Perfect Books For The Teen Boy Who Doesn’t Like Fiction

Today’s post by Ariel Lawhon | @ArielLawhon

We joke that our oldest son is President of the Nerd Club. The child loves nothing more than a random fact followed by a hypothetical question. What he does not love, however, is a plot. Or characters. Or setting. Oh, he’ll read a novel occasionally, and he’s even become deeply absorbed in a few. But the longer I observer him, the more I realize that he is, primarily, a non-fiction guy. And (despite feeling a lingering sense of failure given my profession) this is okay. Like all people everywhere, my son is allowed to enjoy the kind of books he enjoys. Maybe it’s a season. Maybe it’s set in stone. Who knows. But what matters to me right now is that he reads. So, if you happen to know a kid like mine, here are four books he (or she) might love.

**Update: Said teenage boy just peered over my shoulder and proclaimed, “Hey! I like fiction. Why do you think I read the Maze Runner books?” Apparently he just likes specific kinds of novels and wants to read them on his own terms without any sort of commentary from his mother. Knowing him he’ll go on a three year fiction bender now just to prove me wrong. Whatever. These books are still cool and my kid loves them and yours might too. Happy reading!

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What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

My son, the King Of Hypothetical Questions returns to this book almost daily, regaling me with what he’s learned and pondering about absurdities not covered within these pages.

what IfAbout the book:

From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd, hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask.

Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following.

Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?

In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, complemented by signature xkcd comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion.

The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with updated and expanded versions of the most popular answers from the xkcd website. What If? will be required reading for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical.

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Atlas Obscura: An Explorers Guise to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton

There is no random bit of  information, no obscure fact, no piece of historical minutia that goes unappreciated by my son. And this masterpiece of a tome pushes all his buttons.

Atlas ObscuraAbout the book:

It’s time to get off the beaten path. Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust, Atlas Obscura celebrates over 700 of the strangest and most curious places in the world.

Talk about a bucket list: here are natural wonders—the dazzling glowworm caves in New Zealand, or a baobob tree in South Africa that’s so large it has a pub inside where 15 people can drink comfortably. Architectural marvels, including the M.C. Escher-like stepwells in India. Mind-boggling events, like the Baby Jumping Festival in Spain, where men dressed as devils literally vault over rows of squirming infants. Not to mention the Great Stalacpipe Organ in Virginia, Turkmenistan’s 40-year hole of fire called the Gates of Hell, a graveyard for decommissioned ships on the coast of Bangladesh, eccentric bone museums in Italy, or a weather-forecasting invention that was powered by leeches, still on display in Devon, England.

Created by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton, ATLAS OBSCURA revels in the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the hidden and the mysterious. Every page expands our sense of how strange and marvelous the world really is. And with its compelling descriptions, hundreds of photographs, surprising charts, maps for every region of the world, it is a book to enter anywhere, and will be as appealing to the armchair traveler as the die-hard adventurer.

Anyone can be a tourist. ATLAS OBSCURA is for the explorer.

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Minecraft: the Complete Handbook Collection by Stephanie Milton, Paul Soares, Jr., Jordan Maron, and Nick Farwell

Listen, I don’t get the appeal of Minecraft. I have tried to understand it, tried to play it, tried to care that it is a thing that exists in the world and I just don’t. My son, however, speaks the language fluently. And since I care deeply about him, I have learned to be grateful for these books. We try desperately to limit the screen time in our house, but I have been assured, one more than one occasion, that the engineers of tomorrow are playing Minecraft today. I’m not sure that I totally believe them, but I can’t deny my son builds some pretty cool stuff in this game. And he reads every Minecraft book he can get his hands on. So, for now at least, I’ll call that a win.

Side note: our kids are no longer allowed to watch YouTube videos of people playing Minecraft. We let them do this a few times and quickly learned that it is no bueno.

MinecraftAbout the books:

Revised edition with the most up to date stats, info, and sixteen pages of brand-new material!

Updated versions of Minecraft’s four bestselling handbooks are available in a stunning, gold-foiled boxed set! This ultimate collection includes the Essential Handbook, Redstone Handbook, Combat Handbook, and Construction Handbook. Each book now includes sixteen-addtional pages with brand-new content! Minecraft–the indie sandbox video game that took the world by storm–has been hailed as one of the greatest phenomena amongst gamers and educators for both its simplicity and its brilliance. Allowing players to build, explore, create, collaborate, and even survive, Minecraft has created a brave new world of gameplay. Each handbook contains helpful tips and information from the creators themselves, all of which will prove vital to your survival and creativity as you learn to mine, craft, and build in a world that you control.

Note: I honestly don’t understand a word in that description. My son is quite literally reading a manual. But he does so with the same devotion and patience that I read Tolkien when I was his age so it can’t be all bad.

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2017 World Almanac and Facts

Go figure. Such small print. Such random information. So much weather. This was one of a couple books I tossed in his stocking on a whim and I can’t count the number of times I’ve wandered through his bedroom (it’s attached to our bonus room) to find him reading this thing. On purpose and for fun.

AlmanacAbout the book:

Get thousands of facts at your fingertips with this essential resource.

The World Almanac® and Book of Facts is America’s top-selling reference book of all time, with more than 82 million copies sold. Since 1868, this compendium of information has been the authoritative source for all your entertainment, reference, and learning needs. The 2017 edition of The World Almanac® reviews the events of 2016 and will be your go-to source for questions on any topic in the upcoming year. Praised as a “treasure trove of political, economic, scientific and educational statistics and information” by The Wall Street Journal, The World Almanac® and Book of Facts will answer all of your trivia needs—from history and sports to geography, pop culture, and much more.
Features include:

2016—Top 10 News Topics: The editors ofThe World Almanac® list the top stories that held the world’s attention in 2016.

2016—Year in Sports: Hundreds of pages of trivia and statistics that are essential for any sports fan, featuring complete coverage of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the 2016 World Series, and much more.

2016—Year in Pictures: Striking full-color images from around the world in 2016, covering news, entertainment, science, and sports.

2016—Offbeat News Stories: The World Almanac® editors found some of the strangest news stories of the year.

World Almanac ® Editors’ Picks: Time Capsule: The World Almanac® lists the items that most came to symbolize the year 2016, from news and sports to pop culture.

2016 Election Results: The World Almanac® provides a comprehensive look at the entire 2016 election process, from the roller coaster of the early primaries to state and county presidential voting results and coverage of House, Senate, and gubernatorial races.

The World at a Glance: This annual feature of The World Almanac® provides a quick look at the surprising stats and curious facts that define the changing world.

World Almanac ® Editors’ Picks: The Best Teams That Never Won It All: In light of Golden State’s unprecedented regular season success and eventual downfall in the NBA Finals, The World Almanac® takes a look back into sports history for the best teams that fell just short of championship glory.

Statistical Spotlight: A brand-new feature highlights statistics relevant to the biggest stories of the year. These data provide context to give readers a fresh perspective on important issues.

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Like I said, Nerd Club. But this personality quirk has become one of my absolute favorite things about him. He’s really bright and curious and he wants to understand the world around him. Also, bonus, he’s becoming a person who is really fun to talk with. And funny. Funny men are a good thing. I married one and I’m determined to raise four more.

So, on that note, I’ll leave you with this anecdote. Many years ago my now-teenage son had to write a book report on Misty of Chincoteague, the Newbery Honor book by Marguerite Henry. When asked to score the book between 1 and 10, he gave it a 3. His answer as to why he rated it the way he did made me laugh and has stuck with me ever since, “This book had lots of horses,” he said. “But what I really wanted was explosions.”

I’ve been trying to find books loaded with explosions for him ever since.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). She is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS and the forthcoming HINDENBURG (both published by Doubleday).

3 Responses to Perfect Books For The Teen Boy Who Doesn’t Like Fiction

  1. Glynis January 30, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    Thank you! My 14 yeast old son is not and has never been a reader but he loves world record books and books of of facts. I’m always looking for books that will excite him and this is a great list. Thanks.

  2. Glynis January 30, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    Of course I meant 14 YEAR old son. 🙂

  3. Susan January 30, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    I would add Bomb (the story about how the Atomic bomb was developed) by Steve Sheinkin. It set my son off on a military history deep dive.

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