Top Ten Books for Boys

The summer holidays are almost upon us and there are plans to be made. The library is of course one of summer’s most abundant resources. You may want to approach those endless shelves with something of a list, to help narrow down the ever multiplying choice. If you are looking for reading for your children or something for yourself to remind you of those long summers of childhood, I have added some reading for boys to my previous post on reading for girls. 

All of the books are classics and by that I mean that they are older than me and well known amongst librarians, books sellers and bibliophiles across the English speaking world as an important part of every reading child’s experience.

The gender distinction is very loose. I think my boys are familiar with most of the fiction on the list for girls and Lucy is familiar with most of the fiction on the list for boys. The distinction matters more for some readers than others. Whatever your reading habits, gendering books is extremely problematic but often a helpful starting point.

Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons
Four children embark on a summer holiday island adventure only to find their plans thwarted by the ‘pirates’ Nancy and Peggy, who accuse them of trespass. Set in the English Lakes this book has all the ingredients of a very successful children story: a long summer holiday ready to be filled, all the adults out of the way, an island, boats, camping, mild mystery and a strong sense of the joys of the great outdoors.

John Meade Faulkner, Moonfleet
A seafaring adventure in the tradition of Treasure Island, more smuggling than piracy, Moonfleet is the story of 15 year old John Trenchard who discovers a secret passage and the promise of finding a valuable diamond. John soon finds himself entangled in a smuggling ring but all the promise of riches and wealth are not what they at first seemed.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
When Bill Bones arrives at the Admiral Benbow Inn, Jim Hawkins has no idea of the adventure that is about to begin. Pirate treasure, mutiny and some of the finest characters ever written in children’s fiction, including Ben Gunn and Long John Silver. We enjoyed this many times over on audiobook and I also noticed you can purchase a Kindle version of this book this for free.

Kenneth Grahame, Wind in the Willows
Ratty, Badger, Mole and Mr Toad! Is there anything as English as this tale from the riverside? My first port of call for beautiful character pieces and carefully observed description of the natural history of the English countryside. Most people are familiar with stage and TV version, but the book is more than worth a read. Perfect on a summers day, lying on a rug amongst the buttercups watching the clouds go by.

Erich Kastner, Emil and the Detectives
Short and very easy to read which are two important features of a book for reluctant boy readers. Emil is sent on his first train journey alone with strict instruction from his mother to keep his money safe. When the money is stolen Emil and his Berlin friends become the detectives of the book title, in their adventures to retrieve the money.

Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
I think it is a wonderful thing that readers of a young age can get to experience something by a writer as brilliant as Mark Twain. Something of a challenge for readers used to more accessible children’s fiction, the language and some of the structuring of the story is a little difficult.  You may want to try an audio book; look for one with good accents! if you are not familiar with the plot, Huckleberry Finn runs away from a violent father and finds himself involved with a run away slave. A great abolitionist story and an excellent introduction to slavery and race issues. You will find a free version of this book for Kindle.

Ian Serraillier, The Silver Sword
A traumatic story of war torn Europe told with compassion and sensitivity. I teach a little history these days and I find that kids love stories of how other kids survived the war. I think this classic from my childhood has fallen a little out of favour but it is an incredible tale of war refugees who escape the turmoil of Poland on a journey across Europe in search of their parents.

Joan Aiken, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
In this wonderful fictionalised historical setting England is Ruled by King James and over run with wolves. The children of this story are entrusted to a governess who is not what she seems. Will Bonnie and Sylvia escape her evil clutches and unravel the mysteries of the criminal underworld she is dragging them into? I lost myself to the magic of this story as a child and I still find the same charms between its pages today.

Lucy M. Boston, The Children of Green Knowe
Tolly is quite at home with the magic of his Grandmother’s ancient home. He loves to hear the tales of his own ancestors and family histories and is barely surprised at all to find himself making friends with the children who lived there many centuries past. This is very beautiful story telling where magic and reality merge as naturally as the pieces of this unusual ghost story flow together seamlessly. A real winner with many sequels.

Clive King, Stig of the Dump
Barney strays too close to the edge of the disused gravel pit and tumbles into the home of a Neolithic survivor, Stig ,who has created for himself an enterprising life out of the waste that other people dump in the disused pit. A classic from the 70’s that needs resurrecting.

Philippa Pearce, A Dog so Small
This is a story written for any child who really wants a dog. Ben the hero of the story is disappointed when for his birthday he receives a picture of a dog rather than a real pet. But he is not to be defeated and with a little help from a powerful imagination his adventures as a serious dog owner begin. I came to this book as an adult, a recommendation from a writer friend whose judgement I trust, and I was not disappointed. A lovely short read for reluctant readers or read aloud parents who are tired at the end of the day.

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You may also be interested in, Top Ten Books for Girls


3 thoughts on “Top Ten Books for Boys

  1. I am so happy to see a German author in this list 🙂 Which is completely beside the point, but Kästner wrote fantastic books and i almost never see them on lists for kids, which is just sad. I grew up with those, and loved them!
    I don’t have a boy or any child for that matter, but i do enjoy looking through those kinds of lists and see and maybe get a bit of a reminder form my own childhood.
    Fantastic list.

    • Lovely to hear from you Dawnie. What other German kid lit would you recommend? Especially interested if its something I could look at in translation. Best wishes.

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