Bookstacks 2009: H-E-L-P

In book-related news, I’d like to anounce that I’m about to make a bunch of bookstacks, something I’ve done for the last couple of years, and am doing early this year because we are celebrating Christmas on December 17 and leaving the country for sunny Baja the next day. (We did that last year too.  We are becoming traditionalists, sort of, in the bloglily household.)

Anyway, the challenge this year is to find good things for a 14 year old boy to read.  Biographies of insane rock musicians, stories of horrendous crimes and disasters, entertaining accounts of stuff that happened in the past (aka history), graphic novels (aka comic books), and the novel that you read when you were 14 that you really loved are all possibilities.  Trouble is that I don’t know the names of ANY of these books and am hoping that you, dear readers, just might.

And if you have any movie suggestions for 14 and 10 year old boys, well, throw that in too while you’re at it, okay?



22 thoughts on “Bookstacks 2009: H-E-L-P

  1. I’m assuming they’ve already done the HP series? I’ve been meaning to pick up “The Paths We Choose” by Sully Erna, the frontman of Godsmack (he grew up about 20 miles away from the town I lived in). I believe it just details his life up to his first recording contract, but doesn’t go into life on the road as a rock star.

    There are a number of books out on Metallica, but I haven’t read any of those. (not really a fan of theirs)

    I would encourage them to read “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. It’s a wild ride, even though it’s set in the ’50s. (another homeboy for me, I was born in the same town he lived in).

    When I was a teen I was into sci-fi, “Wizard of Earthsea” trilogy by Ursula K. Le Guin was a fav.

    Have they already read “The Lord of the Rings”?

  2. I think I read Catcher in the Rye for the first time when I was about fourteen. I had it on good authority that there was a pretty good description of an old man picking his nose in the second chapter, which appealed to me when I was that age.

    I also really liked the series of books that begins with “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle. I think I also read “The Sword in the Stone” by T. H. White and “Kidnapped” and “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson. And, of course, I second Digital Dame’s suggestion of the Lord of the Rings.


  3. Top of the list:

    Artemis Fowl series ( In my opinion better than the HP series, having profited by proper editing. Tremendous cast of characters to love.

    The whole Alex Rider Adventure series by Anthony Horowitz. James Bond for teenagers.

    The four books of Awful End trilogy (yes this is on purpose) by Harry Rowohlt. Best to approach with audio books because of the brilliant comedy delivery.

    Leon and the Spitting Image and Leon and the Champion Chip, Allen Kurzweil are brilliant.

    The “Tales of the Otori” series by Lian Hearn.

    The Life and Tiems of The Thunderbold Kid, Bill Bryson.

    If he’s not a big reader: The Medicus, Noah Gordon.

    Please let us know what books you do decide to fill your son’s bag with and how he found them. It would be good to know what he liked.

  4. If the child in question has a sense of humor and is at all intellectually precocious, I highly recommend the Discworld series of sci-fi/fantasy novels by Terry Pratchett. If he likes them, there are a ton of them to read. They are highly intelligent, well-written; a little bit of sex but not dirty, just satirical about human politics and behavior … and the books are funny as all hell.

  5. Yes, isn’t this a tricky one? I’ve been having trouble myself. I would suggest

    Graphic novels: Watchmen by Dave Moore and Alan Gibbons (but you may want to think twice as it IS graphic in all ways. I figure there’s nothing they don’t know already by 14, but would quite understand if you wanted to keep things toned down more!)

    or Stardust by Neil Gaimen

    Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines and the next three books in the series.

    My son really likes David Sedaris, the only author he actually perks up at.

    Sherlock Holmes stories
    Hercule Poirot stories (but no Miss Marple)

    I second Douglas Adams and finally

    Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, perhaps?

  6. For a 10-12 year old I recommend Charlie Higson’s Young Bond series (e.g. Silverfin) and for a 14-year-old I recommend Where Eagles Dare by Alistair Maclean both available on (Maclean also wrote the screenplay.) All the Neil Gaiman books are good too!

  7. Ooooh Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman are both really good ideas! Also, Cavalier & Clay? Maybe a bit advanced, but kind of awesome nonetheless. Does he like baseball? The boyfriend loooooooves this book called The Iowa Baseball Conspiracy (warning, hard to find) that he read when he was about that age. I think it made a big impression. And since I was never a 14 year old boy, that’s all I’ve got! Good luck Lily!

  8. This is wonderful! I cannot believe the number of terrific suggestions you’ve all come up with — and I so loved hearing what people enjoyed when they were that age. In a few days, after the UPS guy hurls the boxes of books onto our front porch, I’ll do a post summing up, but for now, here’s what people over at Facebook came up with when I asked the same question:

    From Sarah: ‘The Hunger Games’ and the sequel ‘Catching Fire’, also ‘Graceling’, and all the Percy and the Olympians books. For movies, try ‘The Thief Lord’, also a book by Cornelia Funke, and ‘Inkheart’ book/movie – if you haven’t devled into her stuff yet.

    From Julie: I went through a HUGE true crime phase starting when I was a teen. Joe McGiniss (yes, he who wrote Selling of the President) is good for the genre: Fatal Vision (also a movie, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court), Cruel Doubt (also a movie), Blind Faith, etc. For more lurid (and less well-written) true crime, try Ann Rule. And the best true crime ever — In Cold Blood. For disasters, Young Men and Fire, by Norman McClean is magnificent. Also try Into Thin Air and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (there is a movie of the second, and at least one documentary covering the events of the first), Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger (also a movie) and the Hungry Ocean by Linda Greenlaw. I could go on and on…..
    Another true disaster book I read lately and really liked was The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin. Very good book.

    From Betsy: Son is devouring Great Expectations (yes, an English class assignment, but he’s loving it), and has polished off most of Arthur C. Clarke’s sci-fi. Maybe The Book Thief (Zusak) or The Long Walk (by Slavomir Rawicz, not the Stephen King book)… Son also likes In the Land of White Death (Valerian Albanov) and other works in the outdoor adventure canon. I’m eager to learn what you come up with, Lily, because I have the same 14-year-old boy challenge going at this house!

    From Toni: This Boy’s LIfe. Old School. (T. Woolf) Candyfreak. (Steve Almond) Shadow Divers. (Robert Kurson) Enders Game (Orson Scott Card).

    Wow. I’m off to shop. xo

  9. Hi Lily – sent you an email that is a forward of kids book recommendations from RJ Julia, by age and interest. Also, we just saw The Blind Side, which your kids might enjoy if they are at all into sports. Merry Christmas, have a wonderful trip!!

  10. Thanks Gail! I love RJ Julia — Sandi Shelton took me there when I was in CT earlier this. year. Thanks so much. (And anyone who’s interested in this e-mail, just get in touch with me, and I’ll forward it on.) BTY — you can reach me via facebook, or at bloglily (at)yahoo (dot) come. Easy peasy.

  11. You are welcome! Glad Sandi took you there…I’m going through writer’s workshop withdrawal, but I keep reminding myself we start again in January. She just runs the very best of workshops! I’ll look for you on facebook….:-)

  12. I suggest the new graphic novel “Luna Park” by novelist Kevin Baker(“Dreamland,” “Strivers Row”) and illustrator Daniel Zezelj. The illustrations are every atmospheric and drew me in completely. The characters are Russian mobsters! The story travels in time from Coney & Brighton Beach to Russia. I’m writing a review for my blog so I’m still figuring out what else to say

  13. I wish I could help you out–girls I know (since I have a niece), but boys are beyond me. It looks like you’ve gotten lots of great suggestions, though. I know there are some great graphic novels out there–maybe doing a little googling would help find a list appropriate for his age. I’m just glad to hear books are on the Christmas list!

  14. A 14 year old sort of ‘cultural godchild’ of mine is blazing through Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Series (still the best thing he wrote). Less on the radar is the Fables series by Bill Willingham which is clever, beautifully drawn and uses myth and folklore in quite wonderful and challenging ways. Mad musicians – problem is that books about recent bands don’t tend to be very good. They just haven’t been around long enough to rack up the miles or the interest from good writes. But the 33 1/3 series of little books about specific cult indie records are valuable stocking fillers.

    At 14 I didn’t really distinguish between ‘young adult’ and ‘grown-up’ books. And the same goes for a lot of Neil Gaiman’s (him again) books. I wouldn’t think any intelligent 14 yo would have any issues with American Gods or (much better) Anansi Boys. But avoid Neverwhere.

    Diane Wynne Jones! Diane Wynne Jones!

  15. Um. 14 year old boy? How literate? I am guessing pretty stout considering the household.

    I reccomend Patty Hearsts autobiography…can’t recall the title but I read it at that age and it was awesome.

    I like the old Stephen King short stories, The Body, Breathing Lessons, The Mist, ect….spooky, semi adult..

    The Bell Jar…or is that tooooo girly? Classic

    The Dead Poets Society…isn’t that a book? I recall , I think reading it?

    The World According to Garp…great boy/man book and funny. Kinda long?

    My favorite book, maybe of all time, and its weird, The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy. Its the most fantastic book about boys, life, growing up, choices, fate, honor, integrity ever. I reread it every year but I am a goober.

    That Was Then, This is Now. Rumble Fish. The Outsiders by SE Hinton. awesome.

  16. I just remembered one great music book – Heavy Metal Islam, by Mark Levine. He’s actually a cultural studies professor but it’s written in a very journalistic, magaziny, pacy style light years away from academia. What do you get? Metal! Hip hop! And Islam! Rebellion counter-culture and sharia law. Devout young muslims playing the blackest of thrash. And so on. I loved it, actually, though I could have done with a denser level of analysis.

  17. Pingback: Holiday Bookstacks are Coming! « ReadingWritingLiving

  18. Oh, this is very exciting! Books have arrived from amazon. As soon as I clean up the empty ornament boxes, wash up the brandy glasses, and sweep the pine needles under the rug, I’m going to start taking some photos of book stacks. xoxo to all for your help.

  19. Pingback: Short Stories for Christmas: a Conundrum and a Question « Smithereens

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