Books for Young Boys (or Girls)

A coworker asked me for recommendations for his son, who is around eight years old. These books are probably good for eight to twelve year old boys (and girls, because books are for everyone!). Since I spent the majority of my childhood reading, I have lots of suggestions. I promised him a list, and here it is!

Please read these books, or at least SparkNote them, before you give them to your children to read. Some of the themes are dark and your child might have questions. Isn’t that the point of reading? To ask questions, experience tough situations, and grow without leaving the comfort of your house? The ones with * have been turned into movies or TV shows, but I swear you better get your kid to read them before they see the movie or show!


The Hardy Boys*– With 58 “canon” books and over 130 additional titles, these brothers solve mysteries and learn life lessons in the 1950s. They sometimes team up with Nancy Drew, another famous sleuth with her own series of books. The original books are slightly racist to reflect the times (they were written awhile ago) so look for the republished editions for politically correct versions


Dinotopia*– over twenty published books about a utopia where dinosaurs and people live in harmony; cute and fun and they published editions with awesome illustrations

Rooftop Rascal0001

Rascal– a boy rescues a raccoon and tries to overcome loss in his own life (death of a parent); this is based on the author’s life


Three books about an abused dog and the boy who loves him; this is probably the first book series that hit seriously adult themes with me as a child (abuse, neglect)


Shiloh Season

Saving Shiloh


Bridge to Terabithia*– two children create a land of imagination to escape their own lives; it is a story of friendship and sadness; be prepared to speak to your child about death of friends


A boy discovers that his miniature Indian toy becomes alive when he places it inside of a magical cupboard and must learn about the Indian’s needs; this series taught me a lot about empathy to cultures that are not our own

The Indian in the Cupboard*

The Return of the Indian

The Secret of the Indian

The Mystery of the Cupboard

The Key to the Indian


Phantom Tollbooth*– Legitimately the BEST book of word play and puns for children; I reread this last year and still enjoyed it just as much; it also teaches about numbers and grammar and how to not be lazy


Boxcar Children- over 150 novels that follows a family of four orphaned children who learn to survive in a boxcar. The original nineteen books are set in the 1920s and 1930s of America


Where the Red Fern Grows*– A boy gets two coon hunting hounds and raises them. The love that the dogs have for him ends in disaster. I still cry remembering the end of this one (death and love of animals)


A boy survives a plane crash in the woods and must survive in the wilderness with only a hatchet. This series covers his adventures and eventual rescue and wrestling with his demons. (survivalist)


The River

Brian’s Winter

Brian’s Return

Brian’s Hunt


Another boy runs away to a mountain to live off of the land. His life is similar to homesteading. It was cool to see how he survived in the wilderness out of choice.

My Side of the Mountain

On the Far Side of the Mountain

Frightful’s Mountain


So You Want to Be a Wizard– an eleven book series about a boy and a girl who enter a world with powers; it was fantasy and pretty cool.


Rules for a Knight– Sir Hawke is a knight who writes letters to his small boys to tell them how to appropriately act in the world. It is full of parables and lessons to learn as a boy.

Leave any other suggestions you can think of!

(Yes, I’ll be doing a post on girl’s books as well)

52 Books and Works In A Year (2017)

I had a lofty goal this year; well, I had a few. Besides the typical weight loss that seems to be held at an arm’s length because of injuries and laziness, I had a goal of reading 52 books in one year. Superficially, 52 books doesn’t seem that ridiculous of a goal. However, the minutiae of life became overwhelmingly congruent with my failure in achieving this goal in such a way that I would almost attempt to label it a “future goal” to appease my strive for “perfection”. After finishing grad school in May, I thought I would easily have enough time for this goal.

Life had other plans, as usual.

I didn’t plan on writing my book this year. Of course, I had toyed with the idea of telling my infamous story and was greatly encouraged by the people I told verbally. I never thought I could be a writer as I read the works of the greats like Heinlein and Novakov and Rowling. But when I was sitting in a waiting room in May, I began to remember the feel of the run on that night in Afghanistan. As I placed myself squarely back into those moments, I became overwhelmed in my usual panic attack and pulled out my phone to write what my brain remembered. I felt better for about two hours before I had the urge to write again, to continue purging myself of these thoughts and memories.

I thought it would be a slow process to draw the story back to the forefront of my memory, but it wasn’t; the story has always been right there, forcing me to live a reactionary life full of guilt and pain and hate. In writing the story, I became like a fire hydrant that had been ran over; I couldn’t quell the flow. It felt like I was vomiting the words and experiences and I was vomiting so violently that I couldn’t catch my breath. The only way to breath again in the moment of such violent expulsion is to vomit harder and faster, to get everything out quickly to save yourself because you can feel the end of your oxygen stores coming (if you can’t relate to this analogy, then you haven’t experienced the flu in the truest of ways, you lucky dog).

I wrote fiercely for three months, sometimes staying awake until 3 am or later writing, revising timelines, and talking to people who are in the book. Every night would be a battle of the physical requirement for sleep and the metaphorical need to breathe again. As 2017 went on, the urge to write was always there, and it put a damper on my attempts of this attainable 52 Books in a Year goal.

However, the goal has been reached in a scrambling attempt at the end, and I have learned so much from it as I forayed into the realm of non-fiction seriously for the first time of my life. I am able to speak on events in an educated manner instead of reading a 180 character tweet. The knowledge handed to me from the non-fiction writing, while still draped in the bias of the writer, is more factual and sometimes more relatable than the fictional stories that I have loved for decades. I have gained a new appreciation for non-fiction, but I still love to sneak in a good fictional work like a girl reading with a flashlight under the covers.

So here is my list:


  • Art of War by Sun Tzu (5th Century BC)
  • On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col Dave Grossman (1995; revised in 2006)
  • Lincoln’s Prose by Abraham Lincoln (1860-1865)
    • Niagara Falls
    • The Practice of Law
    • On Government
    • On the Republican Party
    • To Henry Pierce and Others
    • On Discoveries, Improvements and Inventions
    • Speech on the Dred Scott Decision
    • On Slavery
    • To George Robertson
    • On Pro Slavery Theology
    • On Slavery and Democracy
    • On the Struggle Against Slavery
    • First Inaugural Address
    • Speech at Independence Hall
    • To Ephraim D. and Phoebe Ellsworth
    • Emancipation Proclamation
    • To Horace Greeley
    • Meditation on Divine Will
    • To James Conkling
    • Proclamation of Thanksgiving
    • Gettysburg Address
    • Second Inaugural Address
  • Final Report Of The Select Committee On The Events Surrounding The 2012 Terrorist Attack In Benghazi by the Select Committee on Benghazi of the House of Representatives (2016)
  • Team Geek : A Software Developer’s Guide to Working Well with Others by Ben Collins-Sussman and Brian W. Fitzpatrick (2012)
  • Toddlers Are Assholes: It’s Not Your Fault by Bunmi Laditan (2015)
  • Loving What Is by Bryon Katie (2002)
  • The Zookeeper’s Wife Diane Ackerman (2007)
  • How To Be A Lady: A Contemporary Guide to Common Courtesy (A Gentlemanners Book) by Candace Simpson-Giles (2011)
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (1989)
  • Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham (2012)
  • Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger (2016)
  • Beyond Landscape (Communist Manifesto) by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848)
  • Verizon Communications versus FCC by the U.S. District Court of Appeals (2014)
  • The Over-consumption Myth and Other Tales of Economics, Law, and Morality by Elizabeth Warren (2004)
  • Diary of an Oxygen Thief by Anonymous (2006)
  • Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax (2009)

  • Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist by Michael J. Fox (2008)
  • Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life by Eric Greitens (2015)


  • Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)
  • The Lost Girl by D.H. Lawrence (1920)
  • Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1856)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1937)
  • Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins (1980)
  • The King, the Queen, and the Knave by Vladimir Nabokov (1928)
  • The Magus by John Fowles (1965)
  • The Collector by John Fowles (1963)
  • French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles (1969)
  • Bernice Bobs Her Hair by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920)
  • The Jellybean by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920)
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1882)
  • The Sons by Franz Kafka
    • The Judgment (1913)
    • The Stoker (1913)
    • Metamorphosis (1915)
    • Letter to His Father (1952)

Science Fiction/Fantasy

  • Wheel of Time- The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan (1992)
  • Wheel of Time- Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan (1991)
  • Wheel of Time- The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan (1990)
  • Wheel of Time- Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (1990)
  • End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov (1955)
  • War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (1897)
  • Manna by Marshall Brain (2003)
  • Slow Regard for Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss (2014)
  • Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)
  • Lyra’s Oxford by Philip Pullman (2003)
  • Time Pressure by Spider Robinson (1987)


  • The Shack by William P. Young (2007)
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (prior to 850)


  • Captain’s Verses by Pablo Neruda (1972)
  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (2014)
  • The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur (2017)

Historical Fiction

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)
  • Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke (2015)

Comic Books

  • Terminal Lance: White Donkey by Maximilian Uriarte (2016)

Currently Reading…

  • The Prince by Machiavelli (1532)
  • Hero Tales from American History by Theodore Roosevelt and William Taylor Adams (1895)
  • Windows at Christmas by Bill Crowder (2008)
  • The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts (2015)
  • The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan (1993)

Awards by Me:

Most Personally Helpful: On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col Dave Grossman (1995; revised in 2006)

Most Heart Wrenching: Terminal Lance: White Donkey by Maximilian Uriarte (2016)

Most Relatable: Bernice Bobs Her Hair by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920)

Most Frustrating: The Magus by John Fowles (1965) or really anything Fowles

One I Would Never Recommend: The Shack by William P. Young (2007)



“What Have We Done To Our Soldiers?” or PTSD: The Cost of the Kill

I spent years saying that I shouldn’t have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I never rated a combat action ribbon (CAR) and I never engaged in a firefight. I ignored my mental health and allowed others to say I was fine because I was a girl and girls weren’t on the front lines, even if they didn’t know my story. My husband told me for many years to read a certain book that he thought would help me immensely. He became dedicated to understanding PTSD after experiencing my nightmares and stories and questions and after seeing so many of his Marines commit suicide and suffer daily. The book is called “On Killing” by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman of the United States Army. He was an Army ranger and a psychologist and used his experiences in both fields, as well as multiple scientific studies, to write about the way humans process killing and how America trains her military to kill.

I avoided reading the book until two years ago and read half of it rapidly before I couldn’t handle the ideas I had to think about when I read it. Now that I’m writing the Afghanistan story and coming to grips with my experiences, I was able to pick it back up and finish it. At the very end of the book, there is a section on “What Have We Done To Our Soldiers?” which has shone light, and almost a sense of validation, on why I, without the firefight and without the CAR, have PTSD. Comparing my story with the multiple points Lt. Col Grossman makes about current American warfare, I am blown away by what I realize wasn’t “normal” about my the current American warfighter experiences. We are trained to kill, to normalize ending another human’s life. The human psyche is fragile and we, the warfighters, suffer immensely to become killers.

To those veterans who are reading this and are thinking “Stop being a fucking pussy about it. Those who suffer remorse and self-disgust are fucking pussies who shouldn’t be in the military. Our grandfathers stormed the beaches and didn’t come back complaining about their precious mental health.”, I give you this:

In World War II, only 15-20 percent of weapons were fired. By Vietnam, the figures rose to over 95 percent. America adapted their training to increase this number and did so successfully at the cost of our troops.

Why are today’s troops suffering so much PTSD? Here are some of the bullet points that I found EXTREMELY enlightening:

Troops are young.

Most of the American military is recruited at 18 and during the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, saw combat before their 19th birthday. This is an extremely vulnerable time in a human’s emotional and mental development and the experiences of war impact young adults more deeply than an older adult because their brain is still forming.

There is no decompression time.

In WWII and prior, troops spent months and years traveling back home by foot or on troop carrier ships. The war would be over and they could spend this time readapting to civilian lifestyle before seeing non-military friends and family. This transport time was typically filled with discussions with fellow troops that allowed time to process, decompress, mourn, and heal. In the current military wars, it takes less than 30 hours to go from being in a firefight to being back with non-military friends and family. Think about that for a second. Think about it. Fighting for your life one second and hugging a flag waving Susan hours later, if you even have someone there to welcome you back.

There is no training with the whole units before combat.

Of course we train. Of course. But AS A UNIT? No, the American military changes and adapts so rapidly that troops are typically sent to a new unit in combat with no prior training with new guys with no warning. As seen by my story, I knew no one and I had trained with none of my fellow Marines. Unlike prior to Vietnam, my story wasn’t atypical of an American troop. You enter a unit as the fucking new guy and have to work to integrate into the camaraderie and trust of the unit. This is lonesome in a combat zone.

Deployment rotations disintegrate the unit.

Deployment rotations of 7-14 months drastically reduces the number of psychotic injuries on the battlefield because the troops can count down to when they will leave the war. However, combine this with the troops entering and exiting the units at different times, this leads to a further breakdown in comradery and troop cohesion. The troops aren’t fighting to the end of the war like they did back in WWII, they are fighting for 45 days and a wake up while their fellow troops are fighting for 120, or 30 more. There is no common end goal.

There is no end of the war.

There can be no signed armistice of peace because there is no defined enemy on one side of a front line. When troops leave a combat zone, they leave with no resolution and sometimes see all of their hard work gone to shit, like when Ramadi fell to ISIS in 2015. They see their sacrifices and their friends’ deaths as not being worth it because we will never win the new warfront.

There is no front line.

Everywhere is a battlefield, including the American bases, which means there is no demarcation point of safety. No front line also means no forward movement or visible progress for troop morale. This also means the lines for possible enemy combatants are blurred. Women and children are dangerous now, which affects our troops more than they realize. When I aimed my weapon at a child, a part of my humanity broke.

The book discusses so much more than the points I’ve talked about here. The science and psyche of mental health and combat is a vastly understudied area, especially for a country that has been at war for 93% of its existence.

Fading Into The 1500- Social Media and The Great Gatsby Party

Great Gatsby glasses viewing social media

F. Scott Fitzgerald is the modern romantic writer with whom I identify the most of all writers. His views of the world are tragic and graceful, full of empathy and pain, seduction and death. The story of Mr. Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald is one of sadness and love as his wife, Zelda, was both crazy and adored completely by him. Mr. Fitzgerald knew pain and could elegantly write about the turmoils of being an individual in the American Jazz age.

Perhaps that is what makes a good writer: personally experienced pain and a lot of empathy, a tortured life and a creative imagination. One does not have to experience the pain directly to be influenced by it. A writer can place themselves in the shoes of the tortured, the lonely, and the unloved. We can create characters who exist in our minds based upon the people we have met and the things we have experienced. Every person is a story to be written and there are no happy stories if they are written for long enough.

“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.”

Jay Gatsby of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel, The Great Gatsby, held giant parties and was admired by everyone but understood by only one. Mr. Gatsby died very alone, chasing a future that would never exist and missing the beauty of the moment in which he lived.

Perhaps there is a reason we are so wrapped up in social media and the fake internet connections of the world. There is no sadness on Instagram and there is no loneliness on Facebook. Everyone is included; everyone is surrounded by a false sense of belonging and there is an ignorance of the loneliness and sadness that follows every individual throughout their life. The screens of our tablets and computers and smartphones brighten our eyes and our minds with fake connections that truly do not matter. So like Jay Gatsby, no one comes to our funerals because what we had with everyone was a superficial ploy to trick ourselves into thinking someone cared. Daisy never cared about Jay. Social media is a giant Gatsby party with no connections or experiences that matter in the light of day.

Robin Dunbar, a British psychologist and anthropologist, has a theory that humans are capable of maintaining relationships with 5-15-150-500-1500 people. 5 intimates, 15 friends, 150 dinner party attendees, 500 acquaintances with whom we can exchange small talk in hallways, and 1500 people whose faces we can remember. Social media is changing that VIEW, not the reality, but the idea that we can maintain and should maintain relationships with far more people than is healthy for our cognitive well-being.

The worst part of social media is that the friendships don’t actually exist. Why? Because friendships are hard to maintain. The time, energy, emotional and intellectual connection required to keep a friend in the 5 and 15 range is difficult. Friendship is a constant ebb and flow that struggles against the tides of life. Social media has allowed friendships to no longer require the heartache and the struggle of maintaining a real relationship. There is only an underlying and faint emotional connection with upwards of 5,000 people through social media.

For those of us with higher levels of empathy, for the writers and the romantics and the romantic writers, this exposure to so many people who actually do not care about you is draining. I’m not saying they wish you active harm, but these people do not care about you. The 5 and the 15 do. Everyone else? You are a glance in the hallways of life and nothing more than a flicker on a screen.

I’m not saying I don’t care about Shelly from HR’s children, but her existence does not matter. When I’m crying alone at night because a close friend was diagnosed with cancer and has 10 months to live, that is it: I am alone. Social media brings in more sadness and joy than I can handle through continued connections, and people who don’t matter are kept in my life through a superficial existence… They are not allowed to fade into the distance as they should. The sadness and romance of the people I don’t interact with intimately, with people who don’t care, is too much for me to handle because I care too much.

So perhaps to save my empathetic soul, I’ll force people to fade into the 500-1500 range and not unlike Jay Gatsby, I will be celebrated in death by a few intimates who actually cared. I will not live by the false social media admiration of the 1500+ Gatsby party-goers.

On the Policy of Truth

The wonderful thing about a blog is that I decide what I get to write and when! If I leave you on tenterhooks, you have to wait.

It’s fantastic.

I’d like to shift over to my thoughts on a particular book that I was encouraged to read by a man we shall call ‘Captain America’. Whenever I would speak with this man about any trials and tribulations that I might be experiencing, he would tell me to read “Loving What Is” by Bryon Katie. He said it so often and SO often at the wrong points in our conversations that I got fed up and finally read it. Once I read it, I understood so much more about Captain America and why he acted the way he did.

And it infuriated me.

Like most self-help books, this one focused on moving past the pain and discomfort that we experience in our lives. At the beginning, I thought, “Hell yeah, who doesn’t want to move past all of those shitty things?” But as I read the book through to completion, I realized that the basis of the book, which is to question all negative feelings as they enter our brains and work to dispel them, was a completely non-empathetic way to approach life on a planet with approximately 7.5 billion people on it.

One of the parts of the book said “You are not responsible for how others feel. You can’t make them feel a certain way and they can’t make you feel a certain way.” (I’m paraphrasing. Read the book.) While this logic works well on a second-grade level, it refuses to go further into how to treat others. It focused on what some Buddhists would call “detachment” from expectations of others. While Bryon Katie focused on this “enlightenment” to show people how to stop suffering in their thinking, it completely disassociates from kindness by hiding behind truth.

Truth is important, of course. However, true kindness is more important to me. You might ask, true kindness? Well, true kindness is choosing to suffer in a way you can handle to assist someone else in their happiness. If everyone practiced the moral codes of Buddhism, which include yamas and niyamas, they would be able to understand this idea better.

My interpretation of the moral code of conduct is to practice non-violence, truthfulness, non-coveting, non-stealing, and moderation. Bryon Katie focuses on truthfulness as a way to convert a person’s negative feelings. For example, “He did hurt you by ignoring you?” “Did he really hurt you?” “What happens when you are hurt?” “Who would you be without that hurt?” Then she proceeds to change it around. “Or did you hurt you by expecting to not be ignored?”

Again, I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist. The author turns every feeling into a way to detach from expectations and release people from harming you. That’s all great, but what about justifying your own shitty behavior? Using Bryon Katie’s method, you release yourself from personal responsibility for how other people feel when you treat them a certain way because you are “acting in truth.” It’s a complete sham and it explains why Captain America acts the way he acts (full story to come) as he completely bought into this self-help book.

So acting only in truthfulness tips the scales away from kindness (non-violence). True kindness is swallowing some of your own pain to ensure that others are more comfortable, for a lack of a better word.

Captain America asked why I would want to be such a martyr and accept feeling poorly to help someone else out. Why not? If I can handle the hurt and it won’t harm the other person, why wouldn’t I try to take someone else’s pain? He rolled his eyes.

I stand by that belief. However, I waiver when I think about how I don’t seem to have healthy emotional boundaries when I keep allowing people back into my heart. Perhaps Captain America is right? Perhaps I need to stand only by truth and ignore kindness; stop being the martyr.

Or perhaps Captain America can shove his non-empathetic mind up his ass.

I haven’t decided yet.