Books for Boys

Lunch is for poetry.

One afternoon, as my sons sat eating apples and meat roll-ups, I flipped through a worn book of good poems.  Infact, the collection was entitled, Good Poems, comprised by Garrison Keilor. Often I read, Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost, but that day I landed on a new one, For All, by Gary Snyder… and the boys leaned in.


For All

Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
singing inside
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
one ecosystem
in diversity
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

(For All, by Gary Snyder)


One stanza in particular made me stop and read it again, asking the boys to stop their munching, close their eyes, and consume the imagery instead.


Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
singing inside
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.


That first line, calling upon three different senses to describe a simple rippling brook – rustling, shimmering, icy.  And then the sting of bitter cold in nostrils and the way a heart sings happy, and the smell of gravel in the sunshine.  The boys all nodded, deep nods, because… well… boys know about adventure in the great outdoors – even if their great outdoors is 18 square feet of backyard with cinderblock boarders.  Boys understand blades of grass and snails in the dirt, and the smell of each season, and the salty sweet taste of their own sweat.


booksforboys graphic


What am I getting at?  Simply this: Boys need great books filled with masculine adventures, imagery, and imagination.  They need to flex the muscles of their heart and mind as they flex their sinewy legs and arms, pumping hard outside each day. Boys need kind farmers and noble knights and gentle women and magic, loads and loads of magic.  I do not know nearly enough, but I know that boys need books.  Books and backyards and mothers.  I don’t have an exhaustive list of books for boys to share with you today, but I will offer you these few titles with my hearty endorsement. Order one today for your boys!


Books for Boys

All Creatures Great and Small or All Things Bright and Beautiful, by  James Herriot (ages 3-8)

Billy and Blaze, written and illustrated by C.W.Anderson (ages 4-8)

Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss (Classic Starts Series, ages 8-10)

Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis (ages 7-107)

Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott (ages 8-16)

My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George (ages 9-11)

Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls (ages 9-11)

Summer of the Monkeys, by Wilson Rawls (ages 9-11)

Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson (ages 9-11)

Pax, Sara Pennypacker (ages 8-12)

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen (ages 12-16)

Navigating Early, by Clare Vanderpool (ages 12-16)


My personal all-time favorite read-aloud: Saved at Sea, by Mrs. O. F. Walton

And one to help you understand the wild inside your men: Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge



And now a poem that I wrote for my eldest, who loves to read and loves to be read to, and who cries at just the right spots. 


I finished it

He tumbled out of his room, wiping wet from his eye
and smiled, accomplish, then sighed,
“Well, I finished it.”

“Was it good?” I asked over the stove
and he nodded it was so…
so good, he’s sad he finished it.

Two dogs with their boy, a hatchet in hand
So like my son who longs to be a man,
but he’s not finished yet.

This growing up wild and growing up free
and growing up reading in the crook of a tree
till we’ve finished it.

But the day will come with he’s grown up and gone
and the books on his shelf will sing out like a song,
“Well, we finished it.”

by Wendy Speake

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  1. Ah! Where the red fern grows…..I was eleven, it was a hot Texas summer spent in the AC, reading the first book to move me to tears. I think I’ll go to the library today and make it our before bed read. Thanks wendy

    • Your cub is at the perfect age for this book… shoot, aren’t we all?

  2. A wonderful list for boys (and a beautiful poem). I also love Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner (it always makes me cry). I find that so often there are great stories for girls and very few for boys. Thank you for sharing your list!

    • All day long more titles kept coming to my mind and more stanzas to the poem as well. But it’s time for sleep now.

  3. The Great Brain series is good too, and the Henry Reed Adventures.

    • Yes Yes Yes… I will go back and add many more title in! Thank you.

  4. We loved Banner in the Sky. It’s a great book I remember my fourth grade teacher reading to us. It’s such a great boy book!

    • Will look into it, Kimberly, thank you!

  5. This is awesome! my boys love to read! & I love to read to them. I am excited about this list of books. My 7 year old is starting to read by himself at night and I definitely intend to look back at this list and start a collection for him. thank you for providing it! I also write poetry, & I loved how you captured that moment with your boy in your poem.

    • Love that you stopped by. But next time you leave a comment I fully expect it to be in the form of a rhyming couplet!

  6. Also check out The the Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden. It contain such things like, seven poems every boy should know, making a periscope, how to juggle, a few magic tricks, the five knots every boy should know, how to make a battery with a stack Of corns and tinfoil the proper way of skipping stones across the water, samples of Shakespeare,

  7. Ah I love this list – so many titles I love and a few new ones for me to check out! 🙂

  8. My 11 year old boys love the Sugar Creek Gang series! My husband reads them at night and they are really wonderful. They are also an easy read for a younger boy but my boys enjoy reading them with dad so they can talk about the lessons from the books. Also the Encyclopedia Brown series as well.



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