Book Reviews

Freak Show: Boys Who Read

I’m feeling smug because although we’ve packed bathing suits, sunscreen, bikes, tennis rackets and thousands of board games to ward off rain, my boys have realized that packing beach books is as necessary as packing underwear. 

For a while Drew was stuck on the Magic Treehouse books and he steadily read through the series until he had tackled the last one.  Now he’s turned his attention to Lunch Money by Andrew Clements, along with his other books, such as The Report Card and Frindle

Honestly, I’ve spent so long restricting their TV viewing and banning video games that he could be reading Playboy and I’d be equally excited.

Meanwhile, Porter, having made his way through the silly adventures of Captain Underpants(apparently that’s where he learned that “starch is the enemy of underwear!”) is now engrossed in James and the Giant Peach and has packed Matilda and The BFG for further reading.  Aunt Lulu loved the latter book so much that she named her pet fish “BFG” for “Big Friendly Goldfish,” of course, and so I always forget that the BF in the book is actually a Giant and not a fish at all.

(I have the same problem with a popular type of sportswear, called Under Armour, but which I persist in referring to as ArmorAll , which is a car-cleaning product that’s been around since I was a child.  Everytime I ask the boys about their ArmorAll shirts they look at me as if were hopelessly uncool, which I suppose I am.)

Currently I have a stack of five magazines and eleven books (I’m trying to whittle it down to five), set out to hide in the crevices of the minivan.  The stack includes A Thousand Splendid Suns which has gotten rave reviews. 

I have missed Several Virtual Book Clubs but since I’m heading to the beach, why don’t you re-read numbers one, two, three, four, five, six and seven and then laugh when I tell you that Bill has set out The Alienist for his beach reading?

Leave a comment– will this be the vacation where he finishes it?  What books SHOULD we all be reading, or avoiding?

Also: pray for our trip down.  The latest sound emitted by the van is reminiscent of the feedback produced by Jimi Hendrix during “The Star Spangled Banner.”  Apparently starting the car and putting it into gear makes it long for Woodstock.  Despite the cracked windshield and orange dents, it’s not nearly that old.  I think it’s just caught up in all the hoopla about the Summer of Love.


  • Karin B

    Orhan Pamuk’s “Istanbul” is a very moving book. I read it before I went to Istanbul earlier this summer. It is an easier read than “Snow”.

  • Rachel

    Shantaram! Read Shantaram! If I knew the author off the top of my head I would tell you, but since I don’t, I’m pretty sure you can google it and find it.

    Bonus…it is set to be a movie with Johnny Depp. And he is Hot!

  • Jen

    I loved LOVED the Great Brain Series as a kid and plan on having it laying around when the time is right. Right now my son is very into the “Andrew Lost” series (Science). Fun reading with loads of scientific facts tucked in.

  • Genevieve

    Hmmmm, where ya’ll headed? South? It’s rain down here. Predicted almost all week! Of course, that’s “weather man” talk for “It will be clear and sunny all week for the tourists and then rain like hell for the weekend!”
    Hope you DO have a nice, relaxing trip!

  • Shayna

    I have no helpful suggestions for book reads (an intimate relationship with pre-medical textbooks has quelled any desire for pleasure reading at present…though I’m sure you remember that feeling from law school!). I just wanted to comment about the Under Armour craze. EVERYWHERE I go, I see people wearing it! My old roommate (another UA junkie) convinced me to go with her to the factory store in Baltimore when we were living there (apparently the stuff was manufactured right in our own city!). I think she spent about $200 on running shorts and sports bras, but considering that there were about 20 articles, she did great.

  • Amy

    The most recent books I have read are of course books 5, 6, and 7 of the Harry Potter series. It really is a wonderful book series for adults and children. I have also read the Fablehaven series (recently on the NY Times Bestsellers list) and the Lionboy Series by Zizou Corder( I believe also on NY Times Bestsellers a while ago). All books are in the children’s section of a bookstore. I read lots of kids’ books since I am a teacher, but most of them have wonderful applications and lesons for adults as well.

  • Cassie

    I am at the end of book reading for awhile now. I’m bummed, there are no more Harry Potter books to read. I read them all the last 2 months. Boo is on number 6 still, he’ll finish 7 on our Kentucky trip next week.

    I want to read, I’m just bummed. And Boo has read all the above mentioned books too. Any other kid recommendations? I guess we’re back to biographies, sigh…….

  • K

    On my beach trip I read “Four Blondes” by Candace Bushnell because I secretly (won’t admit to my kids cause I think its too x rated for them, ages 20 and 24 LOL) like the show Sex & The City, but it stank (stunk, stinked). I also read “Savannah Breeze” by Mary Kay Andrews which was fun – it was set on the beach. Also, Beverly Lewis’ “The Shunning” and the other two in the series. I’ve never read her before. If I was Oprah, I’d live in a beach house and read for a living.

  • joanne

    The Westing Game. It is an awesome book, very cleverly written. We read it when I taught school and I think my students were 11ish then. Since it is a mystery it was fun to work with the kids on what do you think will happen. I also am fond of the Vandals of Treason House which I found interesting, even as a youngin’ but it is from the 70’s and apparently out of print (according to Amazon) so maybe never mind about that one. But The Westing Game. Really.

  • Susu

    You saying ArmorAll to Under Armour reminds me of my mother saying that my 38 year old brother has “that damn BlueGoose in his ear again”!!

  • momumo

    ROFL at armour all and bluegoose – I absolutely love it!

    I would totally recommend the Golden Compass series to anyone who is having Harry Potter withdrawal – we read them a few years ago when one of the HP books publishing date was delayed. They are quite good, and very captivating for kids of that reading ability.

    I cannot recommend fervently enough to parents that they not forget their own favorites from childhood, some of my children’s favorites were mine and even my mother’s and grandmothers favorites — all time favorite children’s book is ‘Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH’ — boys seem to particularly like it. Also tops on my list for girls or boys, any of the books by EB White. Lastly, for girls, you cannot go wrong with good old Nancy Drew or Laura Ingalls Wilder.

  • Katherine

    I’d love to hear what Finn is reading too. My 11yo is mourning having read the last Harry Potter. He’s also deep into manga and graphic novels.

    My 8yo is about to finish HP #5. He’s been reading the series all summer. He’s hoping not to hear what happens before he finishes the series – good luck to him!

    LOL on Armor All and BlueGoose – I had to tell my family why I was chuckling over here.

  • Amy

    For boys any of the Brian Jacques books are good. The Red Wall series is one of his. My 7th grader has loved them for the past several years. My daughter calls them the Rat War books but she’s secretly read a couple and liked ’em.

    The Dark is Rising, by Susan B. Cooper is also a great series. It’s been around forever – I read it when I was in 6th grade – but has enjoyed a recent comeback due to the movie coming out later this year. The first one is “Over Sea Under Stone” I think. It’s worth reading the series in order.

    Our house just finished reading the 7th Harry Potter book out loud. Although my kids are old enough to read them on their own – in fact have read all of them from cover to cover multiple times – I have enjoyed reading them aloud too much over the years to let them read the final one to themselves. I’m sorry to see the end of Harry Potter. It’s been an institution around here for years.

    Final boy fiction recommendation and it’s my number one pick. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. Also an oldie but great book.

    For adults I recently read The Undomesticated Goddess by Sophie Kinsella and died laughing. I also love anything by Jodi Picoulet. Happy reading!

  • Marine Wife

    My oldest loves to read too. Isn’t it great? (#2 is only 3)
    I couldn’t comment on your last post so will just add my 2 cents here. I had the same issue with Lovely how you can only cancel by calling and speaking to someone. I had to do so from Korea. Then had a similar problem with a credit card company who raised my rates after I was a day late with a payment. Again, I was calling from Korea. I could only call during a very short window of the day due to the time difference and their working hours. It took me 15 minutes to get a human being on the phone. By then, I had lost the capacity to be civil.

  • Marine Wife

    Oh, have to agree with Amy. Just finished Harry Potter and before that, The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. But I may have related a little too much since I was a lawyer (not high-powered, though) and have been a SAHM for more years than I care to think about. Would also add Jasper Fforde’s The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear.

  • Jeni

    I just read *The Remains of the Day*, which was SO good (though I heard the movie was terrible). I also read *England, England* which totally cracked me up!

    Um, I’ve also just read *The Time Traveller’s Wife* and about 30 cheesy mysteries, but I didn’t really think any of them were worth recommending. Have I already recommended *Peace Like A River*? Pretty much the best book ever written. Ever.