Find your Scout’s favorite merit badge from this list, and we’ll suggest the perfect book

With more free time and less assigned reading, summer is the perfect time for Scouts to get caught up in a great book.

But which one will become the ultimate page-turner? We’re here to help.

Below, we’ve paired 10 merit badges with 10 related books. Simply find the merit badge your Scout likes most from the list, and we’ll suggest the accompanying book.

Good books, great locations

Speaking of perfect pairings, you can’t beat a good book and a great location.

Some of my most memorable reading experiences have been outdoors on Scouting adventures. As a Scout, it was the latest entry in the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. As a writer covering BSA adventures for Scouting magazine, it was a recent hardcover tucked into my backpack next to my reporter’s notebook.

I read Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy, while covering a troop’s rafting trip down the Rogue River in Oregon. After a day of canoeing at Yellowstone National Park for another story, I sat on a log and opened Mr. Mercedes, a detective novel by Stephen King (and one of dozens of King books with Scouting references).

Looking back, the experience of reading these books in such magical locations is just as memorable as the contents of the books themselves.

What kinds of reading memories will your Scouts make?

10 merit badges, 10 book recommendations

1. Fingerprinting: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

  • First published: 1964
  • Reading age: 9+
  • What it’s about: A girl named Harriet keeps a notebook full of observations about strangers, classmates and friends. When she loses the notebook, Harriet learns just how powerful words can be.
  • Why Fingerprinting MB: Every good spy needs to know how to look for clues. By being able to identify the unique combination of loops, arches and whorls that make up someone’s fingerprints, your Scout is well on their way to Harriet-level spydom.

2. Wilderness Survival: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

  • First published: 1986
  • Reading age: 11+
  • What it’s about: A boy named Brian is traveling by plane to visit his father in Canada when the pilot has a fatal heart attack, causing the plane to crash. Brian is forced to survive on his own with nothing but the present his mother had given him: a hatchet.
  • Why Wilderness Survival MB: Brian must find food, build shelter and make a fire — the very survival skills Scouts learn and practice while earning this incredibly valuable merit badge.

3. Game Design: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

  • First published: 1978
  • Reading age: 10+
  • What it’s about: The eccentric millionaire Samuel W. Westing has died. At the reading of Westing’s will, the 16 potential heirs learn that one of them is Westing’s killer. They’re split into pairs and given a puzzling series of clues about the murder. The pair that successfully completes the game and identifies the culprit gets Westing’s $200 million fortune.
  • Why Game Design MB: The entire novel is structured as a game — not just for the characters but for the reader to play along. Scouts who enjoyed creating their own games for this merit badge will enjoy playing Westing’s game.

4. American Cultures: March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

  • First published: 2013
  • Reading age: 12+
  • What it’s about: This graphic novel, co-written by the late U.S. Congressman John Lewis, offers a look back at the early days of the civil rights movement. Through powerful words and illustrations, readers see how nonviolent protest can spark real change.
  • Why American Cultures MB: The badge challenges Scouts to consider how people from different racial, ethnic or religious backgrounds have gotten along throughout history — and what can be done to help groups understand one another better.

5. Disabilities Awareness: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

  • First published: 2012
  • Reading age: 10+
  • What it’s about: Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes severe facial deformities. “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse,” Auggie explains as the novel opens. When Auggie moves to a mainstream school for fifth grade, he faces a range of reactions — sparking his community to learn a lesson about what it means to be friendly, brave and kind.
  • Why Disabilities Awareness MB: Scouts who earn this important merit badge gain a better understanding of what life is like for people with disabilities. Scouts who read Wonder will only deepen that understanding.

6. Archery: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

  • First published: 2008
  • Reading age: 12+
  • What it’s about: To save her sister from mortal peril, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. As she does, she learns about compassion, humanity and how sometimes doing the right thing might mean breaking some rules.
  • Why Archery MB: Katniss isn’t just a fiercely loyal friend and skilled survivalist. She’s also wickedly good with a bow and arrow — a trait she shares with Scouts who have earned this popular merit badge often completed at Scout summer camp.

7. Citizenship in the World: Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

  • First published: 2019
  • Reading age: 10+
  • What it’s about: Anyone who has switched schools after moving to a new town will relate to the story of Jude, a 12-year-old Syrian refugee who has moved to Ohio to live with her uncle. Jude must learn to adapt to her new home while not forgetting the people she left behind.
  • Why Citizenship in the World MB: Scouts who complete this Eagle-required merit badge leave with a greater understanding for their place on the planet — an appreciation that as Americans, we occupy only a small corner. Other Words for Home will enhance this understanding while opening their eyes even wider.

8. Inventing: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

  • First published: 2007
  • Reading age: 8+
  • What it’s about: Part graphic novel, part traditional page-turner, this book was later adapted for the screen in the 2011 film Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese. The story tells of a 12-year-old orphan living in a Paris train station who discovers a mechanical man that may contain a hidden message.
  • Why Inventing MB: While Scouts don’t have to tinker with a mechanical man to earn the Inventing merit badge (one of the BSA’s newest), they are asked to think of something they could invent that might solve a real-life problem.

9. Camping: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

  • First published: 1959
  • Reading age: 10+
  • What it’s about: Sam, a teen boy from New York City, leaves behind the noisy streets for a life of solitude in the wilderness. Along the way, he learns that you don’t need material possessions to find peace and happiness. You just need confidence, outdoor skills and bravery.
  • Why Camping MB: Not everyone is comfortable spending the night outside the comforting walls of home. But Sam certainly is — just like all the Scouts out there who go camping night after night for this Eagle-required merit badge. (We also could’ve chosen Bird Study, Cooking, Fishing or Wilderness Survival for this book. It covers a lot of Scouting themes.)

10. Geology: Holes by Louis Sacher

  • First published: 2000
  • Reading age: 10+
  • What it’s about: Falsely accused of stealing, Stanley Yelnats is sent to a juvenile detention center in the middle of the Texas desert, where inmates are forced to dig a large hole every day. Jumping back and forth between flashbacks and present day, the twisty story has readers asking: What exactly are they digging up?
  • Why Geology MB: “There’s more than you can see from the surface” is a phrase that describes both Holes and the Earth itself. That’s a fact made clear as Scouts earn the Geology merit badge.

For Scouts who love to read

Some of the 10 books above can be found on Scout Life’s handy list of 100 Books Every Kid Should Read. If none of the books above catches your Scout’s interest, you’re sure to find something perfect there.

And speaking of reading, make sure your book-loving Scouts are subscribed to Scout Life magazine. Contact your local council or unit leader for the special Scout rate, or subscribe instantly here.

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.