The best books that explore masculinity in some way

Michael Kimmel Author Of Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men
By Michael Kimmel

The Books I Picked & Why

China Boy

By Gus Lee

Book cover of China Boy

Why this book?

Lee depicts the world of San Francisco through the eyes of a young Chinese-American boy, navigating the grownup world of race, class, and urban life, and trying to find the place where he fits, in between his family and ethnicity, and his modern American sensibility.  Also worth noting, Kai-Ting’s encounters with African-Americans, Chicanos and other Chinese people, in a novel that has nary a white person in it. 

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By Russell Banks

Book cover of Affliction

Why this book?

I’ve rarely read a book that explores the pain of the white working class better.  If you’ve ever wondered about the lives of those grizzled gas station attendants with their faded baseball hats, this book is a small masterpiece.

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Recent History

By Anthony Giardina

Book cover of Recent History

Why this book?

The novel has a remarkable twist on the traditional coming of age story; it’s also a novel about a straight guy coming to terms with his own homophobia.  It’s not a novel about a gay boy, but more a novel about a sraight boy’s understanding of how deeply homophobia has infected his life. 

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Death of a Salesman

By Arthur Miller

Book cover of Death of a Salesman

Why this book?

This play has so many layers: men’s relationship to work, marriage, fatherhood, unrealized ambitions, and the costs of buying your own bullshit.  See it with Dustin Hoffman or Philip Seymour Hoffman.

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By Herman Melville

Book cover of Moby-Dick

Why this book?

Moby Dick looks at the world of men from the perspective of a young initiate – like Nick Carroway and dozens of other youthful entrants to manhood. The book revels in the casual intimacy and homosocial bonding among men in the workplace, exposes the catastrophic dangers of hubris, and provides a multi-layered dissection of racial hierarchy.  A work of literature generally hailed as the great American novel that has precisely two female characters (both servants).  What does that say about us?  A question worth thinking about.  Oh, and such a great story, with a description so thick you can practically smell the whale oil. 

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