books for boys, reading, reading strategies, books for reluctant readers, chapter books,

Best Books for Boy Readers, Reluctant or Otherwise (ages 7-14): Part 2, Authors M-Z

Best Books for Boys

This post is getting too long (and crashing) so I am going to split it into three parts:

Best Books for Boy Readers, Reluctant or Otherwise: Part 1 (Authors by Last Name A-L)

Best Books for Boy Readers, Reluctant or Otherwise: Part 2 (Authors by Last Name M-Z) below

Best Books for Boy Readers, Reluctant or Otherwise: Part 3 (Non-Fiction)


This has been a popular post for me on a topic near and dear to my heart. I am kicking off a week of posts that focus on Reluctant Readers and this is the first stop. I have more posts in a category labeled “Reluctant Readers” here. I have also updated this list. How about you? Can you please add your picks to this list? Thank you!

p.s. If you like this list, you might also like:

NY Times Top Selling Graphic Novels

Top 10: Summer Books with Activity to Coax Boys to Read

Top 10: Baseball Chapter Books


I love to find books that excite reluctant readers. The key is to find that magic intersection that marries your child’s just-right level with content that matches their interest and a layout that is visually appealing (small chunks of text broken by pictures, larger font size, etc.). Alas, this is a moving target. I have an actual person that I select these books for, my youngest son’s best friend’s older brother who is a 4th grader with my oldest. My mom friends have had success with these books for their reluctant boy readers and suggests you try them. If you want to purchase a book, click on the image of the book to buy at


Stink series by Meghan McDonald

Judy Moody’s little brother Stink is now a movie but as they say, the book is always better than the movie! [ages 4-8]


The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil by Wiley Miller

A completely delightful story of a boy who finds adventure when a man in a hot air balloon passes by his window. The book has large print and illustrations so it’s perfect for reluctant boy readers. If he enjoys this book, there is a sequel,Attack of the Volcano Monkeys. [ages 7-10]

Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat

“The adventures of two owls who shake up an entire neighborhood and turn a house topsy-turvy.” [young adult, ages 10 and up]

Thank you to Christa from my LinkedIn group Moms on the Job for this list of great picks: The Narnia Series, Magic Meets the MoonHarry PotterBig NateDiary of a Wimpy KidCaptain UnderpantsMr. Popper’s Penguins and Owls in the Family are some books that my 9 year old has enjoyed recently and in the past year.

The Pharaoh’s Secret by Marissa Moss

If your child like Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles series (first book out is The Red Pyramid), this is similar but I actually think better because the plot is a little tighter and easier to follow. There are the same themes of Ancient Egypt, finding out your heritage that happens to include special powers, and fulfilling a quest. [ages 9-14]

Shiloh series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

This was a book that my oldest daughter’s entire grade was assigned to read. Pragmatic Mom polled the play date kids that hang out at her house and it got a big thumbs up. [ages 8-12]

Max Finder Mystery Collected Casebook Volume 1 by Liam O’Donnell

My 7-year-old son and I have been reading this book recently and have been delighted to find VERY SHORT (5 pages!) graphic novel mysteries. While Max Finder is in Junior High School, I find that younger kids can definitely enjoy this book. The only issue for younger readers is that the font is very tiny. There are many things to love about this series; the mysteries are difficult to solve but doable. We definitely improved as detectives as we progressed through the book. The clues are both in the words and the pictures which is a clever use of a graphic novel format. Finally, I love the multi-cultural cast of characters. Bullies are included, as come with the Junior High territory, but not in a scary way. Max’s best friend is also a girl so I think girls would also enjoy this.

The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park

Set in 15th century Korea, Korea’s Golden Age, two brothers — one skilled in kite making and the other skilled in kite flying — combine their skills to compete in a kite flying contest on behalf of the king. [ages 7-12]

Maximum Ride series by James Patterson

Be prepared for the ride of your life in this sci-fi fantasy adventure series. Fast paced with short chapters and a plot spanning 7 books and an evil conglomerate that seeks to rule the world. It’s all in the hands of Max (a girl who is part bird) and her flock (also human/bird hybrids) created in a secret lab. The bad people are closing in and there are more twists and turns than I can handle. My 5th grade girl loves this series but it turns out her male classmates do too! [ages 9-14]

Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson

Though this appears to be a Diary of a Wimpy Kid  “spawn,” about a boy grappling with the usual Middle School stuff including bullying there is a more serious story in the background that includes a useless and slightly abusive step-father and a twin brother that is not who he seems to be. Still, the tone is light and the book still manages to be funny. Quite a feat! [ages 9-14]


Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen

Thank you to Jude from The Fruitcake Files for this recommendation! He has a nice blog on Good Books Middle School Kids Will Want To Read! [ages 10 and up]

The Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

A classic survival  in the wilderness tale of a boy with just a hatchet. “Since it was first published in 1987, the story of thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson’s survival following a plane crash has become a modern classic. Stranded in the desolate wilderness, Brian uses his instincts and his hatchet to stay alive for fifty-four harrowing days.” [ages 10 and up]

Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen

This series came highly recommended off a book list for boys from a library. [ages 10 and up]

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Thank you to reader Wendy B for this great suggestion! [ages 8- 12]

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck is the Newbery Award winning book, and it’s the sequel to A Long Way From Chicago. While this book is set in a small country bumpkin town during the Great Depression, it’s a hilarious story about fifteen-year-old Mary Alice who is sent to live with her Grandma for a year during the Great Depression while her parents get situated. Grandma Dowdel is a force to be reckoned with; her resourcefulness is matched by her heart of gold and Mary Alice’s year is filled with enough drama to fill a newspaper. [ages 8-12]

A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck is from Mary Alice’s older brother’s perspective during their eight summers at Grandma Dowel’s farm and the antics they got into. It also gives a gentle history on how the Great Depression impacted their community. [ages 8-12] Fair Weather by Richard Peck. Thirteen-year-old Rosie Beckett and her siblings’ lives are about to change forever when a distant aunt sends them tickets to visit her in Chicago to visit the 1893 World Fair. Not only are their adventures hilarious, butyou feel like you are stepping back in time and visiting the World Fair which would be ten times more amazing than our modern day equivalent of visiting Disney World & Epcot Center. [ages 8-12]

Soup and Bro by Robert Newton Peck

Children’s author Steve Vernon says, “I’d also throw in Robert Newton Peck as a great choice for reluctant boy readers. His Soup series is fantastic. Also dug his book BRO.”

Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce

Thank you to LinkedIn group Moms on the Job member  Kara who shared: ” My oldest has read quite a few on that list–an excellent list, by the way–and now he’s moved to Big Nate books.” [ages 8-12]

Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

Thank you to Christa from my LinkedIn group Moms on the Job for this list of great picks: The Narnia Series, Magic Meets the MoonHarry PotterBig NateDiary of a Wimpy KidCaptain UnderpantsMr. Popper’s Penguins and Owls in the Family are some books that my 9 year old has enjoyed recently and in the past year. [graphic novel, ages 7-11]

His Dark Materials (Trilogy) by Phillip Pullman

Thank you to OINKTales for Phillip Pullman “His Dark Materials” series was excellent as well (although I’d say that they were for kids in grades 6 and up).”

American Chillers series by Johnathan Rand

South Carolina Sea CreaturesAlien Androids Assault Arizona

The Lightening Thief (Percy Jackson Series) by Rick Riordan

This is “Harry Potter meets Greek Mythology” and it’s a fantastic read! It’s such a page-turner that I stayed up to 2 a.m. to finish it! This is a MUST READ before the movie comes out! Percy Jackson is an ADD, dyslexic 6th grade hero who has trouble staying in school because, as it turns out, he’s no ordinary human but a half-blood related to one of the big three in Greek Mythology. He must find and return Zeus’ lost lightening bolt to prevent WWIII. This series makes Greek Mythology come alive so I’ve included a Greek Mythology book as well. The level of difficulty is slightly easier than Book 1 of Harry Potter; this book is 375 pages long, normal sized type. [ages 8-14] (boxed set of first three books, $11.69) (boxed set of all 5 books, $51.97)

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

My 5th grader and I loved this spin off 5 book series … more Percy Jackson!

Kane Chronicles series by Rick Riordan

The Red PyramidThrone of Fire

Shockingly, not all Percy Jackson fans are taking to his new Ancient Egypt fantasy adventure series. I am not sure why. My 5th grade daughter and I really like it. We like Ancient Egypt though. A lot! [chapter book, ages 9-14]

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

Can Billy win the bet by eating a worm a day for fifteen days? This book has very short chapters with illustrations. The story is really appealing to boys. [ages 8-12]

Holes by Louis Sachar

I own this book but somehow I haven’t read it yet, but I know people who have. No, seriously, my fifth grader loved it and the fifth grade boys’ book club read this book in late 3rd or 4th grade. It was listed by the Boston Public Library as a YA book, so late 4th or fifth might be the sweet spot. I have read a small pile of Louis Sachar’s books (Sideways Stories of Wayside SchoolSomeday AngelineThere’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom) and I find them strange with weird, oddball, difficult-to-relate to characters. They are just too quirky for me but my fifth grader’s friends love his work when they were in 3rd and 4th grade, particularly the Sideways Stories series. Holes is his best work though I’ve heard The Cardturner is also quite good. [ages 9-14]

The Light at Tern Rock by Julia Sauer

A boy and his aunt are stranded tending the Tern Rock lighthouse . What will happen with Christmas right around the corner? This book is very short with illustrations throughout and a decent sized font. [ages 7-10]

Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta

All the boys in my school’s 5th grade book club read this book last year and loved it, even the kids who don’t play baseball. This group also has reluctant boy readers amongst the members. It’s got all the elements of a great read from an implausible situation — a town in which it rains every day, ever since the bad blood and the Native American curse. Add to it Roy, a talented 12 year old baseball player now living with a new foster brother and the fun begins. [ages 9-12]

Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet by Kirk Scroggs

This is a “spawn” of Diary of a Wimpy Kid if you can imagine Diary of a Wimpy Kid crossed with The Muppets. I know a reluctant reader who says this is his “Drop Everything and Read” book. He has a new found interest in the Muppets and has always loved Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It’s the perfect intersection for him. [ages 9-12]

Milo Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg

My going-into-6th-grade Reluctant Reader friend gave me a list of his favorite books this past year and this was one of them. [ages 10 and up]

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Winner of a Caldecot, The Invention of Hugo Cabret seems lengthy but it’s only because it is mostly gorgeous pencil illustrations that also tell the mystery of an invention an orphaned boy discovers as the key to unlock the secret to his past. [ages 7-12]

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

This is a series about three very unlucky children, the Baudelaire siblings, who are magnets for misfortune. In the first book, The Bad Beginning, their family home burns to the ground with their parents inside rendering them orphans. It goes from bad to worse when they are left in the care of an evil distant relative, Count Olaf. Fortunately, the children are clever and resilient and their misadventures have a comic book-like appeal. [ages 6-10]

The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart

The book are thick so this would be a great series to read aloud or share the reading. For kids who like plots similar to that movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where kids are in control and know a whole lot more than adults then this series would be appealing. It’s actually more complex that Ferris Bueller though and the plot revolves around a set of orphans, selected after grueling test for their remarkable abilities to save the world from evil in the form of an evil twin. This is an exciting but not scary read. [ages 9-14]

Riding Freedom by Pam Muñoz Ryan

An orphan girl who lives in an orphanage for boys rides a horse named Freedom to safety. [ages 7-10]

Bone graphic novel series by Jeff Smith

Thank you to reader Jemi for this great addition. I am new to graphic novels but I saw dog eared piles of this series at my public library. [graphic novel, ages 9-14]

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee, an orphan and an athlete of legendary acclaim, breaks the racial barrier existing between two neighboring towns. If your child is a reluctant reader, this might be a 4th grade or 5th grade read. It’s about the same difficulty level as the Ramona the Pest series. [ages 10-15]

Sinking Deeper: Or My Questionable (Possibly Heroic) Decision to Invent a Sea Monster by Steve Vernon

Steve Vermon gave some great suggestions including his own book, “And, I’d have to add that I’ve had an awful lot of positive feedback from my own book SINKING DEEPER: MY QUESTIONABLE DECISION TO INVENT A SEA MONSTER. With today tattoos, caber tossing, musical saw, bagpipes, a jailbreak, a ghost or two and a SEA MONSTER you can’t go wrong.”

Dragon Breath series by Ursula Vernon

Thank you to Trisha from LinkedIn Group Moms on the Job for this suggestion. My son just bought this at the school book fair. It’s a hybrid of easy chapter book and graphic novel, a diabolically clever combination. And the dragon is “every boy” who doesn’t like to do homework, goes on crazy adventures and has a cautious and more serious sidekick that gets dragged along. It’s a lot of fun! [ages 6-9]

Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman

My 5th grader daughter said it was funny and it was confirmed by another friend of hers, also a 5th grade girl. They liked it even though the lead character is a nerdy boy trying to hide his nerdniness from his soon-to-be step brother. [ages 9-12]

The website, The Art of Manliness, has posted a list of 50 Best Books for Boys and Young Men. I also have some great blogs on my blogroll below under Children’s Lit that specialize in books for boys and are excellent resources. p.s. If you like this list, you might like Best Books for Grades 3-5, Highly Recommended by Kids!

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Hi Mia

    Your lists are just amazing!

    Would love it if you would consider “The Secret Dinosaur” series next time – from small London-based publisher, Dinosaur Books. it’s had a lot of praise from parents and teachers for engaging boys particularly in the 6-8 age group.

    Happy to send you all three if you would like to take a look

    Sonya (Dinosaur Books – publisher, The Secret Dinosaur)

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