May 3, 2007 8:03 AM

Classic books and movies for boys


My reply to a reader who asked about books for boys really just scratched the surface.

For one thing, I noticed that some readers who suggested books for boys (and I got a few in private emails too) missed the point I was trying to make about books that would touch the hearts of boys and their inner longing to be heroes.

Yes, The Littles and The Phantom Tollbooth are good books, but what I was looking for were suggestions for books which would stimulate the imagination of boys specifically.

You moms with young boys are in for a journey yourself if in the process of raising boys you allow God to teach you to step outside your own way of viewing the world, to be ready for a paradigm shift so that you can see what your son needs to realize his masculine potential and provide for it. There are lots of "nice" books around - even ones that encourage character development - but those are not what I'm talking about.

I've spoken before about how as a result of creeping feminism our culture views girls as normal and boys as aberrant from the norm. We have taken away recess, squashed competition, organized boys' sports - really stripping boys of a lot of stuff they used to go through on their way to becoming men.

I think the relegation of the classics to the dustbin has been part of this trend. When I read the following from my hubby, I was struck by how much a part of our culture classic children's literature used to be. I am very blessed that Tripp made these tales such a huge and important part of my sons' lives as they were growing up.

Tripp sent this in as a comment on my Books for Boys. It blew my mind:

Reading the classics to my children has been one of the highlights of my life.

Tolkein's Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring Trilogy
C.S.Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia,
Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel
Louis L'Amours westerns especially the Sackett series
G.A. Henty's books, (especially Freedom's Cause)
Victor Hugo's Les Miserables
Alexander Dumas complete series on The Four Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo
Charles Dickens Tale of Two Cities, Nicholas Nicholby& Martin Chuzzlewit
Daniel Dafoe's Robinson Crusoe
Robert Lewis Stevenson's Black Arrow, Kidnapped & Treasure Island
James Femore Cooper's Leatherstocking saga The Deerslayer- Last of the Mohicans series
C.S. Forester's Hornblower series
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's White Company, (he's famous for Sherlock Holmes...but this was what he really wanted to write about...knights!)
Ralph Moody's Little Britches series
Esther Forbes and Lynd Ward's Johnny Tremain
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird
Marjorie Rawlings' The Yearling


Moby Dick (Gregory Peck)
Henry V (Kenneth Brannaugh)
To Kill a Mockingbird (also Gregory Peck)
Captain's Courageous (Spencer Tracy)

John Wayne in The Man who shot Liberty Valance, Hondo, Sons of Katie Elder, The Searchers, Tie a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, True Grit, Rio Bravo, Rio Lobo, Big Jake, The Cowboys*,McClintock, The Shootist
Gary Cooper in High Noon
Alan Ladd in Shane
Jimmy Stewart in The Man from Laramie,Bend in the River,and Winchester 73
Wyatt Earp*(1994)
The Man from Snowy River
Quigley Down Under*
Open Range*

War /Epic/Adventure (past-present)

Jason and the Argonauts(1963)
The Lives of a Bengal Lancer
Charge of the Light Brigade(1936)
Treasure Island(1950)
Red Badge of Courage
Sergeant York
Ben Hur
To Hell and Back
Bridge on the River Kwai
Guns of Navaronne
The Longest Day
Bridge Too Far
To Have and to Have Not
The African Queen
Pork Chop Hill
Soldiers and Saints*
Sands of Iwo Jima
Memphis Belle*
Horse Soldiers
El Cid
The Patriot*
Battle of the Bulge
Flying Leathernecks
Great Escape
We Were Soldiers*
Red Dawn*
HBO series Band of Brothers*
Behind Enemy Lines*
Das Boot*
Gunga Din
Master & Commander

Japanese Samurai movies from which American Westerns were derived: Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, The Hidden Fortress(Star Wars derived from this)

Flight of the Phoenix(1965)
Last of the Mohicans*

French series w/ Gerard Depardieu in Comte de Monte Cristo(1998), Cyrano de Bergerac(1990)
Horatio Hornblower BBC series
Nicholas Nickleby*
Raiders of the Lost Ark*
The Rocketeer.

Musicals: Newsies....

*possibly contains some adult content, language, excessive violence

I will send in more when I have time and can think of them.

Many of these are available at your local library. All are at Netflix - another good reason to join!

Or join Paperback Swap and list your old books and look for these new ones there. Or check for used copies at Amazon. (If you use Paperback Swap or Amazon, please go through the links on my left sidebar - helps support this site :)

And oh, btw, Tripp: I will send in more when I can think of them?

All I can say is, What A Guy!


Posted in Books, Boys | Permalink


My husband bought a book called Bedtime Stories for Boys when we found out we were having a son. It has alot of classics, but also some new stories that feature boys as heros. It's a big "Mother Goose" style book. Here's a picture and a link to a seller on E-bay. Link Our son loves it!

Posted by: lauren | May 3, 2007 9:10 AM

Thank you for all your posts lately about boys and encouraging masculinaty. I have 2 young boys and am thankful that you are making me more aware of this. I guess the hardest thing for me is sorting through all the preconceived notions that I have in my head about what masculinaty truly is. I find this very challenging, but want to take it on for the benefit of my boys, and to do my best in raising them in a way that pleases the Lord.

Posted by: Mindy | May 3, 2007 11:45 AM

One more to add to the book list is Edgar Rice Burroughs. I only discovered him recently but shared him with my guys. He is best known for the Tarzan books (which I have not read) but I've read most of his other stuff and it is adventurous, exciting and all seem to have a focus toward true character, even when the characters in the book are dramatically flawed. (Plus they are all available at

Posted by: King of Fools | May 3, 2007 2:30 PM

Barbara - This really hits the nail on the head for me. You are so right that there are lots of good books, which I fully intend for my children to read. But what I really need are books that encourage boys to grow into men - real men. Masculinity has fallen so far out of favor anymore that it just isn't even talked about. When I asked my children's librarian to recommend books about forgiveness or shyness or friendship, she had no problem giving me a list a mile long. But when I asked about books encouraging heroism or courage or defending the weak - I got a blank stare. Thank you so much for sharing this and please thank Tripp and Zach for us!

Posted by: Shannon Miller | May 3, 2007 5:06 PM

I don't know if you'd consider these "classics", but my son (and so did my husband) LOVES Richard Scarry!!!! My son is quite......ACTIVE.....but he can sit for LONG periods of time looking through Scarry books!!!! : )

Posted by: shawnda | May 4, 2007 4:37 PM

I also thank you for this. So happy to see other people who "get it" about boys needing to be boys in order to become men. I really despair of the future sometimes when I see mothers happily "feminizing" their boys. Who will be our heroes, the warriors we may desperately need?

Posted by: Margaret | May 5, 2007 1:26 PM

Barbara and Tripp:

What a great list! I was so pleased to see that my husband has chosen so many of the same movies for our son, but we could use some beefing-up of the books around here. He'll appreciate this list when I forward it.

Have you seen Jimmy Stewart in 'Shenandoah' also! We love that one.

Posted by: floorplan | May 7, 2007 10:18 AM

oops. I see that you listed Shenandoah.

Posted by: floorplan | May 7, 2007 10:19 AM

My oldest of 4 sons (11 years old) has read my Dad's Roy Rogers and Gene Autry books, as well as several Louis L'Amour books. My Grandad (now 90) gives us L'Amour books by the sack(ett) full. He's also read some Jack London, Kipling's Captain's Courageous, and Stevenson's Treasure Island.

Posted by: Robert Lindsey | May 7, 2007 3:52 PM

I wanted to ask you about the book, The FOUR Musketeers? :)

Posted by: Carol | June 8, 2007 10:43 AM

Oops - he got mixed up probably. Of course it is the Three Musketeers. But in 1974 there was a movie called the Four Musketeers and we had four boys in a row whom we referred to as the Four Musketeers while they were growing up!

Good catch, Carol!

Posted by: barbara | June 8, 2007 11:16 AM

Great list. You may want to add some books by Jules Verne. Nice site.

Posted by: John | May 31, 2008 10:02 PM

Great list. You may want to add some books by Jules Verne. Nice site.

Posted by: John | May 31, 2008 10:02 PM

Love the list!

I recently read "The Swiss Family Robinson" (Johann Wyss) to our boys. The Disney movie is fun, but the book is much better.

Lots to talk about... their faith sustaining them, the way the family always worked together, their respect for their parents, protecting each other (and especially their mom, and the girl they rescue), and the transition from boys to men. We talked about the way the father was careful not to overwork them, but always had meaningful work to be done (kept them from boredom and despair).

LOTS of adventure! (And, whew! Lots of vocabulary!)

Posted by: Julie | June 1, 2008 6:17 PM

My ten year old son is an avid reader. He loved the book, Nathaniel Bowditch and has read it several times. He really enjoys the adventure stories written by Lee Roddy and recently discovered Wayne Batson's work.

Posted by: Elizabeth M Thompson | December 13, 2008 3:30 PM

I highly recommend Louis L'Amour....even for girls. In fact, both my husband and I have taken up rereading my personal collection of Louis L'Amour novels (our kids are too young yet for them). I read them as a young adult and they helped form my image of both a "real man" and what a real woman is as well. I looked for a Louis L'Amour man to marry and I did (though he doesn't ride a horse, own a ranch, or use a gun regularly, and he hadn't read Louis L'Amour when we met....but he knows how to work hard to love and protect his family. I know I can count on him to do the right thing no matter how hard it is. Those are the men you meet in Louis L'Amour books.)
The movies based on L'Amour's books are good, too (especially the Sackett movies), but the books are best.
I also highly recommend the Man From Snowy River movies, even for young kids. Our 6, 4, and two year old children are loving these movies (we watch in little snippets for a several nights and they make it through the whole movie)
Oh...and of course, if you can find it, the old TV Series The Rifleman! another family favorite.

Posted by: Carol | December 15, 2008 1:36 AM

Barbara, do you have any suggestions on a reading list for a seven year old boy? Thanks so much!

Posted by: Heather | August 11, 2010 1:22 PM

Hi Barbara, Just came across your site. I write action-adventures & mystereis for readers 8 and up, especially boys. Glad to see you writing about that.

Please check out my Books for Boys blog at

I've written 36 manuscripts, and have contracts for nearly 20, so there will be several coming out over the next few years.


Posted by: Max Elliot Anderson | November 12, 2010 8:25 AM

Now that my oldest - a son - is getting older, I revisited this post to print out. I was struck by Tripp's introduction, "Reading the classics to my children has been one of the highlights of my life." Once sentence can say so much about a person's character. Thanks for this post. I love reading aloud to my kids.

Posted by: Crystal | April 1, 2012 5:21 PM

I am so glad to see masculinity being encouraged here. It took me a while as a young mother to realize that so much advice I was given about my young boys didn't take into account their budding masculinity. I have been looking for a book list like this for several years. Thank you, Thank you!

Posted by: Katie | August 30, 2013 2:54 PM

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