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Saturday, September 03, 2016

What Men Read

A best-selling author explains.

What Men Read

I was doing an interview a few weeks ago for Women of Bad Assery when I started to wonder if it was actually true that men - and young boys - refuse to read books written by women or starring women.  It wasn't actually hard to disprove it - JK Rowling may have used her initials to hide her gender, or so I have been told, but I read quite a few other books by women when I was a child.  The gender of the writer alone had no influence on me.  Nor too did I automatically dismiss a book starring a girl.

What did have an influence was school.  The vast majority of the books I was forced to read at school were boring.  Teachers - both male and female - would select books that bored me to tears.  Thankfully, by then I already had the reading bug.  Boys who didn't, who only knew reading as a chore, didn't read when they didn't have to read.  They found it a tedious process - and preferred watching television instead.

So ... what did all the books I liked have in common?

Most of them featured adventure.  The characters would be pitted against a remorseless enemy or given a task to do.  It didn't really matter if the task was large or small, a thinking enemy or a force of nature; all that mattered was the challenge, the urge to overcome and triumph over one’s circumstances.  The characters didn't simply exist, the characters had something to do.

Harry Potter works, at least for the first five books, because it fits neatly into this pattern.  Harry escapes the mundane world and flies straight into a world of magic, but gets pitted against a string of deadly foes.  All of his books feature Harry being challenged - Goblet of Fire being the most dramatic example - and overcoming his challenges.  Everyone who wants to argue that Dumbledore is a poor headmaster because Harry has to deal with the problem-of-the-book is missing the point.  The series works because Harry is the one who deals with the problem.

This is true for a lot of my childhood favourites.  The Famous Five and The Secret Seven all feature mysteries that have to be solved.  Hood’s Army and The Demon Headmaster all feature battles against deadly enemies.  And all of them are exciting reflections of the way young boys think.  They want adventure.

Good children’s books also avoid gender politics.  Both Danny the Champion of the World and Matilda are popular with children of both genders, even though one features a male hero and the other a female.  Both books work for male readers because they fit into the pattern I detailed above - Matilda is pitted against her family, who try their hardest to drag her down, and her sadistic headmistress.  Danny is pitted against his schoolteacher and the aristocratic moron who owns the nearby woods.  To add to this, Danny and his father are effectively rebelling against unwanted restraints.

Matilda is, in some cases, an interesting example.  Although Matilda herself is very definitely a young girl, women are not portrayed any more or less positively than men.  There is no sense that Matilda is waging war on the patriarchy, but on people who want to crush her soul (her parents) or physically harm her (the headmistress).  Indeed, the first person we are shown to get the better of the headmistress is a young boy.  And, as gross as that scene is to an adult, it is precisely the sort of thing a young boy would find hilarious.

The closest thing Matilda comes to any form of sexism is Matilda’s mother remarking to her that men are rarely as clever as they think they are.  But it’s hard to argue the point when she’s talking about her immensely stupid and crooked husband.

Good children’s books are also free of romance and sex.  You’d think this was obvious, but still ... Most young boys are significantly put off by any hint of romance - they don’t understand the facts of life, let alone how they relate to their own life.  They certainly don’t want to consider the differences between males and females.  Romance was never a big part of Harry Potter because young boys don’t want to read about it.

Successful female characters - characters who appeal to young boys - are often very similar to men.  They take on challenges and overcome them; they have problems, but they overcome them on their own.  Even when they are not tomboys - George of The Famous Five, for example - they are rarely completely feminine.  They balance their strengths with weaknesses.  Dinah Glass of The Demon Headmaster is incredibly intelligent, but she’s also the only one of the good guys vulnerable to the Headmaster’s power.  That doesn't stop her from playing a major role in his defeats.

This leads to another problem.  It is much easier for a young boy to imagine being Harry Potter than it is to imagine being Hermione Granger.

These patterns do not change as young boys turn into men.  The lust for adventure, for a meaningful life, is still there.  Romance - even as readers become more aware of gender and sex - is still a secondary concern.  Successful books always have the main character taking on a challenge and solving it.  If there is a love interest in the book, the romance is still secondary to the overall story.

Books that do feature romance heavily tend to do poorly with young men.  Twilight, for example, isn't particularly popular with male readers, if only because they find it hard to identify with Bella and loathe Edward.  Books that focus on the main character worrying over stereotypical feminine concerns are rarely interesting to young men.  Indeed, books that concentrate on feminine issues often make men uncomfortable. Marketing them to young men is a waste of time.

Indeed, I’ve noticed a pattern in books written for teenagers and young adults.  The majority of male writers concentrate on adventure, the majority of female writers concentrate on romance.  Obviously, there are exceptions, but I think it’s largely true.

I think the most successful books - at least, the ones that attract young male readers - are the books that speak to our imaginations.  We want to be free and independent, we want to pit ourselves against the world, we want to do great deeds and soar high.  And we want to solve our own problems, to pick ourselves up after getting knocked down and carry on.  In a sense, we all want to be ‘special snowflakes’ - but we want to earn it, not have it handed to us on a plate.

Books that are not successful tend to focus on characters who do not appeal to young male readers.  A main character who is an idle layabout, a bully, a sneak, a coward, a whiner ... they rarely appeal.  And even if they do, what lessons are they teaching?  Books that put men down, that make us out to be stupid or animals or just plain obnoxious ... they appeal to us about as much as misogynist books appeal to women.

If you happen to be a teacher, or a parent, remember the golden rule.  Reading should never be a chore.  Indeed, reading is a learned skill.  And the more young boys enjoy reading, the more they will read.

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112 Comments:

Blogger J A Baker September 03, 2016 5:16 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger J A Baker September 03, 2016 5:18 AM  

Mary Shelly's Frankenstein was a favorite of mine as a child.

Victor provides a character who not only satiates a child's desire for mystery and adventure but also inspires learning, curiosity an interest in both science and the metapysical and overcoming great obstacles to realize ones goals through hard work and determiniation.

There is also a theme of personal responsibility and how ones actions and choices have real consequences that not only effect ourselves but the people we care about as well.

And then there is the exploration of the dynamics in the relationship between a son and his father.

It has comedy, romance, adventure, horror and tragedy all in one. Real characters with real struggles and desires.

A real classic, not because it was written a long time ago, but because it is a wonderfully crafted master peice of science fiction literature with out equal.

Anonymous JB September 03, 2016 5:29 AM  

Mayne Reid

Blogger J A Baker September 03, 2016 5:30 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger J A Baker September 03, 2016 5:33 AM  

The first Harry Potter book (that's the only one I read) did stir in me a nostalgia form my childhood because it reminded me of Roald Dahl. The style was similar, and Harry Potter was Charlie Bucket. His adopted family, their cruelty and Harry's altimate revenge is classic Roald Dahl fare.

I can't speak to the others, I can only speculate that as the books progressed the writing moved further and further away from this style and became more of a dark and brooding experience.

It's been a theory of mine that Rowling only wrote the first and maybe the second book of the series. After the franchise took off time was off the essence. In order to capitalize both on the popularity if the series along with the actors' youth in the movies a team of writers was hired to work both on the books as screen plays simultaneously, so as to pump out as many blockbusters as they could. Strike while the iron is hot.

If anything Rowling acted as more of a creative director or consultant approving ideas and so on.

Blogger S. Thermite September 03, 2016 5:44 AM  

Agreed. As a youth my favorite Narnia book was "A Horse and His Boy," which evidently was unfilmable because the old BBC series stopped just short of it, and even animal-loving Disney never tackled it. And my favorite Tolkien character was the loner Strider (the deadly survivalist before we knew him as kingly Aragorn). Perhaps it's partly gamma secret king wish fulfillment (does it make me more sigma that I liked Gandalf too?), but both characters did not have the benefit of leaning on a sibling or longtime friends as many of the other Narnia characters and the hobbits did. As an adult I like the allegory in "The Sliver Chair", "The Magician's Nephew", and "The Last Battle", and can better appreciate the sacrifice of Frodo and the selflessness of Sam, but Shasta and the lone ranger of Arnor will always have a place in my literary heart.

Anonymous Takin' a Look September 03, 2016 5:46 AM  

One of your best posts VD.

Blogger J A Baker September 03, 2016 6:00 AM  

John Christopher Tri-Pod series were a favorite f mine as well. It was a coming of age story about independence and individuality in a world of forced oppression and subjugation.

I read the first three first as a child. When those books take place the invasion had already happened and had been in place for generations. The realities of life under rule of the invaders was accepted by most as the way things had always been.

After writing the three tripod books the author wrote a prequel about the actual invasion. It actually happened through peoples television sets which is quite a commentary about the influence of media on the mind, and this was a children's book.

I love that series and still go back to read it every now and then, but it is hard to find these days. I read it first when I was in 4th grade around eight years old or so but this series ha all but disappeared since then. You'd be hard pressed to find it in any public elementary school book shelf. A real shame.

Blogger Noah B September 03, 2016 6:04 AM  

A Wrinkle In Time is another good counterexample - woman author, girl for a main character, generally popular among boys. A favorite of mine from childhood.

Blogger Doom September 03, 2016 6:19 AM  

Initially, I don't think I cared. Reading was the only thing I had for many years. I learned, very quickly, to ignore female writers. Just not worth digging through the garbage for something useful, good, interesting, true(ish) enough to abide, etc. Their notions about romance are even foolish to the point of idiocy, had nothing to to with reality from what I could tell. More, not much else of what they wrote about had much practical application. Dull... Sure, Wrinkle in Time, and a few others, if even those could be a stretch. To this day I will not read women's works. See some of the movies from them? Maybe. I just won't read in raw form. Women writers are more like gays than... anything other than gays, I suspect. Bleh.

J.A.,

I don't think Mary Shelly at all created that story. She was, if raised in a secular fashion, Jewish. One of the older midrash tales is of a flesh glolem... assuming how I have it is correct. She merely stole, consciously or not, that tale, modernizing it along the way. I am honestly surprised no one shot her down, then to now, about it. It's not here story. But then the world has been trying to prove women are great writers and thinkers even in her time. Even if they have to lie about it. She... was quite the enlightened little slut. Lilith, if she had to be encouraged.

Blogger Fatherless September 03, 2016 6:21 AM  

Making 14 year old boys read Withering Heights in a classroom of 14 year old girls... its a complete joke. All I remember from that book is "blah blah blah blah" hey look Suzy has titties all right back tongue book "blah blah blah blah blah."

Blogger S. Thermite September 03, 2016 6:21 AM  

@ J A Baker

I read and enjoyed John Christoper's books after seeing the serial comics for "The City of Gold and Lead" published in old issues of Boy's Life magazine. Perhaps you've seen them already, but if not, there were 19 separate pages published in the August, 1982 thru February, 1984 issues, and they're all available here.

Blogger Fatherless September 03, 2016 6:21 AM  

*back to the back*

Blogger J A Baker September 03, 2016 6:25 AM  

C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces is one of my favorite works by the man. Though I'm not sure it's necessarily for children, it does have a woman protagonist. If you are a fan of Lewis and you haven't read this you should.

Blogger J A Baker September 03, 2016 6:26 AM  

@ 12 S. Thermite,

Thanks for link.

Anonymous Be Not Afraid September 03, 2016 6:40 AM  

Frankenstein of course is a favorite, and Wrinkle in Time was one of the first "big kid" books I can remember reading; got it from one of those book-a-month things. But I read Jane Eyre and Rebecca (for a class in college) and liked them as well.

In terms of more modern books by women, the Harry Potter books were fun to read; but the characters were pretty stereotypical boys and girls. The first Hunger Games book was pretty good, but they went downhill from there. (It would be interesting to know the demographics for the Hunger Games books vs. Red Rising, actually.) I quite liked The Giver, which my daughter read in school and insisted I read. Sarah Hoyt's books have been fun to read, and her short story collections. Her women characters are Strong, Independent (genetically enhanced) Women, yet are matched by equally strong male counterparts.

A lot lf the grrrrrrrl power stuff must be a real turn-off for boys because it's pretty easy to see that there aren't really very many girls like that out there. It must be tough to suspend disbelief, which is essential when reading fiction (or the news, these days, but I repeat myself). And it's hard to imagine a boy being able to enjoy something like Twilight, where the whole thing seems to be a very Plain Jane Mary Sue having to choose between all the alpha males who want her. (The marketing seemed so homoerotic that I was surprised to hear Edward and Jacob never ended up in bed together.)

As the Dark Lord said, boys want adventure; I suspect believeable characterizations allow boys to enjoy books with female protagonists, but the grrrrrrrrrl power and Mary Sue stuff drops testosterone levels so low boys aren't physically strong enough to hold up the books after a couple of chapters.

Anonymous Steve September 03, 2016 6:40 AM  

When I was a boy I loved Enid Blyton's books. She knew how to write for boys. There was always a mystery to be solved, secret pirate treasure to be found, or baddies to be thwarted.

Another favourite was Alfred Hitchcock's Three Investigators series, which was far better than the Hardy Boys in my juvenile opinion.

Books the school made us read were indeed mostly boring and terrible. So much so I've forgotten most of them, though 1984 and Brave New World were quite good.

However, there's got to be a better way of teaching kids Shakespeare than making them read aloud bafflingly archaic passages from Romeo and Juliet while the rest of the class sniggers.

Blogger J A Baker September 03, 2016 6:41 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Anonymous Steve September 03, 2016 6:53 AM  

A main character who is an idle layabout, a bully, a sneak, a coward, a whiner ... they rarely appeal. And even if they do, what lessons are they teaching?

With the honourable exception of Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC, KCB, KCIE. But of course he had terrific adventures despite himself.

Blogger Roger Hill September 03, 2016 7:09 AM  

The recent reboot of Ghostbusters is demonstration enough that audiences are not fond of female heroes who exist at the expense of male characters and masculinity in general. It gets tedious and old in about 5 minutes.

The charge about critics of Ghostbusters being misogynistic is a load of crap. These same young men who would rather have their teeth cleaned than see Ghostbusters grew up loving movies like Matilda, which even with a female hero still manages to leave feminism alone. Its not female characters or even heroes that turn guys off. Its feminist and their underlying ideological poison.

Anonymous Steve September 03, 2016 7:20 AM  

The greatest boys' own adventure author in my opinion is Robert Louis Stevenson.

TREASURE ISLAND is a perfect adventure story and singlehandedly established the template for fictional pirates. It's stuffed full of derring do and immortal characters. Who can forget Long John Silver, or even poor Ben Gunn and his lust for cheese?

His Highland tale in KIDNAPPED might be even better, because it's not just a grand adventure but also a great story of friendship. A boy needs friends, and Alan Breck Stewart is everything a young lad like Davie Balfour might want to be: he's a fearless fighting man, a dashing rogue, and a ferociously loyal companion.

But he's no Mary Sue either. He's amusingly conceited and sensitive about his height. Davie is scandalised by Breck's complicity in the murder of a Campbell, and possibly more so by his Roman Catholicism. Breck is frustrated by Davie's Lowland Protestant Whiggishness. Alan is almost childishly heartbroken when his friend - having fallen out with him - conceals the state of his injuries.

Again he came near sobbing. "Davie," said he, "I'm no a right man at all; I have neither sense nor kindness; I could nae remember ye were just a bairn, I couldnae see ye were dying on your feet; Davie, ye'll have to try and forgive me."

"O man, let's say no more about it!" said I. "We're neither one of us to mend the other—that's the truth! We must just bear and forbear, man Alan. O, but my stitch is sore! Is there nae house?"

"I'll find a house to ye, David," he said, stoutly. "We'll follow down the burn, where there's bound to be houses. My poor man, will ye no be better on my back?"

"O, Alan," says I, "and me a good twelve inches taller?"

Blogger S1AL September 03, 2016 7:20 AM  

The Little House on the Prairie series is a fine example of stories written by a woman that appeal across the board. Granted, that woman was a product of the great westward expansion and not the era of Tumblr.

Blogger J A Baker September 03, 2016 7:34 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Leo Littlebook in Shenzhen September 03, 2016 7:38 AM  

The rare readable authoress would be more palatable if the dregs weren't funneled down our throats, inducing an acute gag reflex to distaff tropes, which no bookette entirely avoids.

It's like how porn and skimpiness ruin a man's taste for his wife, except the hookers are fat.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan September 03, 2016 7:45 AM  

Mari Sandoz, I have to add her name.

Blogger Unknown September 03, 2016 7:47 AM  

I got my start in reading by discovering The Hardy Boys, and then Tom Swift, specifically Tom Swift III.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Swift_III
As I was graduating from that into other books, mostly Star Trek, Tom Clancy published Hunt for the Red October, and after that it was all military thrillers for a decade.

Blogger Michael Maier September 03, 2016 7:48 AM  

In a sense, we all want to be ‘special snowflakes’ - but we want to earn it, not have it handed to us on a plate.

Except that is precisely why Harry Potter sucks and Rowlings blows as a writer.

First book? How does Harry win at the end? He doesn't know. The reader doesn't either. Magic rock in his pocket that he didn't put there makes bad guy melt.

Perfectly bookended with the final showdown where Harry wins because this wand got knocked out of someone's else's hand and liked him more than .... what?

And plenty of moments in between where Harry accidentally and/or cluelessly overcomes the obstacle.

So painfully bad.

Blogger Fatherless September 03, 2016 7:57 AM  

Yeah, those books were awesome.

Blogger Trimegistus September 03, 2016 8:01 AM  

Mary Shelley was Jewish? Huh? That's retarded. Her parents were William Godwin, raised Calvinist, and Mary Wollstonecraft, who was presumably C of E.

Anonymous Lawyer Guy September 03, 2016 8:02 AM  

I was young when Cherryh's Company Wars series come out. This seems like the place to say this.

Good writing-- which I realized even back then. Large, complex world with exciting background.

Way too much angst and getting kicked in the face and taking it, over and over and over.

HTF was Rimrunners pimped for so many awards when it was a supposedly tough woman merc who just takes abuse from everyone until she gets accepted as a low ranking bitch member of a group? That's the triumph ending.

OpenID denektenorsk September 03, 2016 8:16 AM  

Is he daring to suggest that men and women are different? I await the denunciations of this horrible sexist.

Blogger J A Baker September 03, 2016 8:19 AM  

Dues Ex Magica

Blogger Fenris Wulf September 03, 2016 8:31 AM  

I read almost all of the above as a kid, but I'll add an obscure one. The Seven Citadels series by Geraldine Harris. A true original in YA fantasy. Beautiful and haunting.

Blogger Doom September 03, 2016 9:27 AM  

Trimegistus,

I have not been able to verify. And it seems your version might be correct. As I had it, her father, or some sort of father figure to her, was Jewish. Which, I am not finding currently though it would be easy enough to miss. In any case, whether she was Jewish, or taught by a Jew, secular or not, the story does not originate with her. It does appear that her actual father did allow her to sit in while he and other writers discussed things. Though I know I heard my version, if that was correct or not is another matter. In any case, that is not her story.

Anonymous patrick kelly September 03, 2016 9:34 AM  

That was then this is now, the contender, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and thanks for reminding me about the tripod series I forgot about those.

I read all of those by the time I finished Elementary School. Didn't read much after that until around high school when I got into some science fiction, the gods themselves, the left hand of Darkness, and that goofy book The Magic Christian the movie was based on.

The Lord of the Flies was assigned in school but I enjoyed that one.

Please excuse my lazy use of voice to text I don't really feel like correcting much of it.

Blogger Dire Badger September 03, 2016 9:39 AM  

The Book that gave me the reading bug as a kid was Heinlein's "Starman Jones".

Nuff said.

Blogger Gaiseric September 03, 2016 9:49 AM  

Which is why my favorite books as a boy and today are still ones written by Tolkien, Edgar Rice Burroughs, or Rafael Sabatini.

Blogger Bard September 03, 2016 10:26 AM  

Does the concept of romance really exist as a male thought pattern? Without endless propaganda and female buy in, is it even real in the popular sense?

Blogger Desiderius September 03, 2016 10:31 AM  

"Successful female characters - characters who appeal to young boys - are often very similar to men."

SJW males never outgrow that phase.

Blogger Dire Badger September 03, 2016 10:32 AM  

@38-
Men are the true purveyors of 'Romance', we are the romantics, the forethinkers, the dreamers.
What is labelled as 'romance' today is basically porn. either emotion-porn or literal porn.

Anonymous Steve September 03, 2016 10:33 AM  

Does the concept of romance really exist as a male thought pattern?

I'd argue men invented romance. Chivalry, courtly love, and all that stuff.

It's a major reason why some young chaps have trouble getting their leg over. They don't realise m'ladies would rather be wooed by a rough, arrogant man who treats them like a naughty little strumpet.

Blogger Desiderius September 03, 2016 10:35 AM  

"As a youth my favorite Narnia book was "A Horse and His Boy," which evidently was unfilmable because the old BBC series stopped just short of it"

Too anti-Islamic.

Blogger Happy Housewife September 03, 2016 10:42 AM  

I can't believe Where the Red Fern Grows hasn't been mentioned yet!

Blogger ace September 03, 2016 10:45 AM  

I know my all-female English teachers were, in retrospect, allergic to fun and not comprehending of male values. The classics for them was something like Medea or The Merchant of Venice which could be used as a jumping off point for discussing racism or feminism. Male authored books were often chosen due to their strange or existential character, like The Stranger or The Metamorphosis. They were also very short books, whereas we would spend weeks crawling through a tome like Emma or Wuthering Heights.

If you were to design a program specifically to kill male interest in great works, you couldn't have done much better. In fact I stopped reading for many years after high school, whereas before it I read fairly frequently.

The most fun I had in high school English was when our male headmaster would briefly take over the English class to teach us Shakespeare. The discussions we would have with him regarding the work, its themes, and its characters were of a completely different character.

Blogger Nathan September 03, 2016 10:49 AM  

Are the people claiming they enjoyed Frankenstein serious? I found it unreadable. The monster is passive-aggressive and the whole thing comes off as some teenage girl working out her anxieties about getting knocked up... which it is. Now The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Invisible Man were great go-to reads for monster sci-fi and horror action.

Anonymous Steve September 03, 2016 10:51 AM  

The classics for them was something like Medea or The Merchant of Venice which could be used as a jumping off point for discussing racism or feminism.

Same.

But I couldn't help but notice that Shylock was an absolute cunt.

Yes, he gave a great speech, but this was the chap who literally wanted a pound of flesh.

However, Antonio is also a wanker who was an insufferable dick to Shylock and should never have made the stupid agreement in the first place.

My main takeaway from Merchant is that olden days Venetians were retards who couldn't tell the difference between a man and a girl in men's clothes.

Anonymous 0007 September 03, 2016 10:55 AM  

The books I remember from elementary school were a series called the "Landmark" series. The series was mostly biographical or about important events in history, especially American history. I remember being allowed to sit in the school library from about the forth grade because I had finished all my work and there was still a couple of hours of school time left. Then Mom got me an adult library card...
'Course I was also reading the greats of SF at that time as well. Any body remember a writer named Norton?

Blogger Dave September 03, 2016 11:16 AM  

I got my start in reading by discovering The Hardy Boys, and then Tom Swift

Yes, Nancy Drew even. Then L'Amour.

Blogger Rez Zircon September 03, 2016 11:20 AM  

@17 Rosemary Sutcliff was another who knew how to write for boys -- and for anyone who appreciates an adventure in Roman Britain or ancient Greece.

Anonymous Be Not Afraid September 03, 2016 11:21 AM  

@45
Not joking, really enjoyed it. Great horror. The scene where Frankenstein rips the bride to pieces, and the Monster says, "I shall be with you on your wedding night," or such---wow.

If you want fun, get a copy illustrated by Wrightson.

Blogger Matt September 03, 2016 11:56 AM  

After a very difficult night, my mother passed this morning. Thank you to anyone who saw my comment and prayed for her.

Anonymous Be Not Afraid September 03, 2016 11:58 AM  

@51
God bless, and more prayers ahead.

Blogger Natalie September 03, 2016 12:06 PM  

Not fantasy or high lit, but I think the original Boxcar Children books might fit the genre. I particularly remember the first one involving adventure (talking early elementary level) and complementary masculine and feminine characters.

They Were Strong and Good is another good short work for younger children that takes pride in the Anglo European stock that made America - including a sympathetic portrayal of a confederate ancestor.

George McDonald also wrote some really beautiful old fashioned fairy tales.

Oh, and not a boy series, but the Grandmother's Attic series is about as fun and wholesome a children's series as I ever remeber reading. Much more overtly Christian growing up series set in the Midwest. I have trouble finding decent girl's books as well, and these fit the bill. Boys may enjoy some of the antics in the early books, but the series is definitely about a girl and her best friend.

Anonymous Marvin Boggs September 03, 2016 12:12 PM  

I cannot really recall any of the books I had to read in school, Crime and Punishment excepted (we had the choice to read it or Tess D'Urbervilles and I would rather have gouged out my eyes than read Tess). Oh, and Wuthering Heights (never came so close to dropping out of school as when I had to read that dreck). I've come to the conclusion that there should be three streams of schools: one for real girls, one for real boys, and one for everyone else.

Anonymous Man of the Atom September 03, 2016 12:30 PM  

This article and Jeffro's Appendix N series are resonating a *lot* with my SF/F/Pulp reading experiences while growing up in the rural US.

I read as much of the school and town libraries' content of Ray Bradbury, Andre Norton, R. A. Heinlein, and "pulp-ish" SF as possible while in grade school. Growing up, I never considered whether or not Andre Norton or Leigh Brackett were women. I just knew they wrote some good stories.

Bought as much E. R. Burroughs, R. E. Howard, H. Beam Piper, Gardner Fox, A. E. van Vogt, Leinster, Binder, Foster, Doc Savage/Avenger, and SF anthologies of older works as I could in high school -- didn't know from "Campbellian", but that's what I gravitated to it seems. Picked up old SF mags in used bookstores, and found some great stories. (Wish I had had the sense to keep them.) I actually eschewed Tolkien until senior year in HS because it seemed too highbrow.

I gave up SF starting about 1982-84 until just a few years ago. The exceptions were books recommended to me by people I trusted, and a few recommendations broke trust. Pink Slime -- never knew the term, but knew enough of the taste and stink of that putrid waste of a good forest to avoid it. Scant reading in SF/F for almost 30 years; shifted to science, engineering, religion, philosophy, history (military/political).

This deep dive into the history of SF's "fall" needs to continue, so more of us can rediscover our roots and teach others. Thanks Amazon and Castalia House for bringing SF/F/Pulp back to my reading table!

Blogger Doom September 03, 2016 12:32 PM  

Nathan,

I definitely enjoyed Frankenstein, but say... somewhere in the age range of five to six? Yeah, it was okay. Especially with all the Frankenstein movies. He was a klutz too, and extra tall. I grew like a girl, was fully grown by 12. He fit in ways other monsters didn't. Then, later, through lore, I realized he was ripped off from old legends and myth. Still, I did enjoy it. And most monsters, and knights, and pirates a bit, and such. If I hadn't read on my own, school too would have killed my interest.

As to how to teach children to read into Shakespeare? I did it myself, by reading the King James bible on my own. So when I found Shakespeare I was quite delighted (if I didn't tell any of my friends). It still don't understand every bit of it, but... I did well for a pre-teen, if I moved on before every quite getting to an age where it would have made more sense.

If you allow your children to read that version, with some oversight perhaps, find the stories in the bible that are... interesting. Or even... a bit fresh. Just the story of Abraham can be interesting, and Lott and his wife, the ol' Salty. Then Shakespeare isn't quite so foreign.

Anonymous kfg September 03, 2016 12:49 PM  

" . . . Nancy Drew even."

I actually preferred Nancy Drew to The Hardy Boys. She was better written. She was a girl, but was neither too girly nor too Tomboyish. She had a boyfriend, but he was written as a proper supporting character, not a Love Interest. He was also written as a boy who supported her because she was his girlfriend, not because Grrrrrl Power.

And I will third (fourth?) real romance being an essentially male thing. Romance is activity that more often than not ends up winning the girl as a result of pursuing a goal, not as the goal itself.

It has nothing to do with sitting around all angsty over which fair maiden you like best.

Anonymous kfg September 03, 2016 1:03 PM  

Addendum:

For that matter Treasure Island may be the paragon of male romances, even though the only female character is Hawkins's mom.

In the classical meaning of the word, not what 16 year old girl porn has turned it into.

Blogger frenchy September 03, 2016 1:06 PM  

Who here hated reading "Ethan Frome" in school?

God I hated that book! I think I only read the back of the cover and wrote my book report based on that.

Anonymous EH September 03, 2016 1:08 PM  

Early on, age five and six, I liked the Andrew Lang colored fairy books (Blue, Red, Yellow... twelve in all) which were Victorian / Edwardian traditional Brothers Grimm- type stories. The vocabulary is above most adult books of today.

Unfortunately many of the online versions lack the wonderful illustrations. The above link has pretty much all the online versions of all Lang's work, be sure to choose illustrated ones. The Baldwin Project links seem to be good.

Blogger JWM September 03, 2016 1:11 PM  

I have to question this: Frankenstein? The original Mary Shelly story? The one where the monster spends page after page declaiming exactly like the character in Van Helsing? It has been many years since I read it, but I was in my twenties, on my "self educate yourself by reading all the classics" phase. I found it all but unreadable. The narrative was annoying, feminine in tone, and the monster's speeches were just awful. In contrast, the original Dracula by Brahm Stoker chilled me to the bones. It made The Exorcist look like a dime novel. But then again, I cut my teeth on Tom Swift Junior. I wanted to be Tom Swift, do amazing things and fight the Brungarians.

JWM

Blogger Jed Mask September 03, 2016 1:13 PM  

"I think the most successful books - at least, the ones that attract young male readers - are the books that speak to our imaginations. We want to be free and independent, we want to pit ourselves against the world, we want to do great deeds and soar high. And we want to solve our own problems, to pick ourselves up after getting knocked down and carry on. In a sense, we all want to be ‘special snowflakes’ - but we want to earn it, not have it handed to us on a plate."

Yup. That's why I was very into Pokémon as a kid growing up. For those who've seen the earlier seasons of the anime growing up in the 90's and played the RPG (Role-playing games) love the sheer imagination, exploration, adventure, journey and CHALLENGE it presented in catching all the Pokémon to fill up and record a "Pokémon encyclopedia" called the Pokédex and battling all eight gym leaders in Pokémon battles with the ultimate goal to become a "Pokémon Champion".

There were CHALLENGES, OBSTACLES and PROBLEMS throughout the game one HAD TO ACCOMPLISH before progressing through the next phase of the journey. Strategy and skill had to be learned and developed, experience GAINED. What kid back then and ("nowadays" it seems) didn't want to "catch 'em all" and "be the best there ever was"; had to appeal of "greatness" in the young childhood eyes of boys (and girls) in those times. Amen.

"The majority of male writers concentrate on adventure, the majority of female writers concentrate on romance."

Yep, that's the crux. lol. Definitely agree that's a large pattern there in the world of literature.

Anonymous sazerac September 03, 2016 1:17 PM  

The books I remember the most were Lord of the rings, enders game, the Thomas covenant series and a large collection of old biggles books.

Generally however I read animal books n studied all sorts of animals as a kid. Unfortunately a book on the worst shark attacks in history left me with a nervousness when swimming in certain locations. Moved on to history n political stuff as I got older.

What they assigned in school was often poor and pushed the multicultural angle. I remember once they made us study some poems I didn't find very interesting so I asked if I could pick my one for an assignment. The the teacher was a little displeased when I came back with a Baudelaire poem which I had found at a relatives house.

Blogger Jed Mask September 03, 2016 1:22 PM  

lol As "strange" as it may sound for a guy to say, I actually kinda "liked Twilight" in the sense I always knew it was a "tweeny-pop" girlish romance of plain Jane girl-next-door type being pursued by two perceived "alpha studs" AKA "Edward and Jacob".

Always kinda took Twilight as "comic relief" as a caricature of itself. I suppose I just liked the "drama" conflict of the "rivalry" of Jacob vs. Edward and vice-versa that pushed the series forward.

Like it solely for the characters, scenes and situations and people I could relate and see in my own life.

The last Twilight moviee "Breaking Dawn" Part 2 had me suspicious they were gonna at least make one more movie 'bout Edward and Bella's half-breed vampire daughter and all that jazz but they just used "flash forward scenes" of the future to suffice the point.

Either way for sheer "entertainment" I didn't "cringe" watching it not taking it completely seriously as a "sincere drama" but it was interesting in some ways I have to admit.

Definitely agree with people who've liked reading Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein" classic.

For sure one of my best "mature" childhood reads. Amen.

~ Bro. Jed

Anonymous tublecane September 03, 2016 1:28 PM  

About required reading, they do pick a lot of boring books. But it's also true that kids are bored by books they read I'm school simply because it's school. I know this because I've re-read books I hated in school and enjoyed them.

By the way, it's reasonable as a general rule to avoid books written by women, or at least to be skeptical of them. Because there's a higher likelihood they'll be bad, because women on average aren't as good at writing books. Especially on the higher levels.

That doesn't mean I regret having read Austen, Rand, Wharton, Cather, Pym, Taylor, Welty, O'Connor, etc.

Anonymous tublecane September 03, 2016 1:39 PM  

@38-Yes. Men don't merely want to have sex, or whatever it is you're thinking. They have an inborn desire to protect and provide for women, and also to compete with other men for them. At least so far as that goes, they are romantic.

They're not romantic in the manner of women, or in the sense of contemporary rom-coms or woman-porn, which goes without saying.

Anonymous Jack Amok September 03, 2016 1:49 PM  

Treasure Island is the ultimate boy's adventure novel, and the main character has an awesome name

Anonymous Kalel666 September 03, 2016 2:00 PM  

Frank Zappa knew the score: https://youtu.be/KZazEM8cgt0

Blogger Pseudotsuga September 03, 2016 2:07 PM  

Let me consider what I remember reading and enjoying as a young boy growing up in the 70s:
*Corbett's Trick books (the Lemonade Trick, etc.)
*The Mad Scientists' Club stories
*The Alvin Fernald books
*The Three Investigator books
*The Danny Dunn books
I sense a theme here-- these are all "sciency." The characters think rather than emote/feel, and there is a sense of wonder at the world of intellectual puzzles.
I could never really get into the Hardy Boys' books, although I read many of them -- they seemed too old to be good YA heroes (they drove cars, had "girlfriends," etc.)
I remember a teacher reading the Mrs Piggle Wiggle books to us in school. I doubt I would have read them otherwise.

Anonymous kfg September 03, 2016 2:08 PM  

"Treasure Island is the ultimate boy's adventure novel . . ."

Indeed. But it is also a Coming of Age story, and making the transition from boyhood to manhood is the foundation of Boy's Romance, even before a woman is introduced into the picture.

Blogger Were-Puppy September 03, 2016 2:20 PM  

OP basically described pulps

Anonymous Qadgop the Mercotan September 03, 2016 2:24 PM  

Adventure is an important part, but, at least if you're on the Engineering Spectrum, technical stuff as well, either as "hardware porn" in the story or as outright instruction -- on those lines, my first picks from the public library at age about 6 were Hugh Walters' Mission to Mars and a science book Our Friend the Atom.

As a kid I was vaguely aware that Enid Blyton, Richmal Crompton and, later, Andre Norton, were women, but that didn't matter. It didn't matter either that Thomas Hardy was a man, because The Mayor of Casterbridge was mindblowingly tedious, and I only wasted time on it because it was an exam set book at school.

Fortunately the set Shakespeare was Julius Caesar, which flowed nicely from the Ancient History bits of Latin lessons, and had the Rude Mechanicals, who were every bit as rude as we made them ("Why, sir, cobble you!"), even in a bowdlerised school edition.

Actually, I was lucky with school inflicted reading -- apart from those, the only one I recall is To Kill a Mockingbird, presented at a time when I had exactly zero clue as to the context, and which I "read" by dutifully turning pages at an appropriate pace -- before going home to mainline classic SF and all manner of maths and science textbooks.

Blogger Were-Puppy September 03, 2016 2:37 PM  

@60 EH

Early on, age five and six, I liked the Andrew Lang colored fairy books (Blue, Red, Yellow... twelve in all) which were Victorian / Edwardian traditional Brothers Grimm- type stories. The vocabulary is above most adult books of today.
---

Folio Society has been putting those out in very nice editions - i've got I think the Red and Yellow books.

Blogger Were-Puppy September 03, 2016 2:42 PM  

@56 Doom

If I hadn't read on my own, school too would have killed my interest.
---

Me too. I loved to read as a kid. But not the things assigned by school. Those were like slogging through molasses hoping something of interest might happen before the end of the story.

Anonymous kfg September 03, 2016 2:45 PM  

"Folio Society has been putting those out in very nice editions . . ."

And for those more electronically inclined, they are in the public domain, so see Project Gutenberg (color illustrations included).

Blogger Nathan September 03, 2016 2:59 PM  

I definitely enjoyed Frankenstein, but say... somewhere in the age range of five to six? Yeah, it was okay. Especially with all the Frankenstein movies. -Doom

Reading Frankenstein at 5 or 6 is extremely impressive. Truthfully, I enjoyed the movies much more. Both the original and Bride of Frankenstein are really great films that hold up over 3/4 of a century later. But the book? I'm siding with JWM on that.

Blogger Sioux September 03, 2016 3:19 PM  

I wonder if any boys ever read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books - the normalcy of these true stories was very appealing in learning about pioneer life in America.

Anonymous Jef Duntemann September 03, 2016 3:31 PM  

One of the issues I had when I was in third or fourth grade was that the librarians at the Chicago Public Library branch near my house wouldn't let me out of the kids section. I was reading high school stuff by then (hell, I was looking up stuff in the Encyclopedia Britannica) but all the CPL librarians would allow me was Space Cat. (Not that Space Cat was bad, but I'd read it in first grade.) Eventually I had to have my dad take books out for me, until I was in sixth grade and could do it myself.

Back then I was devouring Mysterious Island, War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and (a couple of years later, in 1966) The Tripods. About that time I happened upon Keith Laumer, and I was never the same. It's a shame that people are already forgetting about him.

Anonymous Homeschool or Die! September 03, 2016 4:25 PM  

"What did have an influence was school. The vast majority of the books I was forced to read at school were boring. Teachers - both male and female - would select books that bored me to tears. Thankfully, by then I already had the reading bug. Boys who didn't, who only knew reading as a chore, didn't read when they didn't have to read. They found it a tedious process - and preferred watching television instead."

Almost like it's something being done on purpose...

Blogger LBD September 03, 2016 4:56 PM  

Qadgop, the rude mechanicals aren't in Julius Caesar, they're in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the fairy story.

Re: Frankenstein not being original, that's partly true. It is a modern (for the Regency era) retelling of the Golem legend, but that was a common literary practice. Shakespeare used other people's stories on which to base his plays, but it doesn't diminish his unique genius.

Blogger Wanda Sherratt September 03, 2016 5:03 PM  

Where do mystery novels fit into this? There are a lot of good female mystery writers - Agatha Christie is just the most famous - and their works seem to appeal to both sexes. Christie also created male and female crime-solvers who appeal to both sexes.

Anonymous Sgt. Fury September 03, 2016 5:21 PM  

Many of my childhoods' favorite books have been mentioned by others. I just wanted to add a few, starting with one that was written by a woman: Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maude Montgomery. I don't recall giving a tinker's cuss that the book was by or about a woman (girl). I just enjoyed the humor of the book while being richly aware that it was hardly 'guy stuff'.

I also loved the Narnia books. I remember saving up my allowance money to buy the box set; I think it cost 11 bucks in 1979. And while Lucy is the clear heroine of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, she is also similar to men in the way she meets and overcomes adversity and challenge.

Other highlights: Kipling! If anyone here has not read Stalky & Co. I urge you to do so now. Stalky, Beetle and McTurk were my heroes and idols when I discovered them around age eleven. I still use slang I picked up from that novel, read and re-read over the years. I think Stalky will emerge as a mascot for Alt.Righters, as he is the quintessential rebel sworn to stern duty in service of principles and ideals that loom larger than himself and his own interests. Read this novel, noble children trained by surrounding art, or I'll shove a pilchard down your throat!

Also Kim, The Jungle Books, Captains Courageous and Puck of Pook's Hill. I enjoyed his short stories too, especially Baa Baa, Black Sheep, which had such striking parallels to my own childhood situation that I was afraid I would be caught reading it and beaten for exposing my guardians, even in print.

Jack London. No boy can hope to come into later manhood without The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and ESPECIALLY The Sea Wolf. His short stories are full of blood and thunder and ruthless Indian maidens who decapitate their lovers for honor. The Cruise Of The Dazzler was my sixth grade book report, which I was allowed to use after much wheedling and patient reiteration of its exemplary values.

I also loved the early pulp fiction. My grandmother's attic was a treasure trove of the stuff, left behind by decades of my uncle's avid reading habits. I especially remember Before The Gilded Age, an Asimov (I believe) collection of sci fi from the 20s and 30s.

Howard Pyle's Adventures of Robin Hood, anything by Mark Twain I could lay hands on, and in addition to Treasure Island and Kidnapped, I also devoured Stevenson's The Black Arrow and The Master Of Ballantrae.

When I was 15 I read Jane Eyre and enjoyed it immensely. I refuse to surrender my testicles on only one charge of sloppy sentimentality, however.

I wound up in a small private school run by Mennonites who took an exceedingly dim view of reading, citing the practice as an insidious example of The Devil's Work, and so I never was assigned anything to read by teachers.
The result is what is probably a very lopsided view of literature. In the words of Monty Python, "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like!"

I was exposed to vast amounts of the KJV, committing many passages to memory each week, and also to Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, a book which seemed entirely apropos when I re-read it last year. If this isn't Vanity Fair I don't know what would qualify.




Anonymous Sgt. Fury September 03, 2016 5:23 PM  

@76 My mother read the Little House books aloud to us when I was very small. I later read them all on my own when I was 12 or so. I think they are fantastic, and a testament to how low we have fallen in the Age Of Techy Whiz-Bang Wonderment.

Blogger Dr. Mabuse September 03, 2016 5:31 PM  

Any fellow Canadians out there might recognize our other great female writer, besides Lucy Maud Montgomery: Mazo de la Roche. Her Jalna series of books are just good stories, not at all weak and sentimental. She created good male and female characters. They weren't adventure stories, but the drama of a big Canadian family in the late Victorian era and into the 40s. More 'Upstairs Downstairs' set in Ontario.

Anonymous Qadgop the Mercotan September 03, 2016 5:55 PM  

@78True, in Julius Caesar the parts of the comedy proles are just labelled as 1st Commoner etc, though the named Romans refer to them as being mechanical.

And they are very definitely rude fellows.

Blogger Natalie September 03, 2016 6:28 PM  

Wanda:

The Campion series is a bit "nervy" in some senses, but Margery Allingham wrote one of the most intriguing proposals of marriage I've ever read. It's the Fashion in Shrouds and would make any three feminists burn their bras in a foaming mouthed rage. One of the most red pill books I've read.

Also, Poirot. His advice to men is very bluntly red pill. He clearly adores femininity, but he isn't by any means blinded to women's foibles.

Blogger L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright September 03, 2016 6:29 PM  

Spot on, Vox.

The kind of straightforward analysis that one often thinks is so obvious, it doesn't need to be said....and yet it does, because some people completely don't get it.

Blogger Dr. Mabuse September 03, 2016 6:41 PM  

Natalie: Didn't Lord Peter Wimsey have a unique marriage proposal too? In Latin, I think, and to a woman who was something of a feminist herself, if I recall correctly over 40 years later.

Blogger L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright September 03, 2016 6:48 PM  

A lot of good books mentioned here. I would add Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series as one I know has appealed to many a boy.

I think the best writer for boys at the moment is Rick Riordan. His Percy Jackson stuff and his Kane books are excellent, with adventure and action and mythology.

Not only do my boys love them, but I have met a number of young men who grew up on them and were quite influenced by them above anything else they read.

Blogger Sheila4g September 03, 2016 7:11 PM  

Some of what my sons enjoyed was influenced by what I chose to read to them (Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series, Narnia, Little House Books) and some based on their own proclivities. Both enjoyed Harry Potter. Younger one loved all the Sherlock Holmes stories, and we just finished Great Expectations. He also loved all the Rosemary Sutcliff books (very big on Roman Britain). Older one used to read the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. As others noted, anything with action, adventure, and achievement and without romance or excessive sentimentality. Still, personal differences will out. Older son is a lifelong and rapid reader like me; younger one still more of an aural learner and prefers to be read to.

Anonymous Trevor September 03, 2016 7:25 PM  

"Books that focus on the main character worrying over stereotypical feminine concerns are rarely interesting to young men."

Yes. I recently read The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates, and while I found her writing to be excellent and some of the minor characters intriguing, the whole book was basically just a girl worrying and whining about her husband and other relationships.

The really popular authors may not have the most aesthetically pleasing prose, but they do have adventure.

I loved the Harry Potter series just like most people, but I actually didn't relate to or love the characters that much. What I loved was the magical world and the adventure and the mystery.

Blogger S1AL September 03, 2016 8:08 PM  

"I think the best writer for boys at the moment is Rick Riordan. His Percy Jackson stuff and his Kane books are excellent, with adventure and action and mythology.

Not only do my boys love them, but I have met a number of young men who grew up on them and were quite influenced by them above anything else they read."

I very much support the choice of Riordan. He has developed into quite the author over time. I remember there being something of a kerfuffle amongst the more, ahem, "religious" groups (I say this as a Christian) when he put in a gay character... but it's Greek myth. And it was also appropriately awkward and brief.

And the books are also clean in language and behavior.

Anonymous Ellipsis Lacuna September 03, 2016 8:09 PM  

Harry Potter and the other student characters do age quite a bit as the series progresses, so that may have something to do with the perceived changes. The romantic bits (such as they are) don't start coming in until several books into the series, iirc. After all each book centers on one year at Hogwart's.

Blogger ChrisW September 03, 2016 9:03 PM  

@76 I read several of the "Little House" books when I was little and enjoyed them just fine. I've had the series on my mind for a while now, so a month or so ago I bought the entire series and devoured them. One of the earliest scenes in the first book was one of the girliest things I've ever read and it just melted my heart. Pa and another man are going out to slaughter a hog and Li'l Laura doesn't want to hear the squealing, so she runs away and plugs her ears. A few minutes later, she unplugs them and doesn't hear any squealing, so she's fine. Now it's Butchering Time, and that's great fun!

It helps that the books came from a time when kids were raised to contribute to the family as soon as they had anything to contribute. Ma and Pa are in town when a blizzard hits, and Laura and Mary are fretting about bringing in enough wood to keep the fire going in case the storm lasts for days. Little Carrie, who's barely old enough to talk, volunteers to open the door for them so that they can both fill their arms with wood over and over.

In the "Little Town" book, Laura takes a school presentation and solves a difficult division problem in her head. I'm good at mental arithmetic, but reading that, it's clear that this girl would beat me like a retarded quadriplegic. Not to mention the history and grammar she had to answer. And she can skin a pig, sew a dress, grow crops, raise cattle, clean a house, cook a meal, behave like a decent young lady, etc.

And she's just a 14-year old girl. This is something that's obviously easier to appreciate as an adult, but the mind boggles at how much work the girls had to do as soon as they were old enough to walk and talk, and then realize how much work Ma had to do, and then be completely floored by the amount of work Pa, Almanzo and almost all the men in the series had to do, just as a daily fact of life for everybody.

Female-centric? Absolutely, yet it totally conveys the impression that in those days, giants walked the earth, even if some giants were little girls.

Anonymous LastRedoubt September 04, 2016 12:04 AM  

Noah B

A Wrinkle In Time is another good counterexample - woman author, girl for a main character, generally popular among boys. A favorite of mine from childhood.


Love that book. I wish the left had truly learned its lesson about forced conformity.

Anonymous LastRedoubt September 04, 2016 12:07 AM  

S. Thermite


I read and enjoyed John Christoper's books after seeing the serial comics for "The City of Gold and Lead" published in old issues of Boy's Life magazine. Perhaps you've seen them already, but if not, there were 19 separate pages published in the August, 1982 thru February, 1984 issues, and they're all available here.


Dammit guys, my reading list is long enough without adding to it via "I need to re-read that"

Anonymous LastRedoubt September 04, 2016 12:10 AM  

@Steve

Books the school made us read were indeed mostly boring and terrible. So much so I've forgotten most of them, though 1984 and Brave New World were quite good.


Generally, teh stuff they made us read was child abuse.

OK, I exaggerate, there was a lot of good poetry, Shakespeare STILL isn't my style but I'm glad I read King Lear, but some of the dreck they shoveled in more than made up for it.

That short story about the lottery and the stonings? Lord of the Flies?

Blogger John Wright September 04, 2016 12:11 AM  

@82
@83

One thing I love about this site, is that Dr. Mabuse has a comment followed by Qadgop the Mercotan. I feel as if, any difference of faith or politics aside, I am among my own kind.

In any other place, among the muggles who are outside and the morlocks who have invaded, I would have to explain what a zymolosely polydactile tongue is.

Sybly White! Greatest author ever! He is my model and exemplar!

Anonymous LastRedoubt September 04, 2016 12:15 AM  

@51. Matt

My condolences

Blogger Doom September 04, 2016 3:44 AM  

Nathan,

I finished the new testament at 12, and my foster father had a ph.d. in religion (as a presby minister). He would only allow me to continue reading the K.J. if I could pass a 10 question test. I blew it out of the water, including the question regarding sinning against the holy spirit (though I saw that coming and did extra review on that). At 14 I read Mein Kampf. Bleh, that was a horrible read by the way. Believe what you like though.

Sioux,

That was a little too girly for me. We watched the series. Then the actress went all mad-cow feminist, didn't she? Something, later in her life. I just remembered that I had dumped female stuff, and she reminded me why. I've never looked back. Yeah, they started feminizing and junking all that later on, through the actors and spin-offs. Which is why I refuse to read any woman to this day. That shoe is just waiting to drop.

Blogger Fenris Wulf September 04, 2016 4:03 AM  

The Little House books were a bit too realistic for me as a kid but at the same time left an impression on me. They were edited/co-written by Rose Wilder Lane, one of the founding mothers of libertarianism.

Anonymous Mister M September 04, 2016 9:38 AM  

Yes. I learned to read using the "Dan Frontier" series in kindergarten and first grade. I still remember them. The 'Encyclopedia Brown' series was also fitting the bill - there was a girl character but the writer didn't have her steal the show all the time and make sure we got the 'message'. This was a great post.

Blogger Dr. Mabuse September 04, 2016 9:52 AM  

I can't remember much of what we read in school. Let me see: Lord of the Flies, The Chrysalids, Animal Farm (but not 1984, I don't think), The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. (Yes, I'm Canadian.) The French reading list was much worse: Sartre's 'Huis Clos' and Camus' 'L'Etranger'. Ugh. But existentialism was the hot new thing back in the 70s, and we were stuck with it.

Blogger Thucydides September 04, 2016 4:01 PM  

I was given a 10 volume set of the Colliers "Young Folks Shelf of Books" when I was a child, and was transported to amazing worlds (excerpts from the Odyssey, La Chanson de Roland, classical poetry, "Here is Your War" by Ernie Pyle...). Even then it seemed quite different from what was being given to us to read at school. I carefully preserved them and now my children are reading them, and my daughter has the set, presumably to pass on to another generation.

While I'm not sure if you will be able to find the classic edition (mine was published i 1962 if I remember correctly), it is well worth finding and presenting to your children. Indeed it is probably well worth reading for yourself if you have no children or grandchildren.

Now I am inspired to get the books back and scan them into .pdf format so they can be preserved electronically and easily passed around to others.

Blogger Thucydides September 04, 2016 4:42 PM  

Had to add a bit about Shakespeare as well.

High school seemed determined to bludgeon the Bard to death and remove any expectation of enjoyment or interest in his works. This was even despite the fact I grew up near Stratford Ontario and we went to see the plays we studies at the Stratford Festival.

Years later, in an economics class, the Prof offhanded lay mentioned that Shakespeare needed to write hit plays because as part owner of the Globe Theater he needed to fill the seats and pay the bills (going into debt in Elizabethan times was no joke). That inspired me to look into his works anew, and I discovered aspects of Tudor history, economics and politics that were never brought into the "study" of Shakespeare in school. This gave me the rich background to understand his works and appreciate what he was saying far more. More recently, I purchased a book entitled "The Science of Shakespeare", which shows how the Bard fit into the English Renaissance.

Teaching great literature is something that really needs to be revised so people appreciate it and understand how and why it is great, rather than trying top parse sentences with their bare hands.

Anonymous kfg September 05, 2016 12:18 AM  

Colliers "Young Folks Shelf of Books" . . .While I'm not sure if you will be able to find the classic edition (mine was published i 1962 . . ."

Fify bucks through Amazon to the first responders.

Anonymous Avalanche September 05, 2016 9:45 AM  

@17 "a better way of teaching kids Shakespeare than making them read aloud bafflingly archaic passages from Romeo and Juliet while the rest of the class sniggers."

Have (high schoolers; probably inappropriate for young kids) them read it with a copy of "Shakespeare's Bawdy" at hand. (OMG!) I loved a lot of Shakespeare as a kid (and yes, a friend and I got together, divvied up the parts and read some plays aloud; we were 'that kid.'); but as an adult, finding "Bawdy" ... OMG!

Shakespeare's vulgar (wildly funny) jokes are pitched to his audience, his language-of-the-time... but discovering JUST how filled with vulgar humor the plays are made a re-reading them as an adult necessary! A whoooooole different picture of what was going on!

Anonymous Avalanche September 05, 2016 10:02 AM  

@40 "What is labelled as 'romance' today is basically porn: either emotion-porn or literal porn."

I've watched with humor as the latest (well, these last 10-15 years or so) trend in (actual) romances has opened into a new genre: animal-human hybrids. (I have the impression these began appearing shortly after 9/11, when women were exposed (again) both to "working men" -- and to disasters requiring men -- and these books provide(d) a relief from "she's all that AND can fry it up in a pan.")

The animal-human hybrids are almost always men; occasional stories have a female hybrid who finds a truly amazing specimen ("speciman"?) of human male - but in all stories, once they meet their 'mate' (which is genetic, part of the 'manufacture' of the hybrids) cannot ever touch another woman without a physiological recoil reaction nor allow any man to touch his mate. He is autocratic (in an animal way: it's lion and wolves and tigers and so on; no rat-men or weasel-men; though there are "not-quite-honorable" coyote-men), super-protective, madly in love (literally, if the female doesn't agree to mate with him forever: he goes mad and must be put down!)

With a bemused suspension of disbelief, some of them are well-written: Lora Leigh was a fav of mine till her books became too formulaic or, maybe, the genre just became boring to me. Still, interesting concept as a "return to actual womanhood from feminism" thread in books...

Blogger The Overgrown Hobbit September 06, 2016 3:50 AM  

@51 I'm glad your mother is at peace. My condolences on your loss.

And my apologies for getting you conflated with another Matthew on this site. We've been praying for you (and your mom) just the same.

Blogger Owen September 10, 2016 11:47 PM  

Good article.....I feel sorry for people who don't read...I can't imagine life without books!

Blogger Owen September 10, 2016 11:47 PM  

Good article.....I feel sorry for people who don't read...I can't imagine life without books!

Blogger Sweet One November 16, 2016 9:09 PM  

TV is not reading. But speaking of characters that bash males..ever heard of the Rowdyruff Boys?

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