In a post on my old blog (the now defunct ordo-amoris.com) I wrote about how we are failing to give our boys a reason to learn, how boys are motivated by honor and how our society has left them without hope, and how one antidote to the problem may be using great literature to motivate our sons to pursue honor.
But what books should they read?
I recently asked a group of longtime homeschooling mothers, women I highly respect, what books they recommended for boys. The following is what I gleaned from raising my own sons combined with suggestions from these moms.
I have broken the list down into 3 parts: fiction, poetry, and biographies. With a few added additions this is a fine list for girls also but girls are much more motivated than our boys, in general.
Noticeably missing from the list are books I would classify as Victorian moralism. The group of women I surveyed almost unanimously agreed that moralism is antithetical to real heart change. My friend Chris put it this way, “Moralism looks good on the outside, which makes mothers feel more comfortable with their children: if they look good on the outside, I must be doing things right. It is just another kind of legalism. But in a world out of control and chaotic, one is always willing to sell their liberty for tyranny that will bring order. It's an old, old story.”
Our goal is not to produce self-righteous prigs like our old friend Eustace Scrubbs before he met the dragon (See: The Voyage of Dawn Treader) but rather to motivate our sons by the examples of true heart change whether that heart change is in the real man Stonewall Jackson or the fictional mouse Reepicheep. When we read of these sorts of characters we don’t feel smug and good, we feel challenged and even ashamed. We question our own motives and behaviors. In the best cases, we repent.