Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Books for Boys

Here I am, back from my sojourn in the Isle of Apples.
Actually, no, not that one. Although there were certainly harps involved...
While there I was asked to provide some reading suggestions for boys. Here's a list, followed up by suggestions for children and reading generally. I hope it will be useful to you.
Some readers might ask why I have not also provided a list of basic reading for girls. My answer is that there are heaps of wonderful girly books out there, and they should be chosen wisely, but while it is essential for a boy to read more manly than feminine books, I believe that it is also essential for a girl to read more manly than feminine books—why, I explained in a previous post. So boys first. I might add that of course I am a girl myself, and there are very few books on this list which I have not read and loved.
This list is not exhaustive—but then, what is? If you need something a bit better than this list, Canon Press has the fabulous The Book Tree; and similar books abound. This list is roughly arranged, beginning with books suitable for younger children and working up to books with tougher content or chewier themes:
  • GA Henty – Anything
  • RM Ballantyne – Anything
  • CS Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia
  • JRR Tolkien – The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and The Children of Hurin
  • Roger Lancelyn Green – King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood, A Book of Dragons, The Luck of Troy, or anything really.
  • ND Wilson – Anything
  • WE Johns – Anything, but especially Biggles and Gimlet. THE flying-ace stories, chock full of adventure, bravery, and excitement!
  • Mary Grant Bruce – The Billabong series. THE Australian bush adventure series, revolving around Norah Linton's adventures with her brother Jim and friend Wally.
  • Piet Prins – The Scout series. A boy and his Alsatian defying Nazis during the occupation of Holland.
  • Herge – the Tintin series. A staple at Australian libraries, these comic books tell the thrilling adventures of the intrepid boy reporter Tintin in all corners of the globe as he foils bad guys.
  • Goscinny and Uderzo – the Asterix series. The other comic book staple, about a positively Chestertonian band of Ancient Gauls holding out against Ancient Roman invaders. This is the comic series that keeps on giving—I keep coming to understand new jokes in the series as my knowledge of history and the world grows.
  • J Meade Falkner - Moonfleet
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs – A Princess of Mars (the least silly of his works)
  • Howard Pyle – Robin Hood, but more importantly, Men of Iron: THE boy-becoming-a-knight story. So good!
  • Robert Louis Stevenson – Treasure Island, The Black Arrow, Kidnapped, Catriona
  • Willard Price – The “Adventure” series. Follow teenage brother-zoologists Hal and Roger Hunt around the world on dangerous animal-related adventures! Some evolutionist/Darwinist content, so use your discretion.
  • Rudyard Kipling - The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book; alternately a collection of the Mowgli stories. Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and Fairies – great set of stories set in different, seemingly random periods of English history. Then at the end it all turns out to be telling one long story!
  • Margery Greenleaf – Banner Over Me, a great story of the Norman Conquest of England.
  • Kenneth Grahame – The Wind in the Willows
  • Thomas Bulfinch – Bulfinch's Mythology
  • Lew Wallace – Ben-Hur
  • PC Wren – Beau Geste
  • Talbot Baines Reed – The Master of the Shell
  • F Anstey – Vice Versa
  • Baroness Orczy – The Scarlet Pimpernel
  • Frederick Marryat – The Children of the New Forest
  • Johann David Wyss – The Swiss Family Robinson
  • Jean Lee Latham – Carry On, Mr Bowditch
  • Cynthia Hartnett – The Wool-Pack, about wool merchants and coming of age in medieval England
  • Rosemary Sutcliff – The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch, The Lantern Bearers, The Shield Ring, Outcast, Sword Song – all about early Britain; and Simon, about the Civil War.
  • Ronald Welch – the Carey Family series, starting with Knight Crusader and wending its way through For The King, Captain of Dragoons, Escape from France, &c. A really good historical series covering eight centuries of English and world history.
  • Geoffrey Trease – Cue for Treason (Adventure in the time of Elizabeth and Shakespeare) and Seas of Morning (the Siege of Rhodes)
  • H Rider Haggard – Almost anything, but especially King Solomon's Mines, The Brethren, Lysbeth, Heart of the World, and Nada the Lily
  • Arthur Ransome – The Swallows and Amazons series
  • Padraic Colum – The Children's Homer
  • Anthony Hope – The Prisoner of Zenda
  • Sellar and Yeatman – 1066 And All That, a parody of English History books, which requires the ruins of an excellent education to really appreciate.
  • Jules Verne – Around the World in Eighty Days, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, The Mysterious Island, Master of the World
  • Anne de Vries – Journey Through the Night
  • Mark Twain – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • Arthur Conan Doyle – Not just the Sherlock Holmes stories, but also Sir Nigel, The White Company, The Refugees, Micah Clarke, and The Adventures of Brigadier Gerard
  • Rolf Boldrewood - Robbery Under Arms. THE Australian bushranging novel. All my brothers say it's fantastic, but I've never read it.
  • PR Reid – The Colditz Story and The Latter Days at Colditz. A true story of POW escape artists in Germany's maximum-security prison, Colditz Castle.
  • Paul Brickhill – Reach for the Sky, The Dam Busters, true war stories of the RAF.
  • RD Blackmore – Lorna Doone
  • John Buchan – Anything, but especially The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, Mr Standfast, The Three Hostages, Salute to Adventurers, Midwinter, John Macnab, The Dancing Floor, The Powerhouse, Huntingtower, Castle Gay, and The House of the Four Winds
  • Sir Walter Scott – Anything, but especially: Ivanhoe, The Talisman, Quentin Durward, Rob Roy, The Fortunes of Nigel, and so on.
  • PG Wodehouse – Anything, but especially Right Ho, Jeeves, The Code of the Woosters, The Mating Season, Leave It to Psmith, Laughing Gas, Frozen Assets, The Luck of the Bodkins, Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkin, Bachelors Anonymous, Service With A Smile...
  • GK Chesterton – Anything, but especially Father Brown stories, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, The Man Who Was Thursday, The Flying Inn, and The Ball and the Cross.
  • Edmund Spenser – The Faerie Queene (original or the first two books as edited by Roy Maynard and Toby Sumpter in Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves and The Elfin Knight respectively)
  • Beowulf
  • The Odyssey
  • The Saga of the Volsungs
  • John Bunyan – The Pilgrim's Progress
  • Jane Austen – Anything. No boy's education is complete without at least one, preferably three, ideally all of Austen under his belt.
  • William Shakespeare – Anything (I remember my big brother methodically ticking off every play as he read through our Complete Works...)
  • CS Lewis – The Space Trilogy and Till We Have Faces
Did I miss anything? Let me know! I've tried to include mostly books that are widely available, either as free ebooks or audiobooks, or easily found in libraries or op-shops, although there are some that you simply won't find (ie, the Piet Prins and Anne de Vries books). Enjoy...
Some quick guidelines for children and reading:
  • Read to your children aloud. This will help you coach them in worldview discernment. It'll also help them through books that they might not try reading on their own.
  • Never categorise books as “too hard,” “too boring,” or “too girly.” They'll never know that Shakespeare is too hard to read unless you tell them. Nothing wrong with getting footnoted editions, though. Or make it really easy for them: read one of the comedies aloud with funny voices. Don't categorise Austen as a romance writer. For one thing, it's not true, and for another, it'll put them off. All the men I know who've tried Austen sincerely enjoyed her and you might as well give your boys that enjoyment early.
  • Encourage them to read books above their level. When I was four my mother read the Chronicles of Narnia aloud to me. I still remember the line “Let the vermin be flung into a pit” from Prince Caspian. I didn't know what “vermin” meant, I didn't know what “flung” meant, and I had only the shadowiest notion of a “pit.” It didn't impair my enjoyment of the story one bit, and it introduced me to new words. In fact, the best way to build vocabulary is to learn words from context, encountering them in books. After all, that's how you learned as a baby.
  • Focus on the fun of reading. Nobody reads a book if they think they won't enjoy it, especially not ten-year-old boys.
  • Have high expectations, throw out the TV, and don't let anyone kid them into thinking that Edmund Spenser or Shakespeare or Beowulf is above their heads.


Trev said...

Fantastic post, thank you!

For all those in Australia we stock the Book Tree locally -

Susannah said...

What a fabulous collection of titles. My boys are sure to enjoy the list you have compiled so thoughtfully :-)

Suzannah said...

Glad you like it--and I hope you can find some of these at your local library, or in op shops and so on!


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