History books for a 14-year-old boy

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Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
My son loves history, is an avid reader, and is getting bored with his summer. I want to get him a good non-fiction book or two that will be both educational and interesting/fun... plus safe to give a young teen.

Books written for adults are fine so long as they're page-turners that major in storytelling rather than analysis. Content needs to be appropriate. I'm fine with some war violence but want to avoid anything that glorifies evil or celebrates crude language/behavior. My boy particularly enjoys 20th century history and sports stories (especially baseball and US football). Church history is a plus, but it has to read like a fast-paced novel and those are pretty rare.

Any recommendations?
 

Logan

Puritan Board Junior
Schaff's History of the Christian Church was a very enjoyable read for me (it read like a story of Christ's working through history).

I'm also enjoying "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" right now, and it's long but a very good read. The author was a reporter and while he certainly puts his own take on things (calling Goebbels "pig-eyed" comes to mind), it's easy to read and very engaging.

"Unbreakable" is the story of Louis Zamperini (an amazing Christian who just died last month). Olympic medalist and WWII POW that is quite an amazing read and story of forgiveness.

Iain Murray's "Puritan Hope" or "Revival and Revivalism" are likewise pretty good for Christian history but maybe not something a 14-year old would be interested in.

Henty does history in a pretty interesting way (fictionalized individuals involved in historical accounts)...for history prior to 1900.

While not historical, when I was a boy I liked Clair Bee's "Chip Hilton" series, which covered a fiction character going through highschool and into college and playing football, baseball, and basketball. I recall the characters being very "moral" and learning "life values" and even not playing sports on Sunday, but they aren't "Christian" necessarily.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
I read the book For Those I Loved about that age or a bit earlier. It was very impressive, and as far as I remember (and unlike some other WWII survival stories) did not contain anything inappropriate - if it did, that wasn't what was memorable about it, at any rate.
 

TexanRose

Puritan Board Sophomore
Not history exactly, but historical fiction, geared towards boys:

Anything by G. A. Henty. Once you've read a couple of his books, the plot lines start to get a bit predictable, but my son hasn't gotten tired of them yet. Bonus: you can get most of them on the Kindle for free or next to nothing.

Another old author I like a bit better is Richard Ballantyne. Also old enough to be free on the Kindle.

The thing I like best about these two authors is that they were both very prolific writers, so their works can keep a fast reader busy for a good long while. :)

For "real" history, I would recommend the biographies of the Covenanters by Maurice Grant.
 

Leslie

Puritan Board Junior
Inheritance Publications in Neerlandia, Alberta has a lot of WW2-setting historical fiction, much of it translated from Dutch. This is in the light category.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
During school last year, my boys and I read chunks of Born Fighting How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. It is rather engaging and brought some great insights into the south during both the War for Independence and the War Between the States.

In my teens, I started reading naval warfare fiction like the Caine Mutiny, Dust on the Sea, etc., though they contain some efforts to provide mid-20th century "spice."
 

Frosty

Puritan Board Sophomore
The Civil War series by the Shaaras, particularly The Killer Angels, but also Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure . I suppose it qualifies as historic fiction. The details of things like personal conversations are made up, but there is plenty of fact and good information about the people, battles, locations, etc. They're extremely accurate.

They are very difficult to put down once you start into them. A gateway drug into deeper Civil War material.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
This is great! Please keep it up, as I just don't have time to preivew everything I might suggest to him.


My students are a year or two older, and I have them reading Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August this summer.
Excellent. This was one I was thinking of before I asked the gang here for advice. I assume, then, that you don't find it objectionable for believers?


In my teens, I started reading naval warfare fiction like the Caine Mutiny, Dust on the Sea, etc., though they contain some efforts to provide mid-20th century "spice."
He would like naval warfare stuff. I let him watch the Master and Commander movie, but the book series seems to have a harder edge and I've held back on those.


What about "The Right Stuff"? He likes the space race and the book is highly acclaimed, but I didn't find the movie quite appropriate. Would anyone here who's read the book care to chime in?
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Right Stuff is a mixed bag -- I love the history it describes, but find the attitude toward an unrighteous lifestyle unavoidable and objectionable.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Pitchman can be a good read, but at that age should be prefaced by a discussion of her ties to the hard left.
 

One Little Nail

Puritan Board Sophomore
My deceased friend John used to read Wylie's History of Protestantism to his son & daughter, his son singled it out & told me after his fathers death that he wished to hold on to it.
 

PreservedKillick

Puritan Board Freshman
This is great! Please keep it up, as I just don't have time to preivew everything I might suggest to him.


My students are a year or two older, and I have them reading Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August this summer.
Excellent. This was one I was thinking of before I asked the gang here for advice. I assume, then, that you don't find it objectionable for believers?


In my teens, I started reading naval warfare fiction like the Caine Mutiny, Dust on the Sea, etc., though they contain some efforts to provide mid-20th century "spice."
He would like naval warfare stuff. I let him watch the Master and Commander movie, but the book series seems to have a harder edge and I've held back on those.


What about "The Right Stuff"? He likes the space race and the book is highly acclaimed, but I didn't find the movie quite appropriate. Would anyone here who's read the book care to chime in?
There is at least one d___-word in her quotations, nothing worse than that, and she mentions in passing that the Russian Minister of War had an affair, but since the book focuses on international politics and grand strategy there isn't much room for salacious material. She presents the First World War as a tragic accident, an interpretation that has largely been debunked, and I deal with that with my students in the first two weeks of the year. I don't find her narrative objectionable as a Christian, though, (otherwise, I wouldn't assign it ;). The book shows how the experts and powerful leaders of the day, who thought they had achieved lasting world peace through their own efforts, brought on destructive global war leading to an even more destructive conflict twenty years later. Although it wasn't her purpose, this can lead to a good discussion of our fallen nature, and the peace of Christ versus the worldly idea of peace.

I second the recommendation of The Killer Angels. I read it for the first time at the same age, and couldn't put it down. I would caution that Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series has some f-bombs and some inferences that would keep me from giving it to my early teenage son, although as could be inferred from my user name I am a fan of the series. The Hornblower series might be an alternative, although it isn't squeaky clean either. (Since it was published in the 1940s and 1950s, more is implied than directly shown.)

For historical fiction, I would recommend Kenneth Roberts' Revolutionary War fiction, such as Rabble in Arms.
 

Mindaboo

Puritan Board Graduate
Two books my children have really enjoyed are "Johnny Tremain" and "Carry on Mr. Bowditch". Both are historical fiction, but they are well written and great books. I especially like "Carry on Mr. Bowditch". I read that out loud to all of my kids, and each of them has read it numerous times on their own. We also enjoyed, "Where the Red Fern Grows", "Sign of the Beaver", and "Moccasin Trail". Some of those might be a little under his age, but my kids will still pick those titles up and read them over and over again.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I would echo Sharon's recommendation of Henty and Ballantyne. In addition to that, Susan Wise Bauer has a 4-volume set of world history written for children. It's excellent, even where one may want to disagree here and there with her record. Yes, it's history, but she will usually insert lots of short stories that illustrate that period of history very well. My nephew reads it for fun.
 

whirlingmerc

Puritan Board Sophomore
Douglas Bond has many excellent historical fiction works a 14 year old would like. His new book on Knox "The Thunder" is great. It will depend on your son's interest which he might like
Home -

I liked The Betrayal and The Thunder and Mr Pipes series...

I also like everything Simonetta Car writes
 
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