Appealing to the Boys’ Set

By Carmen Comment

Just because it’s difficult to find books that boys want to read, doesn’t mean there aren’t initiatives to create a new market for them. So posits the Boston Globe’s David Mehegan in profiling Steven D. Hill and Peggy Hogan, whose newly founded Flying Point Press attempts to disprove conventional wisdom that boys aged 10 to 15 won’t read non-fiction.

They had noticed there’s a strong nonfiction market for men — adventure books such as Sebastian Junger‘s “A Perfect Storm” or Jon Krakauer‘s “Into Thin Air.” But, said Hill, “it was clear that publishers were ignoring adventure, history, and nonfiction for 10-to-15-year-old boys.” Hogan said, “If you look at what men read, there was no springboard for boys. If they want to read the kind of books they will read as adults, there is nothing to lead them into that area.” But then Hill remembered the 1950s and 1960s- era Landmark Books, which were narrative non-fiction, mostly history and biography. With most long out of print, Hill decided to bring them back, with funding aid from Sterling Publishing.

“A single book is not going to make a difference,” said Hogan, 65, “but a series for children is a powerful concept, as it was with Landmark. The idea is to have a list of all the titles in each book, so that if you like one, you know you can find something similar.” But many are skeptical the idea will work. “I don’t do well with nonfiction of any type, even for girls,” said Ellen Richmond, owner of the Children’s Book Cellar in Waterville, Maine. Other booksellers said much the same, but some remain optimistic. “Boys are a tougher audience to reach,” said Portsmouth, NH librarian Michael Sullivan. “But when you give them books they like, they react as well as girls do. Everybody loves a good story.”