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There has been a lot of discussion in recent months about how young people do not read enough and how, in the face of that startling decline, Americans are on a path to cultural illiteracy. It is very easy to blame computers, video games and television and while I do acknowledge that all of those things take up precious time, I was raised with the television on all the time and spent countless hours playing Frogger and Space Invaders while also body surfing, going to the movies and watching my brother launch model rockets.

In other words, it wasn't always all about the books and yet I was - and continue to be - an avid reader. However did that happen?

I've been banging my head against the wall trying to figure out why some kids continue to be readers after elementary school while others leave books behind for decades. As a reviewer I know there are a ton of good books out there but I also know that many many of them are written for girls (or they are books that seem to be for boys but really will be read more by girls trying to understand boys). So it is boys that I'm more focused on and concerned with. After following a very good discussion on this very subject over at Sara Lewis Holmes' blog, I finally figured out what I think is a key problem:

Boys don't know how (or want to take the time) to find good books.

Well the internet is nothing if not a place to find stuff so several of us have been emailing back and forth on how to create a site that is teenage boy friendly and will provide a lot of book reviews on books boys will like. Our goal is to be open for business in June, with twenty different bloggers posting once a month (for sure) so there will be a ton of different points of view (from SF to action to nonfic and art) and opportunities to be all things to all boys. We will also hopefully have short interviews with not only male authors but other adult men who can share what books mean to them and what books they enjoyed as teens. And we will have boys chiming in with recommendations and comments as well.

It is a big undertaking but we think it is something that needs to be done.


The question I have though, is about the title. I threw out "Flying Cars and Lost Cities" when I first came up with the idea just because I think those are both things that boys want. But I need some feedback on that - would boys like a site with this name? Would it appeal to them? Would they be willing to visit it and see what we have to offer? If any of you have actual teenage boys in your homes (or workplace), I'd especially be grateful for their thoughts. We have just started talking about the design so I'm going to need to do the domain and all that soon and would like some input as to whether we're on the right track or not.

Comments or emails (colleenatchasingraydotcom) would be welcome. I'm traveling down to Portland today (on the train!) but will check tonight and see what you all have to say.

[Post pictures from Popular Mechanics and National Geographic - that's Angkor Wat in Cambodia.]

comments

In a word: HURRAH.

That sounds really neat, Colleen. I look forward to seeing what you all come up with. I'll certainly send people your way.

I don't know enough teenage boys to have any insight on the title, though.

Flying Cars and Lost Cities is great if you plan on focusing on science fiction and fantasy. If you want to cast a wider net, though, I can see it turning some people off.

Here are some (admittedly lame) suggestions:

Kick-Ass Books
No More Princesses

Thanks Jen!

See Kris, I thought the "lost cities" part would include action/adventure title...I was thinking of all the Burroughs stuff my brother loved as a teen (and the modern day equivalent).

"No more princesses" is officially the coolest thing I've heard in ages Kelly - way too funny! (Someone should write a book with that title......)

What a great idea! My brain isn't producing anything worthwhile name-wise, but maybe if I let it simmer...in the meantime, I rather like Kick-Ass books!

Hey Colleen -- it's a terrific idea!

I taught for six years at an all boys Jesuit High School (as well as having a teenage son who was a closet reader, a publically diffident student, and a fierce athletic competitor). I taught a course in Contemporary Short Fiction for Juniors and Seniors which attracted both the best (as in "readers") because I was known for my peculiar selections and teaching methods, and the worst (as in hated reading) because short stories were, well short. With a few exceptions, we read short fiction no older than five years (and I probably broke all manner of copyright laws xeroxing stories from everywhere). But what amazed me the most was how unpredictable their responses were. Given as wide a range of literatures as I could find, most of the boys discovered there was something to love in the writing. One senior fell in love with 70's feminist author Grace Paley, a determined non-reader who insisted he hated magic realism purchased Kevin Brockheimer's short stories. A basketball player bought John Edgar Wideman novels as well as Chris Offutt's Kentucky short stories. And almost all of them fell under the spell of Flannery O'Connor's stories.

I will say in terms of the name -- the one universal that freshmen to seniors seemed to embrace was just about any good kick ass martial arts movie -- I garnered untold amounts of street cred by showing bootleg versions of Jet Li's "Hero," Tony Jaa's "Ong Bak" and "Honor of the Beast" in class a year before any of them came out in the states. It was a passion for these stories/films that seemed to cut across class and race lines in the school. So I'd recommend almost any title that connected the act of reading to marital arts.

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Jon Scieszka, who was recently named as the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, already does some of this at www.GuysRead.com .

A community of bloggers posting to a communal blog might be a better way to reach your target audience.


This is a wonderful idea. I don't know if you're still looking for other bloggers for this site, but if you are, I'd love to talk! (I've just finished writing a middle-grade mystery with a boy protagonist, just because I think there is a gap for boys in this genre!)

I have an almost 12-year-old son who is a huge reader, but a very cautious one--i.e. he does NOT go out and look for his own books.

I like your title a lot. If you changed it to MAGIC cities, my son would be there in a flash! But...I think the point about it being fantasy heavy is a good one. As I said, my son wants anything with magical creatures or spaceships, but he has friends who really struggle with finding books they want to read--they want nonfiction; they want facts, they want biographies of true-life heroes, historical figures. Then there are the boys who just want humor and puns. And the boys who really do like to read about every-day kids with every-day problems (if those boys are actually out there!)

Again, I'd love to talk with you! It's a great idea.

Becky

Thanks so much for the feedback guys - I really appreciate it. Midori it's great to hear you're thoughts on titles for boys - I think the key will be getting them and then perhaps once we have them we will be able to suggest all sorts of offbeat (unexpected) ideas.

And Becky thanks for the offer - I will be in touch this weekend after I get home. (And I'd just like to say that it is crazy cold in Portland!!!)

Hey, Colleen. Can't wait to see this all unfold.

As to the name, I agree with Midori---if you're looking to appeal to older boys, the name has to have some edge to it. Kick-ass is good. The site you told me about, Cory Doctorow's Craphound, also strikes the right note.

BTW, finally got my son in a bookstore, and guess what he picked out to read? Stephen Colbert. DUH! I said to my stupid mom self. Of course! He loves to read the front page of the paper and the comics, yet there I was thinking novel, novel, what novel would he like...

I'm rather partial to something like "Books that Kick Ass." I agree that would appeal more to older teen readers.

Or maybe something counter-intuitive like "Don't Read This!"

Okay, "Books that kick ass" or "Kick ass books" and then the tag line underneathe of "flying cars, lost cities and everything else a guy wants...."

do ya think?

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