best books for boys, chapter books for boys, best books for reluctant readers

Best Books for Boy Readers, Reluctant or Otherwise (ages 7-14): Part 1, Authors A-L

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) below

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

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

p.s. Here is the link to the Orca Currents Series which is:

  • Short, high-interest novels for ages 10 to 14
  • Reading levels from grade 2.0 to 4.5
  • 112-136 pages each
  • Orca Currents series
  • Thank you to Cristy Watson for this suggestion!

The Secret of Droon series by Tony Abbott

If your son is interested in the world of wizards, butHarry Potter is too dense, this is a great early chapter book series. The type is large. [ages 6-9].

The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

Alexander’s epic Prydain series has 5 chapter books: The Book of Three, The Black CauldronThe Castle of LlyrTaran Wanderer and The High KingThe Black Cauldron won a Newbery Honor Award and The High King won the Newbery Medal. Similar to The Hobbit series but not as intimindating to read, The Foundling is a “prequal” composed of 6 short stories with illustrations throughout and just 86 pages with decent sized type. If your child likes The Foundling, try the first book of the series called The Book of Three. [ages 9-12]

Bluford Series Boxed Set, Books 1-15 [Paperback] by Ben Alirez (Author), D. M. Blackwell (Author), Peggy Kern (Author), John Langan (Author), and Anne Schraff (Author), Paul Langan (Author, Editor), Gerald Purnell (Illustrator)

Peggy Kern on Twitter gave me the heads up on this series: may I suggest The Bluford High Series for reluctant readers? We’ve had huge success w/ teens, esp. urban yth.

Here’s the first one: Lost and Found (Bluford High Series #1)

Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate

Thank you to Reader Michelle who recommended this series. [ages 9-12]

Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson

As a coming of age book for boys, this hits all the right notes: soccer and the team, fitting in, shifting friendships and what it means to be a friend, hero worship and what to do when your hero lets you down, a “perfect” older brother, and seeing things as they really are. Ari Fish is a worrier. Will he make the soccer team? Will he start? What is he supposed to say for his bar mitzvah? His luck changes when he gets a rare baseball card of the hometown hero. But as his luck changes, his best friend’s luck goes south and everything in his life seems to fall apart. Is that card really lucky or cursed? [chapter book, ages 9-14]

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

Thank you to Christa from my LinkedIn group Moms on the Job for this list of great picks: The Narnia Series, Magic Meets the Moon, Harry Potter, Big Nate, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Owls in the Family are some books that my 9 year old has enjoyed recently and in the past year. [chapter book, ages 9-12]

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney

When Eben McAllister is challenged by his pa to discover wonders in his small farming community, he finds the extraordinary in a doll, a bookcase, a saw, a table, a ship in a bottle, a woven cloth, and more. [ages 7-12]

The Secret Dinosaur series by NS Blackman

My son spent a preschool year obsessed with dinosaurs and we read nothing by dinosaur books for an entire year. His interests eventually switched to Pokémon, but he’s always been fond of dinosaurs. This series is perfect for him for first grade when he started to read independently. Mechanical dinosaurs come to life in this easy chapter book action adventure series! [early chapter book, ages 6 and up]

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

Also The Pain and the Great One early chapter series which is slightly easier than Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. [Tales: ages 8-11; Pain and Great One: ages 6-10] My middle daughter loves The Pain and the Great One series about a big sister and her little brother and guess what, she has an annoying little brother too so she can really relate to this series. [ages 8-11]

Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac

This thriller was just recommended to me by a 6th grader who said it was really good and I happen to love Joseph Bruchac so that’s all it took! “Ever since the morning Molly woke up to find that her parents hadvanished, her life has become filled with terrible questions. Where have her parents gone? Who is this spooky old man who’s taken her to live with him, claiming to be her great-uncle? Why does he never eat, and why does he lock her in her room at night? What are her dreams of the Skeleton Man trying to tell her? There’s one thing Molly does know. She needs to find some answers before it’s too late.” [chapter book, ages 10 and up]

NERDS:  National Espionage Rescue and Defense Society (Book 1) by Michael Buckley

I haven’t read these yet, but my 5th grade daugher and a reluctant reader in her class both like this fun chapter books series. [ages 9-12]

The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth

Twelve-year-old Nate Twitchell hatches a strange egg laid by one of the hens on his family farm that turns out to be a baby Triceratops. If you can imagine The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg made into a novel in the vein of Homer Price by Robert McCloskey then that would be The Enormous Egg. [ages 8-12]

Matt Christopher Sports Series by Matt Christopher

My 3rd grader told me that all the boys in her class like this series. I have another list of Top 10: Baseball Chapter Books. [ages 7-10]

Frindle by Andrew Clements

A delightful early chapter book that every boy in 3rd grade seems to love at my elementary school. Nicholas Allen invents the word “frindle” to replace the word “pen.” For him, it not really an act of rebellion, it’s more an outlet to explore the power of ideas. Frindle catches on much to the consternation of his Language Arts teacher, but is she really upset? [ages 7-10]

Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

A lot of boys have listed this as a chapter book adventure series that they love. Rocketing readers back into a world of modern fairies (they pack heat and wear motorized wings), Colfer here reunites 13-year-old antihero Artemis with his former kidnap victim, Captain Holly Short, an elf officer with the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance) squad. As the erstwhile arch enemies join forces to squelch a power-hungry pixie’s coup attempt in one world and to rescue Artemis’s long-missing father in another (he’s being held for ransom by the Russian Mafiya), the boy proves he has a heart after all, even as he builds his reputation as a world-class criminal mastermind. Once again, the roller coaster of a plot introduces a host of high jinks and high-tech weaponry as Colfer blends derring-do with snappy prose (“The broad grin disappeared like a fox down a hole”) and repartee (“Hey, Mulch, if you listen really hard you can just about make out the sound of nobody giving a hoot”). The resulting fantasy hosts memorable characters, many of whom (such as the flatulent dwarf Mulch Diggums) reprise roles that helped attract fans to the first adventure. The author ratchets up the body count in this return engagement (perhaps too steeply for some tastes), and the high-concept premise may be a tad slick for others, but Colfer’s finger is firmly on the pulse of his target market, and along with extra helpings of sly humor (“The sprite’s breathing calmed, and a healthy green tinge started to return to his cheeks”) he delivers a cracking good read. [Ages 10-up.]

How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

A hilarious early chapter book in the vein of Diary of a Wimpy Kid about an young wimpy Viking boy named Hiccup who, like all Viking boys, must capture and train a dragon as a rite of passage. Hiccup emerges as a hero when his forbidden “dragon whispering” ability and wits saves his village from two gigantic dragons. [ages 6-10]

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

I made this list for my Mom friend’s going-into-6th grade son who is a reluctant reader and he recommended this chapter book as one of his favorites. It was a teacher read aloud in 5th grade and his class (and my daughter’s) did a Creech author study. [ages 9-12]

The BFG by Roald Dahl

I was the guest reader last year for my 3rd grader’s class. I had brought a Roald Dahl book because my daughter loves him and I asked the class if they read Roald Dahl. Almost everyone raised their hands and when I briefly polled, these books seem to be the boys’ favorites. No one mentioned Danny, The Champion of the World but The BFG was, by far, the favorite. Here’s what’s cool: the story of the BFG is imbedded into Danny, The Champion of the World.  [ages 8-11]

The Lemonade War series by Jacqueline Davies

I made this list for my Mom friend’s going-into-6th grade son who is a reluctant reader and he recommended this book as one of his favorites. High praise indeed! He met the author and has her book signed. He says it’s one of his all time favorite books ever! [ages 9-12]

Luz Sees the Light by Claudia Dávila

This graphic novel is perfect for younger readers in grades 1-4. It has a great environmental message with the faintest hint of an urban, inner city, Latino community. For a child interested in recycling or cleaning up his or her community, this book would be perfect and might even inspire a community clean up. [ages 6-10]

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

This is probably one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life. When I read it with my daughter, I finished after she went to bed because it’s that good…a page turner you can’t put down. When I asked older siblings of my kids’ friends about what books they read over the summer, we’d both swoon with fond remembrance about how good this book is. Although the main character is a girl who’s adjusting to moving to a new small town after her mother leaves her and her father, the story will appeal to boys as well. Please read this book, it’s fantastic! This won a Newbery Award but if there were an all-time Newbery Award Winner, this book would win it! [ages 8-12]

The City of Ember series by Jeanne DuPrau

I made this list for my Mom friend’s going-into-6th grade son who is a reluctant reader and he recommended this chapter book series as one of his favorites. High praise indeed! He only liked the first book of the series. My daughter in the same grade liked a few more of this series but not the pre-quels. [ages 9-12]

The Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan

Thank you again to Reader Jemi. I have heard this series was great but just haven’t read it yet. OINKtales wrote: “Great suggestions! My 10-year old son also loved the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan (I read the first 3 after he did and found them to be Lord of the Rings lite). [chapter book, ages 10 and up]

My Side of the Mountain (series) by Jean Craighorn George

I’ve had really good luck getting reluctant boy and girl readers to read this chapter book series. It’s about a boy who decides to live off his grandfather’s abandoned land in the Catskill Mountains. He tames a falcon, eats off the land, and creates a generally comfortable existence. The Pocket Guide is a kind of How To guide for budding naturalists/campers/hikers to learn to “live off the land” even in an urban setting. Robert Kennedy Jr. said that this series changed his life (though he was lucky enough to hand out with Jean Craighorn George as a child). He attended a boarding school that had a falconry program BECAUSE OF THIS BOOK and has been fighting for the environment ever since. True story. He writes the forward in the third book. [ages 8-12]

Shadow Chidren series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Thank you to reader Claire for this suggestion.

Among the Enemy, Among the Hidden, Among the Brave, Among the Free, Among the Imposters, Among the Barons, Among the Betrayed. [young adult]

The Trouble with Lemons by David Hayes

My daugher’s flute teacher said this was her son’s all time favorite book in 3rd grade. She said he was also a reluctant reader in 3rd grade. It’s a murder mystery … I’m half way through it. [ages 9-14]

The Adventures of Tin Tin by Herge

This great book pick is from ReadAloudDad who has a great blog on kidlit. He polled a young friend who said, “You simply cannot go wrong with the series about Tintin the fearless reporter and his cute little dog Snowy. It is simply unmissable. Great fun for all ages. I’m sure that it will be popular with kids in the 21st century as well!” The Secret of the UnicornReadAloudDad tells me, is being made into a movie by Steven Spielberg.

Hoot series by Carl Hiaasen

A new Mom Friend said that her son, who is a picky reader, loves Percy Jackson and this author. I agree. This book is terrific and will inspire kids that their efforts to save the environment do matter. But this is a story that is more than that covering issues of being new, fitting in, being bullied, and doing what is right. Set in Florida and in modern times, this book has unisex appeal. My 3rd grade daughter also said that the boys in her class were reading and liking it. [ages 9-14]

The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill

Historical fiction about a teacher who comes to rural Alaska and changes the lives of her students. This book is pretty short with decent sized text. I’d try it as young as reluctant 3rd grade readers but really great for 4th or 5th grade boys as well. [ages 7-10]

Zapato Power series by Jacqueline Jules

This is an easy chapter book with a lot of heart. Freddie Ramos is a little boy who is surprised by a gift of sneakers with special powers. He’s lightening fast in them. This is great news because not only can he do deeds of daring-do but it takes a little financial pressure off his mother who went back to school to retrain as a medical front office administrator after his father died as a war hero (Iraq? Afghanistan?).  As an easy chapter book, this book has more impact than most. [easy chapter book, ages 6-9]

The Long Walk by Stephen King

From children’s author Steve Vernon, “Stephen King’s similarly themed novel THE LONG WALK might definitely interest a young boy.” [young adult]

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney

Both boys and girls can relate to this humorous “novel in cartoons” series about a boy coping with the social issues of middle school. [ages 7-12]

Swindle and Zoobreak by Gordon Korman

My going-into-6th grade friend says that his friend recommended these two books to him.

Lunch Lady series Jarrett Krosoczka

Why are all lunch ladies material for comedy? This graphic novel series is appropriate for grades 3-5.

The Limit by Kristen Landon

I made this list for my Mom friend’s going-into-6th grade son who is a reluctant reader and he recommended this book as one of his favorites. High praise indeed! [young adult, ages 10 and up]

The EarthSea series by Ursula LeGuin

A reader suggested this series; see her comment below.

Cold Case by Julia Platt Leonard

Thank you to reader Deb for the heads up on a new book! I just read it and it’s sooo good. It’s realistic fiction that is a murder mystery with many twists and turns. It’s as action packed as the Maximum Ride series and I find it riveting in a Law and Order who dun it kind of way.  If your child liked The Trouble with Lemons, this would be a good pick. The family in the book owns  and runs a restaurant, the setting is Santa Fe, and the dad was a nuclear scientist so these might be “hooks” if your child has any of these interests. [ages 9-12]

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Grace Lin is the Amy Tan for the elementary school set. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is an Asian-American version of the Percy Jackson series starting with The Lightening Thief. Where Riordan weaves in Greek Mythology into his plot, Grace Lin uses Chinese Folk Tales into a wonderful, inspiring and heart-warming story that teaches all of us to just… BELIEVE. This book was listed twice as a favorite book on my kids’ elementary school newspaper. [ages 8-12]

Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look

A great series similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid series but not as difficult and with an Asian boy as the lead character. Funny too! [ages 6-9]

Rules by Cynthia Lord

A really wonderful story about a girl whose special needs brother and special needs friend help her to discover the courage to just be herself. Because the book is set in the present day and deals with topics that public school kids are familiar with such as fitting in, being embarrassed about people you love, and accepting special needs children, it’s very appealing and relatable. It’s a Newbery Medalist. [ages 8-12]

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Thank you for this suggestion from Allison from LinkedIn Group Moms On the Job for suggesting this book. There is also a sequel coming out. [young adult, ages 14 and up]

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry.

A funny tale of a dysfunctional family in which both the parents and children plot to get rid of each other. The kids, naturally, emerge victorious. Add in a loving nanny, an abandoned baby, a candy billionaire neighbor with a long-lost son and a happy ending. This book has largish type and illustrations scattered throughout so it’s a great read at the level of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. [ages 7-11]

To view any book at Amazon, please click on image of book.


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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Cristy Watson

    This is a great list! I know this is an older post, but if you are still adding books you might consider a look at the Orca Currents Series (aimed specifically at reluctant readers in the grade 5-8 range). Here is a link to their website! And for teachers, they have all kinds of great info on engaging reluctant readers and they have free downloadable lesson plans!

  2. I love this list! Many thanks.

    It’s not out until next month, but I hope you’ll consider adding my debut DOUBLE VISION (HarperCollins Children’s). The short pitch is ALEX RIDER meets THE DA VINCI CODE, and it’s perfect for reluctant reader (boys) age 8-12.

    I have an ARC left should you be interested, but imagine you’re already pressed for time 🙂

  3. Amazon has most of the titles in the list, as my two books are definitely not out of print. They are “Living Rough” and “Benched”. So you might have to pull up the list on the Orca page and look for them on Amazon individually? Sorry for the extra steps! I also wish I could change my avatar but no luck so far! Good luck with your search and if it still comes up empty, let me know and I can send you copies of my books at an amazon rate! I also know if you buy these books for classrooms, Orca has sets that are less expensive and they give discounts to schools. Let me know if I can help with anything else and best of luck!
    Cristy Watson recently posted…The CheatMy Profile

  4. I absolutely love your Best Books for Boy Readers blog series and would like to feature it (and both your blog and the Pickykidpix blog) in a blog I’m working on-Bust Summer Boredom with Books. The blog will be part of a website currently in development centered on helping families with special needs, such as Auditory Processing Disorder, Attention Deficits, Learning Disabilities.
    If you are interested email me and we can work out the details for permission. In the meantime, I will be sending my boys to the library with your list and sending my friends to your blog 🙂

  5. Jim Westcott

    Amazing work, Mia! As always:)

    I’ve been giving some thought to your idea of creating a list for teen struggling readers. You already have a great list in ”Teens reading 2-3 grade levels lower,” what do you think about a list for teens that struggle considerably? I worked with many 14-16 year-old students that read at around a 3.0-4.0 level when I taught HS Special Education. Many remained interested in reading fiction, but confided that finding the ”right” books was difficult. Love to work on this with you.

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