Tag Archives: John Green

Books for Boys 3

I’ve had a few invitations lately to talk about books for boys. It’s a topic I’m passionate about and all too pleased to tackle. Hey, I’ve been reading for a long time now and I truly believe certain books have made me the person I am. That’s how important finding the right books can be.

On Tuesday night (International Women’s Day) I spoke to approximately 40 fathers and Year 7 sons, at St Bernard’s College in Essendon, on this exact topic. It was a great turnout, given the guys could have been home watching Top Gear on tele. I probably rambled on too long but that’s the risk when I’m recommending books to read.

Several of the father’s present asked me to publish the list of books that I spoke about so here it is. As time permits, I’ll add synopses for the stories as well. Those marked GN are graphic novels.

For primary age readers:

The Dumb Bunnies series, the Captain Underpants series, Dogzilla all by Dav Pikey.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

For upper primary – lower secondary:

The Samurai Kids series by Sandy Fussell

The OK Team series by Nick Place

The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

Rapunzel and Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale (GN)

Chess Nuts by Julia Lawrinson

The Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy

Blood Ninja by Nick Lake

Marvel 70th Anniversary Collection by various authors including Stan Lee (GN)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Burning Eddy by Scot Gardner

Vulture’s Gate by Kirsty Murray

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

The Tomorrow When the War Began series by John Marsden

The Spook’s Apprentice Series by Joseph Delaney

For mid to upper secondary readers:

Boys of Blood & Bone by David Metzenthen

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

The Cave by Susanne Gervay

Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight by Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

One Dead Seagull and White Ute Dreaming by Scot Gardner, not to mention Gravity and all Scot’s other books

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller (GN)

Fighting Ruben Wolf; The Underdog; The Messenger – all by Markus Zusak who is better known for The Book Thief

Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska by John Green

Ten Mile River by Paul Griffin

The Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn (book 1 Across the Nightingale Floor)

Kill the Possum by James Moloney

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

The Beginner’s Guide to Living by Lia Hills

Bladerunner by Philip K Dick (alternate title Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)

And can I throw in Game as Ned and Five Parts Dead by me?

A few quick comments:

– Most of these are great books for female readers, too. Some have tough and inspiring female protagonists. They just happen to be books that I think will work with male reader for some of the reasons I explain in this post.

– I’m biased toward fiction but if your son prefers non-fiction, find what interests him and go with that. I’ll post more on this in future as several people asked how to get their sons reading fiction.

– Graphic novels are a great way to suck people into reading stories because they feel more like TV. My favourite iPad app comes from Comixology and lets me select from a massive range of graphic novels, with many samples for free. For example, Bladerunner, cited above, has been serialised as a graphic novel, under the original title. I’m also looking at some of Frank Miller’s earlier work on Wolverine. Comics on offer include age ratings in case you’re concerned your offspring might select something too edgy.

– There are other highly recommended books I could include, such as Robert Muchamore’s Cherub series. I haven’t read these yet so, until I do, they don’t make the cut.

Hopefully you’ll find something on the list you and your sons can agree on and enjoy. After all, if you both read a book, there’s common ground for a conversation.

On John Greens, Will Graysons and Dorothy Dixers

Speaking of publishing phenomenons, YA uber author John Green (@realjohngreen to his one million+ Twitter followers) has done a turn as Dorothy Dix in his latest vlog.

I’m embedding it here not just because the advice on campus culture and romance should be tattooed on all arms, but because John also speaks the truth on novel (re-)writing. I trust General John’s army of nerdfighters take heed of their fearless leader.

I’m a fan of John’s work and looking forward to reading his collaboration with another YA luminary, David Levithan. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is out now and both authors are on the publicity trail, judging by this report in the LA Times.

The new novel tells of two characters with the name Will Grayson – and reminds me of the time when I worked for another John Green, a sheep farmer with a property about an hour’s drive north of Melbourne.

I have many memories of working with Farmer John, who was a generous if eccentric and tough employer. One story involves his aversion to rocks. I assume every farmer aspires to improve their paddocks by digging out and disposing of the surface stone but Farmer John took it to extremes. On some of the days I worked for him our main task was to lift rocks onto the back of a flat bed truck, drive them to a cliff and throw them into the creek below. Then start again. The thing about digging up rocks is you tend to find … more rocks.

As we dumped each truckload, Farmer John’s catch-phrase used to be, “Don’t straighten your back, boy, there should be two rocks in the air at all times”.

During winter, when the paddocks got too wet for stone-hunting, Farmer John’s wife asked me to construct a rock garden around her beloved rose bushes. I spent a couple of days doing so before returning to university. When I ventured back to the farm the following week, the garden border had gone. The man with the rock allergy had dug up all the carefully placed stones and thrown them in the creek.

I offered to start again. His wife just rolled her eyes.

Listing

Coming up to Christmas the media fills up with list articles. Top Tens of this and that. Bests and Worsts. Most memorable. The Season/Year/Decade/Century in Review and so on. It will be even more rife this year as we’re ending a decade.

Why do so many of these get published? Because they’re easy to write. Because people like them and argue over them. And because they’re usually a great filler at a time of year when less newsworthy stuff happens.

I indulged in lists here last year. This year I’m so befuddled I’m listing sideways myself. Better to be listing than listless, I guess. Here be some recommendations from me:

Favourite things I read in 2009, (old or new)

A Beginner’s Guide to Living – Lia Hills
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Faceless Ones – Derek Landy
Henrietta – Martine Murray
Little Brother – Cory Doctorow
Paper Towns – John Green
Somebody’s Crying – Maureen McCarthy
Ten Mile River – Paul Griffin

Picture books:
Mannie & The Long Brave Day – Martine Murray & Sally Rippin
Isabella’s Garden – Glenda Millard

2009 favourite listens

It’s been an odd year for my iPod. Normally I buy albums. This year I purchased individual tracks and largely sat with favourite albums from 2008 – or delved into the past to discover Tom Waits, John Coltrane and retro Wilco.

Of the few new albums that have had regular rotations, my favourites have been Smoking Gun from Lady of the Sunshine, Wilco from Wilco and White Lies for Dark Times from Ben Harper & Relentless7.

2009 favourite films

Man, there were so many flicks I wanted to see this year but didn’t get to in time (District 9, Samson & Delilah, Balibo, Blessed, The Changeling, Coraline). I’ll catch some of these on video over the silly season. Of those I did get to, I really enjoyed Ponyo, Watchmen, The Reader and The Hangover. I saw the latter with a bunch of mates on a boys’ night out. Laughed until my jaw hurt.

Given my aforementioned befuddlement, I know there will be things I’ve forgotten.

Personal highlights from the year have included finding a passionate publisher for Five Parts Dead, some of the workshops I conducted with students around the state and getting to know several other authors … and then realising we all struggle with the same stuff.

Every year has its tough times too. My thoughts are with those whose lives were altered forever by the February 7 inferno, along with those confronted by cancer or mental illness. Hang tough.

Wishing you a jolly Christmas

My brain has gone into summer shutdown mode so I’m not sure I’ll have any meaningful insights into the writing life today. However, I would like to thank everyone who has purchased Game as Ned, borrowed it from a library or even borrowed it from a friend to read. If you liked it, please spread the word.

Thanks too, to those fearless folk who have been willing to read drafts of my current manuscript, to those who invited me to speak at your school and to anyone who has come along and checked out this blog or my book trailer. I wish you all a laughter-soaked Christmas and adventurous, fun-filled 2009.

Here are a few random musings on the year that is fading into memory:

Music 08
Album of the year as far as my ears go, was Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’. Others I’ve listened to a lot include Angus & Julia Stone’s ‘A Book Like This’, Goldfrapp’s ‘Seventh Tree’, the John Butler Trio’s ‘Grand National’, Josh Pyke’s ‘Chimney’s Afire’ and Arcade Fire’s ‘Neon Bible’. At present I’m chortling to CW Stoneking’s ‘Jungle Blues’ and about to dive into the highly acclaimed Fleet Foxes.

Movies 08
Not a great year for cinema in my opinion. I enjoyed ‘Juno’ and ‘Iron Man’, but ‘The Dark Knight’ is the only flick that stands tall in my memory. I had high hopes for the new Indiana Jones but it couldn’t live up to my teen memories.

Books 08
I’ve just finished Maureen McCarthy’s ‘Somebody’s Crying’, which I really enjoyed. It’s not often these days that I dream about book characters but the lead trio in this murder mystery clearly made a big impression on me. I’m now plunging into the much-praised ‘Before I Die’ by Jenny Downham … not very festive, I know.

As to other favourite YA books I read in 08, I’d pick John Green’s ‘Looking for Alaska’, James Moloney’s ‘Kill the Possum’, and ‘Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight’ by Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow. My son and I are also loving the junior fiction ‘Samurai Kids’ series by Sandy Fussell.

Titles I want to get to over the break are Tim Winton’s ‘Breath’, Richard Flanagan’s ‘The Unknown Terrorist’ and Alan Moore’s ‘Watchmen’.

And the rest

  • My writing year didn’t quite go to plan but 09 looks promising.
  • I’m blessed to have a healthy, happy family and fantastic friends who prop me up when I’m doubting myself. Thank you all.
  • I’d never have believed the election of a new US president could fill me with so much hope for our tiny planet.
  • I am head over heels besotted with South Australia’s Kangaroo Island, which basically provides the setting for my current manuscript. Because my narrator is in a dark place, he talks about the island in less than glowing terms at times. Hope the locals see beyond this if they read it!
  • I’ve covered a (personal) record number of kilometres on my trusty pushbikes and enjoyed … most of them. That included a 120km trek through the (big) hills north-east of Melbourne, after-dark rides with my buddies at Bike Club and many a Sunday morning panting along Beach Road. To all my fellow pedal-pushers, stay safe and upright and may the wind be at your back.