If you're familiar with the Charlotte Mason philosophy or Classical education you've heard of "living books," books that have stood the test of time and are still in print. Books that have a wide ranging vocabulary.
I have to confess, I'm not always a fan of some of the examples they use as living books, but I do love good quality picture books. I'm not a big fan of the Disney princess books or many other popular series for teaching from, though we do own quite a few books from that category. I love books that have something outstanding in them.
Today my example of a living book is actually a reprint with new pictures. It's also a Christmas book. I bought this 10 years ago when I was teaching second grade. Today I'm going to use this book with my kids (2nd grade and kinder) to demonstrate vocabulary and expressive language.
When you're looking for good quality books, take the time to read it through. Try reading the words out loud. How does it sound? Do the words just roll out of your mouth and make you smile to read them? I love the Bear series from Karma Wilson. I haven't read the books out loud to my kids for a while, but I can still quote parts of it.
What's the vocabulary like? Are all of the words one or two syllables? Now there are exceptions, Cat in the Hat or Little Bear for example, but usually speaking if it's not a beginning reader and the vocabulary is that simple it's not going to stand the test of time. When you're at the used book store do you pick up the copy of the TV show book you read as a kid to buy? I don't, unless it's for nostalgia, or I've shown my kids that show. Even then, my kids don't gravitate to that book over and over again.
What about the illustrations? This is going to be a very subjective thing, but can you use the pictures for an art lesson? "Tuesday" by David Weisner has almost no words, but it won a Caldecott. The pictures told the story that well. I've "read" it to my class or my kids and challenged them to create a similar style of book. One that needs almost no words to tell a story.
Some ideas you can use from classic texts:
I'm a bit of a bibliophile, so I really enjoy older books. They let me get a glimpse into a different age that you don't see now.