulfilling the assignment of an insistent publisher, Little Women, in the words of Anne Boyd Rioux is the “paradigmatic book about growing up, especially for the female hal
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent analysis of Little Women's cultural, feminist, and literary impact since its publication 150 years ago. I couldn't put it down and learned a lot about a book and author that I thought I was already familiar with. A recommended read for anyone interested in women's literature.
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Melissa
I want others to read this book so I can talk with them about it. Who would think that my favorite book from my childhood would be responsible for this and so many other books. I could not spend enough time with this book and it presents so many topics to discuss - did boys/men read "Little Women" and why or why not.
There was a great quote that basically asked if boys read about aliens, why wouldn't they read books about females? (I think there are so many ways to take that question.)
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux is a look at the making of "Little Women", it's success, and why it is relevant today. It shows us how and why this book is a timeless classic.

I learned a lot from this book that I hadn't previously known. I liked how it went over how the characters reflected the author and her family. I also enjoyed how the author talked about the illustrations found in "Little Women". This book covers almost 
Oct 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting biographical and historical information about Louisa May Alcott, some I knew but much I did not. I have a new appreciation for her, as she was a wildly successful writer who happened to be a woman, and as she supported her own family of origin and many of her sisters' families too. It's a short book, but I bailed at page 84, as we began to read of the move from the page to Broadway. I guess I'm not interested enough to hang in for another hundred pages, which seems to end with discus ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Literary criticism about Little Women and its sequels. Of course I read it when I was about ten and hadn't thought of it since but it's clear my kid sensibility missed a whole lot and I didn't realize how autobiographical it was. So I have to go back and read them all again but first it sent me on a wild hunt for all the movies based on them - about one a decade plus the Masterpiece version coming in May. The bones are the same but each decade seems to have it's own flavor and emphasis.
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
I liked the first half, about Alcott and her writing, lots, but I found the author's attempts to say meaningful things about the book were rather tedious (mostly lists of other people's opinions of the book, and discussion of contemporary media about girls). and she didn't convince me at all "why it still matters." Also Amy bashing annoys me, and I never wanted to be Jo, who the author seems to think is the ne plus ultra of girlhood.
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
an interesting look at louisa may alcott’s life and the parallels of her situation and experiences to jo’s in little women.

this book also discussed topics such as ‘should boys read little women and if so, what will they get out of it?’

it talks about how little women influenced many other writers and how even contemporary books, tv shows and movies today include references (whether direct or indirect) to the novel. ❤

it also discusses things like, is little women a feminist novel and
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2019
What a thoughtful, generous, galvanizing look at Little Women, highlighting both why it’s beloved and why it’s challenging. My understanding of Little Women (and to some extent, of developments in the American canon generally) is immeasurably richer for having read this.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Or, everything you ever wanted to know about "Little Women" but were afraid to ask!

Seriously, no matter how much of a fan of Louisa May Alcott you are, you'll probably learn something from this book. Ms. Rioux covers:

Louisa's life, and how it was reflected in her most famous book.
The book's reception over the decades--both critical and popular.
Its adaptations, from the beginning of the 20th century onwards. I had no idea there were so many! In particular, I had no idea t
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Anne Boyd Rioux is passionate about the recovery off 19th-century women writers, many of whom have been unjustly forgotten. She is the author of MEG, JO, BETH, AMY: THE STORY OF LITTLE WOMEN AND WHY ITS STILL MATTERS (Aug. 2018, Norton), CONSTANCE FENIMORE WOOLSON: PORTRAIT OF A LADY NOVELIST, and editor of MISS GRIEF AND OTHER STORIES, (both Norton, 2016). She is a professor at the University of ...more
“And if boys enjoy books about aliens, which they certainly do, why not also books about girls?” 1 likes
“What seems like a tale from a simpler time turns out to be the product of a difficult and sometimes troubled life. What appears to be a sweet, light story of four girls growing up is also very much about how hard it was (and is) to come of age in a culture that prizes a woman’s appearance over her substance. And what may seem an idealized portrait of an intact home and family is also the story of a family in danger of being torn apart.” 1 likes
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