An essential part of any relationship is being able to bond over shared interests, and both of you liking the Pad Thai from the restaurant down the street will only get you so far. Books, on the other hand stimulate your mind in all kinds of ways and people’s literary preferences tend to reveal a lot about their personality: what impresses them, what kind of people they like, what they value, etc. So here I’ve compiled a list of books that traditionally seem angled toward men, but that women will appreciate just as much. Because, let’s face it, you may feel like you were Elizabeth Bennet in a past life, but the chances that he’ll be down to dote on the ending scenes of Pride and Prejudice with you are slimmer than Keira Knightly’s swan-like neck.
1) Fight Club (Chuck Palahnuik) You’ve seen the movie… and was it not AWESOME? Well the book, by Chuck Palahniuk, is even better. It has all the mind-bending and darkly fascinating qualities that the film does, but with a lot more focus on the narrator’s voice. It’s funny in a completely dark and unsettling way. Palahniuk has a way with language that is totally fresh and fascinating. There are so many things to discuss- the characters, the plot, even human nature itself. Fight Club kicks ass… no pun intended.
2) The Godfather (Mario Puzo) Another book that you might have seen in movie version, The Godfather may be the definitive “male” book. If he doesn’t like it, well then he must be missing a Y chromosome, because appreciating this book is practically man law. It also happens to be one of my personal favorites. This isn’t just a book about mobsters- it’s about people. And the characters and the world that they live in are what make The Godfather so captivating. These are real human beings, and like them or hate them, they’ll make you care.
3) Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) Okay, it’s a war book, but don’t dismiss Catch-22 just yet; it’s also one of the most hilarious books you will ever read. Unlike other battle classics like All Quiet on the Western Front or The Red Badge of Courage, this book is not some grave portrayal about the realities of battle. Catch is a satire, through and through. The outrageous characters are hyperbolically illogical, and the entire military system comes across as wildly, delightfully absurd. There is, of course, a serious concept in the undertones of the novel about the futility of war, but the actual story is sheer parody. Trust me; you will love this book.
4) Shit My Dad Says (Justin Halpern) Speaking of hilarious, this little collection of quotes and vignettes from Justin Halpern, a writer for Esquire is a big hit right now and is almost too funny to be real. The book will take approximately one hour to read and at least ten years’ worth of hilarious one-liners to quote at each other regularly. If you’re time pressed or looking for something light, this is fun, sweet, and relatable enough to thrill you without being so accurate as to horrify you. Order up that Pad Thai and read this out loud together.
5) A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving) Owen Meany is a dwarf who believes (correctly) that he is an instrument of God. He is horrified when he hits a foul ball at baseball practice and accidentally kills his friend’s mother. Basically, the story is hauntingly beautiful. It’s uplifting and interesting. The whole thing is written from Owen’s perspective, and his voice is totally unique. You can’t finish the book without genuinely loving him. It’s about as emotional a boy book as you will ever find.
6) A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess) Trippy, trippy, trippy. Usually, when you read a book with a narrator, you’re on the narrator’s “side;” he’s the hero, after all. Well, not so much with A Clockwork Orange- the narrator, Alex is a teenage gang member in a hypothetical future society. Like Fight Club, this is a super-dark, and super-fascinating glimpse into the creepiest parts of human nature. The whole thing is written in the slang of this make-believe world, so it looks a little daunting when you look at the pages, but once you get into the swing of it, you’ll find yourself wanting to reference “droogs” and “malchicks.” I think I love this book so much because it sounds so good. Reading it is a little like reading poetry… horrifyingly violent, evil poetry. Anytime I meet anyone who’s read this book I know we’ll have a lot to talk about.
7) Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic (Jim Derogatis) Ok, confession: I haven’t actually read this one… but it sounded so insanely interesting that I had to put it on the list. Lester Bangs was a rock critic whose wild, riotous work helped define the 1970’s. This is a rock-and-roll lifestyle story in its purest form, full of scandal and passion and deeply messed up individuals. The fact that it’s all true just makes it all the more awesome. Channel your inner Penny Lane and order copies for you and your guy. Seriously, who wouldn’t be interested in this?
8) Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association (Terry Pluto) If the title doesn’t win you over, the subject will. This kooky book outlines the American Basketball Association (ABA), which was essentially an alternate version of the NBA. It was a haven for players that either 1) were not quiiite good enough for the NBA 2)were talented enough, but not yet recognized or, best of all 3) were good enough for the NBA but were just so bizarre and eccentric that they were either cast out or never got picked up. It is the interesting “story” side of sports that almost, but not quite, lets you see why he cares so much about whether his team makes that last basket.
9) Sports Novels Loose Balls is a factual account, but if you’d rather hit up a sports novel, two of the most popular are Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch (which, fair warning, is absolutely nothing like the Drew Barrymore movie) and Friday Night Lights (which actually is pretty similar to the movie, but is still oh-so good). There are sports, there is drama, there’s yet more amazing characters. I dare you not to close Friday Night Lights without feeling like you have an intimate relationship with Odessa, Texas.
10) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey) This one’s a classic, and for a reason; the story is told by Chief Bromden, who has a brush with the law and ends up choosing to go to an insane asylum, rather than serve his time in jail. He works under the terrifying Nurse Ratched, who is in charge of the asylum. He interacts more and more with the patients of the asylum, who fascinate him throughout the novel. This has been traditionally considered masculine, I suppose because its lack of anything resembling romance, but it is still a story all about the human spirit and the concept of sanity. It will make you think. I bet you’ll end up appreciating even more than your boy toy does.
Check them out on amazon!
Check them out on amazon!