50 Best Books for Boys and Young Men

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 15, 2009 · 191 comments

in A Man's Life, Diversions

vintage boy reading

As a boy, one of my favorite times in school was when we’d get a new Scholastic News book “catalog.” I would pour over the pages picking out which books I wanted and filling out the order sheet. And as soon I got them, I was lying under the covers with my nose buried in a book.

Unfortunately, not all boys have that kind of enthusiasm for reading. For several decades now, boys have scored lower on reading assessment tests than girls. Boys also take longer to learn to read than girls, are less likely to actually read and to value reading, and are more likely to label themselves as “non-readers” (up to 50% of high school age boys consider themselves as such). Non-reading boys do poorer academically and end up as non-reading men (women read almost twice as many books as men).

What’s the problem? Some of it may be biological (boys’ language skills develop slower that girls). But a lot of it is sociological. Boys may see reading as a passive and thus sissy activity. Boys also lack male reading mentors-their librarians and teachers are often female, and it’s mom that reads to them. And in the name of gender-neutrality, teachers are foisting books on boys that they simply do not like.

But parents are to blame too, often trying to make their sons read “important books” to build their character. Dad loved some long tome as a boy and wants junior to come to an equal apprectation of it.

But reading experts all agree that boys need to be allowed to pick the books that really interest them. Of course it’s okay to make suggestions to your son about things he might like-boys very much value the opinion of other boys and men in making their reading selections. So here are 50 books that many boys and young men will really love. We’ve included some classics, but we also threw in some more modern and accessible choices-after all, not every boy has the desire or the aptitude to dive into Dickens.

Finally, while we had boys about the ages of 9-15 in mind when we made this list, I’ve always considered the distinction between adult and young adult literature to be an unfortunate and artificial one. Putting together this list I remembered just how good these books are, and I can’t wait to read them again as a man. Whether you’re 12 or 52, grab one of these books and a bag of cookies and head out to the treehouse.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen


Pretty much every boy’s favorite book. When the pilot of the small plane of which he is a passenger crash lands in the Canadian wilderness, 13 year old Brian Robeson must survive with only his wits and a hatchet. Utterly alone, Brian must learn to rely on himself. Gripping and vividly told, every boy pictures himself in Brian’s shoes and wonders whether he would have what it takes to survive.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles


Set at a boys prep school on the eve of World War II, A Separate Peace centers on the friendship of Phineas and Gene. Phineas’ seeming perfection creates a jealously in Gene that results in a tragedy that will forever change both of their lives. A piercing look at both the light and the shadows of friendship and humanity. Every boy wishes he were Finny but knows he’s more like Gene. This book has stuck with me ever since reading it as a young man and remains one of my favorite until to this day.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


Take Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, replace the jungle with a graveyard and the animals with ghosts and you’ve got Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. The book begins with the mention of the murder of a family, but quickly moves on from there and is not a gruesome tale inappropriate for youngsters. The sole survivor of the murder is an 18 month old baby, who toddles away to a graveyard. Here the cemetery’s ghosts and ghouls adopt the boy, give him a name (“Nobody” as he’s like nobody else in the graveyard), protect him from the still on the loose killer, and teach him the life lessons that only the dead can know. It’s takes a graveyard to raise a child, and the cemetery is a great home, but eventually Bod, as they call him, must deal with the world outside of its borders. Spooky, magical, and engrossing, it’s a must for all boys who like ghost stories (so pretty much all boys). Be sure to check out Gaiman’s other great books like Neverwhere and Anasi Boys.

The American Boy’s Handy Book by Daniel C. Beard


Long before The Dangerous Book for Boys became all the rage , there was the American Boy’s Handy Book. Every father and grandfather should have this on his shelf, waiting there for a boy to pull it off and start leafing through. Dozens of awesome (and unlike another book, some actually dangerous) hands on projects for boys to tackle from how to build kites and forts to how to rear wild birds and trap animals. Originally published in 1882 and still a must for every boy today.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster


The story of a boy who’s boring life is interrupted by the appearance of something strange and unusual that transports him to a magical place. It’s a premise that underlies a myriad of children’s books, but few are as creatively constructed as The Phantom Tollbooth. Young Milo finds a tollbooth in his room, gets in his toy car and drives into another dimension. Boys will love the strange adventures Milo experiences, while older kids and adults can enjoy the witty satire and clever puns.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain


One of the great American novels. Young Huck Finn escapes from his abusive father by taking off on a raft down the Mississippi River. He is joined by Jim, an escaped slave. The two set off on a grand adventure full of close calls and interesting characters. With both wit, action, and fun, coupled with an undercurrent of serious themes, Huck Finn is a multi-layered masterpiece for young and old.

The Last Mission by Harry Mazer


The classic tale of the collision of a boy’s idealistic view of war with it’s ugly reality. Yet the book manages to avoid being a tired cliche. 15 year old Jack Raab lies his way into the Army Air Force and finds himself flying bombing missions over occupied territory. On his 25th mission, his last mission before being sent home, his plane is shot down, and he is taken prisoner in a German POW camp. A fictional story and an easy read, but historically accurate and realistic in its details. Be sure to check out other books by Harry Mazer; his A Boy at War series is a painless way to teach boys some history.

The First Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook


If you have a son in Scouts, he’ll definitely dig this book. Today’s Scout manual is definitely watered down compared to the first edition. The first edition manual is crammed with info on tracking and trapping animals, building shelters from scratch, and sailing. Additionally, it has stories of bravery and adventure that inspire boys to be great men. Something today’s manual is sorely lacking.

Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane


Known as a war book, The Red Badge of Courage is really a coming of age story set on the battlefield. Young Henry Fleming leaves his mother to fight for the Union Army. His question of whether or not he’ll have the courage to stand and fight is answered in the negative when he flees from his first skirmish. Fleming resolves to redeem himself during the next battle. A story not only of the tragedy of war, but the struggle to replace pride, weakness, and rationalization with bravery and personal honesty.

Watership Down by Richard Adams


One of my favorite books as a boy-who knew the lives of rabbits could be so engrossing? I’m sure it’s rife with rich symbolism and whatnot to mull over, but it’s one of those books that creates a world so rich and evocative that it’s best to let yourself get totally wrapped up in it instead of constantly searching for deeper meaning. When a prophetic rabbit correctly foretells that their warren will be destroyed, a band of rabbits travel in search of  a new home and encounter dangerous and interesting obstacles along the way. Some authors can’t make human characters as interesting as these rabbits.

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{ 190 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nathan November 15, 2009 at 11:37 pm

I want to say so many things about this list, but it would take pages and pages. Suffice it to say, there are a good number of amazing books here that I would still read (haha, I’m only 19, I’m still a young man).

2 Ammon November 15, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Fantastic post! As nearly complete as a list of classics for boys of all ages could hope to be. I’d only add one series to the mix. Check out the Great Brain Series by John D. Fitzgerald. Lots of humor, comic mischief, and boys being boys, I’d heartily recommend them to anyone regardless of age or gender.

3 Steven Rushing November 15, 2009 at 11:43 pm

An excellent list; I have read perhaps 40 of them, and loved 39 (To Kill a Mockingbird doesn’t get read on its own merits, only at the point of a teacher’s gun).

I would add one book in its place: The Swiss Family Robinson. It is a wonderful adventure/science book that engrossed me as a young boy.

4 Travis November 16, 2009 at 12:05 am

Amazing list. I have a 16 month old son and can’t wait for him to read these books. Brought back so many memories looking at the book jackets.

5 Gordie Rogers November 16, 2009 at 12:21 am

I haven’t read most of those, but two that I loved reading when I was younger was “The Outsiders” and “The Cay”. Thanks for recommending these.

6 Shannon November 16, 2009 at 12:41 am

Great reminder of some awesome books. I’m looking forward to brushing up on some of these when my son gets to them.

7 MP November 16, 2009 at 12:46 am

Good list I’ve probably read around 20 of them, I’ll be acquiring some of the others.

Athem, Animal Farm, and1984 definitely fit the the Young Men side, with Animal Farm working for Boys too. Never too early to teach the virtues of independent thought.

8 Rev November 16, 2009 at 12:52 am

I’d add a recommendation of Nation by Terry Pratchett.

9 Nick J November 16, 2009 at 12:56 am

If you want to include a quality graphic novel, I would put Bone as an honorable mention for this list.

10 James November 16, 2009 at 1:12 am

A great post and I fully agree with all the listed books and have already have read 14 of these books my self.

11 Angelia Sparrow November 16, 2009 at 1:40 am

I’ve read about 30 and own several more of those. I cannot recommend THE GIVER because the world-building is weak in places (the numbers don’t add up)..

Thank you for the list. I have sons who do read. And it may be time to get my almost-15 out of THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS and into THE ART OF MANLINESS. There are many ways to be a man and I want him to absorb as many as possible.

12 Zephyrum November 16, 2009 at 2:50 am

Good call on Ender’s Game and The Graveyard Book. I’d also recommend His Dark Materials by Pullman. Although it may not be suitable for very religious folks.

Also, Jurassic Park. I had no trouble reading it when I was pre-teen and loved it the whole time. A good one to encourage a healthy sci-fi habit.

@Nick J: Nice! I think they print Bone in a trade paperback now. Good reading for any kid.

13 Zachariah November 16, 2009 at 3:06 am

Ender’s Game is so bad ass! (I read it first in 8th grade and 2 more times after that! I haven’t done that with a single other book). It’s certainly not the best book in the world, but it’s my favorite.

Nice list. I added quite a few that I’d like to read to my Goodreads accound, and a few that I read in middle school and want to remember.

14 Adam November 16, 2009 at 3:50 am

Ha, you had me at falconry too.

I remember that book vividly, good list.

15 Eric Ludzenski November 16, 2009 at 3:58 am

Great list; it brought back loads of memories.. I must have read thirty or forty of those mentioned, if I were to venture and guess.

It was nice to see so much by Roald Dahl; although, one of his books in particular that wasn’t mentioned is, ‘Boy: Tales of Childhood.’ It’s Dahl’s autobiographical account of his youth and is well worth the read. (My favourite bit is his retelling of the trouble he would get into at boarding school, such as, ‘The Great Mouse Plot of 1924.’)

16 Rex November 16, 2009 at 5:30 am

The list is barely complete without mentioning the Biggles series by Capt. W.E. Johns, about a British WW1 pilot. I loved reading them as a kid.

17 Adam November 16, 2009 at 6:42 am


Agreed that Ender’s Game and the rest of the series by Orsen Scot Card is worth reading. Any chance this list could be put into a simple format for easy viewing? I’d like to get these for my son, but don’t have the time to go through every page.


18 Mike Burleson November 16, 2009 at 6:53 am

May I also add the following by Robert Heinlein:

Between Planets,
Farmer in the Sky
Have Space Suit Will Travel

Also anything by Jules Vernes and Arthur Conan Dole

19 Shad November 16, 2009 at 7:11 am

I loved the Encyclopedia Brown stories when I was a kid. I believe there was a decent HBO series a while ago. It might get the non-readers interested.

The Tintin stories were great, too, with all the travel and adventure. I especially like the yeti and Picaro stories.

My favorite had to be the Doc Savage books. I couldn’t wait for the next one to hit the stands at Mr Savage’s (weird coincidence) drugstore!

20 Mike Anderson November 16, 2009 at 7:40 am

As a boy I enjoyed the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs which starts out with “A Princess Of Mars” (bought a first printing of it – with the original illustrations – in a box of old books at a farm sale when I was about 8 or 9 – the box, if I recall correctly, cost me about a dollar and also had a copy of the same edition of “Call of the Wild” that shows on this site).
Burroughs’s Tarzan series are also great reads for any young man.

21 Lawrence November 16, 2009 at 7:41 am

I’ve read quite a few of these books. I have fond memories of reading the Hardy Boys and Roald Dahls books with my father. “Wind in the Willows” and “Brave New World” could be added. I think “Dove” by Robin Lee Graham should also be on the list. It was one of the first books I read on my own that wasn’t part of a reading assignment.

22 Jonathan November 16, 2009 at 8:16 am

Cheaper by the Dozen is a good read too. It’s the abridged biography of a family of 12 children. The father is the kind of man that inspires people to be better fathers: teaching important skills to his daughters and sons, sticking to his guns, and remembering that life is meant to be enjoyed.

23 Phil November 16, 2009 at 8:22 am

I agree with sticking Encyclopedia Brown on the list. The world’s smartest kid detective. Twentyfive cents per day plus expenses.


1. The Once and Future King by T.H. White – for the story

2. The Xanth series by Piers Anthony – for the wordplay and sillyness

3. Conan the Destroyer by Robert E. Howard -for the adventures

24 Ike November 16, 2009 at 8:25 am

Great list. I was given The American Boy’s Handibook when I was young and it has shaped a good deal of my leisure time.

25 Eric November 16, 2009 at 8:29 am

Can you provide a list of these books for our easy reference?

26 Cowboy Bob November 16, 2009 at 8:34 am

It is indeed unfortunate that this kind of list was not around when I was a kid. I was an avid fan of the Hardy Boys (having stopped reading them somewhere around book number fifty), even finding older versions by Leslie McFarlane and Harriet Adams writing as Dixon, they did about twenty four of that series. It was fun watching the changes in the English language between old and revised versions.

I would recommend the science fiction of Ray Bradbury. “Fahrenheit 451″ fascinated me at around age 14, and “Something Wicked This Way Comes” has fantastic elements plus an almost poetic writing style that boys should appreciate. There are several other Bradbury works that I think should be investigated.

27 David Scott November 16, 2009 at 8:42 am

Voyage of the Frog was a book I loved as a kid. The sign of the beaver was another great book too.

28 Tom November 16, 2009 at 8:45 am

Some of these have been mentioned before but I will add my voice…

1. Heinlein Juveniles – Pretty much all of them but highlights would be “Have Space Suit, Will Travel”, “Between Planets”, and “Citizen of the Galaxy”

2. Burroughs Barsoom Series – I devoured these as a kid.

3. “Word To Caesar” by Geoffrey Trease – Pretty much forgotten now but I loved this tale of a boy making way down from Roman era England to Rome, set during the reign of Emperor Trajan.

4. Rick Brant Electronic Adventures – Boys series book from 1947 to 1968. Only available in second hand shops, probably the best written series book of them all.

Those of you who, like me, grew up with the blue cover Hardy Boys, check out the reprints mentioned above. The books from the 1930s-1950s are vastly superior.

29 Mike at The Big Stick November 16, 2009 at 8:46 am

Fantastic post and great list. I’m glad the Boy Scout Handbook was included. As a young boy and Scout myself I also spent hours reading the Boy Scout Field Book which is a more outdoors-oriented companion of the basic Handbook.

There’s so many others I would love to add to your list…but you’ve hit on a lot of classics. Great job.

30 Max Elliot Anderson November 16, 2009 at 8:51 am

Books For Boys Blog

NEWSPAPER CAPER, TERROR AT WOLF LAKE, NORTH WOODS POACHERS, MOUNTAIN CABIN MYSTERY, BIG RIG RUSTLERS, SECRET OF ABBOTT’S CAVE, & LEGEND OF THE WHITE WOLF are compared by readers and reviewers to Tom Sawyer, The Hardy Boys, Huck Finn, Nancy Drew, Harry Potter, Tom Swift, Scooby-Doo, Lemony Snicket, and adventure author Jack London.

31 Titus November 16, 2009 at 9:00 am

There are some good works here, but there’s also 1) some unnecessary schlock (The Giver? please) and 2) some books that are probably better suited to kids a bit older than the 9-12 age group (the Hardy Boys and David Copperfield, while both excellent works, are simply not directed to the same audience: Dickens is fantastic, but he’s also interminable and quite dense, and will probably be enjoyed much more by a slightly older reader). Also, Eric Kelly’s The Trumpeter of Krakow is superior to at least a dozen of these works.

32 Tyler November 16, 2009 at 9:06 am

I was sooo happy to see Calvin and Hobbes make the list. Not only are the stories great, but the artwork is great as well.

33 Joe November 16, 2009 at 9:11 am

An amazing list. I’m especially happy that you chose Watership Down as it was the first book my mother ever gave to me. It sparked my imagination and truely gave me a love for reading and a wonderful imagination. Both of which are qualities i want to ensure take root in any children i may have.

34 Eric November 16, 2009 at 9:32 am

Big ups for Watership Down: it’s still my favourite book.

Many of these (including Watership Down, but also some like Lord of the Flies and To Kill A Mockingbird) can be read and still fully enjoyed as an adult. This list should be taken just as seriously as the ’100 manly books’ list.

35 paul November 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

Lots of Edgar Rice Borroughs is great — in addition to the Mars series, he wrote TARZAN.

sadly, The Giver, is both on public school reading lists and also banned in some schools. (banning is another topic entirely.)

I’m gladd to see others put up Heinlien (starship troopers, too), Card, Bradbury, Doyle, Verne.

How about Jack London — we’ve got our 10yo reading call of the wild. or How about the Old Man & The Sea, or South Sea Tales.

I find that you need to mix them up, topics, genres etc. For if not for the escapism of the mind how else can a 10yo travel. And, it doesn’t hurt to let them explore to find their own tastes.

36 Cap November 16, 2009 at 9:42 am

Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling inspired my imagination.

Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill taught me my first business lessons.

37 Mario November 16, 2009 at 9:47 am

Great post!!

38 Mike November 16, 2009 at 9:52 am

Don’t forget “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” My father gave me his copy when I was in highschool and it was time to get my first job.

Also, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Don’t forget your towel.

39 Nick November 16, 2009 at 9:59 am

Good post. I would also recommend The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I read this book when I was 13 years old and it is a great story about an Indian boy who gets trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger after a shipwreck on the way to Canada.

40 Daniel Hanf November 16, 2009 at 10:08 am

I realize it is probably meant to be included in the Lord of the Rings books, but some of my best memories as a kid are of my brother and I lying in our beds as our dad read us The Hobbit out of this huge book filled with paintings and sketches.

41 Matthew Robbins November 16, 2009 at 10:15 am

Great list! Really taking me back to my childhood with some of those titles. Great to see “Heart of a Champion” made the list. That’s one of my all-time favorite books. I think I read it like 10 times when I was younger.

42 Dan Smith November 16, 2009 at 10:20 am

This is such a great list! I’m pleasantly surprised to see The Last Mission on there. It was such an important book to me growing up. Of course the Red Badge of Courage too!

43 Dreadful_rauw November 16, 2009 at 10:23 am

Thrilled to see The Phantom Tollbooth on there. Totally overlooked book.

And I’ll second the calls for Encyclopaedia Brown. Especially for the more intellectual boys out there it’s nice to have a hero who uses knowledge as well as guts.

Another great series that’s overlooked is the The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. Ignoring the dismal “Black Cauldren” disney movie, the whole series is the story of a timid, untested assistant pig keeper who becomes a man and a true leader over the 5 books. Wonderfully dark, but still good for children.

44 Brian November 16, 2009 at 10:24 am

My favorite as a kid was “Rifles for Watie”, the Civil War in the west through the eyes of a 16 year old Kansas volunteer.

Also “Julie of the Wolves” about an Inuit girl living alone in Alaska.

45 John D. Sherrill November 16, 2009 at 10:57 am

Great list!

Where the Red Fern Grows was a defining book of my childhood. The beauty and the sorrow.

I think I would add some Ray Bradbury to this list. The Illustrated Man, R is for Rocket, S is for Space, Something Wicked This Way Comes, etc.

46 lady brett November 16, 2009 at 11:34 am

i’m glad to see that someone has already mentioned “boy,” though i don’t think y’all did dahl any disservice with this list as it is.

i would also second mentions of “encyclopedia brown,” “the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy,” “his dark materials” and “the hobbit.” (i realize you included the lord of the rings, but the style, reading level and takeaway are so vastly different that i would say they are in very separate categories.)

and i would add, though i know this is probably controversial, j.d. salinger’s “catcher in the rye.” not exactly a lesson in manliness, but a brilliant book nonetheless, and one that made being 15 quite a bit more bearable for me (and many others, i know). i would also argue, in response to those who claim “bad influence,” that for some of us who are particularly literary, reading about it is actually a great alternative to doing it, and living vicariously may have kept me out of a lot of trouble. ;)

47 Mitchel November 16, 2009 at 12:21 pm

I loved this post. As a boy I found a lot of enjoyment from reading, and many of my favorite books were in the posts list. It’s great to encourage our boys at sports, outdoor activities, being handy in the garage, ect. but there are too many times that they sit brain-numb in front of the television or game console. As men we are doing a big disservice to our boys and our selves by not reading. We should be role models of reading for knowledge and reading for pleasure so our boys will break out of the new social norm that accepts a plummeting literacy rate.

48 Mike November 16, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Some great books from when I was a kid growing up in the 90s,
The Pushcart War
Around the World in Eighty Days
Doctor Doolittle
The Boxcar Children

I really wish I had this list when I was in grade school.

49 RainyDayNinja November 16, 2009 at 12:26 pm

I would have to second the suggestions of Sherlock Holmes, and additionally, Hercule Poirot. I burned through Agatha Christie mysteries like nobody’s business in middle school.

Also, I’m surprised that no Jules Verne made it on the list. I’d recommend “Michael Strogoff: Courier of the Czar” for a good adventure, as well as “Mysterious Island,” a great Robinsonade with a twist, although the ending requires that you have a passing familiarity with “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

50 Mike November 16, 2009 at 12:29 pm

I also agree with that the Encyclopedia Brown series should be included

51 Jeff November 16, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Excellent list.

My Favorite as a kid was “Danny the Champion of the World” by Roald Dahl…I’m almost 30, and I think I’ll pick up a few of these books soon.

52 Vincent LoGreco November 16, 2009 at 12:53 pm

What a fantastic list, I have read and most likely will read again several of the books on this list.

53 MikeH November 16, 2009 at 1:18 pm

One more for you: Tunnel in the Sky, Robert Heinlein

Like My Side of the Mountain and Hatchet, its partly about learning self reliance, but it also teaches a valuable lesson about fear of the unknown and paints a very pointed picture that very often the solution to a conflict is NOT to simply bring a bigger gun.

54 Ron November 16, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Excellent list!

I would add “King Solomon’s Mines” by H. Rider Haggard. A classic treasure hunt and loyalty/friendship novel. Also “Nation” by Terry Pratchett.

55 Nathan November 16, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Pretty good list – very easy reading most of it.

What’s missing? The Fountainhead

56 Jason Phillips November 16, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Excellent list. How about: The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford

57 lady brett November 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm

oh! and “the three musketeers”!

58 BlueRaja November 16, 2009 at 3:13 pm

I agree with Titus that this is a great list, but some of the books are…iffy. I’d say that nearly a third of the books on this list are already required for 9-15 year old boys to begin with (and for the record, I know LOTS of people who do not like The Hatchet, mostly because as suburban and urban boys they simply cannot relate). I am pleased to see Gaiman and some fantasy titles on the list.

Anyway, I recommend Koushun Takami’s “Battle Royale”. It’s not as accessible as “Lord of the Flies”, but it has a similar theme, a more detailed story, and in my opinion much better writing. It also inspired a hit movie, an anime, and a manga, all of which you can probably ask your Japanophillic kid’s friend about.

59 Wendy November 16, 2009 at 3:20 pm

I have two boys (6 and 3) and my husband and I have been lamenting the fact that they “just don’t make men like they used to”. I am thrilled to have found your site and have been reading for a while.

Love your book list. Some of the books I love but thought nobody else knew about were on here! (Phantom Tollbooth, Where the Red Fern Grows) There were many I didn’t know about, though, presumably because I’m not a boy.

I recently rented “My Side of the Mountain” for my oldest son and it’s a very “slow” movie compared to modern films these days. I was certain he wouldn’t sit through it. Not only did he sit through the entire movie, but he wanted me to start it over so he could watch it again!

Thanks for the awesome list!

60 Nikki November 16, 2009 at 3:21 pm

I would recommend adding “Rascal” by Sterling North to the list. It’s a great story about a boy and his adventures with his pet raccoon. Excellent writing and beautiful pencil illustrations… and frankly, it just makes a kid want to get out and explore the world without any modern technology to tie him down.

61 jcard21 November 16, 2009 at 3:27 pm

1) Don’t forget to read ‘The Hobbit’ before ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy.

2) Also, for all kids 10-14 years old and up, the 11-book series ‘Uncle Eric Books’ by Richard Maybury, the title list can be found here:


If I was to make the list ’100 books’, I would include more non-fiction books, specifically biographies of the U.S. Founding Fathers (1770-1783), plus various inventors, business people, etc.

Good job!

62 James November 16, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Brett, I rushed through the list to make sure you listed King Arthur and His Knights. Good job!

63 Bret November 16, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Good list, except for The Giver. The end of that book (or lack thereof) has annoyed me for years.

64 lando November 16, 2009 at 4:51 pm

i loved the hardy boys when i was growing up- used to have a whole shelf devoted to them. also fantastic call on my side of the mountain- i had completely forgotten about it. there is actually sequels that are pretty good if any one is interested.

Additions that I would suggest: Harry Potter, a great good versus evil story
also, Rocket boys by Homer H Hickam Jr, the story that inspired the movie “october sky”. its another coming of age story, but with home made rockets. what else do you need?

65 Dave Lewis November 16, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Farmer in the Sky by Robert Heinlein – where else will you find the Boy Scouts of Ganymede?

Anything by Peter Capstick – hunting in the “Dark Continent”

Anything about Ernest Shackleton – “If you’re lost pray. If you’re lost in the Antarctic, pray for Shackleton”

The Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester – one of the best series on personal responsibility and leadership

66 Nicholas November 16, 2009 at 6:50 pm

A fantastic list. I would also recommend (particularly if a boy liked Watership Down) the Redwall series, which are lots of fun. For somewhat older boys, the James Herriot books, beginning with “All Creatures Great and Small,” are wonderful; by turns heartbreaking and hilarious, every chapter can stand on its own as a short story (while they do all fit into a cohesive plot arc). There’s some mild swearing (damn, hell, but rarely anything stronger) so some parents may want to consider that. I would also HIGHLY RECOMMEND (for teens––heck, for everyone!) a novel by Patrick O’Brien called “The Golden Ocean.” It is a standalone novel (you’re not committing to the Aubrey/Maturin series), but––like much of O’Brien––very-well researched; some of the characters are not historical, but many of the events are. A thrilling, brilliant book.

67 Kurt November 16, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Great list. It is amazing how many of those I have read, and had almost forgotten about.

As a Canadian, I would definitely add something from Farley Mowat to the list. He has written some fantastic yarns about adventures the arctic (“Lost in the Barrens”), but I think that his classic prairie tale “Owls in the Family” is the one that most of us remember.

Another one that has stuck with me for some reason is the depression classic “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”

68 Glen November 16, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I haven’t read everyone’s comments, hopefully I am not the only one my two favorites.

1. King Solomon’s Mines – H. Rider Haggard

2. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe.

69 Dillon November 16, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I also pored over the scholastic book order and spent not a little of my hard earned (no allowance at my house) pennies on books. In addition to reading skills, it helped my early math skills – how many books I could afford with so much money. I recall that the books were in the 25-60 cent range. (I’m in my early 50′s).

As a pre-teen, there was even a more exciting treasure trove – the school library. On one of the bottom shelves, in the middle of the back wall (see what an impression they left!) was a long set of books, nearly an entire shelf wide. The spines of the books placed in the correct order created a picture in dark blues and greens related to the genre, which was SUBMARINES!!! I read through that entire set – some twice – in less than a school year. So, of course, when my son was approaching that age, I went to the school library, then the local library, then the nearest city library looking for them. To no avail. Apparently, books go through cycles and some have relatively short life spans. And these books had lived their lives and it was over. I nearly cried (don’t tell anyone). Unfortunately, what I don’t remember is the name of the series, or even any of the titles. So finding them would be nearly impossible. Even though my son is now 18 (and, to my eternal frustration, one of those non-readers who nearly didn’t graduate from high school due to repeatedly failing – English, of course) I would love to have that set of books. For myself and my future grandsons (and/or granddaughters).

70 Jason E Maasch November 16, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Hello, I belive that Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank should also be added to your already fine list of litiature, as it shows the comming of age for young and old in a post atomic age.

71 Greg November 16, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Hey, how about some poetry? Scholastic’s “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle” introduced me to a lot of very witty rhymers. A Second vote for the Horatio Hornblower series, and anything by Farley Mowatt, especially “The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float” or “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be”, and where’s “The Wind in the Willows”? If Mole and Ratty aren’t overgrown 12-year olds at heart, I don’t know who is.

72 Alejandro November 16, 2009 at 10:48 pm

I don’t know if boys actually learn that much slower than girls when it comes to language arts, or it’s that schools in recent years have become more oriented towards helping girls achieve greater academic success, especially at the elementary school level, at the expense of boys. I think it all points to an increasing degree of misandry in American society, which is an entirely subject. Generally, boys still do better in math and science than girls. Regardless, getting boys to take reading more seriously is crucial to the overall welfare of any culture. Here’s an interesting story on one particular approach.

73 Steven November 16, 2009 at 10:48 pm

My favoirte childhood novels:

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

Paul Revere by Esther Forbes

And I loved The Shadow mystery novels by Maxwell Grant.

74 Kurt Harden November 16, 2009 at 11:39 pm

What a great list. I’ve posted a link to it. Hate to tinker with it but if you are adding:

The House With a Clock In Its Walls – Bellairs
My Side of the Mountain – George
Henry Huggins – Cleary
Henry Reed, Inc – McCloskey
How To Eat Fried Worms – Rockwell

75 Nick November 17, 2009 at 1:22 am

A good list. Many of those are still some of my favorite books.

a few things I can think of to add:

His Dark Materials Trilogy- Philip Pullman
Redwall series- Brian Jacques
Last of the Mohicans- James Fenimore Cooper

76 Gerald November 17, 2009 at 2:08 am

Great list. I’ve always been a big reader and some of my favorites were on this list or in the comments. I haven’t thought about some of these books in years (such as The Yearling and Toothpaste Millionaire and Paddle to the Sea).

One I’d add to the list would be “Banner in the Sky” by James Ramsey Ullman. I spent a week in the hospital with pneumonia in the 4th grade and my teacher and some of my classmates put together a care package with some games and two books, one of which was “Banner in the Sky”. I can’t remember the name of the other one but it was about a boy who lives with his grandparents and hunts with his grandfather every year but his grandfather becomes ill so he must try to take a deer alone for the first time. It was a great read.

77 Speedmaster November 17, 2009 at 8:15 am

Great list, thanks!!!

78 Matt November 17, 2009 at 9:30 am

Really enjoyed the list, but I take issue with the gender comparisons. I realize that wasn’t the point of the article, but shouldn’t we focus on what proportion of boys read, not whether it’s boys or girls?

79 Hearing Aids November 17, 2009 at 10:29 am

This is a great list. I loved several of those books while growing up, and I think I may go back and reread some of them.

80 Steve Foxx November 17, 2009 at 11:49 am

I’m really especially happy to see both “Hatchet” and “The Mummy, the Will and the Crypt” on this list. John Bellairs was one of my very favorite authors when I was young, and I’ve been meaning to pick those books up again for a re-read. I have fond memories of riding to the library to exchange one for the next as a way to enjoy my summers…

81 Juan November 17, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Great list. I would add Heart, by Edmundo de Amicis. I have read it twice and I am thinking of reading it again.

82 Les Prouty November 17, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Great book list. I also enjoyed The Old Man and the Boy.


83 Andy November 17, 2009 at 3:39 pm

The Human Comedy by William Saroyan.

84 Tom November 17, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Best book of my childhood was “The Call of the Wild”

85 Jacob November 17, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Great list. One I’d like to add is:
Tarzan of the Apes – Edgar Rice Burroughs.

86 Mack Hall November 17, 2009 at 10:11 pm

A SEPARATE PEACE — no. Well, maybe for Ian McKellen and that pouty-boy who made an emo mess of the new THE PRISONER.

87 Dan November 18, 2009 at 8:48 am

What about Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in 80 Days, 20,000 leagues under the sea? Jules Verne should be on this list.

88 ScentOfViolets November 18, 2009 at 9:16 am

Collected from “Boys Life”, I read and reread Donald Keith’s “Mutiny in the Time Machine” and “Time Machine to the Rescue”. Boys are boys, no matter the era, Spartans or space men.

89 chezjake November 18, 2009 at 10:04 am

Another vote for Patrick O’Brian’s The Golden Ocean, and for the Hornblower series.

For older boys, Kenneth Roberts’ Northwest Passage, a mostly factual but novelized account of a young man who joined Rogers’ Rangers during the French and Indian wars.

90 Nik November 18, 2009 at 3:05 pm

I’m going to tuck this away in my favorites for about 15 years until I have a child (I think most of this list equally applies to girls), old enough to read. Here’s to hoping you guys are still around then! :)

91 Mike M. November 18, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Personally, I’d stay clear of the Hornblower novels until the kid hits his teens.

Anything written by Robert Heinlein between 1950 and 1958 is great – Citizen of the Galaxy is particularly good. Reserve Starship Troopers for the teenage years.

And I’m shocked that nobody has mentioned the Sherlock Holmes mysteries…and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom stories.

Me? I grew up on E.E. Smith’s masterwork – the Lensman Series.

92 Beowulf87 November 18, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Ok, you did miss the BEST books for boys out there–the many works of GA Henty. My boys will not grow up without them!

93 Angela W November 19, 2009 at 12:06 am

Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer. An 11 year old criminal mastermind, with a supporting cast of eccentrics and high tech fairies. Eoin Colfer and Louis Sacar are a tie for children authors with a sense of humor prize. All those years teaching elementary school sharpened Colfer’s ability to intertweave fart jokes into the plot. Also, Sideways School series by Sachar is good for the younger kids.

Percy Jackson and The Olympians series by Rick Riordan. This series is most often acclaimed as the book that turned a reluctant reader into an enthusiast.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.. I love books about special or gifted children. Four kids go on to save the world from a dastardly villain.

Bone by Jeff Smith. Graphic novels are hugely popular. Cuteness, comedy, action and a greater social awareness all done in black and white. The entire series was 13 years in the making. A smashup of the Hobbit and Pogo.

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. Introducing the Bart and Lisa Simpson of the fantasy world of mythological creatures. Happily a positive portrayal of an ADHD kid, his strengths and weaknesses with dire consequences from his impulsive actions. Contrasted with his more scaredy cat sister, who is more a cautious problem solver.

94 Toughjakes November 19, 2009 at 8:21 am

This list could use some diversity. Within the your parameters of “Western,” I would suggest authors such as Sherman Alexie (Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), Walter Dean Myers (Monster), Gary Soto (Buried Onions), Markus Zusak (The Book Thief), and Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese).

95 Bryan November 19, 2009 at 8:50 am

I was forced to read A Separate Peace when I was kid and hated it. I read it again a couple of years ago and I still hate it. It’s the kind of book that well-meaning adults make children read but kids universally think the characters in the book are all wealthy, self-righteous pricks.

96 Jeff November 19, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Is there a .pdf of these?

97 Jacques November 19, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Nice list, but I missed the following essential titles:

Children of the New Forest by Frederick Marryat

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

My Book of Bible stories (Watch Tower Society)

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Arabian Nights

98 Greg Zummo November 19, 2009 at 11:44 pm

I would add more old-fashioned adventure books, such as Gordon R. Dickson’s Dorsai! series, “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” and “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert A. Heinlein, “Kon Tiki” by Thor Heyerdahl, and almost anything by Issac Asimov. Does anyone else remember reading these books as a young boy?

99 Aloysius Gorgonzola November 20, 2009 at 8:09 am

My suggestions:

Don Quijote – Miguel Cervantes
A Gathering of Old Men – Ernest J. Gaines
Haroun and the Sea of Stories – Salman Rushdie
The Alex Rider Series – Anthony Horowitz
The Captain Alatriste Series – Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Inspector Montalbano Series – Andrea Camilleri
The Arsene Lupin Series – Maurice Leblanc
Fathers and Sons – Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev
The Palace of Dreams – Ismail Kadare
Broken April – Ismail Kadare
The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein
The Art of War – Sun Tzu
The Moon is Down – John Steinbeck
Animal Farm – George Orwell

Forgive me if some of these have been listed prior.

100 Brian L November 21, 2009 at 12:08 am

For young men I would strongly recommend “The Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad.

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