Looking for books that deal with masculinity in unique ways
May 10, 2016 11:45 AM   Subscribe

This question is spurred by the recent NYT article on male book clubs. I'm interested in starting one of my own, but without the idiotic grenade manliness rankings and all male authors. What I'm really interested in is creating a safe space for a group of people to talk about the emotional sides of masculinity, and largely the difficulty many men have in expressing emotions and vulnerability. I'm looking for potential books(both fiction and non-fiction) that would help foster these discussions.
posted by aleatorictelevision to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I just finished reading Alligator Candy, by David Kushner. It's a memoir about the abduction and murder of Kushner's middle brother back in 1973, and the effect it had on him, the eldest brother, and the parents, from the time of the abduction through the present day. There is a lot of discussion of how the parents supported one another, and a lot about silence and the many ways in which grief is processed. It's quite affecting and seems like it might have a lot of potential for discussion.
posted by janey47 at 11:53 AM on May 10, 2016

Check out American Western writers like Ivan Doig (English Creek), Norman McLean (Young Men and Fire), and Wallace Stegner (Angle of Repose). But also work by Native writers like Sherman Alexie, and writers of color like Junot Diaz. They're all looking at masculinity in different and interesting ways.
posted by suelac at 11:56 AM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

You might like The Measure of a Man: Becoming the Man You Wish Your Father Had Been. Jerry Shapiro is a therapist who writes about how to find your own way to be a loving father - starting with understanding the lesson you learned from your own father but also looking at the ways that men might express their emotions without having to follow the same model as their wives and mothers.
posted by metahawk at 11:56 AM on May 10, 2016

You might be interested in "Fates and Furies" a novel by Lauren Groff. It's the story of a relationship between a man and a woman, but very uniquely told. The first half is primarily from the man's perspective and how he views his relationship and the woman's role in his life. The second half focuses on the woman and there is a whole secret-to-the-reader history revealed. I think it would foster a very interesting discussion about the male gaze and societal expectations. It's also just generally a good book and should promote discussion.
posted by LKWorking at 11:57 AM on May 10, 2016

Maybe 10:04 by Ben Lerner? From reviews, it seems like this is a love it or hate it type of book, but I for one really enjoyed it. And it definitely gets into the (male) narrator's emotional journey around fatherhood, mortality, and his creative process.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:10 PM on May 10, 2016

High Fidelity by Nick Horby and This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz are great novels about dealing with what "manliness" is supposed to be regarding relationships.
posted by Become A Silhouette at 12:14 PM on May 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

'Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk' will be a movie soonish.
posted by cobaltnine at 12:21 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Jonathan Tropper's novels wouldn't be a bad place to start.
posted by shallowcenter at 12:36 PM on May 10, 2016

This is a horrible recommendation for a book club, but Anna Karenina. If you look past all the cheating and choo-choo stuff with the title character, the subplot involving Konstantin Levin (Tolstoy's self-portrait) did a great job of looking at the various emotions of masculinity. In particular, the scenes as he got married, his wife gave birth, and he worked in the fields with his serfs toward the end were pretty poignant. Vronsky and Oblonsky are interesting foils as well.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:01 PM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I haven't read it yet but I feel like Between the World and Me might work.
posted by jabes at 1:12 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Terry Crews' book Manhood is a memoir that explores Crews' struggle with baggage from his childhood and to stop being a toxic asshole.

Haven't read it myself but Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine has been recommended to me as a counter to pop neuroscience theories about gender differences.
posted by Wretch729 at 2:26 PM on May 10, 2016

John Irving looks at male identity in a way no other author does. The World According to Garp or The Cider House Rules would be good places to start.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:30 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Way of the Superior Man, by David Deida, is an interesting non-fiction book that incorporates emotions, spirituality, psychology, and relationships.

I always recommend The Way of Men, by Jack Donovan, to anyone who wants to read books about masculinity, although it does not exactly match on the "emotions" criterion.
posted by theorique at 3:01 PM on May 10, 2016

posted by michaelh at 6:46 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wool has great characters for discussing gender roles.

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is another view of the future & masculine emotional landscapes but doesn't balance women well.

Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood explores masculinity
posted by childofTethys at 7:43 PM on May 10, 2016


Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk (It's fascinating to reread this now that its cultural moment has passed.)

Lords of Discipline - Pat Conroy (or My Losing Season, which is a memoir)

No Longer Human - Osamu Dazai

A River Runs Through It - Norman Maclean (short stories)

Regeneration - Pat Barker

Drown - Junot Diaz (short stories)

A Fan's Notes - Frederick Exely

These are some books that have produced good conversations in either my class (back when I taught high school English), or in my old book club. I was going to go through and rate them for alcohol, suicide attempts, and prostitutes, but spoilers like that can easily be found on goodreads.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:28 PM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

seconding The Will to Change by bell hooks. My husband read it and found it fabulous. I'm looking forward to reading it myself.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:32 AM on May 11, 2016

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