Books for Boys

books black and whiteIN no particular order or arrangement:

Sterling North’s books (we have Rascal and The Wolfing:)- I’m thinking these are probably for at least 4th grade and up as far as reading level.

The Swiss Family Robinson– Strong, patriarchal father, in a good way, active boys

Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and his science fiction trilogy (the trilogy for much older students- possibly teens- again, magic will render these unacceptable to some)

Trumpteter of Krakow, Poland in the middle ages, adventure, duty, etc.
Mark Twain’s books, some of them, esp. Tom Sawyer
Rudyard Kipling‘s adventure stories- Kim, for example
Robin Hood, by Howard Pyle
The Good Master, and other books by Kate Seredy
The Phanton Tollbooth, by Juster (this is a really fun book, but it’s
very hard to explain. There is some magic, but I really think it might
be acceptable to many who don’t ordinarily care for magic- most of the
‘magic’ is really a play on words. There’s a mathemagician who rules
the kingdom of numbers, a ‘which’ named Faintly Macabre whose job is
to help people choose the right word, there are demons such as the demon
of insincerity, the horrible hopping two faced gorgon… do check it out)

Robert Louis Stevenson‘s adventure stories (the Black Arrow, the Master of Ballantrae..)
Jules Verne‘s books
The White Mountains, When the Tripods Came, The City of Gold and Lead,
and The Pool of Fire by John Christopher- these books are science
fiction and tell the story of earth conquered by strange aliens, and
how a group of resistance fighters discover the alien’s weakness and use it to overthrow them and regain control of earth-the resistance
fighters are boys;-) I love these books, especially When the Tripods
Came. **I do not like other books written by the same author***, but
this series is different and a great read for the science fiction
reader. Probably about sixth grade and up reading level. Good stuff
about freedom, liberty, responsibility, clear thinking
The Dog of Flanders, by ouida
Other dog books by Terhune or Kjelgard (probably misspelling his name)
My Friend Flicka
The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander (magic content makes these
unacceptable to some), these are witty and funny, and do not take themselves too seriously.  Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper is just sure he is meant for bigger, braver, better things, and perhaps he is, but he is learning that being a hero is sometimes a scary thing that carries a lot of responsibility.
Gift from the Mikado, by Fleming (this was a fantastic booksale find.
It is the, I believe true, story of a missionary family to Japan at
the turn of the century. The story focuses on two brothers and their
father, and was just a delightful read)
The Great Brain books, by fitzgerald (The Great Brain is a money
grubbing, arrogant and very, very bright young man, and some may not
like these books. We think they’re funny)
Sugar Creek Gang books (a series, and with all the shortcomings of a
series, but better written than most, and the characters rely on God)
The Giant, by Dubois (fun story of a giant baby, sounds odd, but it’s
cute and the baby is a boy who loves to play with real cars just like
matchbox cars)

Jean Craighead George’s Far Side fo the Mountain books
The Gammage Cup, by Kendall (this one is also hard to explain. IT’s
of fantasy and sort of science fiction, and awfully fun. Not everyone
will like it, but those that do will probably love it. I think maybe
4th grade and above reading level, The sequel as well).
Gentle Ben and other books by Walt Morey
Encyclopedia Brown books, by Sobol (another series, not for everybody,
but good for helping children think. Perhaps 2nd -5th grade?)
Eleanor Estes has written a lot of good books, some of which appeal
to girls than boys, but others appeal to boys too. We have the
Tunnel of Hugsy Goode, but there are others boys will like.

The Pushcart War, by Merrill (neat story of how pushcart businesses
stand out against giant industry- sounds odd, but it’s really an
exciting story and lots of fun. You gotta read it;-))
Books by Clyde Bulla
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (fantasy/science fiction)
The Matchlock Gun
Tolkien‘s series (magic will be unacceptable to many)
The Thousand and One Nights and other myths and fairy tales (I’m
thinking especially of Sinbad)- magic content may be unacceptable to
And Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series- these are terrific
fun, especially for any kids interested at all in sailing, but
to all little boys (and big ones, and girls, too) who love adventure.
He wrote in the beginning of this century, I believe, so the children
have much more freedom than we could allow our children today to

There are quite a few other good boy books shared in the comments.  One in particular I want to mention is Bears of Blue River– my grandfather introduced us to this when I was a child and I loved it, but mostly my girls did not.  My son, however, was delighted with it.

The Redwall books are very popular, but there came a time when I grew heartily sick of them and had had to make a rule that my son must read something else in between Redwall books.

I also have a list of book for older boys here.

More books listed here (including some of the above, but there a lot of additions in the latter part of the post).

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  1. Anonymous
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Nothing by John Steinbeck?

  2. jquinby
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t own many of them, but I liked The Hardy Boy books. And they’re mostly out of print, but I greatly enjoyed the Danny Dunn series by Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin. I’ll also throw in the Henry Reed books. Depending on the boy, you can’t go wrong with the Sherlock Holmes stories. Older boys might also enjoy The Leatherstocking Tales.

  3. coffeemamma
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    The Pushcart War is *fascinating*! I read it aloud to the oldest two, and Hubby listened in, too.

    We’ve read most of the books on your list and enjoyed them all, though the Boy hasn’t been read them all yet (Pyle is a favourite!). Others on your list I haven’t heard of, so I’ll have to check them out- thanks!

    Our Boy loves the Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet books, the Moomintroll books (10yod loves these, too), and the My Father’s Dragon series. He also really enjoyed Farmer Boy from the Little House series.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Any Comments about the Red Badge of Courage? I have not read it and my 11 year old son is interested in the Civil War. Would this be a god book to read.

  5. MamaLion
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, thank you!! I have always been able to count on you for good recommendations!!

    One more that you mentioned this summer as one of your top picks for boys: The Bears of Blue River by Charles Major. I am looking forward to reading this to my boys this year.

    I’m going to link this post from my blog.

  6. Mama Squirrel
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    So we’re not the only one who’s read The Mushroom Planet? Phew. We’ve only read the first one so far.

    For boys a little too young or too wiggly to be ready for long chapter books, I could recommend the Morton and Warton toad books, starting with A Toad for Tuesday (it’s probably the best one in the series too).

    And Farley Mowat’s books about his childhood, like Owls in the Family.

  7. Mama Squirrel
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Sorry about the really bad grammar there. So, we’re not the only ones who have read the Mushroom Planet? There, that’s better.

  8. My Boaz's Ruth
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I read Red Badge of Courage in High School — my recollection of the book is that most 11 year olds probably wouldn’t get enough of it (And some may be frightened by it)

    I LOVED the Great BRain and Encyclopedia Brown books growing up. These are not just for boys (OTOH I was a big tomboy.)

    My husband really loves PHantom Toolbooth. we’ve got that one on our shelves now.

    While you are talking about dog books what about Where the Red Fern grows?

    My husband really loved the Jack London books growing up, so we got them as a gift to a boy we know when turned 12.

  9. Headmistress, zookeeper
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    The list was never meant to be comprehensive, so I appreciation your additions. In fact, it was largely compiled one afternoon by roaming through my house and copying titles off of bookcases.

    Anonymous, I’m probably being an idiot, but this list is largely for younger readers, about 11 or 12 and under. I can’t think of any Steinbeck for that age group off the top of my head.

    Jquinby, Henry Reed is absolutely one that belongs on the list.

    We’ve also read Wonderful Flight- once a highly collectable title. I think it’s in print again. Also Moomintroll.=)

    Bears of Blue River- Can’t believe I neglected that one, as it is on our shelves!

    Boaz’s Ruth- I don’t really believe in distinctions between ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ books in general. There are some exceptions, naturally. At the time I originally compiled this list I was hearing a lot of mothers saying that of course boys did not like to read, and that there were not many good ‘boy books’ out there. So I went through my existing shelves and copied the titles of a few of the ones I thought might tempt even boys who had been permitted to believe reading was a ‘female’ activity.=)
    There wre some serious omissions- Phantom Toll Booth is another.

    Red Bad of Courage- I think that one is a bit too realistic a depiction of war for most 11 year olds. Made me squirm.
    Titles or authors we thing might be of interest to an 11 y.o.
    Across Five Aprils
    Get On Board, by Jim Haskins
    Colonel Red Reeder titles (he’s the author)
    Some books in the Landmark series
    Albert Marrin’s biographies of Lee, Grant, Lincoln
    Christian Liberty Press has some good biographies of Civil War Generals

    Some people like Henty’s With Lee in Virginia, but I have some serious reservations about Henty’s depiction of blacks as foolish children in need of paternalistic care- I think that attitude is directly responsible for and the precursor to our modern welfare state. But that’s another topic.=) Still, Henty is fun enough for most boys that if you are sure you can point out that slavery itself *caused* and fostered a lack of personal responsibility in some cases, and that a sense of self-preservation required a need to act dumb before your kidnappers in other cases, and the connections between the attitudes of the pro-slavery south with the current Welfare State- well, then I might let my son read it under those circumstances.

  10. Momo
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful list! Thank you for the warning about Henty books. The Swallows and Amazons and Moomintroll books are magnificent, aren’t they? I wanted to learn Finnish for the longest time, because of Tove Jansson, before I found that she actually wrote in Swedish, because it was accessible to a larger community of readers.

    I am curious as to why you use grade levels when recommending books. I know I read Rascal when I was about seven, and thouroughly enjoyed it. I suppose it does give a general idea of the age at which one is expected to be able to read a particular book with understanding, but it’s such an arbitrary system.

  11. Headmistress, zookeeper
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    It’s not about what age one is expected to read a book with understanding, but about rough guidelines to the complexity of the reading level so parents don’t overwhelm a child and make him hate a book which is too hard for him to read just yet. It’s just a tool.

    Grade levels are arbitrary, but they are also useful as rough guidelines to reading complexity. I don’t think I’ve ever said ‘only sixth graders’ can read a book- I say things like this book is “about sixth grade reading level.”

    Most parents know where their kids are, so if a parent has a 7 year old reading at ‘sixth grade level’, that parent will know that the book in question is probably one the child can tackle. But if the child is only reading at roughly 3rd grade level, the parent will know that maybe this book can be scooted back in the line-up.

  12. itazurakko
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Oh I LOVE the Great Brain books! The way they are told from the point of view of the Great Brain’s little brother is excellent.

    I also like the Moomintroll books, they have been hugely popular in Japanese for years.

  13. Superdestroyer
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    An 11 and 12 year old book should be given Ender’s Game by Card. He could follow up with Ender’s Shadow.

    As a counter point to Harry Potter, an 11 or 12 year old could read EarthSea (the frist three books) by LeGuin. At least the magic makes more sense.

  14. Timotheus
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    I’ll second Ender’s Game. I’ve heard of it being required reading in junior high or high schools and I think, “Man, what lucky kids!”

  15. Anonymous
    Posted December 22, 2005 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the list of books for boys.

    Let me add, “Carry on, Mr. Bowditch” by Jean Latham (I don’t think that is the author’s entire name but you could find the book with that.)

    It is a very readable fictionalized biography of an early American sailor who taught himself Latin and astronomy, then used his knowledge to revolutionalize navigation at sea. I say a fictionalized biography because it has dialogue that no one could actually know happened, but all the major events in his life are covered.

    You can still purchase a “Bowditch,” which is a navigational guide that has been used for something like 200 years by the US Navy and other navies around the world.

  16. Momo
    Posted December 23, 2005 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the explanation. Makes sense to me! I realized later that I hadn’t any alternate system to propose, so really oughtn’t have complained about the one in use.

  17. jdavidb
    Posted September 28, 2006 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Some might like to add the Henry Huggins books by Beverly Cleary. Some might not like them because the kids essentially wander the neighborhood with no parental supervision, though.

    Cleary, a librarian, wrote her first Henry Huggins book in response to boys asking, “Where are the books about boys like us?” All the books were either for girls or stupid tripe for boys.

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