This list was largely compiled one afternoon by roaming through my house and copying titles off of bookcases. Of course, girls would love these too. 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.=)
I sometimes give 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, however, and not intended to be taken too seriously.
I list them in 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. Rascal is the true story of how the author and his family raised a raccoon. The Wolfling is a fictionalized account of a boy who raises a wolf cub, and there are some elements in it from the author’s life. Set in Wisconsin in the 1870s. There is also a real life historical figure, the Swedish-American naturalist Thure Kumlien, who befriends the boy and teaches him how to care for his wolf cub.
North also wrote So Dear To My Heart, but this is one book where I totally prefer the Disney movie with Burl Ives- So Dear To My Heart.
Keith Robertson’s Henry Reed Books, probably for boys of about 2nd to 5th grade to read independently. Fun read alouds for younger lads as well.
The Swiss Family Robinson- Strong, patriarchal father, in a good way, active boys, praying family. These stories began as bedtime stories Pastor Wyss told to his sons, so he incorporated many lessons for his boys into the stories- these include moral and character building lessons as well as lessons on science and nature. The Swiss Family Robinson or, Adventures on a Desert Island is also available as a free Kindle version. This is a great family read aloud. It could probably be read by advanced readers from about the 4th grade on, but it would not be too childish for middle schoolers.
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric Kelly, published in 1928 and winner of the Newberry Award. Set in Medieval Poland, based loosely on a true story. The trumpet song still plays in Krakow.
Mark Twain’s books, some of them, especially The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Tom Sawyer’s Comrade (both of these last two links are to a free Kindle version).
Rudyard Kipling‘s adventure stories- Kim, in particular- I love this story of the lively little orphan Indian/Irish boy who endears himself to nearly everybody he meets. Also The Jungle Book with Mowgli, Bagheera, and all the rest. The original, not the Disney version. Shasta is reading this aloud to the DPG, who is just three (but he’s gifted), and Captains Courageous, a great boy story about a spoiled rich boy who learns to be a man and his shallow parents who learn to love their son. Plus sailors and fishing boats. In general I would say these are readable for boys about fifth grade and up.
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, who was told his book would never go because it was too hard for kids, but it’s actually beloved by all who read it. 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. There’s a movie, too, which is very different from the book but also well worth watching. I blogged about it some here. A wonderful book for learning about how Time is a Gift.
Robert Louis Stevenson‘s adventure stories: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson; another great boy adventure book. Long John Silver is one of the most delicious villains ever. Kidnapped, The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses, 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), excellent for kids between 4th and 6th grade especially. These are great fun. I have a tribute to Alexander here, made up of some lovely quotes from one of his books.
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 sort 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 more to girls than boys, but others appeal to boys too. We have the Tunnelof 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 are great for early readers.
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 some
And Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series- these are terrific fun, especially for any kids interested at all in sailing, but appealing to all little boys (and big ones, and girls, too) who love adventure. He wrote in the beginning of the last century, so the children have much more freedom than we could allow our children today to have.
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 I am heartily sick of them and have had to make a rule that my son must read something else in between Redwall books.
The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, probably most fun for boys about 2-4th grade.
The Moomintroll books are fun.
The Adventures of Tin Tin are great fun, especially useful for boys who think they do not like to read.
A Toad for Tuesday, and other Morton and Warton books are good for early readers.
Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of the Monkeys, which is less well know- both are lovely, although Where the Red Fern Grows is a tear jerker. Summer of the Monkeys is a beautiful tale of a brother whose little sister is handicapped and how he learns to love and give sacrificially. Love the big brother element of this tale.
The American Civil War is often a period of much interest to boys (and to girls who love horses):
Across Five Aprils
Colonel Red Reeder titles (he’s the author)
Some of books in the Landmark series
Albert Marrin’s Biographies of Lee, Grant, Lincoln in particular.
Christian Liberty Press has some good biographies of Civil War Generals
Some people like With Lee In Virginia: A Story Of The American Civil War, 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. That sermon is free btw.
Ooh, you should also read this post at The Glittering Eye which contains lots of great titles for boy reading, and the comments are useful as well.