Why boys don’t read enough

I find myself wanting to offer my congratulations to the writer of this piece in Atlantic – although I think they’d be as welcome as a pork chop at a Jewish wedding feast. ‘Boys don’t read enough’. For a start, I can think of few articles which so wonderfully epitomized the term ‘Atlantic’ – because it’s hard to imagine an article more entirely at sea. My sympathies, in a way, with the writer: She was trapped between ‘the devil’ and the deep blue sea, and as her audience are pretty deep blue, she had little choice.

The situation is pretty clear: ‘the devil’ (as she sees him anyway) was right.  In all sorts of measures girls have overtaken boys – we’re looking at twenty to thirty years (depending on institution and place) since the measures were roughly equal, having shifted from being male dominated.  Some of us (me for one) have said this was coming for just about that long. Some of us said that it was time to strive for balance, instead of tilting the table even more.

And lo… the devil, the wicked male patriarchy, was right. In fields – particularly the relevant one of writing books, and particularly children’s books, things are enormously skewed female.  The ratios in sf/fantasy last time I looked at new entrants was more than 10:1 in trad publishing. It’s worse in YA and MG – by far. Unsurprisingly, this is reflected in the staffing at trad publishing houses (trad pub still do most of the MG and YA books. It’s their last stronghold).  If you want to find a straight, white, conservative male among the new entrants to that industry, look elsewhere.  Despite the fact that they make up a healthy part of the demographic, they do not exist in statistically visible numbers in publishing. Equally unsurprisingly male authors from this group are equally rare.

I do not see any of the big four surviving Trad publishers undoing this. Not in my lifetime, maybe not in theirs.

Now: contrary to perceived wisdom, that you have to ‘stay in your lane’ and only gay people can write gay characters, and only black people can write black characters etc. There is sufficient evidence that boys will cheerfully read books written by females. Ask Enid Blyton. Or JK Rowling. Not all boys, of course, but according to the deep blue of modern publishing and academia, those lanes are vital… and there is a soupcon of truth there:  it takes skill, and observation, and putting aside one’s biases to write convincingly TO someone of a group you don’t belong to, about their group. It’s not hard for me to write convincing Zulus to non-Zulus. Writing (as a non-Zulu) for Zulus will be a much bigger challenge. You’re going to need a lot of research, skilled dispassionate observation, getting into the heads of the people of that group, and seeing the world as they see it, to do it. Moreover you’re going to need an editor or first reader who IS Zulu, if you want to sell to Zulus.  If you don’t, of course, wish them to read and enjoy it, it’s a different matter.

That all makes sense, right?  Even without the deep blue illogic of ‘I can write about your lane, but you can never write about mine’ level of insanity, there is something there: if you want to write FOR that audience you have to be able to do so well, in a way they like. That’s easier if you are one of them, and write from experience.

So: modern publishing. Substitute the word ‘boy’ (or as a nightmare for them, ‘normal, heterosexual teen boy’) for ‘Zulu’.  Few of the current crop of MG or Teen authors have even ever been that. Their editors are worse. What’s makes it more difficult, their upbringing, cultural milieu, and education have spent the last forty years teaching them to regard those ‘boys’ (and males in general) with disdain. They’re deplorable, unpleasant, and barely human in their eyes. This is an attitude that is praised and encouraged… and now you want them to step inside the heads of boys and see the world as they see it?   Not happening in most cases. And if they do it right, the editor will kill it.  There are certainly female writers who could do it – but not in the group who sell to modern Traditional Publishing.  It’s not comic books or non-fiction that will get the boys to read. It’s having books (and movies etc. too) that don’t disparage them every step of the way, to assert that people who are not like them are ALWAYS superior.  Trust me on this: comics are on their way to the same place. They won’t rest until they do it non-fiction too.

I was… amused by the ‘brains are unisexual’ politically correct, currently fashionable statement. As a piece of fatty protein, indeed, they’re remarkably alike, no matter if you identify as male, female or ping-pong ball. That’s like saying all computers are alike.  They might start that way (and even that is questionable) but humans are the end point (at the moment) of an evolutionary path in which… sexual dimorphism worked.  Now, you can argue long and hard about why it worked, but you don’t get different outcomes for males and females without different selective pressures. We share most of our genes. We are alike (to aliens, anyway). Individuals from both sexes are often closer to the mean for the other sex in behavior, size, face-structure, whatever.  BUT that mean exists, for each sex. And just like that computer parts of it get programmed from start-up, and maybe even built differently. A gaming computer is not a word-processor.  If you’re going to have your genetic survival predicated on being able to react fast – odds are the mean of your group will be faster than a group that does not need this to survive. If your genetic survival is predicated on being able to function as part of a group, odds are the mean of your group will be more aware of relationships and thus able to work in groups earlier.

Now: there are still plenty of existent hunter-gatherer groups in existence, and well-documented extinct ones – right across the world in groups separated by up to 40 000 years.  Hunting isn’t always solitary. But it is, often enough. Sometimes small groups, sometimes large… and often alone. It’s also overwhelmingly male. Gathering, on the other hand is almost always at least to some extent communal, even if it is just to help with childcare. If you couldn’t get on… odds are your genetic material died with you.  I have to laugh at the PC all ‘brains are alike’ neuroscientist claiming boys are MORE vulnerable to peer pressure (but girls are more aware relationships?).  Of course, both groups are vulnerable to peer pressure, and of course some of both sexes ignore it… but I’ll eat my hat, without sauce, if girls (who tend to try really hard to fit in, from whom the term ‘mean girls table’ stems) are LESS vulnerable. Let’s dig through the suicide stats, the anorexia/bulimia stats and see.  

Also… if you think testosterone isn’t messing with boys heads and their competitiveness (and ‘competitive’ means someone has to lose, and someone has to win. The race, or the genetic probability of passing on your genes.) then I have a wonderful book on critical race theory to sell you. You’ll love it. It’s right up your alley. Action and physical doing appeal to a lot of boys. Relationships appeal to a lot of girls. Both have adherents from the other sex. Both like mixtures… but the means skew towards the different sexes.

I have actually had some sneering feminist proclaim that, well, what does it matter if boys don’t find anything to read, and their education and social status slip away. Women had to put up with that for millennia. It’s men’s  (or the men of tomorrow’s) turn.

To this I have always had this to say: Those boys weren’t born when the situation was reversed. And before you say that’s punishment for their father and forefather’s sins… remember each of them is 50:50 child of that disadvantaged female line too.  You’re not even punishing the genes of those male ancestors, without punishing the female ancestors – let alone any daughters they might father.   

Secondly: sooner or later those girls reading more, going to college more… are going to want mates among their peers, so they too can have children… oh, I am sorry. Did I wound your sensibilities? – here, can I sell this book on CRT which will make you feel better.  If you’re not the sort of idiot who would enjoy that book, well, that is biological and evolutionary reality.  You need males and females, barring future parthenogenetic success, and once again the stats don’t lie, that’s the majority of both sexes who like it that way, and statistically have best outcomes raising those boys and girls. There are outliers. You may be one and do great job. Good for you.  It happens, just as the 50:1 against horse wins the race occasionally. But usually the winner has much better odds.  So: as status is big part of mate choice, and competition for scarce resources can be cruel and savage… even if you only care about girls, there’s a reason to see they don’t end up looking for male partner in 6:1 female to male ratio.

Boys need to read. I’ve done my personal best to write books they would, I hope, like.  You can tell, because while readers have liked them, the deep blue sea hates them.

Eventually they’ll have to admit they need the likes of them. But for a generation, that may be too late.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

86 comments

  1. I have a son, and started writing stories for him because I couldn’t find anything for him to read, more right now, forme to read to him. Now I have to get them illustrated or get good enoughto do the job myself. (He’s not quite old enough for Changeling’s Island, yet. Though it will be waiting when he is.)

    Thank you for adding to the list I can, eventually hand to him.

  2. The level of willful, spiteful blindness by the people with control of the levers of (trad) publishing is astounding. (Also not limited to them, sad to say.)

    And yet, when I looked at kids sf on amazon this morning the best selling new is a Minecraft book, second is ‘Wizard Armageddon’ complete with manly man in sf armor carrying a sword, third is my new book, and fourth is from Adam Lane Smith that looks to appeal to boys.

    Even in the perennial best sellers alongside trad pub stuff like Hunger Games we also have titles like ‘Trapped in a Videogame’ which I’ve been seeing on the list since my first book came out.

  3. It doesn’t help that liberals do not (or are not able to) keep the old boy-oriented “juveniles” in circulation.

    Back when I was a pup, I could get Jules Verne to Heinlein at the library with no problems. Now? If it’s over a decade old, it might as well not exist.

    1. Unfortunately with so much of it the answer is *both* can’t and won’t.

      In my case the can’t is so very frustrating. I bought what I could of Heinlein for my teen section, but so much isn’t available at all, and what is tends to be the BAEN reprints from more recently. (Thank you BAEN.)

      Looking at it right now… Have Space Suit, Will Travel is only available through the main library provider in CD format, most likely because they simply haven’t run out of that yet.

      The Rolling Stones I was able to snag today, (BAEN of course) but it wasn’t available when I last bought his stuff. (Actually, doing quite well today, Revolt in 2100 & Methuselah’s Children also available.)

      Red Planet, Space Cadet, Tunnel in the Sky, Farmer in the Sky, etc. all unavailable except on CD.

    2. Small town libraries are good for this, thank God.

      I appreciate that I can fill our home library with discards….arrgh.

  4. *reads title*

    *looks over at the Baron of Beef, barely visible inside of a pile of Last Kids On Earth, Hank the Cowdog, How To Train Your Dragon and a wide assortment of survival manuals, plus any reference work that he got curious about from reading the first three, which has included his father’s wine making books*

    Because the only books those poor boys get a chance to read suck? Even Last Kids on Earth and How To Train Your Dragon have the Designated Awesome Girl who is smarter, faster and better than everybody else, although they both actually have the characters have some sort of a flaw and it’s clearly in part because the POV character is in love.

    1. For slightly older boys there’s Dan Wells’ “I Am Not a Serial Killer.” It’s technically YA, but it’s a horror story… and even as an adult I found it plenty creepy. But the protagonist is a serious Odd, enough that nobody would ever believe him if he tried to tell a responsible adult about the things he saw… I was over fifty when I read it, but it’s the kind of story I would have been riveted by back when I was ten.

      1. Since son is quite odd– he’d totally be declared on the Spectrum and warehoused in a “real” school– I think we’ll stick to the piles of Illustrated Classics for right now! Trying to give him stuff to model off of that don’t make me want to break out a cluebat….. (keep throwing Sherlock where he might find it, since he’s stubborn, but thsu far no hooks.)

          1. Ironically, I just ordered it…. library copies.
            (But I think they were REPLACING them, not GETTING RID of them.)

              1. Possibly, but I snagged that series along with Lloyd anyways. (which is part of why said purchase was like sixty…..)

                ….Look, I grabbed King’s high fantasy series that had a book titled something like “dragon blood” when I was at the most 11, I trust my kids to go “ew” and spit out stuff that’s beyond them more than I trust ME to say “this generally OK series is beyond you.”

          2. Yep, I bought the complete Chronicles of Prydain last summer – and my son read them all (and I re-read them), and he’s been reading more since then – let’s see, he also really liked the Tripod Trilogy (White Mountains, City of Gold and Lead, etc), the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings (took him a while, but he finished it without prompting), The Black Arrow, Kidnapped (one of my favorites, but not one of us). Earlier he read the Clockwork Charlie series.

            So he will read, but only what he likes – action, adventure, NO romance. He’d probably like books with a video game tie-in.

            Right now, we’re enjoying dipping into Andrew Lang’s fairy tales (a favorite collection, but sometime I’ll start getting the individual books) – it’s one of my favorites. Everybody also enjoys reading a story or two from the Grimm brothers.

            1. Has he been exposed to the Chronicles of Xanth?

              They all do seem to have a boy meets girl arc, but they’re buried in so many *really bad* puns he might miss it entirely.

        1. Redwall is a good one as well, though my boy is a little young for it. There’s a new-ish thing out called the Cardboard Kingdom, that’s comic book form that he loves. It actually manages to avoid the woke nonsense, though there were times I thought it wouldn’t.

    2. It’s been a LONG while, but if he likes animals, look for Jim Kjelgaard’s books, the Black stallion books, and Alfred Payson Terhune’s Lad books. Fantasy, Diana Wynn Jones. Also, try Gordon Korman, his early books about McDondald Hall were fun. Also older and fun, The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks, and the Bunnicula series. Both older, although I read them as a kid, two and a half decades ago, so any messaging would have gone over my head.

  5. I am old enough that woke hadn’t hit the YA yet but I remember the guys who were techs with me at the school district wishing that they could have been given non fiction in grade school, biographies, sports stories, news, anything but stupid stories…then they would have enjoyed reading class. So if you want to get boys to read in the first place, maybe give them something they want to read? Save litrachure for the upper grades?

    1. Better, free-ranged reading.

      Have a crud ton of books, and let the kids read anything they’re interested in. Have the easy stuff right out front– illustrated classics, Hank the Cowdog, time life books– but just TURN THEM LOOSE!

      I just realized part of why it’s beaten out of people– for 30 years, they’ve been restricting folks to reading levels. I was declared illiterate because I was too bored to read stuff the way that they wanted me to before they’d allow me to read other stuff; I don’t even know what the standards were, they definitely didn’t tell me!

      1. That’s what my parents did, so my reading was pretty eclectic (including non-fiction, such as history, philosophy, and theology). And my father read to us every night.

        1. I wish I could do that.

          I really can’t do reading out loud. I am terrible at it.

          Husband does it about once a week.

          1. What about audio books? Our library lends audio books over the internet – I tried this at the beginning of the freak out, but wife complained (she’s also the reason I didn’t read to the kids every night when they were little).

            I think audio books or reading out loud at bedtime is great.

            1. *insane laughter*

              Yeah…. I bought, or borrowed and ripped, How to Train Your Dragon and Hank the Cowdog, for a lot.

              ….my eldest now randomly has English accent syndrome. >.< K, Scottish, I guess, TECHNICALLY, the Dr. Who guy……

              1. Note for Piracy influenced folks:

                We own all these books. And most of the ebooks we bought, along with the physical, ripped, and donated.

      2. I read anything I could get my hands on; I was usually find but occasionally came across stuff that wasn’t maturity level appropriate. Like when I was thirteen and I tried to read Shakespeare’s complete works and was completely creeped out by the Rape of Lucrece. In retrospect, I’m glad I skipped over my dad’s copies of the Thomas Covenant books.

        1. Oh, gads, I snagged the first Thomas book….got like a few pages in, and returned it, just like my ….argh, what’s his name horror author last name King, like the most famous King author ever, guy.

          He had a series with a title that included dragon and I snagged it, got like half a chapter in and went “Yeah, no. Not for me.”

          1. Stephen King. My brother recommended his Dark Tower series but I’ve never read anything beyond book blurbs and Wikipedia summaries for his work. And horror as a genre definitely isn’t for me.

            1. DARK TOWER!!! That’s the series I started to read, but didn’t because I got an ick!

              There’s a book that had a green dragon hand on it, with a drop of….something.

              1. Eyes of the Dragon, IIRC. His one attempt at a children’s book, not his best effort. Don’t care for the man, but as an author I think he’s written at a very high level across a lot of genres. “The Body”, which became the movie “Stand By Me” is one of my favorites. “On Writing” I found fascinating. The Black Tower series I couldn’t get into, either, but I read pretty much everything else he wrote when I was in high school.

                He did a lot of short story anthologies, and I like that because you can get in a complete story even if you don’t have long to read. The trend now seems to be towards 3+ book series, and I always thought it was more difficult to condense a story down into short story size than fill pages with descriptions of everything under the sun (sorry, DW).

              2. “The Eye of the Dragon”? It isn’t technically a Dark Tower book, though it seems to take place in the same universe (I mean, even more than all of King’s books take place in the Dark Tower universe). It’s not really horror, more of a cross between a murder mystery and a fairy tale.

                The Dark Tower…I thought it was pretty good as surrealist fantasy, particularly Books 3 and 4. After that, I really wish I could get the editions from the alternate universe where King never got hit by that minivan.

                  1. The King’s Iron bit, right?

                    I was a little older when I read that one, and bleched a little when that part came up, but the story kept me going and that was the worst of it (and I think it could’ve been taken out with no great loss).

                    Dark Tower, if you can get an early edition of the first book (not the revised one with all the 19s in it) the first four books are a masterpiece of fantasy literature, but I’d recommend not bothering with 5-7 and making up your own ending.

                    1. Not unless it was in the first few pages.
                      It mostly stuck in my mind because it turns out my mother had seen it and was trying to figure out how to talk me out of reading it without having to pull the mom card right off the bat; she worried a lot less after that. Still read books I brought home that looked questionable…which is why she’s an RA Salvator addict, now…..

                  2. *looks at Amazon sample*

                    Yeah, that was it. About two or three pages in.

                    Never got into Salvatore. Might give him another try some time. He’s got to have a big fan base for a reason.

                    1. I recall that I read a Star Wars tie in from him, liked it, then enjoyed reading some of his non-tie-in fantasy.

      3. Which is also how I managed to read my Dad’s entire David Drake collection, probably before it was age appropriate…

        On the other hand, it is very illuminating to read “guy does stupid things to get girl” arcs before one has hit puberty, and then re-read them afterwards.

  6. Small sample, based on techs I used to work with. Some boys don’t even like fiction. They want to read about sports or something. Let them. If the goal is that they read, let them read something they are interested in. LIt 101 can wait until junior high or high school.

  7. The writing factories that put out the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books utilized both male and female writers for the stories. So it can be done. Though I understand there was a fairly strict formula that they had to adhere to. Still, those stories pulled A LOT of kids into reading back in the day.

    1. Susan Wittig Albert (author of the China Bayles mysteries) and her husband Bill co-wrote Nancy Drew books for several years. Work for hire, but they claim it was useful in developing their commercial writing skills. Back in the 1990s I heard her and her husband give a talk on their then-current series (co-written as Robin Paige) and they had several amusing comments about the editorial direction they received writing the Nancy Drew stories. (A lot of “our Nancy would not do that.”)

  8. It’s not hard for me to write convincing Zulus to non-Zulus. Writing (as a non-Zulu) for Zulus will be a much bigger challenge.

    This instantly called to mind that actor in NCIS– the one that plays a Marine– where the director basically put him through a basic bootcamp, and the guy sells that he’s a Marine, to Marines.
    Even non-military go “huh, he feels right for having been in the military.”

  9. “I do not see any of the big four surviving Trad publishers undoing this. Not in my lifetime, maybe not in theirs.”
    Friend Dave, I would take exception to the assumption that those Trad publishers are gonna outlive you.
    Based on current trends I predict the opposite to be much more likely.
    Unless you go and do yourself a mischief on one of your land or sea adventures of course.

  10. I’ve always read, right down to the back of cereal boxes, but I rarely liked what I was handed in school (I’m 61 so I avoided today’s idiocy). The issue was always the same: I wanted adventure! A thrilling story! To leave the space I was in and explore!

    Yet English teachers and librarians were all fixated on books that were morally uplifting, spiritually enlightening, socially relevant, and good for me.

    Who wants that? I didn’t want that tripe. I never knew any boys who wanted to read that tripe. They wanted sports stories and the Executioner or the Destroyer.

    Now, even Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants is apologizing for not being properly woke, but boys loved his books. My sons did.

    Remember R.L. Stine? He said he wanted this on his tombstone: “I got boys to read”. He did it by telling a good, scary story and didn’t waste any time doing so.

    May God save us. At least back then, I was allowed free range in the library so I could find something decent to read.

    1. The books were out on that range for us to find, at least. (We are the same day – plus or minus, let me see – something less than a piddly 40 weeks now.) RAH may have grumbled and fought over the stupid changes that were forced upon him for his “boys books” – but they did end up in the library, and might not have if he had had his way in all things.

      That gave him quite a few sales of his “adult” books, off of the rack of an office supply store that had no clue and racked what they got from their distributor by genre, not by age. He didn’t get my beer money – he got my lunch money, diverted by dint of immersing myself arm deep in scalding hot water in the school cafeteria. (Although I have never been a Christian Fundamentalist by any measure, I was later able to identify strongly with the protagonist in “Job.”)

    2. “Yet English teachers and librarians were all fixated on books that were morally uplifting, spiritually enlightening, socially relevant, and good for me.”

      Worst part? Said books usually fail at their supposed objective, because you can’t get enlightenment, uplift, or relevance to the real world out of miserable prose, cardboard characters, and ham-fisted plots, which means that these books are bad for their readers.

    3. Oh! Captain Underpants kicks ar$$! Even the Junie B. Jones books were great. I think that I enjoyed them more than my daughter!

  11. I was spoiled. I read Tom Swift (what few our tiny grade school library had) and the Hardy Boys…many of both the original series (starting 1927) and the revised version (starting 1959). I read Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of Mars. I read “Jan of the Jungle” by Otis Adelbert Kline. I read “White Fang” and “Call of the Wild” by Jack London. I read “the Jungle Book” and “Captains Courageous” by Kipling. I read as many Jules Verne and Robert Heinlein juveniles as I could get my hands on, and a number of other SF writers. I read Jim Kjelgaard. I read baseball stories by John R. Tunis. I read the Black Tiger series by Patrick O’Connor. I read “call it Courage” by Armstrong Sperry. I read “Run Silent, Run Deep” by Edward Beach. I read “Combat General” by William Chamberlain. In short, I got to read lots of stories about manly men (and boys) doing manly things. It’s a shame that those kinds of stories aren’t still being written and read.

    1. One of my favorite stories is The Three Musketeers, which I first read in junior high and have read a couple of times now. Other things I read starting in late grade school and junior high were the Louis L’Amour westerns, the Robert Ludlum and Alistair MacLean adventure/spy books, the Agatha Christie and Charlotte MacLoud mysteries, etc. It wasn’t necessarily what my teachers had in mind for my reading, but I was able to convince my English teachers to let me read the books we had at home rather than the school library for a couple of my ‘required reading’ projects (“you will pick a book from the library, read it and give me a short report about it” type of required).

  12. Sometime around 2015 Dean Ing wrote a delightful book titled “It’s Up to Charlie Hardin.” The protagonist was an elementary-aged boy growing up in Austin during WWII. I reviewed it, but gave my copy to my then boss, who had a son in mid elementary school. She said he loved the book. She said it reminded her of stuff Beverly Cleary wrote in the 1950s. (Anyone remember Henry Huggins? He’s been abandoned in favor of Ramona and Beazus.”

    1. I do!

      Also for another Henry, look at Henry Reed; he’s brilliant and quirky and very good (at least the first three books are. I never read the others.)

      Other good boy books: The Great Brain series and the Mad Scientist’s Club.

      1. Henry Reed is a hoot – I bought a couple for my kids.

        The Great Brain is funny, but if you read it as an adult, you can see some depth beneath the humor.

        I’d say both are roughly the same reading level as the Chronicles of Prydain.

      2. I’m not sure about all the Little House books, but my boy loves Farmer Boy, and has read it multiple times.

      3. Homer Price, which I tended to confuse with Henry Reed back when, but they are different. Both illustrated by McCloskey, which is probably the source of my confusion. Sinbad and Me by Kin Platt. The Mushroom Planet series by Cameron.

  13. Most of the Heinlein books are available thru Amazon for Kindle, at prices ranging from $1.99 (for Orphans of the Sky) thru $7.99 (Rolling Stones, Tunnel in the Sky). A lot of them are also at B&N for Nook, though you have to navigate their awful website to get them.

  14. Based on what is on the push tables at the regional B&N, if I were a guy, or a normal teen, today, I’d run away from official YA books. There’s a big Pride Month display, because teens only want to read about homosexual characters, apparently. The other YA push books all have female protagonists dealing with an eeeeeevvvil patriarchy, maybe assisted by a guy-who-really-isn’t-like-the-“normal”-guys-but-sensitive-and-nice.

    Blech.

    1. *annoyed cynic mom*

      If you were a functional human being, you’d run away from most YA offerings.

      I swear, half of the…uh… stuff, in the section when I’m trying to buy for my kids, is “how a predator would like to train your kids.”

  15. When they hear “the future is female” and see the novels, comics and TV shows that all imagine a world where all the males have died off, it’s easy to see why so many young men are tuning out. The message seems to be that they aren’t wanted or needed for anything.

    1. Just wait until the sewage is blocked. And until they find our what that (male) plumber will charge. ;-/ Need is what you pay well for…

  16. I got over my “boys are icky” phase at the end of my teens. Since then I’m a firm believer in “vive la différence”. I have seven nephews and I try to give them good books at every birthday.

    1. If you want my cynical POV, the goal of the current “women’s movement” is to cripple teenage girls during their “boys are icky” phase, so that when they do grow out of it, the boys that they want to chase aren’t interested in them for any reason. And, this frustration makes them more vulnerable for advanced indoctrination.

      1. And opportunistic predation (of both boys and girls by the sort of predator who doesn’t want them to have an outlet in their natural interest ;-/

        1. …and, considering that kind of sexual dysfunctions and fetishes these people have that starts to get into the really creepy territory and it makes a weird sort of sense.

          How many of the creators of this crap wanted an invite to the Epstein compound?

          1. This is totally only sourced from QAnon, and not at all a result of serious reflection on story features and on the curriculums inflicted on persons in schools.

            (I’m on team ‘metaphorically burn the primary and secondary public schools down’, and I think a bunch of tertiary needs restructuring, closing, or an end to state sponsorship of the credentialing and licensing systems.)

              1. I’m apparently on Team Squish at the moment, because I’m wrestling with trying to convince a bunch of moderates that taking the next step is the least unreasonable call.

                Wrestling with both the decision to put in the effort, and which policies I should be trying to persuade them of.

  17. When I went to our library (both school and public) I was fortunate to be stuck in the space between the waves of madness coming from San Francisco and Berkeley. And, I was able to get real books, written by people that knew how to write things. My parents also would get the “he’s too young to read (insert book here)” and the parent would check it out and I would read it.

    There’s a market for decently written boys YA out there. Just look at comic books alone-when Demon Slayer (which is a fairly middle-tier manga series) outsells the nine combined total books below it on the top ten list, there has to be someone that realizes that there is a market out there that is crying out for a somebody to sell it stuff.

    Unfortunately, if the people I’m dealing with are any indication of the sort of people in the publishing and marketing industries… You wonder how or why these people don’t drown when they take a shower, because they look into the shower head, mouth open…and don’t close their mouth.

    You lose hope sometimes. The temptation to find a quiet place with good high-speed Internet and Amazon delivery grows larger.

  18. Rosemary Sutcliffe. She did YA hist fiction with strong male characters. Women, if any, come on stage left. They are competent, and the implication at the end, sometimes,is that the two may end up an item.. but that is not the plot. Fleshed out Kipling, Puck’ s stories.

  19. There is also the Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey Westerns, the osprey military history series, and the horrible histories. My 11 year has read through the horrible histories books 4 or 5 times

  20. I’m a bit surprised that no one mentioned C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (younger teens), his Space Trilogy (Silent Planet, Perelandra, Hideous Strength for YAs), or Till We Have Faces (my fave) or The Great Divorce (my 2nd fave) for Adult Fiction. Every one was incredibly compelling.
    Possibly too cerebral? I think that underestimates our progeny’s potential.

  21. From when I was a kid:
    Talbot Mundy’s Tros of Samothrace series, Harold Lamb’s “biographies” of the ancients like Hannibal and Alexander.

  22. Or maybe boys much more enjoy DOING things rather than read about other people doing things? And what is wrong with that? And I say this as a man (and former boy…for some reason it now seems this information is needed) who has read a lot of books. Good books. Quality books. Classics. There is a bigotry, and yes that is the right word, of “educated” people who place way too much value on books and not enough value on getting things done. There is nothing sacred about books in general just as there is nothing sacred about flapping one’s jaws. There are indeed a lot of books (libraries are full of them) that actually will make you dumber. It’s true. I even read it in a book once.

  23. I’ll be the 10th man here! Don’t avoid the preachy books all together. Pollyanna has her place, Robin from Door in the Wall, Otto of the Silver Hand and Rolf and the Viking Bow too. My 16 yr old son found these books preachy but they are parts of the boy/girl dichotomy of literature. Reading strong, manly boys doing manly things-Captians Courageous, Kim, the Roman heroes of Rosemary Sutcliff, My Side of the Mountain, Swallows & Amazons. Throw in all the folk/fairy stories w/ the D’Aulaire series: Greek, Roman& Norse. My 3 sons esp liked the Redwall books, in addition to all the biographies we could find & the Dorling Kindersley photo books ( one for every subject, tons of pictures & just enough text). Esp good is the Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, On the Prairie. All are fantastic stories of how to do things- make head cheese, escape a bear & a wildcat, pack a wagon, grow milk fed pumpkins, break a pair of ox, repair wall paper, pick a home site, build a log cabin, floor said cabin, add a door & rock chimney ( ok it’s Laura’s story but Almanzo & Pa do most of the work). There’s good stuff out there but yes mostly older, when we knew good stories from propaganda thinly disguised.

  24. I got started with Hardy Boys stories, then moved up to Heinlein stories, and then other SF. Now I’m working my way thru Ross Thomas (deceased) novels. I have LOTS of books.

  25. The Mark of Conte by Sonia Levitin was a great book, very early computer hacking. Unfortunately, it turns out that the chick who wrote that one went in for the Braineater in a big way. (She apparently lost her career in the early 80’s by writing – and selling to a major publisher – a book with a girl protagonist who was fighting the system to be able to walk around topless in public. Lots of critical acclaim, no school library or public library buying it, because ew. She went to historical nonfiction and then to painting.)

  26. Hardy Boys; Tom Swift, Jr (I didn’t discover Tom Swift [,Sr] until much later); Tom Corbet, Space Cadet; the Burgess Bird Books (not the guides, the stories) are some of the ones I remember reading.
    Recently, The Richard Jackson Saga seems as if it might be a good YA series (although being 55, I’m not the best judge). Avoid Missy the Werecat; it starts with YA-level language and sentence structure, but graduates to explicit sex scenes about halfway through the first book (and the writing noticeably improves after that).

  27. Surprised nobody’s mentioned A Series of Unfortunate Events and All The Wrong Questions.

    ASOUE is amazing except for that last book – I actually think the Netflix series did a better job of wrapping up the story.

    All The Wrong Questions is in many ways better: a more focused story with more consistency. And the main male character of All the Wrong Questions is nobody’s pushover.

    Slight spoiler – one of the overarching plots involves restoring a business to a town in order to enliven it again (very pro-capitalist) and the main villain has a very environmentalist/motive and a moral relativist approach.

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