What question that comes up frequently among L.M. Montgomery’s readers concerns the Anne books: how many are there and in what order should they be read? The answer to both questions is a bit complicated.
Montgomery wrote eleven books in total featuring Anne Shirley Blythe. Anne appears as the main character in Anne of Green Gables (1908), Anne of Avonlea (1909), Anne of the Island (1915), Anne of Windy Poplars (1936), Anne’s House of Dreams (1917), and Anne of Ingleside (1939). She also appears in a secondary role in two additional novels, Rainbow Valley (1919) and Rilla of Ingleside (1921); in two collections of linked short stories, Chronicles of Avonlea (1912) and Further Chronicles of Avonlea (1920); and in the posthumously published final sequel, The Blythes Are Quoted (2009).
Today, most English-language readers of Montgomery’s books are familiar with an eight-volume Anne of Green Gables series consisting of the six books in which Anne is the title character as well as Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside, but this configuration was invented only in the 1980s by Bantam-Seal, the only imprint that has ever published all of Montgomery’s books in North America. Because Montgomery switched publishers midway through her career, up until the 1980s some of her books appeared with one set of publishers and the remainder with another, at least in Canada and the United States. In the United Kingdom and Australia (and, indeed, with all other publishers except Bantam-Seal) the Anne books appear as standalone texts rather than as part of a numbered series. And while a case can be made that Chronicles of Avonlea and Further Chronicles of Avonlea aren’t technically Anne books since Anne appears in only a few short stories, the unique structure of The Blythes Are Quoted blending short fiction, poetry, and dialogue ties all eleven books together.
Two additional complications: Montgomery’s first publisher, L.C. Page and Company of Boston, manipulated her into agreeing to let them publish Further Chronicles of Avonlea using leftover stories from Chronicles of Avonlea after she had left that firm. Montgomery was so upset by the final product that she fought for eight years to get the book taken off the market, but it was brought back to print in the mid-1950s, after her death. As well, Anne of Windy Poplars and Anne of Ingleside were written and published much later than the remaining books, as a way to fill gaps within the rest of the sequence. It’s for this reason that many readers find that the writing style of these novels does not match the rest and that the plots are rather episodic.
And so, while it’s certainly possible to enjoy the novels in the order in which twenty-first-century publishers place them, one alternative is to read them in the order in which they were published: Anne of Green Gables (1908), Anne of Avonlea (1909), Chronicles of Avonlea (1912), Anne of the Island (1915), Anne’s House of Dreams (1917), Rainbow Valley (1919), Further Chronicles of Avonlea (1920), Rilla of Ingleside (1921), Anne of Windy Poplars (1936), Anne of Ingleside (1939), and The Blythes Are Quoted (2009).