May 16, 2007


Education secretary arranges boys' bookshelves (Sarah Crown and agencies, May 16, 2007, Guardian Unlimited)

A list of more than 160 books, from Frankenstein to Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, has been published today in a bid to encourage teenage boys to read for pleasure.

The education secretary, Alan Johnson, who yesterday launched his campaign for the Labour party's deputy leadership, announced this morning that every state secondary school in England will be able to choose 20 of the titles in order to set up a dedicated "boys' bookshelf" in the library.

A list that has no Dumas, Verne or Burroughs is, by definition, crap.

Here are ten that got us through summer pretty well and withstood repeated reading (note that one effective strategy--especially with boys--is to get them started on a series or an author with multiple good books in a genre and then just let their acquisitiveness and need for completeness take over):

Knight of the Cross: A Story of the Crusades (Frederick Coe)

The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas)

The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Burroughs)

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (C.S. Forester)

Doc Savage: Man of Bronze (Kenneth Robeson)

Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Once More Around the Park : A Baseball Reader (Roger Angell)

Lew Archer (Ross MacDonald)

The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis)

Around the World in Eighty Days (Jules Verne)

Treasure Island (Robert Stevenson)

The Insidious Fu Manchu (Sax Rohmer)

The Kid from Tomkinsville (John R. Tunis)

The Shadow (Maxwell Grant)

The 87th Precinct (Ed McBain)

The Destroyer Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir)

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 16, 2007 7:43 AM

At least they had the decency to leave JK Rowling off the list. Now we can get a clean comparison between the efficacy of a massive government Ministry and an individual scribbling in a coffeeshop.

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at May 16, 2007 9:25 AM

Any list of books for boys should have Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. It's the first book I give non-reading boys age 10 and up.

Posted by: dymphna at May 16, 2007 10:02 AM

I second the nomination of Ender's Game.

Posted by: Mike Morley at May 16, 2007 10:04 AM

oops..forgot to include the link:

Ender's Game

It has 4.5 stars and 2399 far.

Oh, and it's for boys, but any man ought to read it. It's just that 10 is probably the earliest age I'd give it to someone.

Posted by: dymphna at May 16, 2007 10:09 AM

Kenneth Roberts' historical novels of late colonial/Revolutionary New England.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 16, 2007 11:29 AM

Clair Bee's Chip Hilton books -- the one I linked to has an intro by the General himself.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 16, 2007 11:35 AM

If you're doing science fiction, I'd also consider Niven/Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye. Space (naval) battles! Conspiracies amidst the Nobles, Church, Military, and Rebels! And the puzzling threat of the deceptively alien aliens...

Posted by: Mike Earl at May 16, 2007 12:08 PM


Posted by: oj at May 16, 2007 12:20 PM

Sorry, gotta disagree about Verne. Too many of his books just end, as if the author got tired, finsihed the list of scenes he wanted to write about or just had no idea what to do next. Best/worst example is Jouney to the Center of the Earth, where, having our heroes lose everything but their lives, magically find themselves thrown back onto the surface by means of a volcano when they were supposed to be heading down. (And the geology is abysmal, even by 19th century knowledge.)

(And Niven/Pournelle did a pretty good, single sequel a couple of decades later.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 16, 2007 1:01 PM

This post brings back a lot of memories. The Kenneth Roberts history novels are great for everyone, no matter your age.

Posted by: Patrick H at May 16, 2007 3:58 PM

I vividly recall the pleasure I took in reading "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" when I was in 5th grade. I would add H. Rider Haggard's "King Solomon's Mines", Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Lost World", and anything written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Posted by: tsol at May 16, 2007 5:22 PM

The Sherlock Holmes book shown on the post is Vol. 2. If interested note there is a companion Vol 1 as well.

Posted by: Tom Wall at May 16, 2007 9:53 PM

When I was 12:
I'd read everything Heinlen had written.
I'd read everything Asimov had written.
I'd read everything Edgar Rice had written.
I'd read everything Van Voght had written.
I'd read everything A C. Doyle had written.
The list just goes on, but I'm a whole lot older than the rest of you.

Posted by: Mike at May 17, 2007 12:13 AM