He said these are the books that shaped him.
“You have to make sure they read these, Mom.” He’s the oldest of four brothers.
He’s spontaneously come to me with them all in his arms, a stack of worn spines. I watch how he runs his fingers across their titles, how he turns to certain pages, passages, and his eyes remember.
“I’ve sorted, and deliberated, and yes, these are the best.” He’s taken it upon himself. He wants his brothers to travel the same word roads.
He’s a good guide.
He read all 1488 pages of Les Misérables in less than three days this summer, proving to Farmer Dad that he could still do his barn chores (3 hours a day), and still finish the book in less than 72 hours. And too this summer, Pride and Prejudice , Frankenstein , Gulliver’s Travels, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Autobiography of Charles G. Finney : The Life Story of America’s Greatest Evangelist. Currently he’s reading, for the umpteenth time, The Pilgrim’s Progress. He’s fourteen.
He didn’t pick all the ones I thought he would. How many times has he read My Side of the Mountain ? With all it’s sticky notes hanging out of it, the notepad he filled after reading it… again? Or God’s Smuggler, pages we absolutely couldn’t stop turning?
“I thought about those. So many. It’s hard to choose. But these are the ones a boy might not pick up himself. And these are ones he really shouldn’t miss.”
Last time I turned he was five and we were sounding out Dr. Suess in the summer kitchen of the old house. I’ve been gathering books for him off others’ lists for a decade. Hundreds and hundreds of books I’ve served and he’s eaten, and body’s grown tens of inches, and words have formed a soul, a mind. And now, near man, he’s come with books of his own, books he owns and books that own him.
This is not a mama’s list. Perhaps there are other books I perhaps would have chosen, books I would have selected as formative boy reads, and I mention a few titles. But this is his list. After ten years, I get to listen to which ones meant the most to him. A boy’s list for boys. Doesn’t that carry weight? I’ve never been a boy. I listen. He’s keen to tell.
We spend a morning of it, he and I in the study, around the table inherited from his great-grandparents, paint-chipped and crackled. And tables have turned and it’s me paying attention to him, expert, him telling me why these pages, why this story, what he loved most about this book.
It’s me tracing the shape of who he’s become by the words he unpacks, treasures carried. He stands in light I haven’t seen and I see sides that live in shadow. Words unmask.
He doesn’t see me watching his eyes, that face. He’s introducing me to his friends.
He has become one of mine.
22 Best Books one Boy thinks Every Boy Should Read
1. Tales from the Story Teller’s House, Thornton Burgess (when younger) * so I have begun with his younger brothers
2. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Mark Twain
3. Treasure Island (Unabridged Classics), Robert Louis Stevenson
4. Kidnapped (Penguin Classics), Robert Louis Stevenson
5. Two little savages;: being the adventures of two boys who lived as Indians and what they learned., Ernest Thompson Seton
6. Hans Brinker; Or, The Silver Skates, Mary Maples Dodge
7. Hiawatha , H.W. Longfellow
(*we have the Gateway to the Great Books (set)— thrifted — and if you can find used at Amazon or on ebay, highly recommend. “Gateway to the Great Books are great writings including short stories, plays, essays, scientific papers, speeches, and letters. Each selection represents a primary, original, and fundamental contribution to ones understanding of the universe and themselves. There are over 135 Authors, 225 Selections and 95 original illustrations.”)
9. The Jungle Book (Unabridged Classics), Rudyard Kipling
12. That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis (when older) *Caleb quotes Lewis often. I have not read this Lewis and really need to
13. Watership Down: A Novel, Richard Adams (*the first winter we lived in this house, Farmer Husband would sit in the rocking chair and hush baby Levi and read this one aloud to children while I’d listen in, washing up dishes. Caleb was seven. A freeze frame my heart can still see.)
14. White Fang , Jack London
15. The Story of Inventions, Michael J. McHugh (*He’s poured over this one for hours, years.)
16. Songs of a Sourdough, Robert Service
17. The Lives of Poor Boys Who Became Famous, Sarah Bolton (*an old OOP book that he often speaks of in conversation… the power of autobiography to shape work ethic)
18. Journey Through the Night, Anne DeVries (*I was about 12 when I read this book too, late nights babysitting. I smiled to see he had chosen it also.)
19. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , Mark Twain
20. Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, C.S.Lewis (when older)
21. Wee Sir Gibbie of the Highlands , George MacDonald
22. Oliver Twist , Dickens
always at hand…
having this advantage over oral instructors,
~ Oswald Chambers ~