Tag Archives: Lia Hills

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.

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.

Snapshot from a novel #2

Extracts from the excellent The Beginner’s Guide to Living by Lia Hills (Text Publishing 2009).

From a scene describing a funeral wake:

Dad’s not far away, leaning into the lounge room wall like it’s the only thing that will hold him up, his suit all corrugated with grief. (p5)

From a scene describing the bustle on the State Library steps:

It’s hot, hot on my face, on my chest, and the warmth feels good; it’s evaporating something that doesn’t belong. I find a spot on the steps out of the traffic but still in the sun. Below me, there are some emos huddled in as much shade as they can manage, a flock of them all in black like suicidal crows. (p29)

And sleep disruption:

Jigsaw night made up of pieces of sleep. The dawn of my first exam. (p199)

And here’s a quote Lia brought to our attention during her month at insideadog:

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” – Nietzsche

Getting fresh

Journalists are trained to get the story first or at least gather new facts that are exclusive to their reports. As an author, you should be striving for a different sort of exclusivity – original ideas, characters, voices, structure and plot. After all, why would any publisher want to invest in a story that has basically been done before – unless you have a truly unique spin on the material?

While writing Game as Ned I had a day when I questioned whether I had any original ideas in my head. I picked up the Saturday Age and stumbled across a double page spread on Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Not only did this oft-awarded book focus on a teenage narrator with an autism spectrum disorder but it was already so successful it had been added to the Victorian VCE reading list. Most Aussie authors would kill to have one of their titles make that list.

Given that I was writing a book narrated by a teen with an autism spectrum disorder, I feared nobody would be interested in a story so similar in subject matter to Haddon’s. Game over.

That night my wife and I scored a babysitter and had a night out. For want of other choices, we saw the Jack Nicholson movie Something’s Gotta Give. The plot, coincidentally, echoed that of a short story I’d just had short-listed in a writing competition. That realisation hit me like a bus. I became genuinely worried that I was just a big sponge for other people’s ideas. It was a dark day on the author odyssey.

On the up side, it inspired a major rewrite of the Game as Ned manuscript, a new co-narrator and, I believe, a stronger story.

My next book Five Parts Dead deals with death, dying, guilt and grief. It’s set at a lighthouse in South Australia. Not so long ago I stumbled across reviews of two new YA novels – one focusing on exactly the themes I’m tackling*, the other set at a remote West Australian lighthouse. Ouch.

Perhaps I’m older and wiser now. I’m certainly more philosophical. It’s impossible to prevent overlap between stories.

Death and grief are universal themes. People have been writing about them since… forever.

Lighthouses are evocative and iconic**. Umpteen books have been written about them.

What I have to work on is delivering a fresh way of looking at age-old subjects. Screenwriting guru Robert McKee once wrote a dedication for me in his book, Story. It read: “To Tim, Write the truth.” I see my task as an author as finding a new truth that’s worthy of a) publication and b) reading.

That’s my focus while I’m working towards an end of year deadline for my Five Parts Dead edits.

*I’m currently reading this book, Lia Hills’ The Beginner’s Guide to Living. I thoroughly recommend it – probably to readers 16 and up. Sure, Lia covers very similar issues to those I’m trying to tackle. Thankfully, she does so in very different ways – even if we reference some of the same materials.

**My Word of the Week is the noun for lighthouse lovers – “pharologists”. Would you believe there’s a Facebook group for lighthouse buffs entitled “Pharologists are light-headed”? Of course there is.