Calling Andrew Klavan

At the beginning of each summer vacation, Drew, I like to buy a stack of books, set the books on top of the dining room table, and then command my children to start reading. (“Command?” That’s the way I’d like it to happen. The truer words would be “cajole” and “beg.”) May I ask your advice? My oldest, home from her first year in college, will be reading for courses she’ll be taking next fall, while my youngest, only eight, will devote her time to children’s books. That leaves the three teenaged boys in the middle.

All three of the boys have already read–devoured, actually–your first book for young adults, The Last Thing I Remember, making it more or less mandatory for me to begin my summer book purchases with your second book in the series, The Long Way Home. But where do I go from there? Ideally, I figure, I’d give the boys half a dozen or ten books, including, perhaps, a work or two of American history, a work or two of good sports writing, and maybe a brief volume of good science writing. What would you recommend?

“The Andrew Klavan Summer Reading List for Teenaged American Boys.” That’s what I’m after.

Drew?

  1. Andrew Klavan
    C

    Well, my first piece of advice: if you’re buying them a copy of my new book, get one for each. Why make them share? It just doesn’t make sense. Other novels? I assume they’ve been through Hatchet (Paulsen) and Holes (Sacher) and the Graveyard Book (Gaiman). If not, what the heck kind of a father are you? But there are also so many great classic books kids should read that they don’t anymore: Tarzan, She, the Hornblower series – wonderful stuff.

    Non fiction? The book that lit my science candle as a boy was called “Microbe Hunters” by Paul de Kruif and I’ve heard it still stands up. Other classics: Pearl S. Buck’s Story Bible (I know, I know, but it’s terrific). Sink the Bismark is great and readable. So is A Night To Remember about the Titanic. The Real George Washington.

    And remember: one copy of my book for each!

  2. Rob Long
    C

    My books have a lot of salty language in them, so I won’t bother recommending them (though I approve of Drew’s Two-Books-for-Every-Child policy.)

    My absolute favorite novel, ever (aside from whatever is Drew Klavan’s latest) is Kim, by Rudyard Kipling. Okay, maybe not as accessible as some works, but still. Wonderful. Don’t let them turn 17 without reading it.

  3. Ottoman Umpire
    Rob Long: … My absolute favorite novel, ever (aside from whatever is Drew Klavan’s latest) is Kim, by Rudyard Kipling. Okay, maybe not as accessible as some works, but still. Wonderful. Don’t let them turn 17 without reading it.

    In terms of fiction, aren’t you also a fan of Tom Wolfe, Rob?

  4. JCNY

    I would suggest the Master & Commander books by Patrick O’Brien.. absolutely riveting.

  5. Robert Bennett

    Well I’m just 20 and just went through that phase of reading. I loved reading Science Fiction: Isaac Asimov (Foundation and Robot Trilogies) and Robert Henlein (His 4 Hugo award winners). There are other great books like Enders Game or Dune that I used to adore.

    If you don’t think they’d like science fiction then maybe some westerns by Louis L’Amour. Hondo Maybe.

    Also I have to recommend Steven Pressfield. Historical Fiction at its best with Gates of Fire and Tides of War.

    Lord of The Rings?

    I wish I had read more classical works like The Oresteia or Antigone. Anyways, I learned more from the books I read on my own, than from every class of every year of my public education.

  6. Neal Pierson

    As a recent graduate of high school, here are the novels that I read and really enjoyed: “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Catch” by Will Leitch, “Jude” by Kate Morgenroth, and The Great Brain series when I was a bit younger.

  7. Aaron Miller

    I recommend some high fantasy — one of the few modern genres where virtue is an overt concept. When I was a teenager, I thoroughly enjoyed the Shannara series by Terry Brooks and The Death Gate Cycle series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

    Moby Dick and The Count of Monte Cristo were also engaging reads in high school. Edgar Allan Poe stories will broaden a kid’s vocabulary and train a meticulous mind, but there is the danger of becoming overly fascinated with the macabre. Dark tales are good in moderation. And there’s always the master, Shakesepeare. My dad once talked a couple teenage boys into seeing “Hamlet” by downplaying the “classic” aspect and describing it as a tale of ghosts, murder, battle and deceit.

    This Twilight Zone guidebook is an excellent jumping-off point for deep philosophical discussions.

  8. Tom Lindholtz

    I’d toss two series by CS Lewis into the bookcase: The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy. Both are great stories for kids of yours ages. And for adults or young adults, they can be read on a deeper level with even more profit. The have a strong intellectual base, as well, encouraging deeper thinking about actions and consequences.

  9. FeliciaB

    Some YA fiction books I have really enjoyed recently (I can’t seem to shake my need to immerse myself in youth literature since my 9 years in children’s theater) are The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins, the Airborn series by Kenneth Oppel, the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini.

    The Hunger Games series while being riveting is also pretty thought provoking. It’s a futurist series set in the U.S. area, but the government has been destroyed and replaced with a system of government with a Capitol surrounded by 13 colonies. All of the colonies exist to support the Capitol. Hmmm, sadly a little too close to real life…

    The Underland Chronicles reminds me a lot of the Chronicles of Narnia but takes place far, far beneath New York City. While the series is written more for pre-teen boys, I was captivated.

    The Airborn series is a creative series set in an alternate universe where the main method of travel is airships. Young boys would really enjoy the series because they’re full of adventure, pirates, and treasure hunting. Some slight romance is added in for those older boys…

  10. Lilium

    A series that’s not much read by children today is Biggles… by W E Johns. Many of the books are not in print but you might pick up a Dean and Sons edition from a second hand bookstore.

    Some of the stories are not very PC (some quaint views on non-Europeans) but they are good yarns. The WW2 ones and some of the detective ones are my favourites. The books certainly unabashedly lauds loyalty, heroism and honour… qualities not as appreciated in our time. The husband says he learnt a good bit of history and geography from them.

    The husband has been collecting them since his late teens… we’ve had to bid furiously for a couple of them on eBay.

  11. Keith Rickert Jr

    I believe no one really outgrows good fairy tales…they just become too jaded for them. In healthy souls they foster wonder. As G.K. Chesterton said, “These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.” Andrew Lang’s Coloured Fairy Books are the way to go. Jack Zipes has a nice collection of Brothers Grimm. And speaking of Chesterton, how about Father Brown–a priest whose knack for solving crimes is due to his insight into human nature gained by his experience as a confessor? And I second the recommendation of Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia which is full of wise little bits like this.

  12. Ursula Hennessey
    C

    Might I suggest “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White? Or, for a slightly younger guy or gal: “The Great Brain” series by John D. Fitzgerald. My brothers and I were obsessed with all of them, and almost all of my students (boys, ages 9-13) took to at least one of them.

  13. FeliciaB

    Alright, I’ll ‘fess up that I have just completed reading the first two of Andrew Klavan’s “Homelander” series. I can’t wait for the third installment, Mr. Klavan!

  14. J. D. Fitzpatrick

    Here’s a plug for the English writer John Christopher. He’s one of the few children’s authors who can write intelligently about politics and power. His best works are the Tripods Trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, The Pool of Fire), the Prince in Waiting trilogy (The Prince in Waiting, Beyond the Burning Lands, The Sword of the Spirits), the Lotus Caves, and The Guardians. I’d say they are ideal for a 10-12yr old, but I still enjoy reading them every time I teach them to a student. Christopher is a master of language, character, and plot.

    For sheer bladder-bursting hilarity, I recommend The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, by Farley Mowat. I read it to my wife a few months ago, and we both had moments where we had to put the book down and howl.

    Edit: And I just noticed it’s long past summer!

  15. Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    Peter Robinson: while my youngest, only eight, will devote her time to children’s books.

    Children’s books (actually good enough for any age, for those with imagination and a sense of whimsy):

    The Moomintroll series by Tove Jansson

    The Bunnicula series (a delightful spoof on the macabre — impossible not to laugh)

    The Great Brain series

    Little House on the Prairie series (girls)

    Anne of Green Gables series (girls)

    The Henry Reed Series

    The Boxcar Children series is a classic

    Children’s detective stories — Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Bobsy Twins, Three Investigators, etc — make nice light reading that’s spooky without being disgusting.

    J D Fitzpatrick:

    For sheer bladder-bursting hilarity, I recommend The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, by Farley Mowat.

    Me, too.

    Harry Potter is good “tween” stuff.

    For older ‘uns:

    Tolkien and CS Lewis are wonderful.

    Kipling’s Kim is, as others have said, also excellent — the language is dated, but that doesn’t spoil it. Kim is, besides being a spy story, also the best story about platonic love I’ve ever read, and kids could probably use more good stories about platonic love these days.

    Also, any adult books that aren’t too, um, “adult”.

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