“Just For Boys” Book Club

UntitledIn the late 80s, I belonged to a mail order book club that I’d seen in this ad from Boys Life magazine. Every now and then, I remember some of the great, fun stories I got from that outfit, such as The Ten-Speed Babysitter, The Chimpanzee Kid, and more whose names I’ve forgotten (what was the one about the basketball star who got injured and started reading Stephen King?).

I especially liked Caught in the Moving Mountains, a story about a MacGyver-type kid and his wimpy brother who go camping on their own, and the wimpy kid has to man up when his brother has a nervous breakdown when they face fugitive drug dealers. Great stuff.

Like all of these books, it’s long since out of print and only available now through Amazon.

But I found the author of that one and she’s still cranking out the guy-friendly, action-packed adventure stories. I looked her up in my library’s catalog and, ironically, I had just seen some of her newer stuff on display at the visitors’ center in Death Valley last month–she writes mysteries about the national parks now, too.

So I checked out Buried Alive, because I love Alaska. And it was great; just what I wanted.

I can’t find a web site with any details about the old Just for Boys book club, much less a list of all the titles they had. But here’s an article from 1988 about a mom who hyperventilated at the thought of something so sexist, and banned her son from even knowing this existed.

I hope that worked out well for her.

 

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John Stuart Mill on Living Well

I’m getting a lot out of Mill’s autobiography. From the end of chapter 3, wise advice:

I learnt how to obtain the best I could, when I could not obtain everything; instead of being indignant or dispirited because I could not have entirely my own way, to be pleased and encouraged when I could have the smallest part of it; and when even that could not be, to bear with complete equanimity the being overruled altogether. I have found, through life, these acquisitions to be of the greatest possible importance for personal happiness, and they are also a very necessary condition for enabling any one, either as theorist or as practical man, to effect the greatest amount of good compatible with his opportunities.

And near the end of chapter 4 Mill details the casual self-improvement programs he and some friends conducted, mostly as a sort of intense book club. They studied languages, read and discussed serious works, and debated issues. Where are such groups today?

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Report On Family Summer Book Club

Last summer we started a new ritual: each summer, we would choose a book for all of us to read each month.  I got the idea for this because my oldest kids are too old now for our old habit of family story times to be regular any more.  This helps takes the place of that.  We’d have someone take a turn picking a book as each month started, scrounge up several copies from local libraries, and have a discussion at the end of the month.

Last year I just picked the books, and we only got to do two: John Steinbeck’s The Pearl and Esther Forbes’s Johnny Tremain.  Everybody liked The Pearl, but we loved Johnny Tremain.  It was an amazing story about a boy’s coming of age during the Revolutionary War.  Seriously, why don’t schools make kids read that one anymore? 

This year we did three books.  Here’s how they went:

19816383In June, my oldest daughter picked The Westing Game, a Newberry Medal-winning mystery that she’d read at school and loved.  We all thought it was excellent.  It was an extremely clever little puzzle book, well written and full of surprises, not the least of which are its many realistic, humane characters, and in a story appropriate for any young child!  I figured out some of the book’s puzzles, but a couple went right by me.  Here’s a hint for future readers: pay attention for compass directions. 

 

 

 

 

25169983In July, my oldest son chose The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters.  We all enjoy fantasy, so this was a good fit.  It was another wholesome story, with strong characters that you care about, and as much fun and excitement as any novel can have.  My favorite part was that the hero’s father–usually absent or a problem in most children’s literature–was a normal, helpful, decent guy here, who even understood and supported his son in his adventure.  Very nice!

 

 

 

 

 

27307846In August, my wife picked Orson Scott Card’s The Memory of Earth, the first book in his science fiction Homecoming series.  She’d had some other books by Card in mind, and wanted something with spiritual tones to it, but also something that would interest the kids.  To their credit, they figured out the parallel with the plot of the Book of Mormon very quickly.  Our discussion focused on comparing and contrasting the two, and how well Card’s story did or didn’t work in that context.  I, for one, just liked the inclusion of a pack animal called “kurelomi” in chapter two.  Clever, Orson. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Huston family summer book club is hereby adjourned until next June.