October 21, 2020

Open Mic at the iMonk Cafe: What Might Boys Read?


Noel, Ryan and I were talking tonight about the fact that while a few middle/high school girls read, almost no middle/high school boys read.

My dad died almost 15 years ago. He enjoyed Zane Grey and Tarzan. There was a time the John Carter of Mars books were popular. Also the Hardy Boys. Sherlock Holmes. I read a lot sports as a kid. Times have changed.

Boys today read manga and comics, if they read at all. A few read Poe and Tolkien. When in college, Sci-fi and action/military books may find an audience.

So what is out there, contemporary and classic, that we could suggest or assign to middle/high school boys? (Not Christians in an advanced environment. Just regular boys.)


  1. The Halo (on which the video game is based) books are popular amongst the teenage boys I work with, none of whom would read otherwise.

  2. JohnB5200 says

    I have 3 sons (ages 12 – 16) ranging from light reader to heavy reader.

    As a reader, my rule has always been that I would buy them whatever books they want to read, except comic/manga books.

    Here are the ones I recall –

    Harry Potter at the top of the list.
    Tolkien LOTR and Hobbit
    Eragon Dragon series
    Some game related novels – Halo and Warhammer
    None have made it past Lion Witch & Wardrobe in Narnia series.
    Roger Lancelyn Green’s re-tellings of various mythologies
    Some post apocalyptic stuff – Tales from the Wasteland.
    HG Wells and Jules Verne
    James Owen’s Here There be Dragons series- Where the main characters are the Inklings – Lewis, Tolkien and Williams.

    BTW, if you order a lot of books, check out Amazon Prime.

    • The Dangerous Book for Boys – also good for 50 somethings looking to reclaim some of the joys of childhood.
      R. A. Heinlein’s Pre 1959 Juvenile Sci Fi – Rocketship Galileo through Have Spacesuit Will Travel.

      • JohnB5200 says

        I greatly enjoyed Heinlein’s juvenile work as a tween/teen. I have not been able to find them in the local used bookstores. I need to check Amazon

    • Williams for a 16 year old (or younger!)? How does that work out?

      • JohnB5200 says

        Charles Williams, along with Lewis and Tolkien, is a character in James Owen’s series (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica.)

        I would not recommend Charles Williams to a teenager.
        I am 47 and must confess that I have never made it through a Charles Williams book myself.
        Even Lewis’ Space Trilogy, which I re-read recently, might be too much for my kids, though I read them in high school. Perhaps I am selling my kids short.

  3. I loved ERB’s Tarzan series and John Carter of Mars. Whenever a friend asks for suggestions for boys I immediately suggest these.

    Also, the Doc Savage series by Kenneth Robeson is along the same vein as the ERB books. I remember devouring those.

    What else… (trying not to repeat)

    Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott
    The Once and Future King – T.H. White
    Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series – Fritz Leiber (sword & sorcery type stuff)
    Dragonriders of Pern seies – Anne McCaffrey
    Blue Adept series – Piers Anthony

    From above I’d second Dune, the Dumas books, Wrinkle in Time, Ringworld, Ender’s Game, LOTR, Narnia…. Heck!, there’s just too many good ones.

  4. Have to add Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. One of my favorite books of all time. Might be best for older boys, though.

  5. These are excellent recommendations and include many books I’ve read and enjoyed. I particularly second Zelazny’s Amber series, the Orson Scott Card books, and the Count of Monte Cristo.

    I add these books to the list:

    The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time – Mark Haddon
    The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
    Riverworld series – Philip Jose Farmer
    Xanth series – Piers Anthony
    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer

    But the question here is “What MIGHT boys read?” as opposed to “What SHOULD boys read?” Honestly, when I was a teenage boy, I would consider any book with a cover that appealed to my hormone-driven imagination. In high school I read the entire James Bond series and any detective or secret agent book with an enticing cover. The content may have been a bit risque back then, but those books induced this (former) boy to read heavily in his teen years.

  6. Kairanie says

    I might recomend the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper.

  7. ATChaffee says

    The X-Men comics (and Marvel in general) had some great exposition of moral issues, plus a lot of action. Ok, also occultism and violence if that is a problem, and some of the spinoffs are better than others.

    Jim Kjelgaard’s Big Red series and other dog stories, where unlike Old Yeller , Sounder, etc. the dog doesn’t die.

    The Ralph Moody Little Britches series. Odd to see a book touted by homeschoolers about a kid who frequently deceives his mother (to ride in rodeos, etc.)

    Kipling’s Captains Courageous

    Dune (1st 3 books) and Ender’s Game, yes. The Bean books are better than the Speaker for the Dead books.

    Star Trek fiction, some better than others.

  8. My 11-year-old grandson loves everything by Patrick McManus…but he’s also read a lot of Shakespeare and he loves David MacCauley’s books, too.

  9. cermak_rd says

    William Still’s “The Underground Railroad” is a great read! It’s available on Project Gutenberg and is mainly just filled with the stories of slaves and how they escaped from slavery with letters back home now and again. None of the stories are very long, so though it’s a big book (>600 pages if I recall rightly), it can be broken up into manageable chunks of time. Lots of derring-do and suspense.

    Heinlein and Asimov are pretty good reads.

    I second the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators suggestion. Jupiter, Pete and Bob were friends of mine when I was a kid.

    Encyclopedia Brown was another favorite, though he skews young, say 3rd or 4rth grade.

  10. wasabicoated says

    KITERUNNER! That book is amazing!!! It’s a great story about friendship, suffering, and redemption.

    Also, even though its written by a prominent atheist, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is just one of those great novels that every person with any sense of humor should read.

    Oh, and one more book! The Autobiography of Malcolm X was probably the most powerful book I’ve read during high school. Every teenage boy, regardless of race or religion must read this book! It completely shattered the naive, ignorant assumptions I had about race and society as an arrogrant teen growing up in a typical American suburb.

    Man, books are amazing!

  11. Rev. Roger Sterle says

    I did not get all the coments read so don’t know if this has been suggested but…. Louis L’Amour books. While they are western [and very well written] they also contain tidbits of history about the US. I have enjoyed reading them often. They are good for the age you are suggesting.

  12. ATChaffee says

    A Single Shard and other books by Linda Sue Park.

    There is a series of historical fiction for boys, My Name is America. I don’t know if they are any good my my girls liked the corresponding Dear America series.

  13. Every Southern boy should read Ferrol Sams’ trilogy:

    Run With the Horsemen
    The Whisper of the River
    When All the World Was Young

  14. Heinlein’s Juveniles, most definitely:

    1. Rocket Ship Galileo, 1947
    2. Space Cadet, 1948
    3. Red Planet, 1949
    4. Farmer in the Sky, 1950
    5. Between Planets, 1951
    6. The Rolling Stones aka Space Family Stone, 1952
    7. Starman Jones, 1953
    8. The Star Beast, 1954
    9. Tunnel in the Sky, 1955
    10. Time for the Stars, 1956
    11. Citizen of the Galaxy, 1957
    12. Have Space Suit—Will Travel, 1958

    His collected stories in _The Past Through Tomorrow.

    If you trust your young teen’s judgement and ability to handle a wonderful satire of sex and organized religion, let them read _Stranger in a Strange Land_. I first read it when I was 10, and I turned out normal, for the most part. 🙂

    Almost any of the classic Science Fiction novels listed at (http://classics.jameswallaceharris.com/).

  15. Major Rowe says

    Just read, for the first time, The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis which provides some great insight into the internal workings of the male mind and how it deals with the possibilities, both edifying and evil, that come ones way.

  16. It just occurred to me to suggest James Michener’s short novel “Caravans,” which is set in Afghanistan.

  17. just bill says

    When I was that age, Dungeons and Dragons was popular, so quite a bit of what I read had that influence. There were some very good books I read at that time, however.

    The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E Feist (and everything else with his name)
    The Tales of Alvin Maker by Orson Scott Card (historical fiction steeped in the traditions of the area)
    Clan of the Cave Bear
    Most anything by Ray Bradbury

  18. Dan Crawford says

    The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and any of the books by Loren Eisley.

  19. The ones that come to mind that are lying around our house:

    Harry Potter (of course)
    Holes by Louis Sachar
    Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time by Mark Haddon
    Heart of a Champion by Carl Deuker
    Anything by Lee Strobel
    Anything by John Feinstein except the golf stuff

  20. Definitely Heinlein, filtering his later novels for age/sexual content. I also second Just Bill on Alvin Maker as well. That has the advantage of being very infused with Christianity (Card is a strong Mormon, but the Christian themes apply nonetheless). David Eddings’ Belgariad is good boy reading too.

    When I was about 16 I discovered George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman books and laughed my butt off while learning more history than I could ever have gotten in school. They’re pretty bawdy, but humorous rather than smutty. Certainly not beyond the capacity of a teenager to handle.

  21. That Other Jean says

    Spider Robinson!

    The Flashman bboks are indeed bawdy, but it’s all in good fun. An older teen should be able to handle that–swashbuckling and babes at its literate best. Good history, too.

  22. My junior high son reads:
    the Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling),
    the Eragon series (Christopher Paolini)
    the Redwall series (Brian Jacques)

    He also will read non-fiction if it’s simply written, biographical (or autobiographical), and reasonably short (less than 250-300 pp). He’s read stuff about sports figures, a history of the Apollo program, and books on science and engineering (how to make things, how they are made, how they work) that are aimed at high school students.

    My take on this is he’s looking for both adventure and concrete experiences of real people in his reading.

  23. I wasn’t much of a fiction guy, but I remember enjoying:
    Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)
    The Giver (I forget)
    Hatchet (Gary Paulsen)
    Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)

  24. I wish Terry Brooks and R. A. Salvatore would have been around when I was young, I think they are easier to read than Tolkien. I just googled and found this link to a series called Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators: http://www.thrillingdetective.com/3invest.html I remembered reading every one I could get my hands on, the guys had a club house hidden in the middle of a junkyard. I read every Louis L’Amour, the Sackett stories are really good, and could draw them in to wanting more. Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift were good. Harry Potter is good. Heinlein was good.

    I don’t know how to get them to read unless they start very young. I remember reading a slim version of Robinson Crusoe with some photos when I was maybe 8 or 9, I never read the whole unabridged version until I was an adult. I remember reading a book called The Discoverers, a non-fiction historical work by Daniel Boorstin, it was very readable. (I just googled it to find the author, and it looks like there’s a trilogy, I read it when it was fairly new, ’86 or so, wow, I’m old.

    Nicholas Kristoff at the NYT put out this list of “the best Kids Books ever”: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/opinion/05kristof.html

  25. Robert F says

    My oldest son is 17 doesn’t read much except sports magazines and gaming magazines. My youngest son is 14 and reads voraciously. His short list includes:

    Harry Potter
    The Redwall series
    Artemis Fowl
    Alex Rider (sort of a spy, action series)

  26. For non-fiction, there’s the “Horrible History” series (all the bits they don’t tell you about in school left in!)

    A very humorous, basically accurate, romp through history from the Stone Age up to the Second World War.

    Very Euro-centric – of course! – written by an Englishman, so all to do with British history. Still, disgusting tales of the plague, torture, and executions should be very appealing to boys. My nephews loved them (and to be fair, I laughed my backside off as well).


    I have no idea if they’re available in America, or if they are, and you use them in school, if you’ll be fired from your job afterwards.

  27. A high school friend just posted this on Facebook as a blog that he follows regarding getting boys to read: http://www.gettingboystoread.com/