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Books for Boys

Author John Cech
Air Date 9/12/2000

Books for Boys Transcript

There has been a wave of books and public discussions in recent years about the importance of raising less aggressive, more emotionally-centered boys. Boys whose values and actions will make us proud, as parents and as a society. One of the leaders of this movement is Michael Gurian, a family therapist and educator, whose book The Wonder of Boys has been on the best-seller lists for some time. Now Mr. Gurian has published a new book, which is available in paperback from Putnam, entitled What Stories Does My Son Need? A Guide to Books and Movies that Build Character in Boys.

His argument is nearly as old as the hills, but one that we shrug off at our peril: the books (or the films, or the t.v. shows) make the man. And if we would like to raise, as he says in his Introduction, “happy, compassionate, and self-disciplined adults,” then we must be careful to address the “often violent, sexualized images our boys see in the media.” To this end, his book offers 200 book and movie titles that may serve, as he puts it, “to redirect their energies toward stories that are actually healthy for the development of their character and happiness.”

The entries are clustered around age groupings, beginning with the early years and Kindergarten, and continuing through high school. Each entry provides a brief summary of the book or film, followed by some “discussion starters” for parents to use with children.

Gurian’s choice of books ranges from Aesop’s fables and Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are for younger kids; to the Harry Potter books, Tolkien, and Gary Paulsen for middle schoolers; to recommendations for older adolescents that include Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. His film picks begin with “Babe” and “Bambi” and end up (for high schoolers) with “Saving Private Ryan,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” and “Unforgiven.”

At times, one may wish to challenge his selections – Jerzey Kosinski’s disturbing short novel, The Painted Bird, for example, is one work that, I believe, young people could safely wait to read until they’ve crossed the rubicon of adulthood. And I can’t quite go along with his reverence for “The Matrix” and excuse what he admits is its gratuitous violence. But, in the end, Gurian is to be thanked for posing the question of his book’s title, and for moving beyond rhetoric, toward some practical, useful answers. Now, let the discussions begin.

Posted in Literature, Parenting