All 20+ Shel Silverstein Books in Order [Ultimate Guide]

For many, reading the Shel Silverstein books in order is the epitome of childhood. Classics like Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up captured the imaginations of children around the world with simple sketches and lyrical verse. However, there is much more to his bibliography, and a vast career, that may come as a surprise to some.

About Shel Silverstein

While Shel Silverstein is fondly remembered as a children’s author, that was not how he got his start in publishing or even the creative industry. In fact, Silverstein wrote his first children’s book at the request of a book editor and not of his own inclination.

That book would be Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back in 1963, but Silverstein had already published two books that are primarily cartoon or sketch work by that point.

Before that he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in Korea and Japan. While in the military he began working for the periodical The Stars and Stripes, regularly publishing cartoons. After his service he became a cartoonist for Playboy magazine.

Silverstein was also an accomplished musician and composer who studied music. He wrote the song that Johnny Cash made famous, “A Boy Named Sue,” and also “One’s on the Way” performed by Loretta Lynn.

However, it is his career as an author that has become his legacy. In the 1970s he published his most popular book: Where the Sidewalk Ends. Then his next poetry collection, A Light in the Attic, became the first children’s book to make it onto the New York Times bestseller list, and it stayed there for 182 weeks.

Collectively, his books have sold more than 20 million copies and been translated into more than 30 languages.

How old was Shel Silverstein when he died?

Silverstein was only 68 when he died of a heart attack in 1999. The last book he published before his death was Falling Up in 1996. However, there have been several books published posthumously that either collect previously published illustrations or feature never-before-seen illustrations.

The first two books were An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein and Shel Short’s in 2003. These have since gone out of print.

Next came Runny Babbit in 2005, which Silverstein had been working on for 20 years before his death. Its sequel, Runny Babbit Returns, came out in 2017.

There has also been one compilation published posthumously in 2007, which is now out of print. It was Playboy’s Silverstein Around the World. Silverstein actually got his first big break in cartooning after his military service with Playboy when it was still a fledgling magazine. As part of his job there he traveled the world and drew cartoons which featured in the magazine.

There have also been two poetry collections published after his death. Both of these collections feature never-before-seen poems and illustrations by Silverstein that were in his archives. The first is Don’t Bump the Glump! from 2008 while the second is his most recent publication in 2011: Every Thing On It.

Shel Silverstein Books in Order

For the majority of Shel Silverstein’s books, it is not necessary to read them in order of publication. That’s because many of his books are standalones and poetry collections. The exception to this are the two duologies, Missing Piece and Billy Sook, which you should read in order of publication for the best experience.

Reading an author’s bibliography in order of publication will always give you insight into the development of their writing, voice, and themes that they revisit, which Silverstein does. As well, all of Silverstein’s adult books have since gone out of print, so you will find those titles included at the end of our list.

Children’s Books

  1. Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back (1963)
  2. A Giraffe and a Half (1964)

Picture Books

  1. The Giving Tree (1964)
  2. Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros? (1964)

Poetry Collections

  1. Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974)
  2. A Light in the Attic (1981)
  3. Falling Up (1996)
  4. Don’t Bump the Glump! (2008)
  5. Every Thing On It (2011)

Missing Piece Books

  1. The Missing Piece (1976)
  2. The Missing Piece Meets the Big O (1981)

Billy Sook Books

  1. Runny Babbit (2005)
  2. Runny Babbit Returns (2017)

Out of Print Books

  1. Take Ten / Grab Your Socks (1960)
  2. Now Here’s My Plan (1960)
  3. Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book (1961)
  4. Playboy’s Teevee Jeebies (1963)
  5. Uncle Shelby’s Zoo (1964)
  6. More Playboy’s Teevee Jeebies (1965)
  7. Different Dances (1979)
  8. Things Change (1989) (With David Mamet)
  9. An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein (2003)
  10. Shel’s Shorts (2003)
  11. Playboy’s Silverstein Around the World (2007)

A Summary of Shel Silverstein Books in Order

Below you will find the summaries of the top ten most popular Shel Silverstein books in order. In order to determine which books are considered his most popular, we looked at Goodreads data to rank the books in order of popularity with reviews and ratings.

Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein Books in Order

1. Where the Sidewalk Ends

Nearly 50 years after it was first published, Where the Sidewalk Ends remains Shel Silverstein’s most popular book. Like many of his popular works it is a collection of poems with his sketches that stretch the bounds of imagination for readers both young and old.

In the beloved collection there is the tale of a boy who turns into a TV set and a girl who eats a whale. Readers will meet the Unicorn and the Bloath, as well as Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who will not take the garbage out. Crocodiles go to the dentist, diamond gardens are planted, and all sorts of wonderful magic ensues.

The Giving Tree Shel Silverstein

2. The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree is Shel Silverstein’s second most popular book, despite many initial rejections from publishers due to the book’s themes. It is both sad and ambiguous intentionally with its depiction of the human condition.

It begins with a young boy visiting a tree as a child and eating her apples, swinging from her branches, and sliding down her trunk. Both the tree and the boy were happy with their relationship, but as the boy grew up, he began to want more from the tree and the tree gave and gave and gave.

A Light in the Attic Book Cover

3. A Light in the Attic

Next up is another collection of poems in which readers will meet Backward Bill, Sour Face Ann, the Meehoo with an Exactlywatt, and the Polar Bear in the Frigidaire. Many more characters await in the attic of Shel Silverstein with his characteristic rhythm and pacing.

Falling Up Shel Silverstein

4. Falling Up

Shel Silverstein continues to be outrageously funny and deeply profound in this next collection of poems and drawings. This book will introduce readers to Millie McDeevit, Allison Beals, Danny O’Dare, Headphone Harold, as well as many more iconic characters.

The Missing Piece Shel Silverstein Books in Order

5. The Missing Piece

This is another work by Shel Silverstein that explores the nature of quest and fulfillment that is appropriate for readers of any age. It begins with the realization that it is missing a piece, which begins its search for the missing piece that is simply and touchingly told.

Every Thing on It Book Cover

6. Every Thing on It

While two collections by Shel Silverstein have been published posthumously, this is the only one that has climbed the rankings into his top ten most popular books. It includes poems and drawings pulled from Silverstein’s collections which have never been published before.

This is a delightfully nostalgic way for adult readers to return to the magic Silverstein created for them in their childhood, and to impart that love to a new generation.

The Missing Piece Meets the Big O Shel Silverstein

7. The Missing Piece Meets the Big O

Next is the sequel to Shel Silverstein’s fifth best book, which explores what the missing piece was experiencing. It is a fable that explores the nature of individuality and self-fulfillment in Silverstein’s charming voice.

Runny Babbit Shel Silverstein Books in Order

8. Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook

Runny Babbit is a perfect example of Shel Silverstein’s humor and outlook with a simple swapping of letters or syllables in words or phrases. In the world of Runny Babbit, readers will also meet Toe Jurtle, Skertie Gunk, Rirty Dat, Dungry Hog, Snerry Jake, and many more who speak a unique, topsy-turvy language.

Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back Book Cover

9. Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back

The penultimate best Shel Silverstein book is the first children’s book he wrote at the gentle prompting of book editor Ursula Nordstrom. It was written and published in the same year as her request. The 50th anniversary edition published in 2013 features vintage art from Silverstein that was discovered in the archives.

The book begins with the lion trying to convince the hunter not to shoot him. He pleads that he will do whatever the hunter wishes and be obedient, but the hunter will not listen to reason. So Lafcadio the lion eats up the hunter and takes the gun home to practice and become the world’s greatest sharpshooter.

Lafcadio is now pampered and admired in starched collars and fancy suits, but is he a happy lion? Or is he a lion at all?

A Giraffe and a Half Shel Silverstein

10. A Giraffe and a Half

The last book in our list of the Shel Silverstein books in order of popularity is A Giraffe and a Half. It contains his signature wit, rhythmic verse, and iconic illustrations.

If you had a giraffe and he stretched another half, you would have a giraffe and a half. But what happens if you glue a rose to the tip of his nose? Or if you used a chair to comb his hair?

Final thoughts

The Shel Silverstein books in order encapsulate childhood for many. His unique perspective on the world shines through with his simple illustrations and rhythmic verse that encapsulates his wit. There are many books within his bibliography to enjoy whether you are an adult looking for a book with nostalgic joy, or looking to impart a childhood favorite to the next generation.

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