HOLIDAY HISTORY

As Scouting’s centennial year draws to a close, here are a couple of holiday gifts that will please any Scouter: The Best of Boys’ Life (Lyons Press, $21.95) and The Scouting Party: Pioneering and Preservation, Progressivism and Preparedness in the Making of the Boy Scouts of America (Red Honor Press, $24.95).

The first, a treasure trove drawn from Boys’ Life’s 99-year history, is full of great writing about camping, sports, patriotism, adventure, and more. It’s studded with articles by famous names such as Theodore Roosevelt, Jack London, Orville Wright, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, and Ray Bradbury.

Sports fans can read first-person advice from the likes of Willie Mays, Johnny Unitas, and Olympic star Bruce Jenner (long before he met the Kardashians). More serious fare includes first-rate reporting from Germany, Russia, and other then-distant countries.

Among the many pleasures of this fine collection, don’t miss the Think & Grin jokes and the vintage ads. Those were the good ol’ days, back when a boy could get an excellent BB gun for $12.95!

Then, go all the way back to the beginning.

Almost everyone associates Sir Robert Baden-Powell with the creation of the Scouts, but few may know about the British-Canadian naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton, whose Woodcraft Indians organization helped shape Baden-Powell’s thinking. And how many know that President Theodore Roosevelt disagreed with Scouting’s pacifism in the run-up to World War I?

All this and much more is the subject of David Scott and Brendan Murphy’sThe Scouting Party. Readers will learn about the questions and conflicts that James West, Chief Scout Executive from 1911 to 1943, dealt with as he, Seton, and Daniel Carter Beard, founder of the Sons of Daniel Boone, debated the growth and direction of the BSA.

Historian Douglas Brinkley calls it “a gift to America,” which makes it the perfect gift for any Scouting enthusiast as the organization launches into its second century.

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