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Read Like a Man

To be a man is not to be rooted for a baseball team and playing hoops, Esquire magazine comes up with an unranked, incomplete, utterly biased list of the greatest works of literature ever published. This list has probably made its way around the blogging sphere since it was published back in 2008 for the magazine’s 75th anniversary. How many have you read? I boldfaced the ones I have – 28 in all.

1. The Adventures of Augie March, by Saul Bellow – high priority on TBR pile
2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain – read it in high school, not thrilled
3. Affliction, by Russell Banks – want to read
4. All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
5. American Pastoral, by Philip Roth

6. American Tabloid, by James Ellroy
7. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner – doesn’t measure up to Crossing to Safety
8. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text, by William Faulkner – one of the most difficult books
9. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
10. Blood Meridian, Or, the Evening Redness in the West, by Cormac McCarthy – don’t care for McCarthy

11. The Brothers Karamazov: A Novel in Four Parts With Epilogue, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
12. The Call of the Wild, White Fang, & To Build a Fire, by Jack London – read it in high school, zzzZZZ
13. Civilwarland in Bad Decline: Stories and a Novella, by George Saunders – never heard of this
14. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
15. The Continental Op, by Dashiell Hammett

16. The Crack-Up, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
17. Deliverance, by James Dickey
18. Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac – don’t care for Kerouac
19. Dispatches, by Michael Herr
20. Dog Soldiers, Robert Stone

21. Dubliners, by James Joyce – not as difficult as Ulysses
22. A Fan’s Notes: A Fictional Memoir, by Frederick Exley
23. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway – boring
24. Going Native, by Stephen Wright
25. A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, by Flannery O’Connor

26. The Good War: An Oral History of World War II, by Studs Terkel – really want to read this one, enjoyed Working
27. The Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck Centennial Edition (1902-2002), by John Steinbeck – my favorite is East of Eden, this list seems to pick the wrong books all the time
28. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
29. Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, by Hunter S. Thompson
30. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

31. The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara
32. The Known World, by Edward P. Jones – want to read
33. Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings, by Jorge Luis Borges – Borges is a genius
34. Legends of the Fall, Jim Harrison
35. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families, by James Agee – only read A Death in Family

36. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
37. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
38. Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis – want to read
39. Master and Commander, by Patrick O’Brian – want to read all his books
40. Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie – read Satanic Verses and had since stayed away from him

41. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville – absolutely the most boring book ever
42. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
43. Native Son, by Richard Wright – violent
44. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey – fun
45. Plainsong, by Kent Haruf – heart-warming story

46. The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain – want to read
47. The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene – want to read
48. The Professional, by W. C. Heinz
49. Rabbit Run, by John Updike – maybe, not thrilled about the witches
50. Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates,

51. The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe
52. A Sense of Where You Are: A Profile of William Warren Bradley, by John McPhee
53. The Shining, by Stephen King – creepy
54. Slaughterhouse-five, by Kurt Vonnegut – want to read
55. So Long, See You Tomorrow, William Maxwell – again, this is not my favorite of Maxwell, try
Folded Leaf

56. Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron
57. A Sport And a Pastime, James Salter
58. The Sportswriter, by Richard Ford
59. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, by John Le Carré
60. The Stories of John Cheever, by John Cheever – want to read

61. The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction, Tim O’Brien – one of his best novels
62. This Boy’s Life: A Memoir, by Tobias Wolff
63. Time’s Arrow: Or the Nature of the Offense, by Martin Amis
64. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller – one of the books I meant to read for a long time
65. Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry

66. Underworld, by Don DeLillo – meh…overrated
67. War And Peace, by Leo Tolstoy – not my favorite, try Anna Karenina
68. What It Takes: The Way to the White House, by Richard Ben Cramer
69. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories, by Raymond Carver
70. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami – not thrilled about this one

71. Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson – want to read
72. Winter’s Bone: A Novel, Daniel Woodrell
73. Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin
74. Women, by Charles Bukowski

Not my kinda reading. I find it very strange to read a must-read list without a single woman on it. This is not biased? To me this list is more likea self-fulfilling thing. Or maybe men get caught up in ideas of ‘manly books’, whereas women (and some excellent men) will generally pick up whatever’s nearby and looks good. Wait, Flannery O’Connor is a woman. So either they don’t realize this (in which case shame on them for not doing their research) or they think she’s the only woman worthy of attention!

7 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing this (ridiculous) list. Why did you call the DeLillo overrated? I recommend 14, 50, 58, & 69.

    • The ones you recommend are good choices—I have added them to my list. As for Don Delilio, I have read White Noise years ago and found it very dull. I liked the premise of a satire about modern technology but the story didn’t deliver for me. I couldn’t stand the clunky dialogue.

  2. how can they leave out Alice Munro? Well, it is Esquire, after all. I’ve had Daniel Woodrell on my list for a while to be read. I wonder how many editors had their hands in making up this list? Possibly some strange choices due to office politics? no obvious GLBT authors on the list. I’m a big baseball fan but never could shoot hoops or even want to . . . but this could be a list made up by guys who play pick-up basketball on weekends🙂

  3. Excellent point, Matt. You are a very well-rounded reader which is why I love your blog. I can’t imagine limiting myself to the scope of a list on the basis of my gender, and what I *should* be reading, as dictated by some “authority”!

    • Thanks Debra. I don’t want to limit myself to any gender, culture, or school of thoughts. Great writings shouldn’t be limited to a certain time period or language it was written. I enjoy browsing the bookstore just to see what might intrigue me.

  4. Read All the King’s Men! This book is still so good. It’s a timeless commentary on American politics, but a whole lot more readable that that sounds.

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