Maree’s Top Reads For Boys

It can be hard getting boys interested in reading–especially if they’re not into fantasy. Or fiction. Or if they’re slow readers who get discouraged by a really big book. Or if they flat-out refuse to read a book with a “girly” cover. Or…. Yeah. I’m sure you get the picture. Suffice it to say that Dear Son never got into the Harry Potter books– too long :( Although I did read the first three books in the series aloud to both my kids before the old vocal chords got too strained.

DS is now 14 and it’s been a mission to turn him on to fiction. In fact, one of the reasons I wrote Freaks of Greenfield High was because both my kids had pleaded for me to write something they could read–something that wasn’t adult paranormal romance or erotic romance! Ironically, DS has read the sequel, Freaks in the City, and loved it. But he still hasn’t gotten around to reading the first book in the series. Maybe over the Christmas holidays… if I can convince him to read it on my Kindle *g*

But back to the subject at hand. If you’ve got boys in your life who are difficult to buy books for, then Maree’s Top Reads for Boys list might be of some use to you. There’s a range of books here– non-fiction, fiction, series, fantasy, paranormal… hopefully something to suit all male tastes.

Some of the books listed may surprise you but all have been read by my son, so I can vouch for the fact that at least one boy has enjoyed them. Plus, I recently had to drop a 16 yo male friend of DD’s home from a party, and when we started talking books, turns out both he and his younger brother have enjoyed a bunch of these, too.

Note: At the time of writing this post, I found all these books available to purchase from The Book Depository, UK, which has free shipping to anywhere in the world. You can also nominate your currency on this site, as well as opt for credit card or PayPal payment.

You may also find them available on Good Books International, which also offers free international shipping. In addition, Good Books International has no mark-up, and all profits go to Oxfam.

I’ve used both these sites before and found them excellent.

In no particular order of preference….

1. CHERUB series by Robert Muchamore

It’s a huge relief to find a series of books that boys enjoy– especially from a prolific author such as Mr. Muchamore. Warning: these are very gritty and may not be suitable for younger readers.

From the back cover blurb:

“CHERUB agents are all seventeen and under. They wear skate tees and hemp, and look like regular kids. But they’re not. They are trained professionals who are sent out on missions to spy on terrorists and international drug dealers. CHERUB agents hack into computers, bug entire houses, and download crucial documents. It is a highly dangerous job. For their safety, these agents DO NOT EXIST.”

Start with Mission 1: The Recruit. In The Recruit, we’re introduced to James Adams and find out what happens to him after his mother dies. Hint: he’s transformed from a “couch potato into a skilled cherub agent.”

Click here to go to The Recruit book page, where you can read a sample chapter of The Recruit, watch a video of the author reading from The Recruit, and check out bonus stories and out-takes.

HorribleHistories2. Horrible Histories & Horrible Science

These little gems are a fun way to fill a kid’s head with facts… especially when they’ve got a school project due, and the thought of *gasp* reading a book for research instead of relying on the internet fill them with soul-deep horror. Some of our favorites include:

3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This book can probably best be summed up as a crossover book– one of those reads that transcends age, and can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. This from the publisher’s website:

“In a publishing first, Mark’s latest book and first novel for older readers, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ has been published simultaneously in two imprints. It is available for young adult readers from David Fickling Books and for adults under the Jonathan Cape imprint. It has sold co-editions in no less than fifteen other countries.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is the often amusing and compelling story of Christopher, a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome. Shown through his unwavering eyes, his family and relationships come under sharp scrutiny in this unforgettable novel.”

I found this book a fascinating and compelling read. Ditto DS, who was 12-13 at the time he read it. Unfortunately, I can’t find an author website for Mr. Haddon, so here’s a link to his print book on Amazon and also the Kindle version of A Curious Incident, where you can download a free sample.

Skulduggery Pleasant cover4. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

“Skulduggery Pleasant; wise cracking detective, powerful magician, master of dirty tricks and burglary (in the name of the greater good, of course), oh yeah, and dead!”

I LOVE the tag lines on the covers of these books. For example:

  • Book 1. Skulduggery Pleasant: “AND HE’S THE GOOD GUY”
  • Book 2, Skulduggery Pleasant, Playing With Fire: “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME”
  • Book 6, Skulduggery Pleasant, Death Bringer: “KICKING EVIL VERY HARD IN THE FACE”

You just know you’re going to find a fun read when you open this book. BTW, don’t be put off by the fact Skulduggery’s sidekick is a girl. Stephanie’s awesome, and the boys will love her. Besides, having a skeleton as the main character more than makes up for the risk of catching girl-cooties by reading a book with a girl for a sidekick, right?

Do check out Mr. Landy’s Skulduggery website. There’s sample chapters, free reads and all sorts of cool stuff. Plus, it’s very user-friendly regarding buy links etc. for non-US residents.

(Click here to check out my September 2009 post about Book 1 of this series.) 

5. Curse Workers trilogy by Holly Black

The trilogy kicks off with White Cat, followed by Red Glove, and the final book in the trilogy Black Heart.

It’s a gritty series set in a very recognizable modern-day world with a subtle alternate-history twist:  “a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love — or death — and your dreams might be more real than your memories.”

Briefly, magic-workers have been driven underground and into crime. Bare hands are frightening things when you can be “worked” by the most fleeting of touches, so the populace wear gloves. They also buy gemstone necklaces made by the very workers they fear, which absorb curses and shatter if they’ve been “worked”. Cassel’s entire family are workers. His granddad is a death-worker, who loses a finger each time he kills with a curse. His mother is an emotion worker, currently serving time. And his brothers — also workers — do not have Cassel’s best interests at heart. He’s the black sheep, the only one in his family who can’t work magic. Or is he?

DS’s verdict after reading White Cat? “That was really good. Is there another book in the series?”.

Check out the first chapter of White Cat on Ms Black’s website— just scroll past the cover.

I have to mention here that I don’t much care for the Simon & Schuster Curse Workers covers shown on the above website link. And I have to say, even though I loved the original US cover for White Cat, I feel boys might be put off by the cover for Red Glove (features Lila on the front cover, rather than Cassel). So if your boy hates “girly” covers (or covers with girl on them!) then I’d recommend the UK paperback versions published by Gollancz. The UK paperback version came out in April 2012, and all three covers are unlikely to embarrass your STM (sensitive teenage male) in public. (Click on each thumbnail to see full cover.)

Bonus: I found a trailer for White Cat on YouTube! Yes, it sounds like a very dark book, and it sounds like Cassel is the epitome of an anti-hero. But without spoiling the plot, all I can say is things are not what they seem. I monitor the books my kids read and I was more than happy for my son to read this book. And the ending of Black Heart is fantastic.

6. Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz

From the back cover blurb for the first book in the series, Stormbreaker: “When his guardian dies in suspicious circumstances, fourteen-year-old Alex Rider finds his world turned upside down. Forcibly recruited into MI6, Alex has to take part in gruelling SAS training exercises. Then, armed with his own special set of secret gadgets, he’s off on his first mission to Cornwall, where Middle-Eastern multi-billionaire Herod Sayle is producing his state-of-the-art Stormbreaker computers. Sayle has offered to give one free to every school in the country – but there’s more to the gift than meets the eye.”

Stormbreaker has been made into a movie, and I got DS interested in the series by first buying him the Stormbreaker graphic novel, and Alex Rider: The Gadgets factbook. Again, there are multiple books in the series, so once your boy is hooked….

7. Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey

These are definitely for the younger readers (rec. ages 7-10). We all know most boys have a particularly gross sense of humor, and the Captain Underpants series taps into that :) I don’t think boys will be able to resist a book with a title like Captain Underpants And The Big Bad Battle Of The Bionic Booger Boy.

Best of all, they’re standalone picture books (though I’m sure you’d be missing out if you didn’t read the very first book that introduces Captain Underpants and his “world” before checking out the others.)

Holes38. Holes by Louis Sachar

I wrote a post about this book back in 2008 — it’s the one that got DS switched on to reading in Year 6 when he was 10 years old. His teacher was reading the book aloud to the class. DS came down with acute appendicitis and was off school for a few weeks, and so missed the end of the story. I bought the book for him with the proviso he read the entire book, not just the last couple of chapters he’d missed. And bingo: one kid who finally decided that fiction wasn’t so bad after all :)

‘Stanley Yelnats was given a choice. The judge said, “You may go to jail, or you may go to Camp Green Lake.” Stanley was from a poor family. He had never been to camp before.

And so, Stanley Yelnats seems set to serve an easy sentence, which is only fair because he is as innocent as you or me. But Stanley is not going where he thinks he is. Camp Green Lake is like no other camp anywhere. It is a bizarre, almost otherworldly place that has no lake and nothing that is green. Nor is it a camp, at least not the kind of camp kids look forward to in the summertime. It is a place that once held “the largest lake in Texas,” but today it is only a scorching desert wasteland, dotted with countless holes dug by the boys who live at the camp.’

Holes has won a heap of awards, and deservedly so. And don’t be put off by DS’s age at the time: this one’s a book for older kids, too. And the movie is one for the whole family– even the girls.

9. Maximum Ride series by James Patterson

Another excellent series that kicks off with Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment.

“Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, and Angel. Six kids who are pretty normal in most ways—except that they’re 98 percent human, 2 percent bird. They grew up in a lab, living like rats in cages, but now they’re free. Aside, of course, from the fact that they’re prime prey for Erasers – wicked wolflike creatures with a taste for flying humans.”

Note that Max is a girl, but these books are written from the point of view of a variety of characters, so shouldn’t pose a problem. They also swap from 1st person POV to 3rd, but I didn’t have a problem with it and kids won’t either. No one’s told them that’s “not the way we authors are supposed to do it” *g*

10. Artemis Foul series by Eoin Colfer

Warning: the website (see link above) is graphics heavy and will take a while to load. It’s worth the wait, though, because there’s a heap of cool stuff on the site. And if you scroll through the books on the left-hand side and select Artemis Foul ( Book 1) you can read the first chapter. Second thoughts, if you’re an adult reading this and sound effects bug you, just go straight to Amazon and read the sample of Artemis Foul. Looks like the books are being reissued with new covers, too. Excellent! I don’t think the cover of the edition I own did the book justice.

“Twelve-year-old Artemis Foul is a millionaire, a genius–and above all, a criminal mastermind. But Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories– they’re dangerous!”

I happen to love this series to bits! Must be my quirky sense of humor.

11. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Goes without saying I don’t need to describe the story behind this series. (But if you’ve just transported in from another planet, check out the link above to find out what all the fuss is about.)

Yep. DS has read all three books and loved them– the movie was a hit with him and his mate, too.

12. Battleground by Chris Ryan

This was a risk-buy, just to see if he’d like to read something different. Score! Might have helped that the author is an SAS hero :) Mind you, as a parent, the thought of something like this happening while my kid was on a school exchange programme gives me nightmares. So I haven’t dared read it myself. Yeah, I’m a wuss like that.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

Fourteen-year-old Ben travels to Pakistan on a school exchange programme.

Ben and his Pakistani host, Aarya, find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

They see something they’re not supposed to and are kidnapped by some strange men. Caught up in a terrifying planned terrorist attack that could destroy Southern Afghanistan, killing thousands, Ben and Aarya are dragged through the most terrifying battleground in the world.

I suspect this is the first book in another series– sorry! But DS seems to have been quite happy to have read the only the first book for now.

 13. Astrosaurs by Steve Cole

Dinosaurs in space? Awesome-sauce-ness on sooo many levels!

Another fun series of standalone picture books for younger boys:

“Captain Teggs is no ordinary dinosaur – he’s an astrosaur! On the incredible spaceship DSS Sauropod, along with his faithful crew, Gypsy, Arx and Iggy, Teggs rights wrongs, fights evil… and eats a lot of grass.”

And last but never least, DS has just gotten home from school and reminded me of another series he loved…

DemonsLexiconCover14. The Demon’s Lexicon Trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan

I’ve waxed poetic about this trilogy many times so I’ll keep it brief.

Here’s a sample I shared on my group blog, Writers Gone Wild, which I believe is from The Demon’s Covenant (Book 3):

“Sometimes when you pull knives on people, they get this impression that you’re going to hurt them, and then they’re completely terrified. Crazy, I know!”

“Okay,” said Nick. He turned to Jamie and popped his left wrist sheath again. “Look.”

Jamie backed up. “Which part of ‘completely terrified’ did you translate as ‘show us your knives, Nick’? Don’t show me your knives, Nick. I have no interest in your knives.”

Nick rolled his eyes. “This is a quillon dagger. That’s a knife with a sword handle. I like it because it has a good grip for stabbing.”

“Why do you say these things?” Jamie inquired piteously. “Is it to make me sad?”

“I didn’t have you cornered,” Nick went on. “You could’ve run. And this dagger doesn’t have an even weight distribution; it’s rubbish for throwing. If I had any intention of hurting you, I’d have used a knife I could throw.”

Jamie blinked. “I will remember those words always. I may try to forget them, but I sense that I won’t be able to.”

[…] “Come on. I’ll drive you to my place and teach you how to throw knives.”

“What!” said Jamie. “Why?”

“Because I am a sweet and caring individual who is truly concerned about your welfare,” Nick drawled. “You coming?”

Suffice it say, without letting the cat out of the bag Nick is a little bit different *g*. Each book is written from a different character’s viewpoint and DS is a fan of all three books. There are romantic threads running through the books, but he didn’t find them gushy or off-putting.

Again, some edition covers are more geared toward young male readers than others, so I’d recommend you be careful which ones you buy. Too girly, and your teen could be turned off of a great read!

*****

So there we go. A bunch of book recommendations… just in time for Christmas?

Here’s hoping your teenage boys will thank me.

:-)

M

 

 

 

 

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3 Responses to “Maree’s Top Reads For Boys”

  1. Thanks for the good blog Marie.

  2. Fedora says:

    Thanks for the recommendations, Maree–I have a 12-year-old, and he’s read a few of these; it’s good to have some ideas for what to tackle next. Mine also enjoyed the Gregor series, also by Suzanne Collins, but I think it’s maybe geared slightly younger than the Hunger Games. He also still is enjoying the Rick Riordan books. He just finished the Johnny Maxwell trilogy by Terry Pratchett.