Saturday, January 5, 2008

Books Boys Might Read

Whenever I go to the bookstore I always hit the young adult section to see what's new. Most of the time I leave with an armful of books, but I've noticed something rather vexing. A lot of the books tend to sparkle and shine with playful pastel colors. To be blunt, these are books directed at girls.

Now before you make fun of me for my reading choices, keep in mind that it's professional development (and some of the books are good reads if you can get over the frilly covers.) Furthermore, there just aren't that many books directed at young boys and men. There are plenty of books for young girls, but not as many for boys. Boys tend to read less than girls do and their reading ability lags behind their female counterparts. Part of this has to do with the assumption that girls are a better market than boys are. Perhaps this is only fair though. Most teachers privilege boys in their classroom over girls by calling on the girls less than the boys. It's something I struggle with myself.

I like to think of myself as a book dealer. I gauge student interest and loan out books. I even loaned out my first graphic novel to a student and he read it in one night before returning it. (He was actually reading it during class, so maybe I should have given it to him after school, but I digress.) I've found that it's much easier to appease the girls in their reading selections. They make my job of finding books for them easy. While the girls will read books about boys doing activities stereotypically associated with the male sex, the boys, on the other hand, are much more resistant to reading about girls or "the mushy stuff" as they like to call it.

This is something of a problem when I try to convince the boys in my class that there are books ot there with topics they are interested in. Though there aren't as many authors writing for young adult boys, I wanted to go ahead and list a few that I recommend.

Gary Paulson
Paulson's books tend to center around the outdoors or wilderness survival. He's the author of the popular Hatchet series. Most of his books are directed at the 10-14 age range. A middle school English teacher should have a large selection of his books on hand.

Robert Cormier
Cormier is one of my favorite authors, hands down. He writes dark and intense literature which has been controversial. He is a rare example of an author who writes young adult literature well enough to simply call it literature. His books have merit in their own right regardless of where you put them in the library. Depending on the book, the age range can be as young as 12 though some should be read by an older, more mature reader.

Robert Peck
The other famous Robert of my list, Mr. Peck writes captivating and simple prose. He paints his characters with a thick brush, using deliberate but steady actions. The topics of his book range from light to serious though most of them provoke good discussion. I've only read a handful of his books but I'd place them at the 12 and up range.

Louis Sachar
Before his monster smash Holes, Sachar was well known for his Wayside School Stories. I loved those books in elementary school, and Holes was a nice transition to the older kids. Both boys and girls tend to like Sachar, though the boys have especially warmed up to him. His audience is mainly middle school though.

J.D. Salinger
I'm not a huge fan of Salinger. His short stories just never appealed to me and there always seemed to be this undercurrent of adults interacting inappropriately with children and teenagers. Still, the man has some talent and Catcher in the Rye does seem to attract male readers to the story. Salinger could be introduced at any high school age, though 10th and 11th seems ideal to me.

Eoin Colfer
Author of the Artemis Fowl series, Colfer has successfully created a series that blends fantasy with modern day intrigue. The characters are entertaining and complex, though I don't see it as winning too many awards for outstanding literary merit. It's good writing, but has some trouble standing up against the Literature with the big L. I'd recommend Colfer for ages 10-16.

Orson Scott Card
Card is something of a counterpoint to Colfer's fantasy with his science fiction writings. The Ender's Game series is almost ruthless and primitive in some ways, but it's exciting and interesting all the same. I'd introduce this to boys 13 and up.

John Marsden
Now I'm only familiar with his Tomorrow when the War Began series, but all the students in my class really enjoyed it, not just the boys. The series details the events surrounding the invasion of Australia by mysterious outside forces. Be warned though, there are some sexual scenes in the series which may not be suitable for less mature students. I'd introduce this at 8th or 9th grade.

Jack London
Another classic author who boys may like, London's focus on animals may hook young male readers. The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Seawolf are all good reads that boys may enjoy. Boys who like hunting, action, blood and gore will enjoy London's books because they're heavy in that. Who knows, they might also gain a better appreciation for life in the process. I'd suggest London's books to the 13 and older crowd.

Jerry Spinelli
Spinelli is a talented author though his Maniac Magee series is best suited for young students. Like Sachar, Spinelli's books deal with subjects like racism and discrimination in appropriate ways which aren't preachy. Spinelli also recently wrote a book called Stargirl and Love, Stargirl, though the boys in my classes have been less than fond of that one.

Nancy Farmer
I've only read one of her books, House of the Scorpion, but that's enough for me to suggest her as an author to check out. Her book pulls no punches and is disturbing yet exciting. It's a fast read even though the book itself is rather large. I enjoyed her complex characters and the moral and philosophical questions on the nature of humanity which she posed.

Joe Scieszka
I'm mainly including Sciezka in this list because he's a large advocate for "guy reading." Check out his website. I've only read his Stinkycheese man story and while it really wasn't my cup of tea, I can see where a 12 year old boy would enjoy it. I'm not sure how I feel about his method and approach to getting boys to read, but his heart's in the write (sp) place.

There are of course other talented authors writing books aimed at boys, but these are just a few which I have more familiarity with. I'll write a post about books for girls later. When I get around to writing my own fiction, I'll probably have it aimed toward young adults and hopefully it'll be enjoyable to both sexes.


Abbie said...

I was going to suggest Gary Paulson. I loved his books when I was in junior high (even though I was not a boy).

Joel said...

He's a pretty solid writer.

annembradley said...
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annembradley said...
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annembradley said...

I'm so glad your students liked John Marsden! I really do love that series, I should buy the whole thing one of these days.

His other books aren't too shabby either, although he usually chooses a female narrator, so that may discourage some male readers (especially in books that are less action-packed than the Tomorrow series).

You should read the rest of the books so I can talk about how it ends with you.

max said...


I grew up as a reluctant reader. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for boys 8 and up, that kids hate to put down. My web site is at and my Books for Boys blog is at

Thank you,

Max Elliot Anderson