Here are some recommendations from some guys we trust.

Elizabeth Patridge

Elizabeth Partridge is the author of over a dozen books for children and adults, among them the highly celebrated Marching to Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary, as well as biographies of Dorothea Lange, Woody Guthrie, and John Lennon. Her books have received many honors, including National Book Award Finalist, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Michael L. Printz Honor, SCBWI Golden Kite Award, SLJ’s Battle of the Books, and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.

Her story, “Mojo, Moonshine, and the Blues,” appeared in the fifth volume of the Guys Read library: True Stories.

Elizabeth is on the core faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults.

The following is a list of books she’s either loved reading with her two boys, or that she just thinks are fantastic.

 

  • Robot Dreams
  • Sara Varon
  • I love this wordless graphic novel. A dog builds a robot and they become friends, but the robot rusts and can’t move after he goes in the water at the beach. Both funny and sad.

  • American Born Chinese
  • Gene Luen Yang
  • The Monkey King, a Chinese folk hero, messes with the main character who is trying to fit in at his all-white school. Graphic novel.

  • The Graveyard Book
  • Neil Gaiman
  • How can you resist a book with these first two lines: “The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade sharper and finer than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you’d been cut, not immediately.”

  • One-Eyed Cat
  • Paula Fox
  • What if you found a gun and were told never to shoot it, and one evening you shot at a flickering shadow, and you thought you might have hit a cat, right in the eye? How would you deal with the cat, and your guilt, fear, and shame?

  • Robin Hood
  • Get the biggest, fattest version of this book you can find from the library. It should come in at 150-200+ pages. Total adventure and high jinx.

  • Danny, the Champion of the World
  • Roald Dahl
  • Danny and his father feed rum-soaked raisins to the pheasants on the estate where they are never allowed to go hunting. They set out to poach a record number of pheasants from the dreaded estate owner. Dahl is the guy who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Fantastic Mister Fox.

  • The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights
  • Steve Sheinkin
  • Why were 50 sailors, all African American, tried for mutiny by the US Navy during WWII when they refused to go back to work after an explosion killed 300?

  • Kinda Like Brothers
  • Coe Booth
  • Jarrett’s mother takes in two foster kids: one a baby, one a boy a year older than Jarrett. As it says on the back cover: “Kinda like enemies. Kinda like friends. Kinda like brothers.”

  • Revolution, (The Sixties Trilogy #2)
  • Deborah Wiles
  • This book is a hybrid. It’s a novel that takes place during Freedom Summer in 1963, and yet it is full of photographs and real quotes. Mesmerizing.

  • Eleanor and Park
  • Rainbow Rowell
  • Two smart, funny, quirky misfits find each other. This book has one of the most tender love scenes ever, so go get a copy right away.

Loren Long

  • The Magic Finger
  • It made me think about what it would feel like to be an animal . . . especially an animal being hunted.
  • Hatchet
  • I was fascinated by the question . . . what would you do if you were lost all alone in the wilderness?
  • A Season on the Brink
  • For any NCAA basketball fan or anyone interested in a quirky biographical study of a legendary coach . . . Bobby Knight.
  • The Winner’s Manual, For the Game of Life
  • I like to learn how extraordinary/successful people approach life and this is a unique (just published) book about methods and ideals that Jim Tressell brings to his Ohio State football program.

  • Marley and Me
  • Sorry, I'm a softy for dogs. I had just lost my dog of 14 years and read this book on a book tour. Ended up bawling my eyes out all alone in a Hotel in Tampa. Guy Reads, guy cries.
  • The Little Engine That Could
  • The essential picture book for every collection . . . my favorite growing up. Take it off to college with you!

Adam Selzer

Adam Selzer was born in Des Moines and now lives in Chicago, where he writes humorous books by day and researches history, ghost stories and naughty playground rhymes by night. After eleven published books, including the acclaimed Smart Aleck's Guide to American History and I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It, not to mention How To Get Suspended and Influence People (which people try to ban now and then), he is just famous enough to have a page on wikipedia. He has been described as "subversive, but in a fun way....like the offspring of Bob Dylan and some Muppet." (taken from the author's website, adamselzer.com)

 

  • The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death
  • Daniel Pinkwater
  • A story of two kids who sneak out to go to late night double feature picture shows and end up fighting aliens with wrestlers and detectives. I pretty much based my life on Pinkwater's teachings, and this one, in particular. It's set in a thinly-veiled version of Chicago, and the fact that I live near some of the locations now is not entirely a coincidence. It's available in a really good collection called "5 Novels" which also has a couple of other masterpieces in it.

  • Rotters
  • Daniel Kraus
  • A book about a guy who finds out that his father is a grave robber. I love grave robbing so much that my neighbors are reluctant to come to my barbecues.

  • Knock On Any Door
  • Willard Motley
  • How Nick Romano went from being an altar boy at 12 to dying in the electric chair at 21. A really tough, gritty novel about life on the streets in the 40s, this book is also the origin of the phrase "live fast, die young, have a good looking corpse." I found this in a bin at a thrift store in high school and bought it because I knew Jim Morrison had liked it; a week later it was my favorite novel ever. The writing just pounds you in the face.

  • Martin Chuzzlewit
  • Charles Dickens
  • The easiest Dickens to start with is A Christmas Carol (you already know the plot, and it's short), and the best ones are probably Great Expectations and Bleak House (which has a guy who spontaneously combusts in it). But sometimes I feel like I have a duty to tell people that Martin Chuzzlewit is under-rated; it comes right in between his early, zanier books and his later, more serious ones so you get the best of both worlds. Dickens books can take weeks to read, but they're worth it. You lose yourself in a larger-than-life world full of kooks and crooks with lots of droopy taverns and winding alleys. Even the most serious ones are funny as hell.

  • I Hated Hated Hated Hated This Movie
  • Roger Ebert
  • A collection of Ebert's worst reviews - just about everything you need to know about writing is mixed into these. Reading Ebert's best and worst reviews will tell you more than 100 "writing craft" books. He was really funny when he was ripping into a movie - he says one of them should be chopped up and made into free ukulele picks for the poor. And the notes he had for that movie where Shaq plays a genie are some of the best writing advice you can get.

  • Space Station Seventh Grade
  • Jerry Spinelli
  • Spinelli's first book, re-reading it in college is what made me realize that YA books could be just as "literary" as anything else on the shelves.

  • Nemesis
  • Phillip Roth
  • Roth's latest and apparently last book, a story about a gym teacher in a Jewish neighborhood in New Jersey during World War 2 who questions his faith when a couple of kids die of polio. He seems to have no idea what's going on in Europe. But the reader does.

  • The Shakespeare Wars
  • Ron Rosenbaum
  • A nonfiction book about controversies among Shakespeare scholars (like, does Juliet talk about having an orgasm? Did Shakespeare revise his work? How much of Macbeth is missing from the script we have?) Academia is weird world full of cliques and drama, Rosenbaum succeeds in making it look as though professors throw folding chairs at each other during conferences. He also speaks as well as anyone about how Shakespeare can just cast this spell over you that you may never recover from if it hits you just right (while freely admitting that most Shakespeare productions, and most essays about him, are boring as all get out).

  • Skinnybones
  • Barbara Park
  • Look, writing middle grade humor is really, really hard. Way harder than YA humor. I re-read this one lately and couldn't believe how funny it was. Barbara Park made it look so easy.

  • The Lost Continent
  • Bill Bryson
  • Bill Bryson drives across the country, makes fun of things, and muses about how America has changed over the decades. One of those books where you can just open to any page and read a bit.

     

    BONUS REC OF OBSCURIA:

    The Sears Catalog and Consumer's Guide, Fall 1900
    They reprinted an abridged version of this in the 1970s; you can find it online for a couple of bucks. It's the best bathroom reading in the world. The 1927 one is neat, too.

Dan Gutman

Anything by Robert Benchley, Woody Allen, Mark Twain, Dave Barry, Roald Dahl, Robert Cormier, Jack Gantos, Peg Kehret, Gary Paulsen, Carl Hiassen, Andrew Clements, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Gordon Korman, Roland Smith, Anthony Horowitz, and some guy named Jon Scieszka.

  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  • Genius. The Sgt. Pepper of children's books.

  • Hatchet
  • Still the best survival story.

  • Ball Four
  • This is the book that turned me on to reading. For the first time, somebody wrote like they were having a conversation with me.

  • Yertle the Turtle
  • Or anything by Dr. Seuss. Can’t beat it.

  • Mad Magazine
  • Without it, all intelligent life on Earth would have ceased to exist.

Gordon Korman