It’s World Book Night and this year’s celebration is themed around getting men to read more. In response Paul Mason asked Channel 4 News website readers to nominate book suggestions for a man who does not read novels. You can read about the response here. Great to see David Mitchell, Cormac McCarthy and Joseph Heller getting many mentions and I recently picked up a copy of Casino Royale in order to finally get round to reading a Bond novel.
Reading these posts got me thinking about which novels I would recommend to reluctant male readers. These aren’t necessarily my top three novels, rather they are the three books I have read that I think would appeal to a male reader who doesn’t usually read novels. I whittled a potentially massive list down to the following three titles which I present in no particular order:
This tale of two brothers living a sparse existence in and out of motels has possibly the best opening chapter of any novel I’ve read in the last few years. What follows lives up to the high expectations set by Vlautin in the opening pages. I don’t really want to say more as it will spoil the impact of that first chapter.
A fantastic (in every sense of the word) look at father and son relationships by the writer and artist who gave us the superb Essex County. The story, as you’d expect from the title, tells the story of an Underwater Welder who years after the event is still struggling to come to terms with the death of his father. Jeff Lemire delivers a gripping, sometimes surreal examination of the ties that bind men together.
This is a bleak novel, almost unremittingly so. It opens with the narrator describing the suicide of his teenage son before taking in the possible causes and the dreadful aftermath of the event. In doing so Saeterbakken plays with the tropes of haunted house stories to present this human tragedy in a startling and gripping style. A dark story, but one which will grab you and refuse to let go until you reach the novels desperate climax.
And, as I imagine that any male reader who doesn’t read novels would be equally resistant to reading short fiction, here’s the three short story collections I feel would most appeal to a male reader who doesn’t usually read fiction:
Easily the best short story collection of recent years. Funny, compelling, shocking and above all humane. A book that genuinely deserves all the prizes that have been thrown at it. Just wonderful. The title story alone is worth the price of admission.
Probably the best contemporary British writer of short fiction, Adam Marek’s debut collection is a genuinely surprising read. The variety of subject matter, style and tone is staggering and the sheer inventiveness unparalleled in most debut short fiction collections. I read this about four years ago and still return to it on a regular basis. Still trying to figure out how its all done. Just wonderful stuff.
Like George Saunders’ collection above, this one is worth getting hold of just for the title story alone. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, a viking story told in a strikingly modern first person voice is a visceral look at what drives a people to inflict violence upon those who are somehow other. A thrilling collection full of urgent stories and vibrant voices.
Those are my suggestions. What work of fiction would you recommend to a reluctant male reader?