Are men as hard to find library books for, as they are to buy presents for?
In a female-dominated workplace such as the Library, I often look at our book displays and recommendations, and wonder if we are doing enough to cater to the needs and wants of our male readers. What else can we be doing to make the library more “guy-friendly”?
As we review the best reads of 2010 and prepare displays brimming with good books for you to take away on holiday, we want to know what authors and titles you blokes have enjoyed and would recommend to the other fellas out there. Tell us what kinds of books you want us to have ready for you to grab and go. And if you are not a man but go hunting for library books on behalf of one, tell us what has been a successful find.
Do men have more sophisticated tastes than we give them credit for, or will a pile of action-packed thrillers and mysteries suffice?
Do men and women have such different tastes?
Authors/Books for Blokes with a Brain
John Updike: Almost anything (In the Beauty of Lilies was a bit wimpy) but the Rabbit Angstrom series should be compulsory for an insight into the terror of being masculine. This is excellence in writing – and reminds me of how feminised many of Jonathan Franzen’s novels really are.
William Wharton: Another compulsory author. This is a man who really engages with his readers and tackles the joys and difficulties of male relationships but in an optimistic manner. He is dead now, so savour your way through “Birdy, “Dad”, “A Midnight Clear “(one of my favourite books of all time), “Scumbler”, “Pride”, “Tidings”, Franky Furbo” and “Last Lovers”.
Neal Stephenson: Fantastic, complex writing from the pop-culture fun of “Snow Crash”, through the intricacies of “Crytonomican” and the peripherally related Baroque Cycle trilogy through to his latest “Anathem” which is a dense, low action monster. He is in danger of needing a severe editor if he carries on this way.
Raymond Chandler: Yes, I know it is crime fiction but you’ll struggle to find a better writer in any genre.
Margaret Atwood: The only female writer to make my list. I suspect she may have received an extra shot of testosterone in the womb as she writes relationship dynamics from a point of view that rings true for me. “The Robber Bride”, “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Cats Eye”, “The Blind Assassin” – take your pick!
John Fowles: “The Magus”
John Steinbeck: “The Grapes of Wrath”
Jonathan Franzen: “Strong Motions”, “The 27th City” and the essays “How to be Alone”. Probably best for Blokes to avoid “The Corrections” and “Freedom”.
John Irving: A great writer although he has written the same story about 10 times. Earlier works are best – “The Hotel New Hampshire”, “The World According to Garp”, “The Cider Hose Rules”.
Hermann Hesse: “Steppenwolf” – exposition on the horrors of being a middle-aged man.
I know my partner much prefers biography and non fiction, music bios like the latest ‘Keef’ Richards one – ‘Life’ is a classic example and he’s really enjoying that.
Well I am a geek, (and mainly associate with other geeks!) so I tend to go for Science Fiction (hard science!), Fantasy, and a bit of Historical Fiction.
Not sure if this makes me typical or atypical.
Good books I have read this year are “The Wind Up Girl” By Paolo Bacigulupi (not sure I spelt that right!), “The Heir of Night” by Helen Lowe, and “The Evolutionary Void” by Peter F Hamilton.
In the decent Sci-Fi stakes there is a lot to chose from but the Kim Stanley Robinson Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars) is large but worth the effort. Some interesting scientific ideas balanced with a degree of insight into the human relationship aspects of Mars colonisation
Cormac Mccarthy, Ian McEwan, Jonathan Franzen, have all met with approval in my house.
Am in awe of Michael’s list. Spectacular recommendations in there.
I had to stop myself: could have gone on and on and on…
I did some tag-team reading with my guy this year too. We were both obsessed by The Road Cormac McCarthy, and the graphic novel American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Stephen King.
Actually this was an intergenerational tag-team bloke read, as one of his grandads also read The Road, and the other read American Vampire.
Bookshops always have the obligatory men’s book displays full of the likes of Clancy, Baldacci, Patterson et al. I presume they do their research and know what moves? I bought a male relative the new Dennis LeHane Moonlight Mile as I thought it had plenty of action but was a bit different from the usual.
On the top row of my bookcase you’ll find Nick Hornby, Irvine Welsh, G.K. Chesteron, P.G. Wodehouse, Graham Greene, J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien. Right now I’m reading Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. The best book I have ever read is One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Tom Clancy is a guilty pleasure.
I re-read The Odyssey about every two years. If I’m buying my father a book for a present, I generally stick with something written by a Top Gear presenter.
Pete – on your recommendation I have just issued myself “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” at the Central library – roll on summer holidays!
Such a short novel; dense with atmosphere, emotion and history. A great read (and a lot more accessible than many Russian authros). Thanks for the recommendation Pete.
any books by Simon Winchester were always well read.
I tend to go to the non fiction section and look for books on interesting topics narrated by great writers – except I can’t think what authors they are at the moment 😉
Pah! Action-packed thrillers and mysteries?? Gone are the days of the ‘Loaded Mag Lad’ who could only stomach a book if it involved Jason Bourne shooting something or breaking something’s neck. Real men read real books. On my bedside table at the moment is David Mitchell’s excellent “Thousand Autmuns of Jacob De Zoet”, squashing flat a curling copy of Midnight’s Children, ready for re-reading. That said, any man worth his salt could learn a few things from hard-boiled crime-writer Walter Mosley. Hold your head high chaps: you no longer need to be ashamed of those poetry books in the cupboard!
I always find this kind of enquiry rather funny. Hmmm, let’s find a book that half the population with vastly different life experiences will like, because all men are the same. 😉
When I worked in retail I forever had male customers saying “Hey, you’re a woman! You’ll know what my wife/sister/girlfriend will like!” Because likewise all women are the same.
I’ll tell you, if anyone ever gives me chicklit they’ll get a pretty frosty reception!
‘The Art of Looking Sideways’ by Alan Fletcher, ‘The life and times of the Thunderbolt Kid’ by Bill Bryson, ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’ by Haruki Murakami and ‘Birchwood’ by John Banville. These are the titles my partner Jeremy enjoyed most this year. Oh, and the history of Britain book from the BBC Time Team crew.