Book List, Books, childhood

Boys Read Too! The Classics List

The first part of the list is here: The Modern List

As I alluded to yesterday, classic books can be harder for the modern youth to approach. Oh, not all of us. I was reading Edgar Rice Burroughs at the tender age of ten, when the librarian let me into the storeroom where a long shelf held a set of all his books in hardcover. I can still close my eyes and picture that, and I have long wondered what happened to them, dismissed from the shelves in a small Alaskan town. I know that many of my peers who are avid readers devoured books that had been written decades or a century before their birth. Few of us have not read HG Well, or Howard’s Conan, or at the very least, Heinlein.

But for a young reader, coming to Andre Norton, ‘Doc’ Smith, or Tolkein can take a bit more work than picking up the latest Rick Riordan novel. I grew up with my mother reading aloud to us: Little Women, the Borrowers, Swiss Family Robinson, the Five Little Peppers… And then we (my sister and I) would read, a chapter a night. It was a slow way to progress through a story, and ofttimes we were reading aloud books we’d already read. I know I’d get scolded for stopping my mouth as my brain got caught into the story and wanted to race ahead! This was probably the best way my mother could have used to introduce the language of eras long past, the unfamiliar rhythms of stories that were written to forms and styles long gone.

I’m not going to say that the books of today are bad. I don’t think that. There are some great authors writing today. I am going to state unequivocally that styles have changed. For one thing, the concept of “Young Adult” novels is still fairly new. I know I have to explain the basis of what that is, from time to time. A YA novels, is, in general, a protagonist between the age of 13-18 years in age. The concepts and conflicts found inside are usually more in depth (and harrowing) than you will find in novels aimed more at the elementary grades. Also, they are generally shorter in length than a full novel (40-80K words) but longer than Middle Grade (20K-60K words) but those are very rough numbers and probably not relevant to readers. The language used in the writing of a YA novel is usually the same as an adult novel, but our language in stories has shifted. Don’t believe me? Pick up a Zane Grey novel (say… Nevada) and figure out what the word lovemaking means in context.

But I digress. My point is that although classic novels are still great, they may need a foundation for the young reader before they can be fully appreciated and understood, and that’s something parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents… you, the reader of my blog, may have to help with before the kids can enjoy Heinlein’s juveniles. Once you are prepared for that, these are some of the books that people suggested I include on my lists!

Title Author Votes Notes
The Proving Trail  Louis L’Amour 10 Many recommended L’Amour, this book centers around a young man who has to solve his father’s murder
Tucker Louis L’Amour 10 Young Tucker must take up where his father left off.
Tarzan ER Burroughs 9 The original adventure story.
My Side of the Mountain  Jen Craighead George 9 Survival in the wilderness
Space Cadet Robert Heinlein 8 Dated, but still fresh
Conan Robert Howard 6 Classic Sword and Sorcery
Have Spacesuit Will Travel  Robert Heinlein 6 Technology is dated
The Belgariad David Eddings 6 Classic Epic Fantasy
A Spell for Chameleon Piers Anthony 4 The whole Xanth series is not recommended, but this book is excellent. His other books are NOT recommended for young readers.
Citizen of the Galaxy Robert Heinlein 4 Really, all his juveniles. Parents should be aware there are other books that will need their attention if the kids read past the juvies.
Little Britches Ralph Moody 4 Ranch Life in 1906
Wrinkle in Time Quintet Madeline L’Engle 3 A must-read
Horatio Hornblower CS Forester 3 This starts with a 17 year old.
Myth-Adventures Robert Asprin 3 Humorous fantasy
Little Fuzzy H Beam Piper 2 Classic SF
The Black Stallion  Walter Farley 2 I adored this series when I was a young reader.
The Tripods  John Christopher 2 Classic SF
Stalky & Co Rudyard Kipling 2 Don’t forget Kim
The Rolling Stones Robert Heinlein 2 You may have to explain tribbles, too!
Tunnel in the Sky  Robert Heinlein 2 Should still resonate
Big Red Jim Kjelgaard 2 A boy and his dog
The Chronicles of Narnia CS Lewis 2 Fantasy
Men of Iron Howard Pyle 1 Free ebook, print may be hard to find
The Black Arrow Robert Louis Stevenson 1 Fifteenth-Century England
The Hobbit JRR Tolkein 1 And, the LOTR, but mostly the Hobbit for this age.
Telzey Amberdon  James H Schmitz 1 teens in science fiction
Sherlock Holmes A Conan Doyle 1 Might not be written for kids, but most of us encountered and loved him while young
Where the Red Fern Grows Wilson Rawls 1 My son loved this at ten.
The Hardy Boys Franklin Dixon` 1 Make sure you have the originals, and be prepared to explain a lot.
The Borrowers Mary Norton 1 My mother nominated this!
The Mad Scientists Club Bertrand Brinley 1 a series started in the 1960s
The Year When Stardust Fell Raymond F Jones 1 Classic SF
Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe 1 Free ebook
The Jungle Books Rudyard Kipling 1 Young, but the language makes this an older kids free-reading and a younger child’s listen-to
Kim Rudyard Kipling 1 Highly recommended
Puck of Pook’s Hill Rudyard Kipling 1 I’m not the only one who loves Kipling
Four-Day Planet H Beam Piper 1 Teenage Protagonist
Castle Perilous  John DeChancie 1 Fantasy

3 thoughts on “Boys Read Too! The Classics List

  1. Yes, and I’ve found that when I re-read books that I first read when I was very young, I see things that I didn’t catch the first time around.

  2. I’d like to add one (or four) The Wolf King by Joseph Lippincot – if you can find a copy. More of an animal story than a “boy” story, but still a good read. The follow-up novel, Wilderness Champion: The Story of a Great Hound, is also pretty good.

    There is also “White Fang” & “Call of the Wild”, again more animal than “boy” but appealing due to the vivid descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness.

    Get the feeling I read a lot of animal stories growing up? 😉

  3. I’m happy to see I’ve read 16 books on this list, an interesting note on Burroughs though. He is well known for Tarzan and his Barsoom series, but I think his westerns are really his overlooked gems. There is his two books series of “War Chief” and “Apache Devil” and his standalone book “The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche Country”.

    I also really enjoyed Samuel Shellabarger’s books which fed my boyish desires for swashbuckling heroes like “The King’s Cavalier”, “Prince of Foxes” and “Captain from Castile”.

    Bruce Lancaster wrote historical novels which placed his characters in famous military expeditions, such as “Guns of Burgoyne” and “Big Knives”. “Big Knives” has a special place in my heart since it is about George Rogers Clark’s force fighting against the British for Indiana and Michigan during the War for Independence. I remember when we went to a museum with my family and I was so proud that I knew that piece of history about the battle for Vincennes.

    I so want to recommend other books, but perhaps your son is not quite old enough for them yet, depends on how advanced. Honestly I can’t remember when I started reading these authors, I think I was 14 or so. Helen MacInnes (great thriller novels, mostly cold war), Walter Macken (great Irish historical novels, but my favorite of his is “Rain on the Wind”). I would avoid Macken’s “The Bogman” perhaps for a young reader since it has strong adult themes. These authors had adults as their target audience but an advanced reader could tackle them.

    Oh so many authors I could recommend, I’ll mention Alistair MacLean in passing. He is not really a classic in the sense that you learn important lessons from his books. That’s not his purpose. MacLean set out to write action adventure novels. His most famous are “Guns of Navarone”, “Ice Station Zebra”, “Where Eagles Dare” which were all made into movies. While these are very good novels my favorites are “The Satan Bug” and “The Black Shrike” which you may find under his pen name Ian Stuart. As I write this I realize that actually his one novel that shows a great historical insight is his first “HMS Ulysses” which was based on his experience serving in the navy during WWII.

    C.S. Forrester wrote other good books besides Hornblower, “The Good Shepard” and the “African Queen” comes to mind.

    If you can get your hands on the audio books of Ralph Moody I’d highly recommend it. The narration is great and Moody was a staple of ours on our biannual day long car trips to relatives.

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