I distinctly remember being in elementary school and only reading a select few books. There’s always the few books schools would assign, the ones that tested your reading comprehension, but none of those were as interesting as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles books my mom would buy me. I don’t remember much else from those years other than that I knew everything Tolkein like the back of my hand, and I don’t remember even understanding them, but definitely chugging through the Lord Of the Rings.
That point being that the time when a boy leaves elementary school and goes on to enter middle school is an odd transition period, in many ways more awkward than the transition to high school. Middle school is distinct in that the kids never even raised the question of finding themselves before, and suddenly they are thrust into the entire matter. It is their first taste of drama, their first glimpse into adulthood and freedom and all the misery that comes with it. By no means are they adults by this age, but simply they have the aspires to be adults by this age and that’s what counts the most. Some would argue that children seem to be growing up faster, and, whether true or not, presses this issue of adulthood even further.
There is a definite reason why parents should want their children to choose idols that aren’t themselves: and that’s simply because young teens don’t really like their parents. Everyone remembers that phase in adolescence when they felt like their parents were the most cruel oppressors in the world, forcing them to turn to someone else. The most parents can do is to help guide their children to the right role models while their children silently reject them.
The following are a few books I wished I would have received when I was younger, just so I could have skipped the whole angsty self-fulfillment stage of my life that is so prevalent in young boys.
- Call of the Wild: Jack London’s naturalist story of survival seems like an obvious choice. At first boys are enthralled at the idea of reading about wolves fighting to the death, but then it’s inevitable they discover something more in the story. While London’s story is a short one, it is a story that reveals simple truths about life, as exemplified through the rough reaches of nature and what London calls the “Law of Club and Fang.” But even though this story may be a little harsh for some people, it is one that is not only exciting but wise.
- Meditations: Marcus Aurelius, one of the most admired ancient Roman Emperors, spent much of his life on the front lines of war. With much of the Empire ravaged by disease (taking the life of Marcus’s brother in the process) the Germanic tribes began to push in attempts to claim land from Rome. Aurelius also suffered from a stomach ulcer. Despite all this, Marcus Aurelius would write reflections to himself in his tent at night to keep his virtue. Although never meant to be published, his Meditations discuss what it means to be a man, a citizen, a happy person, and a stoic being. Though the stoic philosophy of Aurelius might be hard to grasp for some young men, it will quickly be absorbed into the most useful information a young man could ever receive.
- Catcher In the Rye: It seems like most people either love or hate this book, with good reason too. The main character Holden is whiny, obnoxious, arrogant, and pretentious. This is what makes him so relatable. Holden’s trek through life represents that seminal coming of age story that we’ve come to love. The very fact that a young man can relate to him causes them to rethink themselves. Not only does it represent the young man, it represents the young man’s first taste of freedom, something that many around that age begin to experience for the first time.
Looking back on it I wished I hadn’t read so many Tom Clancy books in middle school, I’m not sure what effects that had on my young psyche. But I wish I had taken an interest in the topics mentioned above much sooner. The first thing people will argue is that the works I listed are too mature for young boys, and I would absolutely agree with them. But the works mentioned above are works that make the boys mature enough to grasp them, that’s part of their charm.