May 3, 2007

Books for Boys

Books for Boys: There's been a vicious circle in kids' publishing in recent decades. As women came to dominate education and publishing, the books assigned in class got girlier and girlier, and boys lost even more interest in reading books, so publishers brought out even girlier books, and boys got even more bored, etcetera etcetera ...

Finally, two publishing industry veterans, Steven D. Hill and Peggy Hogan, decided to make money off this market failure by launching Sterling Point Books, which specializes in nonfiction books about heroes aimed at boys in the 10-17 range. Most of the initial titles are reprints of out-of-print books from Bennett Cerf's Random House Landmark Books of the 1950s onward. Cerf signed up heavyweight authors like John Gunther (Inside Europe), C.S. Forester (Horatio Hornblower), Alistair MacLean (Guns of Navarone), and William L. Shirer (Rise and Fall of the Third Reich) to write about warriors and adventurers for boys.

My younger son has now read a half dozen of the Sterling Point titles. Geronimo: Wolf of the Warpath has been his favorite. They've inspired him to ask me lots of questions, mostly of the unanswerable "Could John Paul Jones beat Lawrence of Arabia?" variety.

They come in handsome paperbacks for $6.95, with good-sized typefaces and lots of leading between the lines to make the pages inviting to the eye.

They would make good graduation presents. Here is the list so far, with more due in November.

- Admiral Richard Byrd: Alone in the Antarctic by Paul Rink (Aug 28, 2006)

- Alexander the Great by John Gunther (Hardcover - April 1, 2007)

- Amelia Earhart: Flying Solo by John Burke (April 1, 2007)

- Behind Enemy Lines: A Young Pilot's Story by H. R. DeMallie (April 1, 2007)

- Ben Franklin: Inventing America by Thomas Fleming (April 1, 2007)

- General George Patton: Old Blood & Guts by Alden Hatch (Aug 28, 2006)

- George Washington: Frontier Colonel by Sterling North (Aug 28, 2006)

- Geronimo: Wolf of the Warpath by Ralph Moody (Aug 28, 2006)

- Invasion: The Story of D-Day by Bruce Bliven (April 1, 2007)

- John Paul Jones: The Pirate Patriot by Armstrong Sperry (Aug 28, 2006)

- Lawrence of Arabia by Alistair MacLean (Aug 28, 2006)

- Path to the Pacific: The Story of Sacagawea by Neta Lohnes Frazier (April 1, 2007)

- Teddy Roosevelt: American Rough Rider by John Garraty (Mar 1, 2007)

- The Barbary Pirates by C. S. Forester (April 1, 2007)

- The Sinking of the Bismarck: The Deadly Hunt by William L. Shirer (Aug 28, 2006)

***


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why start at the 1950s? What about the real classics, like Jules Verne and Karl May?

Xari said...

Any book that causes a boy to ask whether John Paul Jones could beat Laurence of Arabia, is not imparting conceptual knowledge of any depth. More like comic-book level simplistic patronizing of the boys.

But I guess given the educational quality of schools these days, that's the best you can expect.

Anonymous said...

I love the quote in the boston article 'for years publishers thought adolescent boys didn't like reading'

Could we imagine groupthink 'black kids don't like reading' or girls 'just don't like reading' coming from educators?

Gee, boys don't like reading anti-white,politcally correct, marxist based idealogical trivel that basically says 'men suck'. What a shocker.

If we start treating boys like boys again, perhaps we'll start seeing more men.

Les said...

I recently ran across a series of "Young Adult" novels by John Marsden. It starts with "Tomorrow, When The War Began".

Marsden is an Australian English teacher whose students weren't reading, so he started writing a series that he thought they would enjoy. It concerns a handful of students who are camping in the outback when Australia is invaded.

"Young Adult" in this case just means little profanity and the violence is not graphically described. But these are complex characters struggling to deal with hard situations, and the books are absolute page-turners besides. Highly recommended.

(Another plug: I really wish someone had told me about Dorothy Parker's poetry when I was young... I would have loved it as much then as now. And Kipling, too.)

max said...

I have experienced this first hand. About 5 years ago I began writing action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 - 13, especially boys. It's been tough to sell publishers on the idea that there is a large market for books for boys.
http://www.maxbooks.9k.com http://booksandboys.blogspot.com

ricpic said...

Is anyone still publishing the Horatio Hornblower series? Those were great books for boys.

Anonymous said...

hornblower has been in print for years.

also there's a great old American heritage series i remember reading as a boy .

cheerful iconoclast said...

Xari, you are a twit. Asking whether John Paul Jones could beat Lawrence of Arabia demonstrates that one is a boy. Trying to answer such a question requires a high degree of conceptualization.

On another note, if you want books for boys, you can do no better than the Heinlein juveniles. Yes, some of them are a bit dates -- slide rules in space! -- but they're great stories about competent, capable young people who are actually do things that matter.

cheerful iconoclast said...

I need to proofread better.

I meant to say "a bit dated," and "allowed to do things that matter."

I apologize for hitting send before I'd cleanded that up.

Dazzling Darren Dring said...

I still don't think you can look past the Hardy Boys. I used to like all Enid Blyton's stuff as well, even Malory Towers. Not a single dusky face, as far as I can remember.

My brother-in-law swears by Sven Hassel's books, though given the subject matter, they probably wouldn't make a suitable Bar Mitzvah present.

Anonymous said...

What's amazing is how young boys eat that stuff up. It's like some kind of military/hunter archetype or programming hard-wired into the male mind, waiting to emerge.

Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov said...

Man, this has got my memory rolling. I think the entire Sherlock Holmes opus is required reading. I really devoured those.

Another detective series I adored was Agaton Sax. Just the following description should whet the appetite:

Agaton Sax is a series of mystery books written by Nils-Olof Franzén and illustrated by Quentin Blake. The main character, Agaton Sax has a dog named Tikki and tracks down criminals such as Octopus Scott and Julius Musca. He is a short, round, Swedish man with a Meerschaum pipe who is a master of underwater ju-jitsu and of several obscure languages. He has a pronounced dislike of garlic. The novels are clearly an ironic pastiche of the detective genre - for example Agaton Sax's colleague, the hapless Inspector Lispington of the Yard, is clearly modeled on Inspector Lestrade of Sherlock Holmes fame. He has pipes for everyday of the week which he smokes when thinking. Agaton runs the Bykoping Post - First with the News - The Smallest Paper - but the Best.

Peter said...

Any book that causes a boy to ask whether John Paul Jones could beat Laurence of Arabia, is not imparting conceptual knowledge of any depth.

Actually, given the rumors that whirled around him, Lawrence of Arabia would have enjoyed a good sound beating :)

cheerful iconoclast said...

The problem with the Hardy Boys is that they've been substantially re-written over the years, and not for the better. The books went from being the sorts of adventures boys would want to have to being the sorts of adventures parents wanted boys to want to have.

If you can find the Original Hardy Boys books, boys today might like them. Even Nancy Drew was cool once: in one of the early books, her dad gives her a gun and tells her to use it if necessary. Nancy Drew packing heat. How cool is that?

Anonymous said...

CI makes a good point a lot of these books have been rewritten to be more 'sensitive' so its important to get the originals. Sadly Doctor Dootilte books are all but reengineered for the PC age.

Pete Tong said...

Oh yes, I had a crush on Nancy Drew, not to mention the dark-haired, vivacious Iola Morton, Chet's sister and Joe Hardy's girlfriend.

The real problem with the Hardy Boys was that after 190 book-length mysteries, their still being 17 and 18 years old rather stretched the grounds of plausibility.

tommy said...

Steve, if your son is interested in Geronimo or with the soldiers responsible for his capture, he might want to check out the 1993 film "Geronimo: An American Legend."

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107003/

It was a pretty decent film as I recall when I saw it on video a few years ago. A bit on the revisionist side, but not too bad.

Anonymous said...

Steve, do you know if these reprints are edited for PCness? I am a homeschooler who uses a lot of 50yo and earlier material and this is a major, major problem with reprints. I have a recent edition of the children's classic "The Cricket in Times Square" that rewrites the old Chinese man's dialogue for modern day sensibilities, for example. This is irritating by itself, but what is really sinister is the fact that there's never any mention of the changes.

susan said...

I found some great fiction book reviews. You can also see those reviews in Non fiction book

Paul Henri said...

Oh boy oh boy Steve. I thought I was all alone in rejecting at least 75% of fantasy novels, which I have enjoyed since Lord of the Rings. That is why I do not dare buy them but instead check them out at my local library. I reject them because they are either dominated by women (which I have no interest in reading about in such novels) or they contain women who are superior to every man in smarts or physical ability or both.

A prime example is Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, which starts out like a real blockbuster for men (although women are always physically and mentally stronger than every man) but quickly devolves into a story with endless musings and dialoged by dominant females. It is unbelievable how much this male writer (and others) page after page note how one character or the other has tightened his or her face, whatever that means. Talk about oversensitivity!

These male authors I suppose have either prostituted themselves as mere pulp fiction writers or they are panty waists or both. I suppose mostly women are buying this junk.

Anonymous said...

Steve --

What about the classics. Not just Verne (manly adventure for boys) but Robert Louis Stevenson (Kidnapped, Treasure Island). "Do you want to be killed?" What a great line, still remember it. Or yes the Sherlock Holmes stories, Dashiell Hammett's stuff (you don't get more hardboiled than the Continental Op).

Or Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer. Great stuff. Before PC.

For fantasy stuff, try Glen Cook's hardboiled fantasy novels. Agreed that most fantasy stuff is feminized or female-appealing tripe.

SFG said...

You might enjoy some of the older sword-and-sorcery novels, such as Robert E. Howard's Conan or Michael Moorcock's Elric. Lord of the Rings itself is actually a classic boy's adventure story. And there's quite a bit of sf of a libertarian bent if you want to go that way; there's even an award for best libertarian sf novel. Jerry Pournelle is a well-known sf writer famous for his conservative viewpoints; the good guys in 'High Justice' actually work for corporations! Larry Niven is conservative as well, I think. Keith Laumer pokes fun at diplomats.

Of course, you do run the risk of turning your boy into a nerd, so be careful.

The truth is that nerds have always had fantasy and sf. The advantage of these books is that they can bring sportsier boys into reading and round out the personality in that fashion.

SFG said...

Er, by 'these books' I meant the boys' adventure books, which are in my view a good thing.

Matt said...

Y'all are missing the point here.

The point is that books taught in school are too female. Need more guys killin' people, climbin' mountains, that kind o' thing.

Check out this URL from Prentice-Hall (high school summer reading list) -- it's a shocker!
http://www.phschool.com/curriculum_support/reading_list/high_school.html

A good share of those books seem like they'd be interesting to a female in one way or another! For example, there's this one book in there which is nothing but the diary of some darn teenage girl, even titled the book after her, "Anne Frank's Diary".

Anyhow yeah need some good ol' 50's-style True Stories For Boys in there, that's a fact.

Anonymous said...

There ought to be a whole education program for "white-collar kids", especially males, which circumvents the edu-establishment.

Harold said...

I really like Alfred P. Morgan's science and technology books. Some that have fallen out of copyright have been reprinted by grindhouses like Lindsay Publications, but most are still copyright and the publisher refuses to reprint them or allow anyone else to.

A great number of great books-fiction and nonfiction-for younger readers, particularly boys, are out of copyright.

Unfortunately, libraries are developing more and more the attitude that old books should be summarily discarded. I actually think the MLS degree adversely effects IQ by many points and many public librarians are professionally stupid on principle.

SFG said...

You've got the Beka Books, which might be a little too Christian for many people but would probably make many of the people here happy.

Anonymous said...

The larger point is female domination of whole parts of sectors, which leads to assumptions that the customers are all female.

It's not just Education and publishing (look "Dangerous Book for Boys" as a backlash). I recall reading in the LAT an account how the female head of programming at CBS was all atwitter about sitcoms featuring young men making fools out of themselves over women. "I love how they make fools out of themselves and trip over their own feet" one female ad buyer gushed.

One reason network TV is so female-oriented is all the 20-something female ad buyers who actually make the buys (classic agency problem).

I'd add the news media, film, and a few other areas where professions or industries are female-dominated and thus reflecting a feminine agenda.

It's no accident that movies are so feminine, because readers and other low-level folks who act as filters are mostly young women. Note too the large amount of gays. As more and more women enter that industry, gays are preferred over straight men for obvious reasons, i.e. women find them preferable to straight guys in the workplace.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think most public librarians are ed major types who are too lazy to actually teach. I spend about a quarter of my income (after taxes) on books. I love Amazon Marketplace.

Templeton Peck said...

Who knew iSteve's readership was so testosterone charged?

Steve, better get posting on, say, UFC or the relative merits of creatine vs. whey protein.

A final couple of book recommendations for youngsters would be Emil & The Detectives, Lord of the Flies and The Time Machine.

Anonymous said...

What are some recommendations for early readers? My son is 7. He loves Star Wars and, if we aren't careful, could turn into a full blown nerd. I'm interested in books that he'll enjoy that teach values as well like heroism, self-sacrifice....

Because if my son ever did anything like, dying hiding under a desk, or jumping out of a window to save himself before letting all the women go first (and these ones had plenty of time for considered choices) like young men at a certain college, I'D DIE OF SHAME!

Darth Nerf said...

Public librarians are all sexually dysfunctional but nominally straight women and a few gay men. They have eked out a corner of the world that most people do not care about and can and do treat it as a personal fiefdom.

I get better books by filching them out of the donation barrel outside the foyer than are available on the shelves. Including 40s-60s "Young Adult" material I find enjoyable to read myself. I always return them of course.

SFG said...

I'd rather my (hypothetical) son survive no matter what, but hey, I'm not a conservative and I come from a small family. (Trust me, you got one child, you don't like the idea of them dying for anything.) So as for the heroism and self-sacrifice, books are not a bad idea, since you're speaking to him in his language.

I wouldn't be too worried about him turning into a nerd just because he loves Star Wars; plenty of boys do. His ability or inability to play sports will be a much larger factor. I'd suggest finding some sport he's good at, even if it's not the one that's most popular out there. Besides, even if he were a nerd, that wouldn't necessarily mean he'd be lacking in courage, simply that you'll have to wait a while before he starts bringing the ladies home.

Cato said...

When I was a kid in the 70s, our local public library had a wonderful series of short children's biographies on prominent Americans. I remember Washington, Franklin, Lee, Edison, Kit Carson, and Grant being in the series (and one on Clara Barton that kinda sucked). There were also a few on European explorers of America like Sir Walter Raleigh. They had a lot of fictionalized dialogue, and I have no idea if the history was good or not. But they were fun boy-oriented reading (except for the Barton tome) and led to the interest in history I have today.

Does anyone know what series this was?

Anonymous said...

Over here in the UK I fondly remember reading a series of books by Ronald Welch. They follow the fortunes of the Carey family (minor nobility). The sons of the familiy are always at the sharp end of battle down through the ages. WW1, Napoleonic wars, English Civil War, Crusades etc I wouldnt hesitate to recommend them for young lads to read.

rast said...

"It's like some kind of military/hunter archetype or programming hard-wired into the male mind, waiting to emerge."

No! Ya think?

Joe Huston said...

I will definitely check into these books for my boys. There was a series of books I read as a boy that were about young Scotch-Irish pioneers (although I don't think the term was used) who wear leather and "linsey-woolsy" shirts, and they get into battles with Indians or explore places like Kentucky and Tennessee. I can't remember the author or any of the titles, so I can't look for them on abebooks.com. Maybe somebody should locate and republish them. They were definitely written before the PC era.

My boys discovered an adolescent fantasy series they really like, The Ranger's Apprentice. It's full of stuff boys appreciate, like practicing knife-throwing and archery, sneaking around and climbing, fighting animals and of course, bad guys. If you have a boy who you want to get interested in reading, you should look into this series.

Regarding Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, I read the first few books and at first I thought he was a marketing genius; lots of stuff to interest young males, yet except for "The Dragon", only females could do magic, so he had plenty of stuff to attract female readers, without completely turning off the males. Then he started in with his female warriors and lost the balance he originally had.

Anonymous said...

Cato, I think you might be referring to what I think is called the Childhood of Famous Americans, a series that used to be published by Bobbs-Merrill and is now in paperback by Alladin. I read every one I could get, and would highly recommend them. Of course I read them back in the stone age. Apparently there are new ones out. Don't know how they compare to the ones I read.

A few other recommendations for boy's books (depending on age of course) are Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner, Three Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo by A. Dumas, Mr. Standfast by J. Buchan.

SFG said...

There was a series of books I read as a boy that were about young Scotch-Irish pioneers (although I don't think the term was used) who wear leather and "linsey-woolsy" shirts, and they get into battles with Indians or explore places like Kentucky and Tennessee.
:) Anyone have the equivalent for us Northern folk?

Les said...

For the 5/04 Anonymous looking for science fiction for a 7-year-old.... John Christopher's Tripod trilogy starts with "The White Mountains". Might be a *little* old for a 7 year old but you'll want to get a copy to save for later.

I've rarely seen reference to these books- seem to be more known in the UK. There was a BBC adaptation I ran across years ago that was also quite good....

Cato said...

To Anonymous at 9:08.

That looks like it. Many thanks.

essex said...

One reason network TV is so female-oriented is all the 20-something female ad buyers who actually make the buys (classic agency problem).

Men also bear a responsibility for this. Too many young men, including theoretically educated, middle-class men, have opted out of any entertainment but sports. On TV, even crime dramas must now contain a measure of emotional, relationship-oriented material to appeal to female viewers. How many woman-oriented shows (like Gray's Anatomy, for example) throw even a tiny sop to male viewers?

Popular fiction? Forget it. Every story, even detective and crime novels, have to appeal to a largely female audience because MEN DON'T READ ENOUGH.

If men don't form a significant, decision-making audience for TV show and book selection, one can't blame the marketers for not trying to appeal to them. It is a bit of a Catch-22, as the article describes, but men do share some of the blame.

SFG said...

Science fiction, man. Ever seen a girl at a convention?

David Davenport said...

You might enjoy some of the older sword-and-sorcery novels, such as Robert E. Howard's Conan …

The Conan stories were not Howard’s best work. Try the collection of his short stories titled, “Worms of the Earth.” … Sword and sorcery in Roman Britain, staring Bran Mak Morn, king of the Picts, who are devolving into Neanderthals. The last story in the set is a Viking era tale about an Irishman and a band of Pict-Neanderthals who take their revenge on some Vikings, leaving a Catholic priest to tut-tut over it all.

What are some recommendations for early readers? My son is 7. He loves Star Wars and, if we aren't careful, could turn into a full blown nerd. I'm interested in books that he'll enjoy that teach values as well like heroism, self-sacrifice....

He’ll be ready to read Henlein’s “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, pretty soon. Copyright 1958 or so, it's got flying saucers and also humans still using slide rules.


There was a series of books I read as a boy that were about young Scotch-Irish pioneers (although I don't think the term was used) who wear leather and "linsey-woolsy" shirts, and they get into battles with Indians or explore places like Kentucky and Tennessee.

I can’t think of that series, but in a similar vein, you might try “The Education of Little Tree” by Forrest Carter. Set in the Appalachians in the 1930’s, it’s about a Cherokee Indian boy being raised by his Cherokee grandparents – Grandpa’s a bootlegger.

The characters are full blooded Cherokees living like Scotch Irish folk. It's sociologically accurate.

The author, Forrest Carter, also wrote “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” from which the Clint Eastwood flick was made. Forrest Carter was also the speech writer for George Wallace of Alabama.

If you want to get your older sons started on nonfiction war memoirs, there’s

One of Jackson's Foot Cavalry: His Experience and What He Saw During the War, 1861-1865 (Collector's Library of the Civil War) by John H. Worsham (Hardcover - Jun 1982)

The author, John Worsham, was an unrepentant Confederate veteran and his history is about as un-Pee Cee as American historical nonfiction can be.

Nipper said...

British TV standards are deteriorating because the BBC is "run by women", astronomer Sir Patrick Moore has said.

The Sky at Night host also described female newsreaders as "jokey" and called for separate channels to cater for the needs of the different sexes.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6634255.stm

SFG said...

Newsreading my ass! Have you seen what they've done to Dr. Who lately?