The best books on diverse masculinities

Who am I?

I began studying women’s lives in college (1960s), but recently realized that I (like others) passed myself off as a gender specialist, but had been ignoring men’s roles, beliefs, and behaviour in gender dynamics. I was put off by the studies that too consistently showed men as always violent and controlling. Many studies emphasized men at war, men abusing women, and gay men with HIV/AIDS; there seemed no recognition of positive masculine traits. Recognizing also that men had different ideals about their own masculinity in different places, I examined men’s lives among international elites and in communities in the US, Sumatra, and Indonesia, where I’d done ethnographic research. 


I wrote...

Masculinities in Forests: Representations of Diversity

By Carol J. Pierce Colfer,

Book cover of Masculinities in Forests: Representations of Diversity

What is my book about?

This book captures elements of my half-century studying gender from an ethnographic perspective. I have re-analyzed my own gender research, focusing in this book on the varying masculinities I have observed. Specifically, the book looks at men’s lives in the Olympic Peninsula logging community of Bushler Bay in the 1970s (and again in 2017); the multi-ethnic (Javanese, Sundanese, and Minangkabau) transmigration communities of Sitiung in West Sumatra in the 1980s; the Kenyah Dayak communities of Long Segar and Long Anai in East Kalimantan between 1979 and the early 2000s (and again in 2019); and the world of international forestry research between 1995 and 2010. The book describes the variations in gender relations and in habitat from place to place and from time to time.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Masculinities

Carol J. Pierce Colfer Why did I love this book?

The author, R. W. Connell, is a fascinating person, originally a man, who became a woman, in the midst of a very successful career as a student of masculinity. Her work was among the earliest I’ve encountered to deal with that subject. And what a fascinating perspective! In this work, she posits four power-related configurations of masculinity: Hegemonic, complicit, subordinated, and marginalized. Although originally among those who emphasized mainly negative and unitary features of manhood – something I categorically reject her views have broadened over the years, recognizing considerable diversity in values. This work remains a classic in the field and provides readers with some excellent insights into one influential form of masculinity.

By R.W. Connell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Masculinities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is an exciting new edition of R.W. Connella s ground--breaking text, which has become a classic work on the nature and construction of masculine identity. Connell argues that there is not one masculinity, but many different masculinities, each associated with different positions of power. In a world gender order that continues to privilege men over women, but also raises difficult issues for men and boys, his account is more pertinent than ever before. In a substantial new introduction and conclusion, Connell discusses the development of masculinity studies in the ten years since the booka s initial publication. He explores…


Book cover of Men and Development: Politicizing Masculinities

Carol J. Pierce Colfer Why did I love this book?

This is one of the early books to counter the more common view of a ‘hegemonic masculinity’ that applied to all men. Instead, its 17 chapters provide examples of diverse forms of masculinity – in terms of both ideals and practice from every continent. I particularly appreciated this book for this reason. It reinforced my sense (and evidence) that masculinities vary from place to place and time to time, and it served as an impetus to write my own book on the subject.

By Andrea Cornwall (editor), Jerker Edstrom (editor), Alan Greig (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Men and Development as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A wide-ranging volume featuring contributions from some of today's leading thinkers and practitioners in the field of men, masculinities and development.

Together, contributors challenge the neglect of the structural dimensions of patriarchal power relations in current development policy and practice, and the failure to adequately engage with the effects of inequitable sex and gender orders on both men's and women's lives.

The book calls for renewed engagement in efforts to challenge and change stereotypes of men, to dismantle the structural barriers to gender equality, and to mobilize men to build new alliances with women's movements and other movements for social…


Book cover of Masculinities and Femininities in Latin America's Uneven Development

Carol J. Pierce Colfer Why did I love this book?

Masculinities and Femininities in Latin America’s Uneven Development provided further reinforcement for my interest in showing the diversity of masculinities. Paulson’s long history in Latin America and longstanding involvement with gender studies convinced me of her expertise. This was particularly valuable for me, with my limited Latin American experience. Additionally, her discussions of the interactions between notions of masculinity, as perceived and acted out by men with varying degrees of power, was a new way of looking at the issue for me, an eye opener. She clarified some of the dynamics of colonialism as it operates in the present and in that context.

By Susan Paulson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Masculinities and Femininities in Latin America's Uneven Development as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book forges a new approach to historical and geographical change by asking how gender arrangements and dynamics influence the evolution of institutions and environments. This new theoretical approach is applied via mixed methods and a multi-scale framework to bring together unusually diverse phenomena. Regional trends demonstrated with quantitative data include the massive incorporation of women into paid work, demographic masculinization of the countryside and feminization of cities, rapidly increasing gaps that favor women over men in education and life expectancy, and extraordinarily high levels of violence against men. Case studies in Mexico, Chile and Bolivia explore changes influenced by…


Book cover of Erotic Triangles: Sundanese Dance and Masculinity in West Java

Carol J. Pierce Colfer Why did I love this book?

Erotic Triangles returns to a part of the world I know well, though the topic is alien to my own natural resource emphasis. Yet I found it fascinating for its symbolic analyses of West Java’s musical and art worlds – intertwined intimately with the relations between men and women and among men. Its emphasis on triangles was the inspiration for me to structure my own analyses as a harp (another ‘triangle’), within which the strings signify traits that men value in a given culture. Spiller’s analysis inspired my own analogy between the creation of harp music and the clusters of values that influence men’s identities, their personal and cultural ‘songs.’

By Henry Spiller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Erotic Triangles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In West Java, Indonesia, all it takes is a woman's voice and a drumbeat to make a man get up and dance. Every day, men there - be they students, pedicab drivers, civil servants, or businessmen - breach ordinary standards of decorum and succumb to the rhythm at village ceremonies, weddings, political rallies, and nightclubs. The music the men dance to varies from traditional gong ensembles to the contemporary pop known as dangdut, but they consistently dance with great enthusiasm. In "Erotic Triangles", Henry Spiller draws on decades of ethnographic research to explore the reasons behind this phenomenon, arguing that…


Book cover of Gridiron Gourmet: Gender and Food at the Football Tailgate

Carol J. Pierce Colfer Why did I love this book?

Gridiron Gourmet likewise returns to a world somewhat familiar to me. Having grown up American, with a father and brother seriously enamored of football, I understood a certain amount about American ideas of sports and manhood. Football (and other men’s sports) had also played an important role in the community of Bushler Bay (on the Olympic Peninsula), where I had lived and conducted ethnographic research among loggers in the 1970s. At that time, folks there had seen football as one important avenue for young men to learn teamwork, competition, and discipline – traits considered key in making a livelihood. Gridiron Gourmet builds on my own understanding, adding the current emphasis on foods men consider appropriate and ‘manly’ to eat. Although I had some sense of this preference, this book clarifies common perspectives among American men in much more detail.

By Maria J. Veri, Rita Liberti,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gridiron Gourmet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On football weekends in the United States, thousands of fans gather in the parking lots outside of stadiums, where they park their trucks, let down the gates, and begin a pregame ritual of drinking and grilling.

Tailgating, which began in the early 1900s as a quaint picnic lunch outside of the stadium, has evolved into a massive public social event with complex menus, extravagant creative fare, and state-of-art grilling equipment. Unlike traditional notions of the home kitchen, the blacktop is a highly masculine culinary environment in which men and the food they cook are often the star attractions.

Gridiron Gourmet…


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An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

By Clifford A. Wright,

Book cover of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

Clifford A. Wright Author Of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Philosopher Historian Researcher Gastronomer Bibliophile and reviewer

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What is my book about?

An Italian Feast celebrates the cuisines of the Italian provinces from Como to Palermo. A culinary guide and book of ready reference meant to be the most comprehensive book on Italian cuisine, and it includes over 800 recipes from the 109 provinces of Italy's 20 regions.

An Italian Feast is a gastronomy about Italian culinary history and consciousness, about how Italians cook, eat, and how their food is an intimate part of their culture. It is the first book in any language to comprehensively explore the gastronomy and cuisine not just of Italy, and not just the regions of Italy, but all 109 provinces of Italy, linking each with each other in terms of history, agriculture, economics, and the material culture of creative food illustrated with recipes.

An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

By Clifford A. Wright,


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