Reading was always a huge part of my life. It still is, but on a less grand scale. I used to devour books. I would even be reading 2 at a time. Books were an escape for me. In High school, I would sometimes skip lunch with my friends, to go read in the library. Some of these books shaped me in ways I never could have imagined. I never really got into Sci-Fi because I have exactly zero imagination, but other than that, everything was fair game. Luckily, my wife is even more of a voracious reader than I am so, of course, my kiddos are into books as well. Well, 2 of the 3. The youngest can’t read, but he loves a good scary story.
A few years ago I started compiling a list of books in my head. A list of books that I think are important for boys and young men to read. Books that had, and still have, a profound impact on me. This isn’t a list of books to make them “Badasses” or “not turn out gay.” It’s a list of books I feel can shape a boy into becoming a strong, smart, capable, and caring human being. Some of these books are inappropriate for kids under 15. There are books that are strictly adult reading. This is a list that I want them to read over their lifetime. It is my job, until the day I die, to continually teach my boys to be men. This is also JUST MY OPINION. So, if you disagree, cool. I don’t care. At all. This is a list for MY boys. If you want to, make a list for your sons. If there are books you think I could/should add, let me know. I’d love to hear from you guys. All that being said, here is my list….
#1: Call of the Wild by Jack London
This book is told from the view of a dog, Buck. And Buck is a badass. He even beats the crap out of a wolf-dog. Every kid will enjoy a book told by a dog! Buck is taken against his will and placed in the Yukon as a sled dog. He quickly realizes he in under the domain of man, and the wild. He feels a strong tug inside to break away from the domesticated side of him.
Fun fact…Jack London actually lived in Dawson City, Alaska during the gold rush. He had to move back to California because he got Scurvy. In 1903, he sold the rights to his book for $2000. It has never been out of print since. I read this book to my boys over the course of two weeks, before bed. They loved it. They will also read it again, on their own.
#2: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Brian is in a plane that crash lands in the wilds of Canada. He has only his trusty hatchet and witty to survive. Every boy, and man, has daydreamed if they have what it takes to survive in this scenario. This will let a boys imagination run wild. He will be outside, hacking down your back yard to build a shelter in no time. Don’t be surprised if he asks for a hatchet after he’s done reading it. I did. I cut a piece of my shoe off. I didn’t have a hatchet after that.
#3: The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
Think Toy Story, before Disney-Pixar. Every kid has wondered if his toys came to life. I don’t know why, they just do. Omri gets a locked cupboard for his birthday (pfft, lame gift). He finds out that when he puts his toys in there, the come to life (ok, not a lame gift). He realizes that he is actually controlling real lives. He handles it way better than I would at his age. I remember finishing this book, and wishing I had toys to play with. I did, once. It was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. But my dad stepped on it barefoot and smashed it. After that, he just gave us sports equipment. Although, he broke my metal hockey stick over his leg. I was a pain in the ass kid. He need to vent, I’m sure. Go buy your kid a toy.
#4: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Boys love dogs. Boys love to explore. Boys love to explore with their dogs. Boys love to explore with their dogs while on a treasure hunt. Billy works for two straight years to buy a pair of Redbone Coonhounds. He treks and explores the Ozark with the two Redbone’s; Old Dan and Little Ann. Dads, I’m telling you now, don’t be surprised if he asks for a dog when the book is closed. I did. I got told to rake leaves. I then asked to work for money to pay for a dog. I got to mow the yard, instead. EVERY boy needs a dog in their life to grow up with.
#5: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Try and tell me that as a kid you never dreamt of tying a knapsack to the end of a stick, with all your useless kid shit in it, like a dirty hobo and running away. I dare you. I’ll tell you that you are a liar and punch you in the grundle. Hell, I told my parents I was running away once. My dad gave me an orange and said good luck. Then locked me outside.
Sam is a 15 yr old boy who actually does it. He runs off, lives in a hollow tree, and has a pet falcon. A PET FALCON! The kid survives off of the land and is a Falconer. Jesus, somebody makes this a segway into a god damn superhero movie! Dad’s, get out to a nearby wooded tract, and make a shelter with your kid. He will never forget it.
#6: The Cay by Theodore Taylor
I actually think this book is important for today’s kids. Phillip is traveling back to America from the West Indies. The ship he is traveling on is torpedoed and he is blinded in the explosion. He manages to get onto a life raft with an old black Ship hand named Timothy, and a cat named Stew Cat. They manage to land on a tiny ass island. Phillip and Timothy don’t get along because Phillip, thanks to his parents, is a racist brat. They have to work together to survive. Meanwhile, Timothy teaches Phillip how to survive to the point that he doesn’t even need him. After a while, they become very close, and Phillip gets over being a racist brat. The cat is just a cat. This is an awesome story of tolerance, forgiveness, the value of friendship, and self-reliance. All qualities I hope my boys have.
#7: Old Yeller by Frank Gipson
Travis is a boy in the hill country of Texas. As it was pretty common for the father to take off for work, he does, and leaves Travis to step up and be the man of the house. While his father is gone, a dog wanders into Travis’s life. They form a bond that only a boy and his dog can have. And then, in the single most brutal God damned moment in the history of written word, the dog gets rabies and Travis has to make the decision to put him down or not. Good Christ, Frank Gipson. Play with our emotions, why don’t ya? If you read this book and didn’t at least tear up, please take me under your wing and let me be your apprentice. Because you are the master of no emotions. Let your boy experience this story. It will stay with him forever.
#8: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Huck says peace out to his asshole abusive father. He floats down the Mississippi River, with an escaped slave named Jim. They become buddies and meet all kinds of crazy folk along the way. It’s a classic adventure tale that your kiddo with gets wrapped up in. Plus, it’s an actual classic.
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