Boys are probably more attuned to benefit from a reading habit than girls just because boys are less whimsical and flaky than a female reader. If you have young boys in your circle looking for books to start a reading library, here is a list of some of the more keepsake choices, Because they are timeless, some subversive but worthy, and all of them are fun and engaging for developing a priceless reading habit.
Never take for granted what kinds of books you choose for your boys book hoard. Check out the following books and authors. Like all of our booklists, we cheat a little so your boys aren't just stuck with just 19 books.
Fairy Tales from Around the World
Russian Fairy Tales compiled by Aleksandr Afanasev
Chinese Fairy Tales translated by Moss Roberts
Both books from The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library
Young boys love to read about faraway lands and fairy tales and myths unique to these cultures.
Both Russia as representative of Slavic people, and China as a society from East Asia offer plenty of mysterious folktales, princely heroes and magical stories that are more adventurously exotic and scarier than familiar western European counterparts, which is what shall endear these selections to male readers of all ages and of any culture.
Russian Fairy Tales is a dense collection of 175 classic Russian folktales--from the legendary Baba Yaga witch that eats innocents to keep young, to the Firedrake, a dragon that is the equivalent of the west's Phoenix. Eastern Eurasia as a culture does have a long tradition of folk and mythical tales rife with horrific monsters, fallen angels, princesses to die for, plus princely charmings and rascal heores. Russian Fairy Tales should be for old world fantasy completists who want to know about the unfamiliar Slavic and Russian myths as well as for boys just interested to read great, timeless stories.
The Chinese Fairy Tales collection, on the other hand, offers 100 stories from centuries of Chinese folklore and myths, which are shorter than what most readers would prefer to read, but contain wisdom distilled into a simple anecdote, brief tale or joke. Most of the popular animal parables you may be familiar with are actually Chinese folktales or proverbs.
Again, East Asia is a very mysterious and strange place for both young Asians from ASEAN or young western readers, so having a book about the folktales and hand-me-down stories of their culture helps us understand most of their belief systems and it makes for great bedtime reading for young boys. Also great for fairy tale completists. Both of these books count as 1 book recommendation for a boy's reading library.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Rudolph Erich Raspe
tales are a form of fairy tale that are actually satire, meant to
reflect the times when these stories were originally published as an uncensorable theme--fantasy. The
Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a wild and sometimes bawdy romp of a
tale of one soldier who travels around the world and encounters mythical
creatures and gods themselves. Rudolph Erich Raspe story of a misbehaving swashbuckler baron will have young boys rooting for one of the best rascal heroes of an adventure fairy tale for always and whet their appetite for other books with subversive characters who go against the oppressive and often ridiculous situations their world puts upon them.
I you think King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is too grave and tragic as a romantic epic, yet something to reach for in your personal book hoard, so will The Adventures of Baron Munchausen be worth being a part of your book collection. For being grave and tragic in a hilariously endearing manner.
Old World Adventure
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was another novelist of tall tales, weaving the tale of a traveler named Gulliver, who gets shipwrecked in the land of Lilliput and Brobdingnag. Gulliver's Travels is a satire, a work that depicts the state of affairs of society and the powers that be of his milieu as ridiculous characters in a fantasy story. So you may read about the kingdom of tiny people as a reflection of the elite and egalitarian rulers of kingdoms in Swift's time with their mores and habits and caprices as well as their penchant for war--The Lilliputians. But the storytelling is still a great adventure read for kids who won't read the allegories and insights until when they're older and understand how such stories are used as a sign of the times by authors who want to avoid censorship.
Because much has been said about adventures in strange kingdoms in the Old World in uncharted lands being a great come-on for developing a taste for reading, Gulliver's Travels as a come-on for timeless adventure, is a boy's book hoard staple you can't do without.
Le Morte D'Arthur (King Arthur and his Noble Knights of the Round Table) by Thomas Malory
Le Morte D'Arthur, is the epic legend of King Arthur of olde England
that has become the backdrop of many movies, cartoons, TV stories and
novels. Boys will enjoy the adventure of Arthur's rise to power and his tragic romance as he strives to keep his good people safely united for the good at a time when robber barons where plaguing medieval Europe and England.
Starting as a coming-of-age story when the wizard Merlin guides him to pull the legendary singing blade, Excalibur, from an enchanted stone as a young man; to his gathering of champions and villages in his realm under the protection of the Knights of the Round Table, the legend of Arthur is a gorgeous read for all the life lessons young boys get to experience while reading the book. If boys take the admonition that power corrupts those who are guided by their vanities lightly, this book shows how even an anointed hero can fall from grace if his vanity gets the better of him.
by Daniel Defoe
Robinson Crusoe is for boys who enjoy adventure tales of shipwrecks and island survival. Disney's swashbuckler pirate movies and the reality-TV cult show, Survivor have resurrected an interest in shipwreck survival stories. Robinson Crusoe defined the shipwreck survivor story as a coming-of-age story for even grown-ups--finding out what life skills are valuable for and keeping a companion in a survival situation as essentially more than one bargains for if you don't get along through thick and thin.
That companion is Friday, a black native African who Crusoe takes under his wing as his personal slave whom he teaches the ways of the world--speaking a foreign language and learning to write. Learning to build their shelter from scratch as well as other survival stuff and weapons. Their relationship is an adventure that most boys would want to explore to learn how racial biases from a certain point in history colored how people treated each other when there was barely any contact between world cultures and white man and black man were a literally very different people. Plus, as an adventure story of its own, it still is a timeless romp of discovering how to put a life back together after a shipwreck disaster.
Wanna be a Soldier?
Gates of Fire
by Steven Pressfield
Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire is the perfect book for young boys who want to know how the Spartans of Greece defeated more than 10 times their number at a small mountain pass in Thermopylae once upon a time to keep intact the first democracy of city-states. In that historical battle in Ancient Greece, King Leonidas and his cohort of 1,200 elite warriors fight what historians claim as 100,000 to 150,000 Persians with part of that horde being the Immortals, the elite murderous troop of Persian emperor Xerxes (also intimated as the Devil himself, as Persia at the time was supposed to have been under the influence of some malignant supernatural being that bribed and invaded numerous lands to submit to the rule of one despot).
In the comic book movie, 300, which kids may be more familiar with, Leonidas and his champions were going 1 on 5 hand-to-hand combat with expert scimitar wielding Persians and breaking formation. That is highly inaccurate. The novel Gates of Fire will actually show you how and why Spartans fight as a tightly packed turtle--and they never break formation even when the opponent is routed. Heavy infantry tactics in ancient times actually relied on intense discipline or even the most seasoned warriors would be overrun by superior numbers of less skillful fighters and the field of battle often dictates how wars in ancient times would be won.
In Gates of Fire, a young orphan boy gets recruited and trained as a Spartan hoplite with their distinctive, heavy Hopolai rounded brass shields, lizard stabbing-short spears and xiphos short swords. Being a Spartan in the age of heavy infantry warfare required intense training to be responsible for your shield mate, of which Greek Spartans were famous for. The book, although fictional is well researched and does not play off comic book-styled heroics where heroes can take on an entire army single-handedly. The novel is an inspirational read for boys who want to become a soldier some day and it shows them what's at stake when they become one to save the world.
Where the Evil Dwells
by Clifford Simak
The tale of the Roman 9th legion is both a mystery and one of courage even against impossible odds, and many adventure fictions are based on the tale of a suicide mission by a Hispania-based, famed Roman legion, the 9th, which disappeared while on a sortie to Britannia, in an area now known as Ireland. Legend has it that they were ambushed and massacred by 6,000 Picts, a barbarian tribe in Ireland, led by their Queen, Boudicca.
Clifford Simak uses the 9th Legion tale as a riff for his fantasy, soldier adventure novel, Where the Evil Dwells, set in an alternate ancient Roman time, a certain part of the world at the edge of the Roman empire (liek Britannia) is rumored to be populated by strange magical creatures that are deemed wild and evil--ogres, trolls, faeries and murderous unicorns.
A Roman army, composed of both veteran legionnaires and some of the most murderous criminals caught from Roman lands, as part of their final fate, sent on a suicide mission to hunt down the main horde of evil creatures and destroy them. In the course of the story, the town at the edge of the unknown frontier also loses a friend who goes off on into the strange frontier, so the townies decide to mount an adventure to find that friend. They discover the remaining survivor of the Roman legion sent in (that got massacred) and also chance upon ancient enchanted protectors, whom they awaken, to protect civilized Rome from the evil beings of the unknown frontier.
Simak's ancient protectors are intimated to be like Lovecraftian horrors themselves who become gargoyle-like protectors, standing at the gates of the Roman outpost at the edge of the unknown frontier to guard against the beings from where the evil dwells.
The book is a light fantasy adventure and is even described as a cliche and one of Simak's weaker novels compared to his hard science fiction novels, but it is a great starter book for reading about fantasy adventure with soldiers in them plus anything that references the Roman 9th Legion should always be a noteworthy addition to any young boys' library.
The Eternal Champion: Elric of Melnibone
by Michael Moorcock
Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone is a fantasy book series about a doomed hero emperor that all young boys would want to read if they like Conan the Barbarian or John Carter of Mars type of warrior heroes. Elric is just one among Moorcock's Eternal Champion book series pulp heroes from the 60s--heroes who get reincarnated under a different name to fight evil in their time in the dark world. At the time it was written, Adventure books like Elric, Tarzan, Conan, and the like as adventuring and swashbuckling heroes in sci-fi or fantasy settings were popular brain candy among young male readers. Some of those characters like Tarzan may seem dated these days but Elric is always an enjoyable pick to read voraciously about if your boy wants a hero unlike any other.
Elric Collected Volume as Fantasy Masterworks
Elric himself is famed for being a strange hero: a sickly-thin, albino emperor whose power comes from both his formidable smarts and his eldritch sword: Stormbringer--a vampire sword that drinks the soul of his enemies and transfers their strength to the wielder of the sword.
In typical fashion of 60s and 70s pulp adventure heroes, Elric saves kingdoms, has trysts with strange princesses and queens, and robs precious artefacts from robber kings--but Moorcock's prose stylist narrative and ideas are timeless and his books still read like they were written for today's generation of hero-worship fans.
Elric series as individual pulp paperback novellas from the 80s
Elric is what all young boys dream of being in an alternate life--a subversive hero who is noble and honorable, saving the day killing all sorts of grotesque monsters and vile wizards. As an adventure story, Moorcock delivers the tale of Elric with eloquent prose, great storytelling, inventive ideas--as good a hero adventure story as any serious literary writer working with fantasy (at the time it was written pulp genre was considered low brow reading for the masses) as his setting.
Elric and the Eternal Champion series are books about bravery, dealing with strange peoples and cultures--the good stuff young boys must learn and live out through the hero of the story. And if you want to learn how to write in prose stylist narrative, Moorcock is one of the best writers to study style and story structure.
Rude and Nasty
Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon
Boys tend to take themselves too seriously, at any age for that matter. There are books for them that mirror their hijinks and allow them to laugh at themselves or at their situation instead of getting cross and letting bad experiences mess up their minds.
The Horrid Henry storybook series is like the Measles novella series listed in our books for children, except that Horrid Henry is not a likable underdog, but a really awful and nasty kid who bounces-off-the-walls so much his parents can barely keep up with him. Not that that's a bad thing. Horrid Henry is a book series from America that hit big in England because kids there are wired to love subversive heroes and are smart enough to know being horrid doesn't mean you're damned to go to hell.
The book series has titles like Horrid Henry Robs a Bank, Horrid Henry Gets Rich Easy, so you get the picture about the story tropes it runs. The character is so cult among kids in England and other parts of the world that a cartoon series started in 2006 and is now on its 4th season as of 2014.
Kids actually post their entire collection of the Horrid Henry books on You Tube, mostly boys, and some girls who love him, while other YA and children's book series collections hardly get the same bragging rights of selfie vids. Francesca Simon's beloved stuff is dope for all readers so we recommend them as a reading starter set for young boys. The Horrid Henry franchise also has books for early readers, regular storybooks for pre-teens and even fact books, activity books and joke books to boot.
If you're kid is a smart reader, and can be guided to know that Horrid Henry is the most charming rascal you can love reading about, grab the entire story book series for him to enjoy. Sandman Slim by RIchard Kadrey
If your boy is older, say from mid to late teens, it would be swell to have him experience the adventures of Sandman Slim, a cult-favorite noir detective urban fantasy, by former Vertigo comic book author Richard Kadrey, set in a supernatural Los Angeles. That is if you don't mind a foul-mouthed, intensely violent yet lovable (for all the wrong reasons) hero to be your kid's entertaining, guilty pleasure, book fave.
Sandman Slim is a half-human, half-angel, who survived Hell and is now stuck in a supernatural Los Angeles--the only remaining city in a strange Earth. In this world, he goes up against the forces of Heaven and Hell and keeps his sorry ass alive with vicious fighting skills, divine magic, black humour and lotsa lovin from the denizens of his strange world.
Sandman Slim will be every Pinoy's favorite bad-ass, anti-hero, crime sleuth if they ever get the chance to read his adventures. If you are a comic book fan who loves foul-mouthed, abrasive misfits, think of Lobo or Jack T. Chance, you will lurv Sandman Slim as a hero of circumstances in a cruel hellhole just trying to keep his head on while making a joke out of those ridiculous enough to mess with him.
Sounds interesting? WIlliam Gibson has a precious blurb about the book, calling it most addictive. Now, who wouldn't want a guilty pleasure like that? If you don't have a prissy attitude and can have a good laugh at black humor anti-heroes, Sandman Slim should be a complete set (9 books so far) in your older boy's book hoard.
The Half-Made World
by Felix Gilman
Cowboys never grow old with boys, whether they be from the Wild West or from a sci-fi TV series like say Firefly. Adventures in the wild frontier are always a guilty reading pleasure fit for a boy's book hoard. Felix Gilman has a twist on the gunslinger hero, one possessed by a Demon, in an alternate frontier West in his novel, The Half-Made World.
In Gilman's book, there are two factions vying for control of an alternate Earth, frontier West similar to America when it was laying down a railroad to connect East to West: The Line--an industrial-steampunk government agent network bent finishing a railway line; and The Agents of the Gun, a group of demons who have possessed unfortunate humans and turning them into one-man, gunslinger armies bent on robbery, rape and murder as they disrupt the operations of The Line.
The hero of the story is a gunslinger named John Creedmore, an Agent of the Gun, whose mission is to save a hospice haven of stragglers from from being in the line of fire of The Line, because one patient at the place has a secret that can change the fate of the West. One of the best modern, steampunk western novels to come out and will always be a classic read for young boys.
Red Storm Rising
by Tom Clancy
In the old days of the 70s to 80s Cold War, popular men's adventure heroes were CIA agents trying to save the world from the supposedly war-mongering and deperate Russians.
In 1986, Tom Clancy's second novel after Hunt for Red October, Red Storm Rising came out and is a set piece where World War 3 was on its way unless the U.S prevents the Russians from moving their forces to take control of the Middle East oil depots after a terrorist attack on the Soviet Union seriously impaired their oil supply and threatens to impair their national security.
Both Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising officially made the techno-thriller an 80s adventure genre by running stories with plenty of blow-by-blow accounts of how certain weapon systems in both nations' arsenal would perform in actual combat situations.
Fans of military action stories got their fix of a hero right in the middle of a high tech war in the making and their mission was preventing disastrous things from taking place.
Although this novel is too contrived in hindsight (Russia is now a strong economic power based on its own oil exports and has become the bread basket of Eurasia with its successful organic farming efforts after the west imposed sanctions on Russian exports while Putin banned Western food exports to the country to help it become less reliant on the west's food supply line.) and the demonization of the Soviet Union by western media may have influenced some novelists to use that as their theme for portraying people they don't really know, Red Storm Rising is a great war novel that boys who want to read about modern warfare technology and strategy will enjoy as part of their book hoard.
Sci-Fi Space Opera
by Orsot Scott Card
Boys love video games like a religion of its own. Ender's Game is an award winning novel in that light that should deliver on its promise as space-opera adventure inside a video game playtest. Orson Scott Card's hero are a group of kids screened for their skills for playing battle simulations for Earth's space forces battling the bad Aliens out in some remote star system.
If the humans lose, they are led to believe that the bad aliens will invade their colonies and reach homeworld Earth. In its own way, Ender's Game is an environmental story that works like Star Trek's prime directive and maybe the more original theme than Avatar's humans invade some Goldilocks planet. Card's novel has been adapted into a spectacular movie which should keep boys of this age happy that video game stories and themes are still timeless and entertaining. If you buy the DVD or Blu-Ray of the sci-fi movie, grab a copy of the novel too.
Dune (and all its sequels)
by Frank Herbert
Another doomed hero epic, Dune is an enthralling story of a young messiah, who is thrust into his predestined role as the ruler of a dynasty of planets by circumstances beyond his control and with the help of his brave mother.
Frank Herbert's bestselling novel got its accolades off word of mouth by fans who found their mileau captured as an inspiring messiah-soldier story in Dune. The times of the 1960s--the rise of oil cartels and drugs as recreational dangers, and the hypnotic beat-poet language of the novel also captured the spirit of the times. For boys who just want a good story, Dune is an engrossing page-turner of a novel they won't be able to put down and they will scour Amazon or local book stores for more stuff like it.
The thrills include a cult of soldier-like fanatics, fanatic order of space navigators, fanatic yet holy order of priestesses called Reverend Mothers who are like medieval Jesuit Inquisition bitches, a noble house that rules the water planet of Caladan from where the hero Paul Atreides comes from, and other oddities like shapeshifters, human computers called mentats, who are also assassins, and the Spice, melange--a substance that is a drug for presciently navigating space routes for planetary trade and war, staying eternally youthful and as a symbol of power because control over the planet, Arrakis where the spice is mined is rotated among a series of overseers from the noble houses of planets in the empire.
The success of this novel allowed the author to buy himself an island all to himself. Young boys who want a sci-fi novel without the boring info dumps and savor all the character drama and events will enjoy Dune--it just may be one of the first fantasy sci-fi, noble house dramas of romance and treachery before Game of Thrones even became a TV series.
Feersum Endjinn (plus Use of Weapons, Culture series) by Ian Banks
late Ian M. Banks is revered as one of the most underrated sci-fi
novelists of recent times, as an idea-themed writer who broke tremendous
ground with his Culture stories.
This book, Feersum Endjinn
is a cosmic, dying sun themed apocalypse novel where people left on
Earth are trying to figure out how to survive the impending doom of an
incoming cosmic dust storm that threatens to envelop the sun and turn
all star systems into cold embers.
The only hope the stranded
Earthlings may have is their Crypt omnicomputer, and a giant space
elevator. Boys looking for a smart puzzle of a sci-fi story will have a
keepsake in any Ian Banks novel, but more so for Feersum Endjinn.
that may not sound as amazing as it should, the way the story is put
together and the ideas Banks plays around with writing this novel
phonetically and in lolcat internet speak should give the jaded sci-fi
reader plenty of double-takes and page-turning fever. Plenty of online
fans swear by Banks' smart stories and Feersum Endjinn is a sure pick
for every boy's library.
His more familiar and acclaimed book
series is the Culture series of nine sci-fi novels, each is a standalone book and
doesn't need to be read in the order they were published. The most
recommended among these books for young boys is Use of Weapons--about
a secret agent of the Culture society who is tasked with impossible deeds because he can literally use almost anything as a
weapon--from mere words to actual physical objects. Of course, boys
must have the complete entire Culture series of novels. Use of Weapons is
as good a place as any to start getting into British sci-fi and Ian M.
One among nine Culture series sci-fi novels by British author Ian M. Banks is fan favorite Use of Weapons.
Feersum Endjinn is that puzzle of a
story where you reread the entire thing twice or thrice and enjoy all
the creepy things that fall into place and make the reveal or payoff of
the story more unforgettably rock-yer-sox-off.
Use of Weapons on the
other hand is a boy's favorite hero stereotype--the dude who can make
use of any object, contrivance, situation or even a mere word, a weapon.
If you want anyone's writing to shape your budding kids' storytelling
chops, read plenty of Ian M. Banks for sci-fi. All of his books help kids develop their reading levels to include working memory skills and not just reading to enjoy a tale, but rereading for enjoying the experience of figuring out a story over and over.
Perdido Street Station (Scar, The Iron Council)
by China Mieville
This phantasmagoric novel with some Bizarro elements is essentially the sci-fi novel for boys of any age who can get past all the dense, descriptive narrative and enjoy a romp of a monster story. Perdido Street Station is a filthy, industrial nightmare of a city whose denizens are afflicted by a rare, weaponized monster which escapes quarantine on account of some bribes by some enterprising mutant crime lord--who had already purchased some of the monster's own children to milk for a substance that is a powerful and very expensive hallucinogenic drug. Motley, the crime lord is even described as a sort of Frankenstein monster of mouths and appendages, cosmetically put together.
The writing offers the weird landscape of the city as a decaying monster of its own which survives off its own detritus. Perdido Street Station has at some time been compared to Mervyn Peake's Gormeghast--a story about a place where murder and weird things are living nightmare and deranged characters live out their lives. Young boys love to have their imagination stoked by evocative scenes and what could be if strange things could be as vivid and tactile yet elusively nightmarish, as everything in this gorgeous, gorgeous subversive book.
It is also may be one of the most excellent examples of a modern writer using pulp genre tropes like sci-fi and a monster story and deliver a literary modern science fiction horror opus that will always be a classic.
This is also the novel where China Mieville definitively turns all known academic literary style rules on its head and plays off description and worldbuilding as a huge part of the payoff of his novel, which still delivers on its promise as a literary tale--a reflection on the human condition in a scenario where corruption and capitalism run amok.
As a subversive work, it shows kids who want to be unfettered by rules how a good author can still make a story work in spite of what the ivory tower academics preach about English language literature. The book is not for everyone, and even some supposedly smart readers and authors, weaned on "literary writing," are turned off by the superfluous and dense narrative and supposedly flat characters of this horror sci-fi monster story.
It should rank as one of the best monster stories a boy can have in his book hoard. Then get the next Bas-lag books, The Scar and The Iron Council to round out your boy's China Mieville new-weird, monster sci-fi collection.
Vellum (and Ink): The Book of All Hours
by Hal Duncan
Self-proclaimed as an Infernokrusher book by Scottish author, Hal Duncan, his The Book of All Hours was notoriously popular among sci-fi reviewers as a messiah story working in alternate planes of reality and told in fractured narrative format. The Book of All Hours is supposed to be about a book where all reality is coded and The Vellum is the very fabric of reality, past, present and future where both angels and demons are setting up a final confrontation.
Boys who want a kick out of reading subversive fiction will enjoy Hal Duncan's first novel. Good writers are not supposed to write like this, according to some high and mighty reviewers.
Hal's novel itself has been praised for very inventive and wild ideas about fractured narratives and multiple character voices working in the same story, on alternate planes coming together in a apocalypse.
The Book of All Hours is a prime example of a keen writer breaking most of the rules of storytelling and telling a story really well on his own terms. Duncan is unabashed about touting his novel as its own ivory tower of style over substance--and this is not saying the book does not read well but it does precisely because the book is meandering in its fractured narrative form. Boys who yearn for books that are so out of the norm yet deliver on its promise should grab this novel. It also has a sequel--Ink.
Duncan is a gay writer who has great advice for genre writers who want to explore sci-fi or fantasy writing in a craft book of his own, and if you can't find a copy of that, you can still study both Vellum and Ink for how multiple voices and fractured narrative storytelling works.
The San Veneficio Canon (contains The Divinity Student, The Golem)
by Michael Cisco
Forget about Frankenstein for your boys' horror fix. Instead, get Michael Cisco's The San Veneficio Canon, a compendium of two novellas, The Divinity Student and The Golem. It is a gothic story about a man who becomes stuffed with arcane documents and is preserved by formaldehyde who is set to sacrifice himself at a certain altar as his mission. While Frankentstein is still a great book to have, it reduces your horror story to that of a body parts-jigsaw puzzle monster that gets mad at the scientist who created him. You will enjoy The San Veneficio Canon as a better nightmare character: a human body housing a collection of sacred secrets--unknown documents stuffed into his being (he is intimated to be a Bible), that is a zombie on a self-destruct mission.
Scenes in this book are described unforgettably and will haunt the young reader long after he puts the tome down, to pick it up again to savor those parts of the story. The goal of the book recommendations in this list is to get your boys to read for pleasure and Cisco's writing is for boys looking for a reading fix to keep their interest up. Even get them into writing story for the sake of writing too.
The Divinity Student was written in 1999 while The Golem was written in 2004. The first book won the author The Horror Guild Award for best first novel by an author in 1999.
All books by Michael Cisco are acclaimed as guilty pleasure reading--don't you want your boys to have all of his books? If he can make a Frankenstein monster more haunting and even beautiful and inspiring as a horror character, you'd want to read about all the monster sorts hidden in his other novels that are as unforgettable.
Sci-Fi- Dystopian Adventure
The Book of the New Sun (or Severian of the Guild)
by Gene Wolfe
Gene Wolfe is a Catholic writer who is regarded as the "most dangerous writer in America," a compliment by Neil Gaiman for a novelist widely regarded as the Shakespeare of sci-fi after his groundbreaking The Book of the New Sun series starting from 1983. Severian is a torturer, a job in the far future where he executes those who have broken the law, and his quest takes him to find his lost love and save his city.
Severian of the Guild is the Omnibus collected edition of the four books in the Book of the New Sun series
A popular trope for sci-fi writers from the 70s and 80s was a post-apocalyptic scenario where the sun is dying out and wars ravaged the earth leaving remnants of various cultures-kingdoms in place--some with magic and sorcery coming back while others using old technologies that are regarded as priceless artifacts. Gene Wolfe writes a lyrical Dying Sun book series planted with many Easter eggs about the history of the earth after it is no longer recognizable.
The reader is challenged to figure out how the story comes together by piecing together what Severian says and how he describes his world as he goes on his quest for redemption.
Originally coming out in the 80s as paperback and bardbound sci-fi books
Among the books recommend for boys in this list, Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun may be the most difficult to read because he uses strange old English words like destrier for horse, carnifex for torturer, and he plays heavily with the theme of the unreliable narrator to tell a story--a tricky read for fantasy fans weaned on easy to read staples like David Eddings or Isaac Asimov, but the payoff for reading his books is learning how to enjoy story as its own puzzle box adventure, with insights and marvels that you will discern as you reread his novel again and again. The same payoff from reading Iain M. Banks novels.
Like the Bible if you will. This may be a novel series for slightly older boys or for those who are patient readers who can sift through the story and find the gems lying in plain sight for them to dig up.
It has also been touted by some overzealous reviewers as sci-fi's Ulysses or as a messiah-like adventure like Jesus at the end of time, but that is another matter because of Wolfe's Catholicism.
As the last book series recommended for boys in this list, THE sci-fi Bible should do just as well as a copy of Homer on your boys' book hoard shelf.