Books For The Boys (That We Love Too)

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  • There are some books that are meant for men. Oh, really?

    Men don’t read as much fiction as us but the books they do read tend to have covers that scream, ‘This is for you, Man!’ Serious graphics, moody photos, a bit of sturdy, no-nonsense foil lettering (not a pastel /shopping bar/glass of wine in sight). So far, so stereotyped.

    But of course, that’s all stupid. There are so many books for the boys – that are traditionally thought of as ‘male’ – that we adore. They’re books of adventure, love, mystery, coming-of-age stories and thrillers – in fact, as varied as the books we love that are marketed to women. Here are our favourites.

    Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
    What’s it about?
    Say hello to Pinkie Brown, possibly the most compelling small-time thug in literature. A story of love, danger, crime and an ego spiralling way out of control, this fast-paced crimefest transports your straight to 1930s seedy Brighton.

    Why is it considered a man’s book?
    Probably because of the flick-knife crime, double-dealings and sheer nastiness of its characters. You know how delicate women are.

    Why you should read it
    Because throughout we’re yelling to Rose, ‘Don’t trust him!’ and yet…and yet…we sort of can’t help liking Pinkie for his aspirations to break out of small-town mentality and make it big. A classic.

    The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
    What’s it about?
    Klayman meets Kavalier when his mother shoves him aside in his own bed and tells him to make room for his cousin, a refugee from Nazi-occupied Prague. And so the adventures begin. What follows is a long, wonderful tale of love, war, comic book heroes and golems. Jumping through time, Chabon merges comic book story-telling with the horrors of war. It. Is. Amazing. (Hence the title.)

    Why is it considered a man’s book?
    Possibly because of the comic book stuff but, honestly, it is so much more than that.

    Why you should read it
    For the inventive, magical plot that will have you up to the wee small hours. Kavalier and Clay are one of literature’s best double-acts.

    The Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger

    What’s it about?

    Holden Caulfield is a 17-year-old dropout whose been kicked out of his school – his fourth school. What follows is a heart-rending coming-of-age story. There’s more to Holden than his red hunting cap with the long peak, worn backwards.

    Why is it considered a man’s book?
    It’s a boy-to-man tale with a big dose of angst but, really, no other reason.

    Why you should read it
    It captures Holden’s fear perfectly. If you have brothers/nephews/a son…hey, if you know any men at all, it’s a great insight into the confusion of late teen life. It still feelss relevant today, even though it was first published in 1951.

    The Millenium Novels (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo / Who Played With Fire / Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest) by Stieg Larsson

    What are they about?

    Three rollicking good crime novels that you won’t be able to put down and which put Scandi crime to the forefront when the first book was released in 2005. Take-no-prisoners political journo, Mikael Blomvist and Lisbeth Salander, eccentric punk computer hacker extraordinaire join forces to fight evil.

    Why are they considered men’s books?
    Graphic violence, heavy subjects, very dark – surely our feminine brains will burst?

    Why you should read them
    A genuinely original heroine, Lisbeth, who avenges the awful crimes that have been committed against her. And we love the fact that the relationship between her and Mikael is so spiky. And cracking plots.

    (Trivia: Larsson himself was a big female-rights campaigner, especially regarding violence against women. Dragon Tattoo‘s original title in Sweden was Men Who Hate Women.)

    The Damned United by David Peace

    What’s it about?

    This is the fictionalised account of Brian Clough’s acceptance of the manager’s position at Leeds United Football Club. Yes, yes, it’s about football but wait right there. It’s also a funny, heartfelt story about the workings of an allegedly arrogant, audacious man. Clough lasted just 44 days. (Michael Sheen was excellent as Cloughy in the TV adaptation.)

    Why is it considered a man’s book?
    Oh, er…football?

    Why you should read it
    It’s highly entertaining and a real insight into the pressures of the job. And probably like nothing you’ve ever read before or will again.

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