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City Boy

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  719 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
'City Boy' spins a hilarious and often touching tale of an urban kid's adventures and misadventures on the street, in school, in the countryside, always in pursuit of Lucille, a heartless redhead personifying all the girls who torment and fascinate pubescent lads of eleven.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 15th 1992 by Back Bay Books (first published 1948)
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Aug 29, 2011 Mariel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: you're the one for me fatty
Recommended to Mariel by: El
Lots and lots of thanks to El for mentioning City Boy in her review of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. How did I go through all of my life without ever hearing of this book? This is my favorite kind of book! I mean, I've read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn several times.
I can see why one book reminded her of the other. They share a soul of bittersweet pain. Like if it hurt too much to fall in love but your days are too long without it and you never stop looking for someone or something else to
Feb 18, 2013 John rated it really liked it
Years ago I loved The Winds of War, War and Remembrance, and Inside, Outside. Then I was disappointed by The Hope and The Glory and quit reading Wouk's books. Recently my son put me onto City Boy and, seeing it had been written early in Wouk's writing career, I thought to give it a try. I'm really glad I did. Wouk has a way of describing the life events of children that really rings true with wit and humor.

Here is an example involving the book's hero, Herbie, and his on again, off again girl fri
Todd Cannon
Feb 02, 2013 Todd Cannon rated it really liked it
I can't remember exactly how I came upon this book but I was surfing around on the internet about a week ago and discovered it. I think I had heard of it before because the main character's name, Herbie Bookbinder, sounded familiar to me, but I had never read it.

This is the story of the last half of the school year when Herbie is 11 and the summer that follows it when he goes to a summer camp run by his school's pricipal. It takes place in 1928 and is told from Herbie's point of view with obser
Oct 30, 2011 Katherine rated it it was amazing
With the first paragraph of this coming of age book, the image of Herbie Bookbinder is almost enough to make any group of teenage girls "aw" in choral. A chubby, broken-hearted boy who detests everything about female kind finds love in a red-head named Lucille and spends the rest of the book running through his thoughts and problems in his young adolescent life. I personally quite enjoyed this book from the very beginning. With it's long and complex sentences, Wouk provides enough clarity for ea ...more
Oct 16, 2007 Bruce rated it it was amazing
I read this as part of my "read everything ever written about the Bronx" kick, but found that it also fit into another one of my favorite subgenres: boy's stories in which the underdog rises above his station and becomes a hero.

The big difference, though, is that most authors in this genre are hacks, while Herman Wouk is a great writer. His main character, Herbie Bookbinder is a fantastic creation, and it takes little imagination to make the jump from the bookish Herbie to an imaginary "Hermie"
Jul 02, 2008 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came across this one at a thrift store in Estes Park. I had never heard of it and didn't expect much, but ended up loving it. It's a funny, coming-of-age story about an overweight Jewish boy going to summer camp and trying to win a girl's heart. Very well-written, with subtle humor and recognizable characters.
Jul 15, 2008 Dan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite coming of age novel about a charming 11 year old boy in the Bronx, circa 1925. His trials and tribulations still ring true today. The book has real wisdom and is the best depiction of the mind of a boy I know.
May 14, 2007 E rated it liked it
This was a good book. It reminded me of Tom Sawyer.
Jan 22, 2009 Alana rated it really liked it
I loved this little book.. an easy and pleasant read, and a nice escape (from dreary, cold January) to the summer of 1928 in the Bronx. Reminded me of all the pleasures of being a kid again.
Jennifer Forsberg
Feb 10, 2015 Jennifer Forsberg rated it it was amazing
I liked City Boy, although the romance of the 11 year old boy was obviously fictional. My own 11 year old would never have romantic feelings, right?
Jun 14, 2017 Felix rated it it was amazing
"When I discovered City Boy, I wasn’t fat, I wasn’t Jewish, my family wasn’t working class, and I never went to summer camp, but at thirteen, runty, effeminate, four-eyed, unathletic, and often the new kid in class because my father moved us around too much, I understood humiliation." -James Magruder
Jul 16, 2017 Al rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
What a terrific read! I've read several of the author's books and this one is definitely one I'd read again. There were several spots that struck me as hilarious and I found myself in tears I was laughing so hard. It's a quick read so check it out. You won't be sorry.
Ein Buch, das am Klappentext als "Klassiker, der sicher irgendwann den Status eines Huckleberry Finn erreich wird" angepriesen wird. Nun, ganz dieser Meinung bin ich nicht. Dennoch bin ich froh dass ich dieses Buch (aufgrund seines nicht so sehr ansprechenden Einbandes und des Alters) nicht ungelesen ausgemustert habe.

Denn es ist zum einen eine sehr nett geschriebene Geschichte über den (Ferienlager-)Sommer des 11jährigen Herbie Bookbinder (eine sogenannte "Coming-of-age-story"). Zum anderen ist
An amused and ironic look at growing up in the Bronx of the 1920s, as a rotund and bookish 11-year-old. It owes just a bit to Tom Sawyer. There is an overarching plot, but mostly the book functions as a set of linked episodes, most of which would work fine in isolation.

In one scene, Herbie and Lucille in meet each other at the Egyptian exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As Wouk describes it: "Fingers interlaced, the children leaned against the cool glass covering the stones in the last
Deborah Drezon
Mar 14, 2013 Deborah Drezon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not sure what this says about me but this is my favorite book of all time. I buy it for high school graduates as a gift. (It's not easy to find except online) It's a timeless coming-of-age tale set in the Bronx in the 1920s. Herbie Bookbinder is a fat adolescent, a loser by today's standards and he knows it. He stinks at sports, doesn't have a whole lot of friends and is not sought after by girls, most especially the redhead he is crushing on. He convinces his parents to send him to overnight ca ...more
Andy Love
Mar 13, 2012 Andy Love rated it really liked it
I read an excerpt of this book back in the 1970s in a 7th grade English anthology; late last year I finally made the effort to find out the title and author, so that early this year I could read the whole book. It's a charming story about a boy named Herbie Bookbinder, in 1920s New York. He's a chubby, clumsy fellow, but very smart, and prone to wild crushes; as the book opens, his heart is broken when his teacher marries, but later that day, he falls for a girl at his school, which leads to mos ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
This is one of those books that was excerpted in my middle school Language Arts book. Said LA book was produced in NYC, of course, and was heavy on extracts from books about NYC or written by those enamoured of it--which meant that as a preteen in a small rural community in the Midwest, I didn't catch a lot of the references or vocabulary. Elizabethan English, yes. I read Pilgrim's Progress and Shakespeare for entertainment in those days. But talk to me about "regular guys" playing stickball and ...more
Dec 25, 2014 Dia rated it really liked it
City Boy was fun to read and quite a departure from the war-focused books I have read by Wouk.

What I find interesting about Wouk's characters is that you get to know them, but you don't get completely inside their head. You stay a bit on the sidelines.

Wouk has indicated that the chubby Herbie Bookbinder is his favorite character of all that he has created. I imagine it's because he's the underdog--overweight, nerdy, often bullied. The kid has character, however, and not afraid to bend the rule
Alia S
Jan 30, 2015 Alia S rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2014
Having belatedly discovered that he exists, I am now reading everything Herman Wouk has ever written. “City Boy” is charming and hilarious and not dissimilar to an after-school viewing of Nickelodeon’s “Salute Your Shorts.” And between slapstick summer-camp escapades, you have the benefit of Wouk’s impeccable eye for human truths like this:

He could not deprive himself of the luxury of sentiment. So he sat … enjoying the mourning all the more because he had nothing whatever to mourn for. This is
Lindsey Garrett
May 03, 2015 Lindsey Garrett rated it it was amazing
I never write reviews for books, but I am just so impressed with this one that I have to say that this book is flawless. The setting was described in a tangible way, the characters were extremely believable and relatable (in elementary/middle school, I was always the chubby, unpopular bookworm of the class, so I felt pangs of familiar self-consciousness as I read about Herbie's problems), and the story was well thought out and charming. City Boy was a delight from beginning to end; I didn't want ...more
Feb 25, 2013 Callie rated it liked it
This is the kind of book I would recommend to my mother. It's 'cute'. Full of humor, quite delightful, and very safe, with a nice moral at the end. There are lots of parts where I giggled or chuckled. Herbie is quite charming. Some sexism and racism, and as a friend pointed out, a crass way of always referring to Herbie's weight issues, but this was written several decades ago, so. . . I would compare this book to the old black and white movie 'The Little Rascals'. Antics of school boys in the t ...more
Jan 21, 2013 Seth rated it really liked it
Proof that the nature of boyhood & early adolescence has remained consistent over the course of a century. Herbie is an exceptional combination of exceptionalism and ordinariness. He's so brilliant and sensitive, yet also ignorant of much, and sensitive (with its liabilities too). The sequence of adventures threaded together in a larger narrative arc, centering on his infatuation seems a bold and intentional homage to Tom Sawyer, and pulls it off. I especially like the motor vehicle advent
Web Webster
Nov 08, 2015 Web Webster rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like memoirs
Actually, maybe one of my favorite books ever. A loving look at growing up working-class Jewish in New York (The Bronx). Herbie Bookbinder is every elementary school kid ever. Sort of a picaresque, I first read an excerpt of this in 7th grade (The Colonel Garbage episode).

Wouk also captures what it is to love a girl who will never, ever love you back in the way that only young boys with big hearts can experience it.
Skylar Burris
Dec 23, 2007 Skylar Burris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor
I read this book when I was about 14, after I had read and enjoyed The Caine Mutiny and decided to pick up any books I could find by the same author in the used bookstore. This remains my favorite of Herman Wouk's books. It may not be epic in scope, but it is very, very human. It spoke to me on a personal level in the way that only the greatest stories do. I do not know if this tale of young love would affect me as strongly now as a married adult. I think it would, but in a very different way.
Jul 18, 2008 Wendy rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
This book is such a delightful little read. Anyone who was once a precocious, bratty, little know it all preteen will identify with chubster Herbie, the most brilliant(and most hated) kid in his school, and later his summer camp.
He gets himself involved in a love triangle with the most popular boy in his class over the attentions of the cute little red head, and of course gets in lots of trouble.
But in the end he saves the day and emerges as the hero, with the girl of course!
Brent Soderstrum
Oct 15, 2010 Brent Soderstrum rated it really liked it
Herbie Bookbinder is an 11 year old chubby non-athletic New York kid who is off on a summer camp adventure with the love of his life, a little red-headed girl. Beneath the fun story is a power struggle in his father's ice business that Herbie becomes unwittingly involved in. Nice read about the things kids enjoy and fear. I enjoy Wouk and this is a departure from his normal stuff but still enjoyable.
May 12, 2013 Chuck rated it really liked it
Someone described this as the 1920s Tom Sawyer with a young Jewish boy from Bronx as the protagonist. That's exactly what it is. Yet while Herbie Bookbinder is closer in time to Tom Sawyer than to today's youth (or even my youth), he is a fully modern character. I laughed at loud at times, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Is it great lit? Probably not, perhaps too derivative. But the characters are thoroughly enjoyable and Wouk tells a great story.
Jun 10, 2010 Ethan rated it really liked it
Shelves: 10th-grade
A very interesting book that portrays NYC a while back, was interesting to read this book and begin to decipher the contrast between the NYC of old and the New York of new. The main character was also very interesting and unique, he wasn't exactly likeable, but at the same time, you were able to empathize with him quite a bit.
Jun 23, 2011 Christy rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Christy by: Vanessa
This is why I love Goodreads! I had never heard of City Boy until Vanessa recommended it, and overnight, it’s one of my all-time favorites. It takes me back to my childhood in the Bronx, but wait--I didn’t grow up in the Bronx! I lived in California! No matter. I loved the quirky characters, and sometimes I laughed so hard I had to stop for breath.
Grandma Weaver
Jul 15, 2012 Grandma Weaver rated it it was amazing
I loved this story! The hero??, Herbie Bookbinder, is eleven, Jewish, Lives in the Bronx and is fat and cant play sports but is really smart. It's his tale about school, summer camp and his friends and mortal enemies. It is laugh out loud in places and Herbie is wonderful. I think we've all been Herbie in our youth. Just not as inventive and funny. I highly recommend this book.
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Herman Wouk is a bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning Jewish American author with a number of notable novels to his credit, including The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance.

Herman Wouk was born in New York City into a Jewish family that had emigrated from Russia. After a childhood and adolescence in the Bronx and a high school diploma from Townsend Harris High School, he earned
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