Q&A Friday #103: 10 Books Every Young Man Should Read Before His 18th Birthday: UPDATED

Question: Name 10 books every young man should read before his 18th birthday.
Posted by President_Friedman

Here’s the deal. There are so many books that could be read. I decided to include children’s books and kinda “grow up” through them. The Bible should be read to a child, there are great childrens’ versions, from the beginning. The stories all tell a moral and form the groundwork for any other stories both from a moral sense and a literary sense. There are archetypes in the stories that recur again and again. The Bible is a life-long must. [Note: I prefer to read the Bible in the Old King James. First, it makes other older English writings easier to understand. Second, the vocabulary is rich and lyrical.]

As a child ages, more complexity enters the stories. Not every story has a happy ending. Also, note that some of the books are non-fiction. Frankl’s book is a must-read. A young man tends to be petulant and put-upon. Viktor Frankl survived the Holocaust and found the keys to survival and mental health. It is a perspective-inducing book.

You’ll note that there aren’t just ten. Too few, for me. And I could have easily made the list 25.

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A reader asked if I’d pick the same books for girls. The strange answer? Yes. But I’m not a typical girl. When younger, I also read all the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. My sister loved Little Women and the Laura Ingells books. Anne of Green Gables is good for female protagonist. Also Jane Austen. Period. Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, etc. Excellent.

Aesops Fables are a given. My kids LOVED these.

The recommendation to just get kids reading is wise. I make my kids read a section of something and write a report on it nearly every day during the summer. They love reading.

The Federalist Papers I considered including, but I also was thinking of compelling reading that taught while telling a story. I put The Prince in the strange category of important reads but would mean more to someone with more life experience.

Brave New World should be read opposite 1984 and compared and contrasted, in my opinion.

Martin, I too, read the encyclopedia when I was bored and bought an old set for that purpose with my kids. (Ditto medical encyclopedia, but I’m a nerd.)

Okay, as far as the Odyssey goes….it’s good, but heavy. Instead, I have had my kids read the Percy Jackson and The Olympians. Excellent series by Rick Riordan that will teach your kids about the gods in such a fun way they won’t know they’re learning. Can’t recommend these books enough. (Ages 8-14, but I love ’em too.)

And Watership Down? Are you kidding me? That book was assigned when I was in 9th grade and I think I almost gave up reading. That book, along with Catcher In The Rye, inspired me full of hate both for stupid rabbits in their byzantine warrens and slacker, aimless college students.

Also, my favorite writer when I was a kid was Hemingway. I read them all. Oh! And anything by Chaim Potok, especially The Chosen.

As far as self-help goes, “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff”, is a great read. Also, if a person wants to manage his or her life, Stephen Covey’s 10 Habits is classic. This book is a good one for a kid to develop a framework for managing his life. First rule is most important: Begin with the end in mind. Words to live by.

15. Winnie the Pooh A.A. Milne
Exposition of common personalities. Friendship.

14. Charlotte’s Web E.B. White
Cycle of life and death. Memories transcend death.

13. The Tale of Peter Rabbit Beatrix Potter
Listen to your mother. Obedience. Adventure.

12. Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak
You always have a home and someone who loves you. Power of family.

11. The Velveteen Rabbit Margery Williams
The power of love to transform. Overcoming hardship. Finding purpose.

10. Frog & Toad Are Friends Arnold Lobel
Friendship makes life better. Adventures. Treasuring friendship.

9. The Lion, Witch & The Wardrobe [Series] C.S. Lewis
The power of choice. Doing the right thing against all odds.

8. Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl
Surviving even the worst oppression. Psychology of men.

7. 1984 George Orwell
Best description of totalitarianism.

6. Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand
How a free society can be turned of their own will into slaves of the state.

5. Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien
Faith. Leadership. Loss. Ambiguity of evil. Adventure.

4. Maslow on Management Abraham Maslow
Best book on the psychology of leadership and management, bar none.

3. Dune Frank Hebert
The power of servant leadership verses dictatorial force.

2. Sun Tzu’s Art of War
Again, understanding the psychology of leadership and tactics to employ.

1. The Bible God
Obviously, every educated person should read the Bible. It is a primer on human nature, natural law, morality, consequences, and connecting a person’s physical existence to the Creator. In essence, while many books can teach people what to do, the Bible gives a foundation for why something must be done. Truly, “the foundation of all knowledge is the Word of God.” Amen.

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