Ten Brilliant Books Every Man Needs to Read
Some people say fiction is a waste of time — the only books worth reading, they reckon, are those that teach you something, help you better yourself. Well, if you can absorb any of the ten books listed here and not come away having learnt a few seriously significant things about what it is to be a man — a father, husband, lover, brother, son, soldier, boss, worker, drinker, driver, writer, fighter, coward, hero… a goddamn human being — then you’re probably beyond help, and not even a library of self-improvement literature’s going to fix you.
Sure, the stuff found in the business advice section of the bookstore might give you a leg-up in getting rich. These titles, however, will help you lead a richer life — see the world through another’s eyes. And that, my friends, is priceless. Nothing’s as valuable, enlightening or self-improving as experience. Factual, or fictional. Read on.
10. Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates (1961)
“If you don’t try at anything, you can’t fail… it takes back bone to lead the life you want.”
9. The Quiet American, Graham Greene (1955)
“I can’t say what made me fall in love with Vietnam — that a woman’s voice can drug you; that everything is so intense. The colors, the taste, even the rain. Nothing like the filthy rain in London. They say whatever you’re looking for, you will find here. They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived. The smell: that’s the first thing that hits you, promising everything in exchange for your soul. And the heat. Your shirt is straightaway a rag. You can hardly remember your name, or what you came to escape from. But at night, there’s a breeze. The river is beautiful. You could be forgiven for thinking there was no war; that the gunshots were fireworks; that only pleasure matters. A pipe of opium, or the touch of a girl who might tell you she loves you. And then, something happens, as you knew it would. And nothing can ever be the same again.”
8. On The Road, Jack Kerouac (1957)
“You guys are going somewhere or just going?”
7. The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles (1949)
“Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”
6. For Whom The Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway (1940)
“The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”
5. American Tabloid, James Ellroy (1995)
“The real Trinity of Camelot was Look Good, Kick Ass, Get Laid. Jack Kennedy was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history. He called a slick line and wore a world-class haircut. He was Bill Clinton minus pervasive media scrutiny and a few rolls of flab. Jack got whacked at the optimum moment to assure his sainthood. Lies continue to swirl around his eternal flame. It’s time to dislodge his urn and cast light on a few men who attended his ascent and facilitated his fall.”
4. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver (1981)
“There was a time when I thought I loved my first wife more than life itself. But now I hate her guts. I do. How do you explain that? What happened to that love? What happened to it, is what I’d like to know. I wish someone could tell me.”
3. The Beautiful and Damned, F Scott Fitzgerald (1922)
“Things are sweeter when they’re lost. I know — because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly, Dot, and when I got it it turned to dust in my hand.”
2. Women, Charles Bukowski (1978)
“Women: I liked the colors of their clothing; the way they walked; the cruelty in some faces; now and then the almost pure beauty in another face, totally and enchantingly female. They had it over us: they planned much better and were better organized. While men were watching professional football or drinking beer or bowling, they, the women, were thinking about us, concentrating, studying, deciding — whether to accept us, discard us, exchange us, kill us or whether simply to leave us. In the end it hardly mattered; no matter what they did, we ended up lonely and insane.”
1. The Road, Cormac McCarthy (2006)
“What’s the bravest thing you ever did? He spat in the road a bloody phlegm. Getting up this morning, he said.”
These books are all probably available for Kindle, but in our opinion, better to track down beat-up second-hand analogue editions at an actual bookstore (if you can find one still operating in your vicinity).