Are there any adult fiction writers for guys anymore?
December 4, 2013 3:49 PM   Subscribe

I want to become a reader again, but my latest trip to the bookstore made me sad. Ignoring the fact that it was hard to find fiction books amidst the tablets, the toys, and the teen fiction section, I found an assortment of 'chicklit', Tom Clancy, Steven King, Dean Koontz and an assortment of right-wing survivalist fiction. I want to find something that isn't David Sedaris. I want to find something that isn't non-fiction. I want to find something that isn't ... isn't this... Aren't there any great under-the-radar-haven't-been-overhyped-into-michael-crichton-yet authors? Or is this it... have I reached the end of an appreciation of fiction and I am now condemned to purgatory with nonfiction and biographies? Help!

Side note: I don't mean to slam chick lit, as a matter of fact, I'm in awe... Congrats to the number of women that have something to say in the book industry. It makes me happy, but it 95% of the time isn't my cup of tea... and yes - I've given it a go. Really though, the male authorship has either dwindled, its only the big names that write the same book again and again, or its this cookie cutter formulaic b.s. I weep.

Other things:
No Horror and I'm not interested in Teen Fiction.

I'd totally dig fiction for any gender really - as long as it is good, not overly overdone... and not another eat pray skinny legs guide to hunting and fishing while we exhale and reinvent ourselves of the month.
posted by Nanukthedog to Media & Arts (60 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
What exactly are you looking for? There's a lot of great fiction out there but if you're looking for something marketed "for guys" you are probably going to be disappointed.

Although... have you tried Cormac Mccarthy?
posted by dilaudid at 3:51 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's always the classics you haven't gotten around to yet for a near bottomless well of opportunity, but I would also suggest perusing this list, which is from "A year of reading the world" -- a blog/project linked on the Blue a while back featuring fiction from nearly 200 countries.

Also, head over to and check out the "men" genre.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:55 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've become pretty taken with the Australian (American-emigre) writer Peter Carey over the past year. His most well known book is "Oscar and Lucinda", the source of a well regarded film of a few years back. He is the whole package, plot, character, voice, erudition. He does both historical and contemporary, and he can be funny as hell. I wholeheartedly recommend anything he's written.
posted by hwestiii at 3:56 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

You want stuff shelved in the general fiction area of the bookstore (no genre stuff)?
posted by jsturgill at 3:59 PM on December 4, 2013

Cormac McCarthy and when you're done with that, James Lee Burke's books are crazy good for how popular they are. The Hackberry Holland series really reminds me of McCarthy's work. Not under the radar, but they were sure under my radar.

Two books by Ron Carlson called Five Skies and The Signal both blew me away and they both distinctly seem like dude-lit.
posted by ftm at 3:59 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Andre Dubus Jr. And III
Raymond Carver
William Styron
Richard Yates
Richard Russo
John Irving....
posted by brujita at 4:01 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I must be missing something...there are so many male fiction writers!! SO many! Are you looking for more adventure-type stuff, and not literary fiction? Because if the latter is okay, off the top of my head, I can think of:

-Jonathan Lethem
-Cormac McCarthy (already mentioned)
-Tim O'Brien
-Thom Jones
-Dom DeLillo
-Thomas Pynchon
-Richard Ford
-Wells Tower
-Wallace Stegner
posted by stellaluna at 4:02 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Harry Crews
posted by Tom-B at 4:02 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I kind of don't know what you're talking about; I'm a woman and a reader and I don't read "chicklit" either. You say you want some quality male fiction; it's not like Eat Pray Love is the female equivalent of that. If you want good fiction, men and women both write that and it usually is just known as good books and not dudelit or chicklit. I read basically an equal balance of books by men and women and I'm pretty picky.

I read a lot and I want to give recommendations but I'm really not sure what you're looking for-- just good books in general? Or do you want them to be written by men? What would you like them to be about? Anything? Nothing? Literary, not literary? &c.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:02 PM on December 4, 2013 [35 favorites]

(In other words, how male-/macho-inflected do you want these books to be?)
posted by stoneandstar at 4:03 PM on December 4, 2013

Yeah, what kind of stuff do you like? Not horror, obviously, but you mentioned Michael Crichton, so maybe thrillers? Do you like detective stuff?

I like Jo Nesbo, who is a Norwegian crime writer, for that kind of thing.

Martin Cruz Smith is also pretty good; he's written a series of detective novels set in Russia, but my dad and I also really loved his book Rose, about coal miners and pit fighters in Victorian-era England.

My dad has been loving the hell out of Robert Parker, who writes both Westerns and hard-boiled detective stories.

John Le Carré writes amazing (but depressing) espionage fiction; if you haven't read him, please do.

Colum McCann is good.

And if you're looking for lighter-hearted fiction, pretty much all of the guys in my family really like Tim Dorsey and Carl Hiaasen; both write stuff you could sort of describe as "madcap capers" that are set in Florida and are pretty hilarious.

All of these writers are established, as opposed to undiscovered rising stars, but none of them are hyped to the level of Stephen King or Michael Crichton.
posted by infinitywaltz at 4:04 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Peter Bowen
Craig Johnson
posted by easily confused at 4:09 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I too would be able to give better suggestions if you could come back and give us some books you've enjoyed in the past.

Some good male protagonist fiction I've read recently:

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
A Boston gangster sets up a bootlegging operation in 1920's Tampa

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters
A Maine police detective tries to solve murders even though there is an asteroid headed for earth that will destroy civilization.

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
A North Korean Army officer does some astonishing things to stay alive.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
A couple of hired killers in Gold Rush-era San Francisco hunt down their mark.
posted by elizeh at 4:10 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am a woman but here are some good books I have liked written by men that feature male main characters.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Lonesome Dove
The Rook
Angle of Repose
The Magicians
The Passage

In general you need to stay away from the things bookstores put on tables. Start paying attention to Amazon's best books of the month and reading Publisher's Weekly reviews and things like that - there are way, way more quality books out there than I will get to even in my lifetime. And some of them are even written by women!
posted by something something at 4:10 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

What you're looking for is called Literary Fiction.

That might be a good keyword to search. It's probably a genre on Amazon.

Seconding a visit to the Fiction section of the bookstore, though of course you'll probably also find your Michael Chrictons and your Bridget Joneses shelved there as well.

Tables with headings like "New Fiction", "New In Paperback", and "Paperback Favorites" are a good bet, though again you'll have to do a bit of self-filtering for Chick Lit and Dan Brown.

Good signs:

- it's from a small press.

- it doesn't have shoes on the front cover.

- Neither mimosas nor machine guns are mentioned in the title or cover copy.

Writers you might like include Michael Chabon and David Eggers in addition to the many awesome writers mentioned above.
posted by Sara C. at 4:11 PM on December 4, 2013 [9 favorites]

Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides. It's a wonderfully thoughtful but brief read, completely engrossing, and a good introduction to getting back into excellent fiction. If you like the longing and language aspect of Virgin Suicides, go on to Middlesex or try Nabokov's Lolita or Garcia Marquez (anything, really, but especially Love in the time of Cholera). If you're not so much into the longing but love the language, go on to DeLillo, Chabon, McCarthy...
posted by mochapickle at 4:11 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

(Even though I say it's a good introduction, Virgin Suicides is by no means simple. It sticks with you.)
posted by mochapickle at 4:12 PM on December 4, 2013

I've recommended all of the following here before but:

Daniel Woodrell (who wrote Winter's Bone) is fantastic and prolific
Larry Brown was a great Alabama based author, but be forewarned, his stuff it pretty bleak and depressing
Donald Ray Pollock has published two great books, one short stories, one novel, but they're also very bleak and a bit violent. But incredibly good
Ben Fountain is also very good. Again, one book of short stories, and one novel. Both well worth reading.
posted by Ufez Jones at 4:12 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Besides suggestions already made, I have a few thoughts:

In a lighter vein than some of the folks mentioned above, check out William Styron (Sophie's Choice really is a good book), Michael Connelly, and Ed McBain. And I have a feeling you'd like the late great Robert Parker. Also, think you'd like Stephen King's 11/22/63.

Also, try joining Goodreads. They are excellent at figuring out what books you'd like (versus those you wouldn't.)
posted by bearwife at 4:13 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tom Perotta's collection of short stories, "Bad Haircut", hit me hard as recognizing what goes on in a teenage guy's head. His novels Election and Little Children were made into Hollywood films but the books are far better than even those two excellent movies.
posted by Kakkerlak at 4:13 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

May I recommend Margaret Atwood's SF trilogy -- "Oryx and Crake," "The Year of the Flood," and the recently released "MaddAddam"?

It's speculative, worrying, darkly witty, and written in (what I find to be) a slightly chilly and analytical voice from the other side of the world's end. Guardian review. It's adult in that it is so smart and well-observed and nuanced. It's human. It's bleak. I loved it for its compelling story and for its prose, and recommend the entire trilogy.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:17 PM on December 4, 2013 [10 favorites]

And I have a feeling you'd like the late great Robert Parker.

Robert Parker is dead? My dad is going to be bummed; he just discovered him.
posted by infinitywaltz at 4:20 PM on December 4, 2013

Seconding Craig Johnson.

You might look at Tony Hillerman and Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series.
posted by Catch at 4:21 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: There are some really good suggestions so far. I smile. At the bookstore, maybe it was the overwhelming nature of having to hunt for the books and the subsequent lack of facings on the racks... and just feeling like I had no connection to any of the authors that were shown.

And the lack of direction has produced excellent results. Many of these are great suggestions. A few I've loved and a few I've loathed (those that I've loathed, I'd add - I understood why they were good, they just weren't my cup of tea).

The goal here wasn't guy lit... even though it is framed somewhat as such. At this point, I've made about quite a few selections off of what is listed... that should last me for a while.

There isn't one best answer here... you've all given me some good thinking...

Also - some of you give great suggestions after asking me what I like. I didn't tell you what I like explicitly so that you'd give those great suggestions.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:22 PM on December 4, 2013

Linwood Barclay is an author with quite a few international best sellers. His novels are fast paced and are usually written from a man's point of view. No sappy romances here.
posted by JujuB at 4:23 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Junot Diaz yet. Also the previously mentioned Jeffrey Eugenides, as well as Norman Rush and Ian McEwan. Jonathan Franzen rubs some lit fic fans the wrong way, but he does seem to be the zeitgeisty-est male writer around at the current moment.
posted by matildaben at 4:27 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sounds like you went to a large chain bookstore, and I can understand your confusion. That said, I echo what others have said here so far: there are heaps, lashings, tonnes of male writers in all genres. I agree with most of what's been recommended so far (espesh Cormac McCarthy, John Le Carre, Patrick DeWitt and Daniel Woodrell), but I'm also going to throw in Stoner by John Williams, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, Vintage Attraction by Charles Blackstone, most of Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro, The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Open City by Teju Cole, the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian, the Fandorin books by Boris Akunin. Something by Kingsley Amis (Lucky Jim) and his son Martin Amis (The Rachel Papers), perhaps? Terry Pratchett is very fun to read, and many really like Neil Gaiman. As much China Mieville as you can take.

There are so many and I don't know how or where to stop.

On the romantic side, One Day by David Nicholls was actually very popular among men when it came out. Why not give it a go?
posted by peripathetic at 4:35 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

A Soldier of the Great War - Mark Helprin
posted by superelastic at 4:41 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for literary fiction, I'd start with the longlist for the Man Booker Prize 2013. 2012. Etc.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:42 PM on December 4, 2013 [6 favorites]

Patrick O'Brian should do the trick. Kick-ass ripping yarns, fantastic wordplay, philosophy, natural history, historiography, comedy, brilliant wit... Fantastic stuff.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:44 PM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

This isn't a suggestion of specific books, but rather of a good way to find them. The Seattle Public Library has a great service called Your Next Five Books where you write a couple paragraphs talking about what you like and don't like in your fiction and giving a couple of examples of books you've enjoyed in the past. It goes to a team of librarians who, within a week or so, write you a nice chatty email with at least five suggested books. Anybody can use the site - you don't have to have a card with SPL.

I've used this a couple of times and have been really impressed with the quality of their recommendations.

(I promise that I do not work for SPL - I work for a different library system near SPL - I just really like this service.)
posted by darchildre at 4:53 PM on December 4, 2013 [28 favorites]

I'm a middle aged guy who's also realized that I haven't read much fiction lately. I'm going to pretend that you've given me the chance to name exactly one novel and that you will read it. And I'm going to say Regeneration, by Pat Barker.

Barker is a woman, but you requested books for men, not by men, and I think it more than qualifies. I'll just say it found it to be simple, powerful, and one of the most excellently written books I've ever read.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:58 PM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green), Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go), anything by Haruki Murakami, Kurt Vonnegut, Charles Bukowski... Yep, tons and tons of fiction that isn't targeted towards any particular gender.
posted by pravit at 5:08 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

OH! Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies" were simply excellent. Thomas Cromwell -- the fixer's fixer -- lives and breathes and plots and is psychologically alive in some way I have rarely, if ever, experienced while reading historical fiction. Recommended without hesitation.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:09 PM on December 4, 2013 [6 favorites]

Kirkus have just published their best of 2013 list, it's really good - the best "best of" I've seen so far, and much much superior to Amazon's, which seems to be based around bestseller status and nothing else.

There is something in there for everyone and *all* the books link to the full reviews. Have at it!
posted by smoke at 5:10 PM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

I would definitely 2nd Kavalier and Clay and add that "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" was a really good read, featuring a male protagonist.
posted by Lynsey at 5:18 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

If literary fiction is not your thing, stoic-male adventure writers from the 50s and 60s like Hammond Innes and Desmond Bagley might do you. You won't find these in the bookstore though, try the library.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:23 PM on December 4, 2013

Some may disagree, but I find Murakami to write a lot from a uniquely male perspective. Not sexist, just... what seems like (to me, a male) a very explicitly a male POV, from adolescence (Kafka on the Shore) to infatuation (Norwegian Wood) to middle-aged-ennui (everything else; thinking Wind-Up Bird especially, and 1Q84, the "Tengo" side of the plot). Hard to put into words.

Then again, I've never had a female perspective on things first-hand, so maybe it is more universal than it seems at times.
posted by supercres at 5:47 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Old Mans War" by MiFi's own John Sclazi is a good read.

For a good spy novel (with a wacky twiist of IT supernatural and good relationship advice) try another MiFi writer Charles Stross Laundry novels set in Merry Old spy bureau.
posted by sammyo at 5:56 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I haven't read this thread. The book you need now is called A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr. It is short and sweet, and not by a contemporary author.

There are many, many authors who wrote for predominantly male audiences in the middle-last third of the last century. I know you have not read them all because I have not read them all and you would not be asking this question (no disrespect) if you knew about them. They include:
William Faulkner
J.R. Ackerley
LP Hartley
Phillip Roth
John Barth
Alberto Moravia
Pietro Di Donato
Cesare Pavese
Jean Giono
James Schuyler
Tim O'Brien
Stephen Wright
Percival Everett

There are also many contemporary female authors who do not write light fare:
Jaimy Gordon
Kate Christensen
Toni Cade Bambara
to name a few.
posted by OmieWise at 5:58 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

George Saunders
posted by scruss at 6:17 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Coming in specifically to third The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. While I'm here, though, I'll also second the recommendation for Neil Gaiman, especially American Gods.
posted by rebekah at 6:31 PM on December 4, 2013

late to the game but here are a few to consider:

james salter
michael hemmingson
george macdonald fraser
trinie dalton
william vollmann
byron coley
nick tosches
posted by neoist at 6:48 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Peter Quinn has a trilogy featuring Fintan Dunne, two of which are well worth reading, the third I expect to be worth reading and will know within a week. I'm expecting good things.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:49 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jim Harrison and Phillip Roth are two authors who have thoughtful male characters who think specifically about what it means to be a man, to have true friendship between males, etc.

Someone above linked the Kirkus "best of 2013" list, but they also just released a Gift Guide for Him book list.
posted by salvia at 7:04 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

My suggestions -- just based on things I've read lately that maybe you would like:
Alive in Necropolis by Doug Dorst
Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear
Lexicon by Max Barry
Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:23 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Check out Richard Lange. His newest novel is Angel Baby. His short story collection, Dead Boys, is pretty great, too.
posted by scody at 7:29 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Definitely Murakami and Eugenides. I'd also suggest Iain Banks (can't believe he hasn't come up yet) and (though a woman) Barbara Kingsolver. You may well like "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole too; many people (men) seem to. I loathed it, but that doesn't matter, I didn't loathe it because I'm a woman, I loathed it because painful comedy is not my thing.

You didn't mention speculative fiction as a yes/no, and there have been few spec fiction suggestions here. If you are not one of the people for whom spec fiction is a complete turn-off, also try Kim Stanley Robinson (the Mars trilogy is a classic, though really you can just read the first one), Iain M Banks (mentioned above; he added the M when writing science fiction), Greg Egan, Ted Chiang, Steven Brust.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:10 PM on December 4, 2013

also lee child and the dead man richard stark that is having a renaissance thanks to the work of the u of c press
posted by neoist at 8:34 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

John Le Carré
Steve Aylett
Will Self
Svetislav Basara
Zoran Živković
Aleksandar Hemon
Elmore Leonard
Denis Johnson
Neal Stephenson
Neil Gaiman
Thomas Ligotti (he's horror, but you might like him anyway)
Stephen King & Peter Straub's The Talisman (even if you don't like Stephen King, check this out, and no, it's not horror)
Peter Straub (while technically mostly a horror writer, you might like Koko, which is one of his best books)

I'm not sure if you're okay with older authors, but Karel Čapek, G. K. Chesterton, and Graham Greene are all great.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:42 PM on December 4, 2013

Coincidentally, this bookfinder doohickie from NPR for 2013's literary output. Also: Andrea Barrett.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 10:13 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Besides Patrick O'Brian I would also recommend John Le Carre. Excellent psychology.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:16 PM on December 4, 2013

Have you tried your local public library lately? Instead of spending money on books that you might not like you can borrow a whole bunch and find writers you like. Way back in the early 1970s I realized that most of the books I'd ever read were written by men so I made a concerted effort to read books written by women. I had access to a decent library and I just wandered through the fiction section picking out books written by women. I'd open them at random and if I liked the writing I borrowed them.
posted by mareli at 6:47 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Willy Vlautin! Start with Lean on Pete, then The Motel Life, then Northline. He's an amazing writer and I don't understand why he is not better known. His work is gritty and personal, and reminiscent of Raymond Carver, if that gives you an idea of whether you'd like it or not.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:25 AM on December 5, 2013

James Ellroy (historical hardboiled fiction, primarily set in 1950/60s L.A.)

Donna Tartt (her latest, the Goldfinch, is on a number of year's best lists; her first, The Secret History, is one of my favorite novels ever. Both are written from the perspective of a male protagonist.)

Shelby Foote (primarily his narrative history of the Civil War; you can just smell the bourbon and smoke of his voice on the pages.)
posted by Bourbonesque at 9:03 AM on December 5, 2013

How do you feel about short stories? George Saunders and Sherman Alexie are two favorites of mine.
posted by duffell at 10:14 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: First round of books purchased:
Cormac McCarthy - The Road (I've kicked around reading this. Unfortunately I've seen the movie, which I liked).
Peter Carey - Parrot and Olivier in America
Hilary Mantel - Wolf Hall

I have a list of all the authors jotted down on my phone - so the next time I am in a bookstore, I have a much better cheat sheet to help peruse.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:05 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are huge sub genres of spy/action novels, sci-fi and Westerns. There are 18 Jack Reacher books alone. I know guys who read constantly and ONLY read Westerns and spy novels. It's not like there's nothing out there for guys.

Also, The Road is all about the language and not the story. I liked the movie too, but none of the language in the book came through in the movie.

Try Chuck Palahniuk. 15 novels. Mostly for guys.
posted by cnc at 1:07 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lee Child's Jack Reacher books are fantastic. As are Vince Flynn's books about a CIA operative called Mitch Rapp.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 2:43 PM on December 5, 2013

Seconding The Secret History. One of my favorite books ever!

You may also enjoy books by Brad Meltzer and Jonathan Kellerman, both in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:07 PM on December 5, 2013

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