You could argue that I typically don’t. (Pssh! Typical guy!) Looking at my Books Reviewed page is telling in this regard.
Books I reviewed: 55
Books I reviewed that were by women: 10
Books by women that I highly recommended: 2
So maybe you’d find it hypocritical of me to praise the existence of this list I found, but here it is:
This was compiled by Joyland in response to Esquire’s recently re-posted “75 Books Every Man Should Read”, which drew some ire because it has fewer chicks than a Star Wars movie. According to Joyland: “The problem was that the list was all male writers, save for lone lady Flannery O’Connor. This really does imply that men don’t/can’t/shouldn’t read women and we were pretty sure that wasn’t the case among readers.”
1 woman out of 75 writers! Bet my ratio looks much less piggish now. You can practically hear Esquire smashing Miller Lite cans against its forehead.
Naturally, I find Joyland’s list a lot more interesting, and it contains more authors that I haven’t already read. Ironically, though, their list actually includes… a couple guys (apparently since David B. Feinberg and Christopher Isherwood were gay, they count as women). Since it’s compiled of several people’s suggestions, some books appear multiple times, like Middlemarch and Beloved. And there’s more representation by actual male contributors than I expected.
This gets one thinking about one’s own contribution to said list, being a gentleman who has certainly enjoyed his share of literary works by ladies. I’ll name here my five best female-written books for dudes to read–a couple of which I think are actually better enjoyed by dudes.
Regeneration by Pat Barker
Depending on the day, this is my all-time favorite novel. Regeneration’s brilliance shines on nearly every aspect of masculinity in the face of war, including generational strife between sons and fathers, the reality of bravery and heroism, and insomnia-inducing moral conundrums. The third book in this trilogy (The Ghost Road) is the one that got the Booker, but the first installment is #1 with me.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
One of the manliest books I read last year– in the way I’ve always thought The Prince to be a manly book. It could be read as a political survival tale in Henry VIII’s England: a time where anyone can die any way for any reason. Cromwell takes care of shit.
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
I tease the death- and flower-obsessed Woolf sometimes, but the God’s honest is I truly enjoyed this one. And like Regeneration, a large part of it concerns the horror of the Great War: through Septimus Smith, Woolf showed infinitely more understanding of shellshocked war veterans than the male experts of her time.
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
May well be the best psychological thriller I’ve ever read.
A Lost Lady by Willa Cather
I haven’t read a Cather that I wouldn’t recommend to a dude (don’t let this cover mislead you, though). Her writing has an irresistible quality on its own, but what lodges these books in my memory is her ability to write from the perspective of a boy in love. I almost put My Antonia here: I’m not sure if I’d like it quite as much on a reread, but I do know I’ll always love the more vibrant A Lost Lady.
And when you’re done with those, read some Emily Dickinson and Dorothy Parker and Agatha Christie and then come back when you need more suggestions.
As for myself, I’ll be getting to some Edith Wharton real soon, bro, after I do some pullups and go drive a tractor.