By Timothy Gamble (March 6, 2016)
Here are ten books of outdoor adventures and wilderness survival that I think every boy* on his way to manhood should read. If you are already a grown man, but haven't read one or more of these books, I recommend you do so. They can be enjoyed by all ages.
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe, is the classic "stranded on a desert island" book. The protagonist, Robinson Crusoe, "chronicles his daily battle to stay alive, as he conquers isolation, fashions shelter and clothes, enlists the help of a native islander who he names 'Friday', and fights off cannibals and mutineers."
The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling, is actually a collection of short stories by Kipling published in the 1890s. Set in India, the stories are actually fables in which talking animals are used to teach a moral. The most famous of these stories are about the abandoned "man cub" Mowgli - a boy raised in the wild by wolves.
Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss, is about a shipped-wrecked family that must survive and adapt to life alone on a tropical island. Written in the early 1800s, the book is somewhat "off" in certain details of natural history (for example, an impossibly wide range on animals are native to the island). However, this is still a classic tale of family adventure and survival.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, is an American classic. Considered "controversial" in today's highly sensitive, PC-culture because of its honest portrayal or race relations of its day, including the frequent use of the word "nigger," this book should be mandatory reading for every school kid, but often avoided. However, the book's protagonist is solidly anti-racist, as is the book's overall theme.
Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson. Yes, this is the book the Disney movie is based on. A very moving story of a boy and his dog growing up together in the hills of west Texas.
Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, is the first of the Little House on the Prairie books. Sometimes considered a girl's book because it is told from the point of view of Laura Ingell, the story is really about the life and struggles of an American pioneer family in the 1870s. Pioneering life is hard, with plenty of adventures to keep things interesting.
The Call of the Wild and White Fang, both by Jack London, are set in Canada during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s. Full of dogs, wolves, adventure, and survival, these fast-paced books will hold the attention of most boys, while teaching positive themes of morality and redemption.
Stormy, by Jim Kjelgaard, is a fantastic adventure story about a boy, Allan Marley, and Stormy, an abused dog accused of turning on its master. I won't give away too much of this story, but basically the two have some amazing adventures and ultimately save each other.
Big Red: The Story of a Champion Irish Setter and a Trapper's Son Who Grew Up Together, Roaming the Wilderness, is another book by Jim Kjelgaard (too often forgotten as a great author of young adult adventure books). The rather long title pretty much sums up this book. All of Kjelgaard's books are must-reads for boys, in my opinion.
Not an adventure novel, but rather a wide-ranging collection of articles on topics of particular interest to boys, The Dangerous Book for Boys, by Conn Iggulden, is a book I wish I had when I was growing up. Topics covered include essential gear for boys, paper airplanes, the seven wonders of the ancient world, the 5 knots every boy should know, dinosaurs, making a bow and arrow, understanding grammar, famous battles, first aid, cloud formations, astronomy, navigation, the Declaration of Independence, building a workbench, and seven poems every boy should know, among many others.
There is a similar book for girls, The Daring Book for Girls, by Andrea J. Buchanan.
*Yes, girls (and women) can read and enjoy the books on this list, too!
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