Boys to Men: A Book List

This list was born out of the list I curated last week, it’s just taken me some time to get my act together and publish this one. This is, as all my lists are, a crowd-sourced list. I posted the question on social media, and took the recommended books to create the list. It’s far better than I could make on my own. It’s also fascinating to see which books people thought of first, or insisted had to be added because they loved them so. Also interesting was something that hadn’t happened before – the list got a troll. Usually, when I ask for book suggestions I get overwhelmed in readers who love books and are more than happy to give me titles and authors they want others to enjoy, too. This time we got an author who was petulant their books weren’t being suggested for this list, and offended that not all reader’s tastes matched their own.

How odd. But really, that’s what this list is about. This is a list for boys from young to old, to help them become better men as they grow. Honor, duty, compassion, empathy… all things that are proven to be found in the pages of a good book by an earnest reader. And of course, this isn’t just for boys. I read many of these titles as a girl, but the list is intended to help develop the masculine virtues in the growing boy.

Enjoy! And as always, feel free to add suggestions of books we managed to miss in the comments.

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
Huck Finn by Mark Twain
Pre-1975 Boy Scout Handbook
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling
The Way Things Work (Vol 1 and 2)
Iliad by Homer
Odyssey by Homer
The Ear the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Bible
Aaron in the Wildwood by Joel Chandler Harris
Campfire Cooking
Tulku by Peter Dickingson
As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins
Summerland by Michael Chabon
The Mouse and His Child by Russel Hoban
A History of Weapons by John O’Bryan
Making Things Grow Outdoors by Thalassa Cruso
The Worst-Case Survival Handbook by J Piven & D Borgenicht
The Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
A History of the English Speaking Peoples by Winston Churchill
Man Eaters of Kumaon  by Jim Corbett
Have Spacesuit Will Travel by Robert Heinlein
Nevada by Zane Grey
John Carter of Mars by ER Burroughs
King Solomon’s Mines by H Rider Haggard
1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell
Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Man without a Country by Edward Everett Hale
Sherlock Holmes by A Conan Doyle


21 responses to “Boys to Men: A Book List”

  1. I should have mentioned the Spenser series. Parker talks quite a bit about what makes a good person and a good man.

    1. I think someone else brought it up in comments, as well. I don’t think I’ve read those, must rectify that omission. After I did this list, we took my son to the used bookstore yesterday and I may have told him he could pick out whatever he wanted… we came home with a boxful of books, including Huck Finn (what he’s reading in the photo above), Maneaters of Kumaon, and almost all of the Popular Mechanics DIY encyclopedia (Ca 1950s) among others.

      1. Popular Mechanics’ left turn was recent. They used to talk about new military and firearms tech fairly often without bashing it… i used to have an article i pulled out of one on the late 80s talkign about some plastic gun by some Austrian guy that used to make shovels. Yeah, that’ll never go anywhere….

        1. hah. And yes, sadly. These are older than I am, though. The First Reader flipped through one of the books the Boy picked out, and commented that he could build that (a tube TV IIRC) but finding the parts would be impossible! I pointed out that there ought to be plenty of cool projects the boy could still do, though.

          1. well.. lots of the parts might still exist, in Russia. ( no, seriously, tubes for amps stuff, are usually Russian-made)

            but there’s no analog TV signal for it to recieve.

  2. Great list! I’ve fond memories of many of these. I might also suggest Heinlein’s The Star Beast, and any number of Ray Bradbury collections.

  3. I’d add some Shakespeare, but I think everybody needs more Willie. Along with more Twain. Letters From the Earth? War Prayer? Connecticut Yankee? And RAH. Friday? Farnham’s Freehold? Harsh Mistress? Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi? I could go on. So many books, so little time. Second the Parker novels. Leo Frankowski’s Cross Time Engineer series. Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat novels.

    1. Hmm. Even though I read them as a boy, Farnham’s Freehold and TMIAHM could be a bit much before at least teen years. Friday, ditto (although I was quite a bit past a boy when that came out).

      But I would add Citizen of the Galaxy to the list.

      As usual, I’ve added quite a few to my acquisitions list. Thank you, Cedar!

  4. D Gail Begley Avatar
    D Gail Begley

    No Hobbit or Lord of the Rings trilogy?

    1. Tolkien may make a “Cultural Literacy” list, based on his cultural impact, but what in those books is info that you would particularly want your son to learn? How to tie a bowline? Build a campfire? Set a broken bone? The Birkenhead Drill? Real, not rhetorical, question.

      1. I loved the Hobbit when I was a girl. I think it’s part of what gave me the adventurous spirit I have. I’ll happily go for a walk in the woods, a treasure hunt, eat new and different foods… and if I ever meet a dragon, I know what to do!

    2. I think Tolkein got put on the Men’s list. But Hobbit is really a must-read for the boy.

      1. Yes. I would put The Hobbit on the boy’s list. The trilogy on the men’s list. Then the Silmarillion on the “would-be fantasy writer” list.

  5. John in Philly Avatar
    John in Philly

    Lot’s of old friends on that list, and a few friends I haven’t yet read. (going to have to fix that)

    1. John in Philly Avatar
      John in Philly

      The proof reading pixie failed me. Change” Lot’s” to “Lots”. (sigh)

  6. Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
    The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
    Rascal by Sterling North
    The Wolf King by Joseph Wharton Lippincott.
    Wilderness Champion by Joseph Wharton Lippincott.
    White Fang by Jack London
    Call of the Wild Jack London
    Lobo the King of Currumpaw by Ernest Thompson Seton
    Wahb: The Biography of a Grizzly by Ernest Thompson Seton

    [looks back over list, hmm, perhaps there is a theme going here. 😉 ]

    1. Whoops, that should read Where the Red Fern Grows. *sigh*

    2. My son just informed me he wants a redbone coonhound puppy… Guess what he’s re-reading in school? Lol

      1. I was first introduced to that charming / heartbreaking story when I was 8 or 9. Older brother’s 5th grade teacher was reading it to the class. I’ve loved it ever since. 🙂

  7. wolfwalker Avatar

    Any of Jim Kjelgaard’s dog books.
    _Silver Chief, Dog of the North_ by James O’Brien
    The Hornblower Saga, by C.S. Forester
    _Space Cadet_ and _The Rolling Stones_, both by Heinlein
    _Mastodonia_ by Cliff Simak

    And of more recent vintage are the Young Wizard books by Diane Duane, and the Dragon Jouster books by Mercedes Lackey.

    Non-fiction — older teens ought to read _This Hallowed Ground_, Bruce Catton’s single-volume history of the Civil War. Might be too intense for younger boys.

    1. I called this boys to men, because every kid is different. My 12 (almost 13) yo is reading Huck Finn now, but wasn’t ready for it just last year. Some will tackle denser books younger, some won’t be able to handle more ‘adult’ content until later. This is where the parent has to know both their child, and the book, to best offer guidance. Also, to have great conversations as the kid absorbs new information and works on processing it.