My son is ten years old and I'm considering giving him THHGTTG to read.

I have read the book in my late teens and was hooked but I have a difficult time putting myself in a 10 year old boys shoes even if he is my son. My primary concern is will he get the jokes, as for the content, I'm familiar with that and will make my own decisions.

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    You, as the parent, are the best person to make this call. Have you read the book?
    – TGnat
    Jan 27, 2014 at 21:42
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    @SSumner JohnO's edit looks really good to me now, assuming Motti has no issues with it?
    – Izkata
    Jan 28, 2014 at 0:22
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    He should certainly skip to the end of So Long and Thanks for All the Fish... which is a good bit and have Marvin in it. Jan 28, 2014 at 2:38
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    I read it when I was ten, and I turned out fine! Hoo ha! Ma hahahaa! Flibble.
    – evilsoup
    Jan 28, 2014 at 11:44
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    I think the statement, "is will he get the jokes, as for the content, I'm familiar with that and will make my own decisions." really clarifies the question and actually swings it back to the point that he is asking for something that isn't purely subjective at all. With my teacher's background, I know there are measures for these types of things and while they should be used loosely because each child is different from the next, there are ways to indicate how "tough" a book will be for an age or grade-level. Perhaps removal of the paragraph that begins:"What I was going for was . . . " Jan 28, 2014 at 21:45

4 Answers 4


While such questions are personal to the values of the parent, and the abilities and maturity level of the child, there is a "rating system" for books as well that at least helps to determine what a child is likely to be capable of understanding. Many books are registered with an "RL" on them that can be found near the bar-code or on the copyright page. If not there, you can often look it up online through the publisher.

In this case, the RL is 8.3 (Scholastic). You should be aware that an RL is an indication of what average grade level (in the US) will understand at least 80% of what is being read - in this case, an eighth grader about three tenths the way through his/her eighth grade year. It is not a maturity rating in terms of content. It also may not be helpful as grade level is different in other countries, but there is a more internationally minded answer to the question as well.

Lexile measures are another way to gauge the difficulty level of reading in a book and measure approximately the same thing - they just go about it a different way. This book is measured at 1000. For the sake of comparison, The Hobbit is also measured at 1000L by the Lexile framework.

In terms of determining specifically whether your son is ready or not - it will depend much on how his reading level compares with that of the book. If you look up the Lexiles for other books he has read and understood successfully, you can determine if his score would be above or below 1000L (my guess, is that it might still be a bit early, but if he is an advanced reader and is fairly politically minded, maybe not).

This will not help you in gauging his ability to grasp the background needed for some of the social commentary and jokes. But if his reading level is generally above an 8.3 he stands a much better chance of understanding than he would if he would score below it. This is where the gray area comes in and you, knowing your child best, are the best one to determine if he has the necessary background in politics, culture and Science Fiction to grasp the humor. As a suggestion, whenever I am unsure if my child is ready or not for a book (but I think she is close), we read it together. It is a fun way to bond, we can discuss what we are reading if she gets stuck or doesn't understand something, generally, they understand what they hear better than what they read, so you can read the passages that contain a lot of political jokes (or other things he might struggle with in terms of understanding, and it allows me to remember all the details of the book and enjoy it a second (or third, or fourth . . .) time around.

  • Thanks! I had no idea things were so scientific. I've bookmarked lexile.com for future use.
    – Motti
    Jan 29, 2014 at 8:57
  • Apparently you aren't the only one given the reason for the hold. Definitely not just a case of opinion. I think this could be a very helpful question and you might try asking it in a more general way, "How do I know which books my child is ready to read?" on parentingSE. I can't promise every response wouldn't be similar to here, but I don't think it would be closed if you asked it that way. Jan 29, 2014 at 13:37
  • Thanks @balancedmama but I don't have enough rep on parenting to join the discussion. I know it's not PC but I object to the "all children are different" argument Joe raised. Sure there is variation but most children of an age are more or less on the same page (so to speak). I often go to commonsensemedia.org in order to see if my kids will enjoy a film and while it's not 100% correct it's a very useful tool.
    – Motti
    Jan 29, 2014 at 14:22
  • I'll also warn you that RL and Lexile don't consider sarcasm when determining difficulty level (though a score of 1000L does put it into the category of fairly difficult). Feb 4, 2014 at 22:37

I, like others, interpreted the original question as about the maturity level of the content. The question as subsequently been edited to be concerned about the comprehension of the book and the jokes for someone of that age around 40 years after it was written.

This is really something that only a parent can answer. I personally think its probably not going to be that interesting or funny to someone of that age. A lot of the jokes assume you know a fair amount about science and science-fiction tropes, and things like government bureaucracy.

[In terms of maturity level, for other people with that question]. The main things most parents might object to in any book are violence, sexual content or alcohol/drug references. I'm trying to summarize what I remember about the book that would relate to these categories:

  • The book is not particularly violent - except in an abstract, destroying the entire human race kind of way.

  • In terms of sexual content, there is a passing reference to a Triple Breasted Whore (from Eroticon-6).

  • In terms of alcohol / drug abuse, the only things that spring to mind are that Arthur & Ford have Six Pints of Beer to prepare for being teleported off the planet, and the 'Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster' - a cocktail invented by Zaphod Beeeblebrox which is rather like 'having your brain smashed out with slice of lemon, wrapped around a large gold brick'.

Its also quite skeptical about religion (as was Adams himself) - not a problem for me, but may be for you.

For what it is worth ... commonsensemedia.org rate it as age 11. They find the same references I recalled from the book, and add a 'few four letter words'. Honestly they may be right, but the only one I can recall is 'hell' from where Arthur says 'what the hell is that' when the Vogons arrive.

EDIT: I did take this literally to mean the first book. As @KHW notes in comments, later books have very occasional stronger language, and Ford does have a tendency to drink quite a lot throughout the story. (I would also add, as a Brit living in the USA, the third book has a shockingly unfair portrayal of the sport of cricket.)

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    Oh, and I forgot.. When she's changing at one point (within view, if he looks up) he tries not to look, and "This he completely, utterly and abjectly failed to do." -- but there is nothing said about what he sees, just that she was looking down at him. "She was staring down at him with such intensity that she seemed hardly to notice that he was looking up at her. Then suddenly she shook her head, dropped the light sundress over herself and disappeared quickly into the bathroom." -- Again, as the 'Dirty' parts of books go... this wouldn't startle a sunday school teacher.
    – K-H-W
    Jan 28, 2014 at 1:53
  • @KHW - I took the question to explicitly mean Book 1 - but you're probably right, once they've read one they might want to read the others. Jan 28, 2014 at 2:48
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    As a Canadian living in the UK, I would say the book misrepresents cricket as being a threat to galactic civilization, rather than an incomprehensible game that threatens my ability to stay awake. ;-) Jan 28, 2014 at 9:44
  • IIRC American editions up to Book 3 replace "F---" with "Belgium". Book 4 also contain a bunch of (both literal and figurative) F-ing.
    – OrangeDog
    May 16, 2018 at 15:44

For what it's worth, I first read the books when I was about 10 or 11, enjoyed them very much and didn't find anything shocking. A lot of the jokes went completely over my head at the time, but that just added to the enjoyment of re-reading them later.

  • Similarly FWIW, I was also 10 (I think) when i pulled THHGTTG off my parents bookshelf at a whim, attracted to the colourful stripy spine (it was this edition - upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/bd/H2G2_UK_front_cover.jpg), and loved it, in a life-changing sort of way. The TV series hadn't come out yet. I was already a sci-fi fan, so loved its humourous take on many scifi tropes, though obviously wouldn't have put it in those terms aged 10. Apr 10, 2019 at 10:34

As one data point, I've been listening to the original radio series with my eight-year-old, and she's been loving it, although she has found some of the plot threads a bit hard to follow. I'd say an intelligent ten-year-old should have no trouble.

  • I too would suggest starting with the radio series. I read the books aged around 11, and I found them intriguing and addictive but very odd, and I didn't really get much of the humour. A couple of years later I heard the radio series, and that's when I really got it and understood the narrative voice and style. The LPs, books, TV series, and computer game are all very wonderful in their own ways, but the radio series is where it all started, and I think that's probably the best way to discover them. (Plus, the pictures are better!)
    – gidds
    Jul 19, 2023 at 18:17

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