Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book Review: Guys Read 5 - True Stories Edited by Jon Scieszka

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: 10 entertaining sections on a variety of topics
Cons: A couple will bother only the most sensitive
The Bottom Line:
Non-fiction stories
On topics that guys will like
Told so pages flies

Guys Can Learn a Lot Reading These Fun Non-Fiction Stories

I wasn’t familiar with the Guys Reads series at all until I had a chance to win a copy of an ARC of the fifth volume, True Stories.  While not normally a non-fiction reader, I figured I’d see what this book was all about.  I’m glad I did because I enjoyed this collection.

Aimed a middle school guys, this is a collection of ten essays and stories.  And what a wide range of topics are covered.  In the history department, there are two stories from the early 1800’s, one about the survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Africa and one about a man attacked by a bear and left for dead by his companions.  We learn about Jumbo, an African elephant circus attraction and his trainer and their unique relationship.  More recent history gives us a short biography of Muddy Waters, a Blues musician.  We get two memories.  One from a woman who grew up trying to emulate her six older brothers in 1970’s South Vietnam.  The second is from a man who enjoys exploring the uncharted rivers of North America via canoe.  Then there’s a tale of tarantula hunting.

Probably my favorite section is Uni-Verses, which features a short poem about a scientific principle or theory with a one paragraph summary of the current thinking underneath it.  These poems are pretty funny and cover everything from the Big Bang to Magnetism and Gravity.

A couple of the sections made me a bit uncomfortable.  The one about the shipwreck survivors talked about the extremes they went through to survive.  Then there was one on the history of dentistry that also made me cringe a little.  Neither is excessively graphic.  I’ve always been a wimp, and I think most guys will be thrilled with the details presented here.  It is worth noting only in passing.

And did I mention that one of the stories is told in comic form?  And no, it’s not the one about the life of a comic artist (although he does slip in a couple of his comics into that story).

I found myself really drawn into these stories and enjoying them.  It did help that just about everyone was truly a story and not just a presentation of facts.  I was entertained as I read and that will always help me read non-fiction.

Most of these stories end with a works cited section, so if you want to read more about that topic, you can.  The only exceptions are the ones that are autobiographical in nature, for obvious reasons.

So if you have a guy who you want to get to read more, I recommend True Stories as a way to do it.  He’ll have fun and just might learn something along the way.

NOTE: While I won this ARC in a contest, no review was promised in exchange.  My thoughts are my own.

This is my entry in this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.


  1. And a great choice it is. I've not had the chance to pick any of these books up in the past. Your review convinced me I'd better take care of that soon. Thanks for your review.

    1. I hadn't even heard of them until I had a choice of this ARC. I'm kind of curious what the other books in the series are like now.

  2. This sounds perfect for those reluctant readers. Thanks for the review.

    1. I think it will be, especially if one of the chapters catches their interest.

  3. Dear Mark Baker -- I'm sorry my history of dentistry struck a raw nerve. Sorry about that; I couldn't resist. I wanted to let kids see that even a subject like the history of dentistry has some odd, unusual, bizzare and weirdly funny moments. Have a great sutumn and remember to brush and floss every day. Jim Murphy

    1. Nothing to apologize for. I love a good pun. And I think kids will enjoy your chapter. I'm just a wimp.

      Thanks for stopping buy.