A list of great books is always in demand for the parents of boys. But not every list is the same, and in my own search, I found that many such lists did not meet the standards we have for our boys. Once my boys learned to read, they became avid readers. The search began for good quality books that were exciting, fun, and full of excellent content. I read many lists of books for boys, but so often they were lists of “books boys like” instead of “high quality books that boys should read.” So I decided it was time to create a list of EXCELLENT books for boys.
What does that mean?
It means that the language is beautiful. The storytelling is gripping. The characters have high morals. The message is lasting. The story and the hero are unforgettable.
I don’t want mindless gobbledygook. I don’t want twaddle. I don’t want to just hand them any ol’ book because, “Hey, at least they’re reading!” I want the stories that they read to fill their mind with “the good and the beautiful.” I don’t want vampires, zombies, or horror stories because I don’t believe there is anything worthwhile in those. I want excellent books for boys, and I imagine you do, too.
I want my boys to have worthy role models, and excellent books deliver. The hero in each story should have strong character, high morals, chivalry, masculinity, and overall, should be inspiring. You’ll notice that most of the books on this list are older in publication. It’s no coincidence.
Finally, the books listed here have a biblical worldview. They may not necessarily have a “Christian” theme or character, but the overall story does reflect biblical values.
The list I have compiled meets these requirements. The books include fiction, true stories, fantasy, and humor. Many are classics, but there are some newer books and series here, too.
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I know that many parents will ask what age is best for the different books on this list. That’s a hard question to answer, because kids can be so different in their interests and abilities. So I’ve added a code to each book title:
Y – Young boys who are reading well on their own
O – Older boys who can read just about anything
A – All ages will enjoy the story; older boys will enjoy reading, while younger boys will enjoy listening
If you have a younger boy who is not really reading long chapter books yet, I highly recommend reading aloud from most of the books on this list. The content and the stories are so riveting that boys who can’t read the books on their own will definitely enjoy the stories.
Another option is to download audio versions of these stories for the younger readers. But don’t just limit audio books or read-aloud time to the younger kids. Boys who can’t yet read well, and boys who just don’t like to read, will benefit even more from hearing the stories. The stories will inspire them to get into more great books, and by listening to the stories, will help develop their language skills in so many ways.
Abridged or Unabridged?
For young voracious readers, I always recommend abridged classics. These give a boy the exciting story in a form that is not long and overwhelming. And as they get older, they will not be intimidated by the unabridged version of the same classics because they already know that there’s an exciting story to explore.
For older boys, I recommend unabridged classics because they are 1,000 times better. The author’s intent is all there without sacrificing language or content. And by reading unabridged classics, boys are exposed to a wide variety of writing styles, which is better than any “literature overview” class they could take in high school or college.
At the top of the list, are some 20th century classics:
The Hobbit (Y, A) and The Lord of the Rings (O,A) by J.R.R. Tolkien – While the Hobbit was specifically written for children, it’s a loveable tale of one Hobbit and 13 dwarves on a quest to destroy a dragon and claim a kingdom under the mountain. The Lord of the Rings is a much deeper tale, but equally wonderful. The movie adaptations are really spectacular, but as you might imagine, the original books are 1,000 times better. Tolkien created so many wonderful characters that your boys will have a hard time choosing one favorite hero.
The Chronicles of Narnia (A) by C.S. Lewis – Fantasy and allegory at its finest! Each story weaves spiritual lessons throughout while the main characters find themselves on exciting adventures in the world of Narnia. Their choices and consequences provide lasting lessons.
Farmer Boy (A) by Laura Ingalls Wilder – Every boy should read this, even if they think the Little House books aren’t for them (though I highly recommend the entire series!) Farmer Boy tells a bit about Laura’s future husband, Almanzo, as a child growing up in New York. Full of hilarious escapades as well as wonderful descriptions of life on a 19th century farm.
Thornton Burgess nature books (Y) These are beautiful and amazing little stories of animals and their lives and habits in nature. When I first read them I was so impressed with the amount of information about each animal that was so cleverly woven into the stories. They are animal stories but also great science lessons!
Christian Liberty Press Nature Readers (Y) Similar to the Burgess books mentioned above, they teach so much about the natural world with fun little stories that boys will love.
The Kingdom Series by Chuck Black (O, A) This is a definitely Christian series of books that tells a beautiful allegory of scripture through a medieval tale. The author has several other series besides this one.
Secrets of the Castle by Aaron Zook (A) Book 1 in a Christian/mystery adventure series involving two (homeschooled) brothers and their dogs as they unravel mysteries around a German castle.
G.A. Henty historical novels (O,A) Henty wrote SO MANY incredible books, and his target audience was boys (though my daughters enjoy them, too). If you haven’t encountered a Henty book with your boys, my only question is, “What are you waiting for?” I’ll admit, they almost always start off a bit slow, but keep reading. Each book is a historic adventure featuring a teen boy. Henty’s books cover so the entire span of history up through the Victorian Age. In fact, I’ve written a blog post on using Henty books for a history curriculum.
Individual Titles We Love
Robin Hood by Howard Pyle (O, A) A classic that every boy should read. Pyle writes in an older English, which takes some getting used to and stretches a boy’s understanding and language exposure.
The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas (O,A) Another exciting classic that takes place in 17th century France. Who can resist swords and chivalry and a band of brothers? This book is first in the series which also includes The Man in the Iron Mask.
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford (Y) Maybe your kids have seen the movie, but as we all know, the book is better! Treat your young boys to this amazing story of three pets who get separated from their owner and find their way home across the Canadian wilderness.
Where the Red Fern Grows (Y, A) A very touching story of a boy and his two dogs. Yes, it’s a tear-jerker, but that’s because the story draws you in.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (O, A) What boy doesn’t like stories of pirates and gold treasure? This 1883 classic delivers it all!
Call of the Wild by Jack London (A) A survival tale of Buck, a dog who was sent to the Yukon territory to become a sled dog in the gold rush.
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (O, A) A young boy is kidnapped and cast away on a deserted island just as he discovers that he is heir to a grand estate. Another classic by Stevenson, first published in 1893.
Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson (O,A) – I haven’t even read this one yet, but my son is reading it and says it is a great story! “The swashbuckling story tells of a young man betrayed by his brutal guardian and forced to seek the help of a secret society.”
Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (A) The 1894 classic that spawned the popular Disney film features colorful characters and adventures set in the jungles of India.
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne (A) A fun and adventurous tale following the race around the world!
The Great Wheel by Robert Lawson (Y, A) A young boy leaves Ireland in the 19th century and joins his uncle in America on the building crew of the first Ferris wheel in the world!
Ol’ Yeller by Fred Gipson (A) A young boy in the Texas hill country is tasked with “being the man” of the house while his father is away, and gains plenty of maturity and strength while doing so.
Beggar’s Bible by Louise Vernon (A) The hero of this story is John Wycliffe, the Protestant reformer. But the story is about the young boy who assists him in his daring cause. (Vernon’s other similar titles are great, too!)
The Matchlock Gun (Y, A) Another great title featuring a young boy who must look after his mother and sister while their father is away. Set during the French and Indian War.
Patriots, Redcoats, and Spies! by Robert J. Skead (Y,A) The true story of the spy ring that George Washington used to win the American Revolution comes to life in this fictional account of two brothers who are caught up in the intrigue! Get the sequal, too: Submarines, Secrets, and a Daring Rescue!
The Great and Terrible Quest by Margaret Lovett (Y) My kids LOVED this book. The excitement never stops in this story set in the Middle Ages!
Diary of an Early American Boy by Eric Sloane (A) This book is an incredible and rare find in that it is truly the diary of a real American teen boy in 1805. He describes life on his farm for an entire year. Highly recommended!
Last of the Mohicans (and the entire Leatherstocking Tales) by James Fennimore Cooper (O,A) Adventure stories set in the Northeastern United States during the 18th century. Written in a bit of an older English, but still very easy to follow and enjoy.
Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (Y,A) Another great story of a young boy left in charge of his home in the American wilderness.
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (A) Johnny has a front-row seat in the events of the American Revolution with Paul Revere and John Hancock! A very popular story that was made into an excellent Disney film.
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain (A) Mark Twain knew what kinds of stories boys liked! And this classic is still as exciting as ever. Two identical-looking boys with very different lives trade places and experience how the “other side” lives.
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (A) The classic tale of boys growing up in Missouri in the 19th century and the constant trouble they get into, just doing what boys do!
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (A) The sequal to Tom Sawyer, this book follows Huck Finn after the closing chapter of Tom Sawyer. It has been controversial in some circles for the use of language and dialect. From Amazon: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is a story told in the time of slavery with language that embodies the regional dialects that are common to Twain’s work and the Mississippi River Valley in which Twain grew up. The novel is as much a biting and satirical commentary on slavery, religion, and civilized society as it is a light-hearted comedy and buddy travel story through Midwestern 19th century America.”
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (A) What boy doesn’t dream of someday landing on a deserted island and living a life of danger, adventure, and fun with beaches, jungles, and wild animals? This story delivers!
By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleishman (Y,A) This story is about a young boy who is determined to travel to the gold fields in California, and must travel aboard ship around South America to San Francisco. A really fun story for young boys, but everyone will enjoy it.
Rascal by Sterling North (Y, A) Boys will love this true story about a young boy who adopts a baby racoon, lives with his widowed father, and is allowed to live the life of a free spirit — hunting, fishing, tracking, building, and just being a boy. Set during World War 1, it has historic references to the outside world, but the main focus is on young Sterling, his naturalist (and well-educated) father, and their love of nature and the adventures they have there.
The Great War: Stories of World War 1 by Edward Jablonski (A, O) If you can find a copy of this old book, snatch it up (and the others in the series). It’s full of exciting, true, and accurately-written stories of daring soldiers of WW1, including Sargent York, Douglas MacArthur (did you know he distinguished himself in the first world war?), Billy Barker (a Canadian flying Ace), and many more. The stories are the best kind of blend of history and suspense, and give boys heroes to look up to. Heroes in Blue and Gray is another in this series. My son is reading this right now and loves it.
For the Older Boys
These titles are for upper-age boys because of their mature themes and some real-life violence. However, I still suggest parents make the final call, as the stories are incredibly inspiring and can be suitable for all ages of boys.
God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew (O) The famous, true story of Brother Andrew and his mission to carry Bibles into communist territory.
Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz (O) I first read this as a teen (girl) and loved it. It’s the true story of a boy growing up in the dangerous streets of New York in the 1950’s. He was the leader of a ruthless street gang before his miraculous conversion to Christianity.
Bruchko by Bruce E. Olson (O) An incredible true and autobiagraphical story of a 19 year old who goes to South America to evangelize the Indian tribes there. He is captured and becomes their missionary.
Animal Farm by George Orwell (O) The classic allegory of communism is a must-read for all high school aged kids.
Sargent York: His Own Life and War Diary by Alvin York (O, A) This is a wonderful book for boys! York was a reluctant soldier in WW1, but when he finally ended up in France, he applied his backwoods shooting skills to the Germans and became a war hero. The way he writes and tells his own story is as entertaining as the story itself. Not to be missed!
Excellent Book (Lists) for Boys
There are some great books that have family read-aloud recommendations of high-quality books for kids.
Using Louis L’amour to Teach History – This is my own list, and all of my kids enjoy L’amour’s books. I think your boys will, too.
Character Building Books for Boys at Raising Real Men – I trust Hal and Melanie Young when they recommend books, and this list is no exception. These books are all about strong character, boys becoming true men, and will definitely include books with a heavy biblical worldview. If you’re raising boys, get the books on this list, and then buy their book by the same name, Raising Real Men.
Art of Manliness 50 Best Books for Boys -The Art of Manliness is a great site devoted to…manliness. While I haven’t read all of the books on their list, I have read or am at least familiar with many of them and agree with their assessments. As usual, read the descriptions and do your own research.
79 Read Aloud Books that Boys Love at Homeschool Your Boys – This list is wonderful, and includes a nice mix of classics and recent titles, adventures and humor, historic and fiction.
5 Great “Faith Building” Chapter Books for Boys by Heather Haput – The title of the list is the key: these are books written about and for Christian kids. There are so many books without this bent that it’s nice to find a few with a biblical worldview.
10 Classic Book Series for Teen Boys by Contented at Home – These are some good old-fashioned books that boys enjoyed in the late 1800s and early to mid-1900s. They are really cool. I know this because I have a friend who is currently writing a book all about these series and she’s asked me to beta-read (and I have an old set of Rover Boys). I can’t wait until her book is published! In the meantime, you can read these books on Kindle or hunt them down at used bookstores or antique stores.
Books for Boys (Junior High) at Storyformed – More solid classics listed here, as well as other great lists for all ages! I love the concept of the Storyformed website, because I totally agree that kids learn best through great stories.
Build a Library
I am a big believer in buying and preserving good books in print form. And I have an online bookstore to assist! Check out my selection of history reprints, as well as used books that I find worthwhile for home libraries. Click the photo to visit my bookstore!