Catchup: Boy books vs. girl books + Recommending Books

Philip.Belben at Philip.Belben at
Fri Jul 19 07:15:54 EDT 2002

This is a very old thread, but I had no time when it was current, and there are
one or two things I'd like to say.

Melissa asked:

> I would like your opinions, especially those of you who are boys, or used
> to be boys, about what kinds of books boys are interested in reading.


> 3. If you began reading science fiction and/or fantasy as a young teen, what
> interested you in such books?  (Boys or girls)

Difficult.  I think I began to read sci-fi when I was taught to read at age 5.
Among my earliest memories of school is doing picture adventures, all set on the
Oval Planet. (I didn't have any grasp of the scientific implications of an oval
planet, btw)

I'm pretty certain I was introduced to sci-fi by my mother.  I also remember, at
age about 6, she was trying to get me to improve my handwriting, and wrote a
sci-fi story on alternate lines of an exercise book for me to copy out in the

> 4. Boys: If you know why you like to read F&SF, do you think those elements
> of your personality, those interests, are markedly different from those of
> other boys?  In other words, do boys not like to read because of who they
> are, or because of outside pressure: being seen as a sissy, perhaps.

Two things here.  When I was first at school, in the early 1970s, memories of
the first moon landings were still strong, and all of us boys were interested in
space exploration in one form or another.

I do think I was unusual in that I wasn't interested in warfare, weapons,
soldiery, etc., which all the other boys seemed to be.  But I never felt peer
pressure particularly strongly - I didn't listen to pop music, for example,
until I was a teenager, and then more from a musicological point of view (what
is it about this music that makes it popular?) than anything else.  Until at
University I (re-) discovered Kate Bush....

Now we move into the blurred area between this and the recommendations for kids

One author I'd recommend for (young) teenagers is Dick King-Smith.  I recently
re-discovered his books, and am reading them avidly.  My favourite is Harry's
Mad, but the old standards like The Fox-Busters and The Sheep-Pig are also good.
Mostly but not all animal stories - equally good for boys and girls.  DKS is
very good at characters who are animals rather than "humans dressed up in animal
costume" (someone on this list said that a couple of years ago - who was it?).
DKS may have been trying to break down gender barriers with "Lady Daisy" - a
story of a boy and a doll.  Anyone here read it and agree/disagree?

A book by DKS that I read as a teenager, "The Queen's Nose" I'm less sure about,
possibly because it is associated in my mind with another book (author and title
forgotten) that I read at about the same time.  This latter book (sorry if this
is getting confusing) was about a pre-teen girl reaching puberty, and as a
teenage boy I was not interested in it at all.  I would definitely not recommend
that sort of book for a boy of any age.

Next author for teenagers, another whom I'm now rediscovering:  Andre Norton.  I
recently bought copies of a few of her YA and children's books that I read as a
teenager, and one or two that I didn't.  They're not as good adult books as they
are children's, but I'd still recommend them.  My favourite is probably The
Crystal Gryphon, a YA romance, but written in a way that appeals to boys as well
as girls (don't ask me to qualify that!).  OTOH I read one of the Web World
books (I think the first) a year or two ago and didn't like it at all.

Finally, Hugh Walters.  A long series of what I'd now describe as "classical"
space exploration novels.  I enjoyed them immensely when I was about 10 or 12,
although even then I spotted one or two scientific errors.  I don't expect I'd
want to re-read them though.

Those of course were in addition to the well known science fiction writers -
Asimov, Clarke (_the_ celestial mechanics writer), Heinlein, Simak, Frank
Herbert and A E van Vogt are the names that spring to mind from my parents'
bookshelves; AEvV is the only one of those I wouldn't recommend until late


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