May 27th, 2011 / 2:30 pm

The Well Read Man

Books are popular fodder for lists, and why not? There are so many books being published. Book-related lists can be useful in cutting through some of the noise in a time when more than 200,000 new books are released each year, in the United States alone.

Yesterday, Esquire released a list of 75 books every man should read. They make such lists regularly so the list, in and of itself, is not remarkable. There are some really great books included like Lolita and Call of the Wild and The Things They Carried and Winter’s Bone and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. The list offers a nice blend of contemporary and classic fiction. I was particularly pleased to see Edward P. Jones’s outstanding The Known World mentioned. I cannot say there’s a book on that list that doesn’t deserve the recognition. The list is certainly very masculine in tone, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Great books are great books and there’s something to be said for muscular prose. My list would probably look somewhat different but so would yours. Reading is personal and taste is subjective.

It is curious, though, that out of all 75 books every man should read, only one, not two or five or seventeen, but one of those books, A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor, is written by a woman. I should be surprised by this imbalance but I’m not. Is anyone?

Esquire is a men’s magazine so it makes sense that a reading list they curate will reflect certain themes and biases. What’s troubling though, is the implication that men should only read literature written by men, that men don’t need to bother with books written by women, and of course, that the only great books are those written by men. What other message can we take from a list where seventy-four books are written by men and only one is written by a woman? Women writers are being done a disservice but the far greater disservice here is to men. This list not only perpetuates the erasure of great writing by women, it cultivates the erroneous and myopic notion that men only want to read a certain kind of book. If I were a man, I’d find this list insulting.

It is rather hollow to assume reading is gendered, that there are books for men and books for women. While certain genres are gendered—romance novels for us ladies what with all the bodice ripping and pulsing shafts, and testosterone-laden adventure novels, science fiction and westerns for the gentleman reader–most of the time people just want to read great writing. Perhaps there is, indeed, some truth to the idea that there are certain books we gravitate toward as men and women, though I will say while I’ve never seen a man reading a romance novel, at least not in public, women seem to read across genres, even those labeled as more “masculine.” Do men feel they should only read certain types of books? Or is it that men are only interested in certain types of books? I don’t know. The year, however, is 2011. We can and should transcend the rigid gender binaries our predecessors were forced into. Any list of seventy-five great books a man should read, must include fiction by women, not because the books were written by women but because the books deserve to be recognized. Even considering the testostertone (new word) of this list, books like Out of Africa, The Talented Mr. Ripley, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Handmaiden’s Tale, Giant, and any number of books could and should have been included.

I often think about what it means to be well read. There’s no one definition of what that means but I do believe you have to read a diverse range of texts. You have to read across genres and cultures. You have to read writing that experiments with form and narrative and you most certainly have to read books written by both men and women. The seventy-five books on Esquire’s list would not contribute to anyone being well read because the scope is far too narrow. This list actively encourages men (and women) to not be well read. It encourages men to believe there’s only one kind of book they should be reading–something rugged and masculine and constrictively gender appropriate. That’s a real shame.

We don’t know who made this list or how the Esquire staff came up with the books they included but we do know they aren’t very well read. At the beginning of the list there is a disclaimer: “An unranked, incomplete, utterly biased list of the greatest works of literature ever published,” as if by acknowledging the “utter bias,” the glaring omission of women is totally fine. Either the editors noticed this omission of women from this list and didn’t care or they didn’t notice at all. Both alternatives are lousy. If this most recent list of great books was the only instance where women were woefully underrepresented and where the wrong message about great writing was being sent, that would be one thing. Such is not the case. We keep having this conversation over and over and over again. Editors continue compiling these lists of great literature that completely ignore great literature by women as if  books by women were never written, as if that literature doesn’t matter, as it that literature is somehow less deserving of an audience than the same old books trotted out every time we talk about great books. This pervasive and persistent erasure is tedious. Some people will say I’m over thinking this and that may be true but if I’m overthinking this list and the larger issues lists like these speak to, the editors of Esquire and their ilk are not putting enough thought into the lists they make and the messages those lists send.  I am quite comfortable erring on the side of thinking too much than to giving something inadequate consideration.

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  1. Anonymous

      Well, I’ve finished 29 of these, so I guess that makes me damn manly. A lot of terrific books there, but the omission of stuff like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Handmaid’s Tale — at minimum — and I’d throw in The Man Who Loved Children and My Antonia (just as a quick thought) — is absurd.

  2. Roxane

      The omission of To Kill a Mockingbird is what has me completely baffled. It makes no sense.

  3. Trey

      Oh man, how is My Antonia not on this list? also, only like 3 and 1/2 for me. I am no man :(

  4. Julie
  5. Julie
  6. Russ

      Yep.  I totally agree.  It’s completely fucking stupid and boneheaded and there is zero excuse for it.  And everyone fucking does it.

      I realize this sounds really like “oh but not me i’m so open minded” but, I totally have read and enjoyed my share of romance and (egh) “chick lit” and lots of womany books and I have zero shame about it.  I’ve gotten comments from people (particularly over YA titles like “the boyfriend list” by e. lockhart), but ultimately if that’s how they’re going to be, fuck ’em.

  7. c2k

      An unranked, incomplete, utterly biased list of the greatest works of literature ever published.

  8. M. Kitchell

      man fuck this list

  9. Anonymous

      If there was a list called “The 75 books every woman should read,” I would instantly be offended, even without reading the list.

      I can’t even imagine if that list was entirely populated by women authors and books with “womanly” subjects. I would flip out.

      How is it that this doesn’t work the other way around.

  10. M. Kitchell

      i basically immediately flipped out upon roxane noting that this list existed. i then clicked the link and freaked out even more because this list fucking sucks and is 50% dumb macho-posturing bullshit that makes me want to scoop eyeballs out of skulls and use as anal beads.

      so hey, guess what, it does work the other way around

  11. Guest

      back when I was blogging, we kept our superficial analysis and herd mentality in the same place as we kept our Joshua Marie Wilkinson masturbatory fantasies: alone in front of the mirror, where they may exist blissfully half-baked.

  12. mimi

      i think that overall this list says much more about what, or how, Esquire thinks (suggests, implies, dictates?) ‘every’ ‘man’ ‘should’ be, than about the books, their authors, or the writing per se

  13. MFBomb

      I wasn’t surprised by this list, since Esquire published it, a magazine as boring and unimaginative as it gets, a magazine one step above Maxim, despite the pseudo-macho intellectual posturing filling its pages.  I mean, this is the magazine that decided to start publishing short stories again, and one of the first stories it published was some warmed-over, mediocre, James Franco story about as interesting as one of those $1.00 Hormel Compleat dinners always on sale at the supermarket.

      But you sometimes see this sort of thing in more respected outlets. For instance, Diane Rehm had a roundtable discussion on “Jane Eyre” a month ago; the discussion was actually great, except for Rehm’s constant shock over men calling in to express their love for the book.

  14. c2k

      Of Roth’s novels, why American Pastoral? The Swede Levov is not an Esquire man. But then American Pastoral has the Pulitzer button on its cover.

      Lotsa violence, philandering, alcohol/drug abuse. Which is fine, I guess. It’s just a mag list – to get the Esquire man all jacked up to read??

      O’Connor is masculine in the Esquirian sense, I think.

      Others like Bukowski seems thrown in for thematic reasons.

      Maybe it was supposed to be the 50 “greatest works of literature ever published” at first.

  15. c2k


  16. Senor Sensible

      Agreed, it’s Esquire not exactly a bulwark of great literature itself. Prescription, grains of salt till we all don’t care about some silly magazine’s list.
      p.s. at 14/75 I’m personally only 18.6666% male. 

  17. shaun gannon

      esquire says ‘don’t worry ladies we’ll make it up to you ;)’ in a tweet then the next day they publish 75 Books Every Woman Should Read and theyre all cookbooks

  18. Anonymous

      If I was gonna pick a Bukowski novel it would be Factotum. Gnarly.

  19. Michael Filippone

      I would like to see Lish’s Esquire list of books every person should read.

  20. M. Kitchell

      Well then we should at least be lobbying for Esquire not to write about books, right?

  21. Richard Thomas

      there’s a lot of good books on there, i’ve read about 32 or so – but so many women that they’ve left off and not romance or chick lit, but just great authors – Mary Gaitskill, AM Homes, Alice Munro, Harper Lee (Mockingbird, duh), Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates, i mean, so many authors…seems ridiculous that this list should be so low on female authors

  22. darby

      i think what i never hear about in these conversations is the very real feminine stigma that reading fiction has for non-reader, blue-collar men in most of america. a lot of men never want to be seen as weak and they equate reading classical literature as a sign of effeminacy. its crap their girlfriends try to make them to read when they’d rather be watching the game. if a man (and I mean like an average man, not a writer/reader or anyone who would ever read htmlgiant) is going to read something and admit to having read it, there has to be a very strong masculine presence as an excuse.

      i like this list. i feel like it says to a lot of americans who never think of reading literature that look, a lot of men write really great fiction, maybe try one this summer. 

  23. leapsloth14

      Interesting comment, and some people argue this is why Hemingway felt the need to shoot a gun after writing a short story.

      I will say that “masculine” pose fades as men age. For some. I have many relatives who turned to literature (mostly poetry) in later age and didn’t apologize. The cool thing, for some, about being older is the ability to tell everyone to kiss your ass. I’m talking relatives in small towns. They now email often with literature advice. They are all men.

  24. Anonymous

      Turns out there is a “75 books every woman should read” list, at Jezebel:

      Sure enough, it’s populated almost entirely by women authors. All the books listed are good, so it’s hard to argue, but still…

      How are Frankenstein and The Left Hand of Darkness on the girly list and not on the dudely list?

  25. kevocuinn

      jeez darby, are you back on the vino? where is paley/oates/wolff/etc etc etc..
      to those ‘americans who never think of reading literaure’ — join a fucking library. 

  26. M. Kitchell

      while this may indeed be true, i think that just highlights the fact that the cultural program is maybe even larger?  like, the idea that the patriarchal gender difference is still hyper-present is fucked.  this is still cultural posturing, dig?  like, if esquire is already the ‘faggy’ version of maxim, why don’t they grow some balls and make a list that doesn’t already conform to an accepted bullshit level.  it’s these hyper-present sources that set and influence the benchmark.  what the fuck.

  27. darby

      meant to say male americans who never think of reading literature, re: stigma

  28. Jimmy Chen

      is this where i say a hard man is good to find or was that already taken? no cocks or cunts in lit, just allusions. love everything, at least try to

  29. shaun gannon

       also, was this published online only, or in the magazine too? i have a feeling the crossover between online esquire readers and paper-only esquire readers is not as great as some might think. (im implying that reading magazines online is the ‘faggy’ version of reading magazines on paper)

  30. Matthew Simmons

      Judging from its advertising, Esquire is young/urban/sophisticate
      aspirational. Why precisely would a magazine that intends to create the
      facade of the well-rounded affluent male not also give at least lip
      service to the idea that a well-rounded affluent male should probably
      read, I don’t know, maybe TWO books by women?

      What the fuck, indeed.Not buying the: Esquire is trying to appeal to blue collar American males with hyper-masculine books line.

  31. Ethel Rohan

      Thanks so much, Roxane, for this excellent response to Esquire’s list, a list flawed on so many levels. “This list not only perpetuates the erasure of great writing by women, it cultivates the erroneous and myopic notion that men only want to read a certain kind of book. If I were a man, I’d find this list insulting.” Brava.

  32. Edward Champion

      The 1998 Modern Library list also omits TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, which I likewise find unfathomable.  But you’re not overthinking at all with this post.  I’ve had the same thoughts concerning the ML list, especially since the women I’ve read so far (Iris Murdoch, Jean Rhys) in my silly reading project tend to be more interesting than many of the men.

  33. Anonymous
  34. Nathan Huffstutter

      Exactly. Having read half the listed books and 2/3 of the authors, the segregation of them in this fashion makes me queasy. Ralph Ellison, Malcolm Lowry, Robert Penn Warren, Salman Rushdie, so many fantastic authors, but separated from everything that’s conspicuously omitted and unrepresented…yuck.

  35. darby

      i wasnt speaking to whether a stigma ought to exist or not or why, only that it does.

  36. M. Kitchell

      i don’t think anybody needs to be told that the stigma exists.  i think the post is saying: this stigma still exists and it’s still bullshit.  why are you basically defending it?  i don’t exactly think that another source needs to be telling people that a lot of men write really great fiction.  also, i mean, what’s the point of saying ‘here are some great books men wrote’?  the list is offered as a list of books ‘men should read,’ not books specifically written by men that men should read.  also, the single inclusion of a female author seems to undermine the idea that it’s even set out to be a list of male authors.  it would almost be less suspect if it were all male authors.  because, yeah, i mean, then it would clearly fit into this postured machismo, i.e. “great books for men by men” or whatever.  the problem comes in the fact that the inclusion of the o’connor clearly indicates that they were not looking it in that way at all. the editorial staff is literally just convinced that men write better books for men, which is bullshit.

  37. JKL

      First, let’s agree that all such hierarchical lists are bullshit. Even worse, they’re unnecessary bullshit. Their primary purpose is to provoke, alarm, harass…all of which Esquire’s list accomplishes beautifully. 

      Second, let’s agree that whatever scanty value such lists have is their genetic prejudices. If Esquire’s editors compiled this thing with one eye on literary chops and the other on political correctness, can you imagine the fucking narcolepsy that would ensue? 

      Third, let’s agree that binaries other than men vs. women exist — binaries that are equally hospitable to outrage when passed unremarked. What percentage of the wordsmiths here are gay? What percentage are Native American? What percentage are disabled? What percentage are Mexican or Spanish American? Without belaboring the point, let’s agree that gender is simply the most traditional and embattled station on a long route of possible insults.

      Personally, I don’t want lists. I especially don’t want lists that feel machine-precisioned to flatter our notions of democracy, courtesy or, yes, even fairness.   

  38. Amber

      I think if they would have had like just FIVE books by women. Christ, even just five. Or none, you know? Like, here are some books by men for men or some bullshit like that. But good god, one? Implying that we actively tried and we could only find one book by a woman worth mentioning? That’s the biggest insult. I’m tired of Esquire’s bullshit pretensions that they’re better than Maxim, anyway. Look, we put a story about a bar fight and some totally boring piece about some politician next to a picture of ScarJo’s tits, so we’re highbrow! Fuck Esquire.

  39. darby

      im not defending or supporting anything. my comment was meant to be purely perceptive, not prescriptive or political or judgmental, which is to say i dont even necessarily agree with what im saying, just throwing it out there as an avenue to think about. the list functions for me within the context of a stigma, so its my theory. sorry for making everyone angry, i was trying to provide a rationale for the list.

  40. Anonymous

      God, it fucking stinks in here. 

      And no, it’s not me. Turn away from my scorch marks and just go about your business.

  41. Anonymous

      Okay, I’m sorry. 

      That was like, totally uncalled for.

  42. M. Kitchell

      oh yeah, me too.  i’m definitely not defending or supporting anything either.  my responses to your comments were meant to be purely perceptive, not prescriptive or political or judgmental, which is to say i don’t even necessarily agree with what i said, i just wanted to offer the response that any rational human being who held editorial responsibilities at a major American magazine should have considered when they realized how visible and possibly affecting the list they were compiling could be.

  43. minor writer

      Every man should read Sleepless Nights.

  44. M. Kitchell

      I think that’s the bigger problem here, the fact that there is just one. Like, oh don’t worry there’s a book by a woman here!  

  45. darby

      i kind of have this idea that it was like okay everyone on staff email us your favorite contemporary novel that you think men should read and we’ll throw them all in a list. i have a feeling the compilation wasn’t anything more than that. then it becomes “justifiably” random that only one female writer gets in. in the end its just a dumb list that they know no one is taking seriously anyway. again, not that this is right or wrong, but probably the reality of the scrutinization.

  46. M. Kitchell

      i dunno dude, i know a number of people who actually deleted their facebook profiles based on some reference in an article that ‘real men’ don’t have facebook profiles or something.  seemed like a dumb, inconsequential thing that multiple people i’ve known, who actually aren’t idiots, took to heart.  there’s some degree of expectation the magazine provides:  how to be successful and appealing to women.  that is the idea the magazine is selling.  i think people give the magazine a million times more credit & credence than it deserves, and that that’s obviously something the editors/contributors should be/are aware of.

  47. Anonymous
  48. Alison

      1. this list is irritating, but I’m guessing that is mostly because it is about marketing an image, not really about the books involved. It is not an excuse. But neither is Oprah. 2. the interesting thing about the list is the mixing of genres and books that are acclaimed (or by acclaimed authors) but don’t necessarily make the “top 100” of whatever lists. Isn’t the general idea of lists like this to introduce readers to books/authors they don’t know, not to reaffirm your taste is better? And if your taste is better isn’t there a good chance this list was never made for your audience? 3.the list of female authors given as counterstrike leaves me cold. To Kill a Mockingbird? Handmaids Tale? I realize they have made their way onto top lists before, but there are women out there who actually write much more exciting things. 4. what if a male author writes a sympathetic/convincing/believable/intriguing woman? Isn’t that a good thing? To take it old school (and remember they aren’t 21st century boys) look at the difference between the way Hemingway and Fitzgerald write about women and relationships. 5. Apparently men don’t like their writing to involve gays either.
      I still don’t like the list. Specifically I don’t like the lame you’ll-like-this-manly-aspect commentary to each book. But I like most the books and don’t like easy mass repulsion.

  49. deadgod

      what no ‘illustrated manual’ of erogenous pleasure

  50. Russ

      I would put I Don’t Respect Female Expression on this list.

  51. deadgod

      dumb macho-posturing bullshit that makes me want to scoop eyeballs out of skulls and use as anal beads

      say it don’t spray it

  52. shaun gannon

       this is all readin, that theres just for pitcher-lookin

  53. shaun gannon

       this is all readin, that theres just for pitcher-lookin

  54. deadgod

      darby, it sounds like you’re saying that this list actually is progressive for (a part of) its target audience

      that much of the blurbage ‘explaining’ the recommendations is (in intent or at least effect) a testosteroating of the Literature Pill (?)

      that’s a finely-grained response – as much so as roxane’s blogicle

  55. deadgod

      piping oxygen in to the [s]e[x]squire bedsheet tent

      what the tom’s dick is hairy hell

  56. deadgod

      anti-lawyer professionism

  57. deadgod

      git a good’n an some a them pitchers need splainin

  58. mimi

      deaders – “say it don’t spray it” – ew
      but *right up my humor-alley* yeah
      heh heh yeah 
      i said “alley”
      “right up my alley” 
      andMK – “use as anal beads” – and here i thought i’d heard everything ! !ha ha ha

  59. mimi

      heh spacebar thumbhits missing

  60. mimi

      (i said to myself *comments* above)
      heh heh

  61. mimi

      disqus fuck me up big time
      mess with sense of order

  62. Roxane

      The books I picked were as arbitrary as the books on this list. The point was that there are plenty of great books by women that could have been included on this list. 

  63. mimi

      see jane run

  64. R. Ross Selavy

      “Great books are great books and there’s something to be said for muscular prose.”
      What does that mean? What is “muscular prose” and what can be said for it?

  65. Roxane

      Muscular prose is exactly what it sounds like…prose that is muscular. Hemingway’s work is most often referenced with regard to muscular prose–generally speaking, it is tight writing, spare description, active language, etc. What can be said for it? When done well, it lends to a really interesting style of storytelling. 

      But you weren’t really asking, were you.

  66. Mjschnellinger

      Man, the most annoying thing about htmlgiant is that it is full of such literate, intelligent folk, arguing over silly things like fucking list in Esquire. In larger scheme of things, you all should rallying against the culture of the almighty list, that subjugates literature. Sorry if i missed something. I briefly skimmed over the comments section… 

  67. Anonymous
  68. Guestagain

      Esquire is a how to guide for being a stylish baloney playboy to get women in bed and any editorial decision they make proceeds from that, you always have to appreciate the mentality your dealing with. “Hey baby, before I knock you up and abandon you, I’ll have you know I am quite The Well Read Man.”

  69. Anonymous
  70. Don

      I want a list of the 75 books every hitman should read.

  71. Anonymous

  72. Joseph Young

      recently i had an assignment to write about 20 articles on artists, art museums, and such, for a decidely ‘populist’ website, one who’s readers were probably not terribly literate about art. in fact, the idea of the articles was to introduce people to art and the idea of visiting art museums. so, when i had to compile a list of say, ’10 artists you must see at the museum,’ my first impulse was to make that list ‘accessible,’ filled with artists that everyone probably heard of, at least vaguely, and whose work you’d generally find at any museum. the trouble was that the list compiled that way was so almost exclusively white and male. it actually took a lot more work to make sure women artists and black and hispanic etc artists were included. well, that’s not surprising in the abstract, people on this website talk about how that happens all the time–that default male whiting of lists like that–but it was still really surprising to me in the particular. like, i love alice neel and frida kahlo, etc, but it took extra effort to get them into a top 10 list. you just say the names picasso and matisse and your work is done; you have to explain neel.

  73. Anonymous

      If you’re trying to look cool and get hella sex, I would think reading books by women would be more helpful than reading Esquire.

  74. M. Kitchell

      this is definitely the most interesting back-handed compliment htmlgiant has gotten in a while

  75. Amy

      Ya know, when I was young, I briefly thought Flannery O’Connor was a man. I mean, the name sounds somewhat masculine, and I’d never looked up anything about her, so I read and read and just assumed she was a dude.

      I wonder if the people at Esquire might have made the same mistake? Perhaps they intended to make a 100% male list and just didn’t realize O’Connor was not male?

  76. Anonymous

       “How is it that this doesn’t work the other way around.”

      Many men are comforted, instead of insulted, by the suggestion of strict gender roles because these roles have historically worked in their favor

  77. Dawn.

      This list not only perpetuates the erasure of great writing by women, it
      cultivates the erroneous and myopic notion that men only want to read a certain kind of book. If I were a man, I’d find this list insulting.

      That is almost exactly what I thought when I saw this shitshow. What’s more upsetting is that I think this list is more “this is how to be” than “this is what to read.” Yet another enforcement of strict gender norms, which is not good for anyone, including the men this list is targeting.

  78. MFBomb

      Nah, Flannery O’Connor is often lumped with “masculine” writing (however you want to define that problematic designation) because so much of her work deals with violence. 

  79. karl taro

      anyone telling anyone to read anything serious and anyone actually reading it is a fucking miracle. so, let as many magazines publish as many biased lists as they want: gay books for gay men, black books for black men, dumb books for dumb men, dogs books for dog men. and please, let’s hope a few of these dog men or dumb men actually read one of these dog books or dumb books. we’ll still lose the war but let’s take a few down with us.

  80. Guest
  81. Tummler

      Esquire Doesn’t Respect Frank Hinton

  82. Tummler

      George Bush doesn’t care about black people.

  83. Tummler

      The 75 Books “Macho Man” Randy Savage Should Have Read

  84. Anonymous

  85. Anonymous
  86. Anonymous
  87. Elliot Macdonald

      What I don’t get is why anybody cares what Esquire thinks about literature, or anything, in the first place. 

  88. Sjfoster
  89. Don

      Well, here’s my list of 200 books I should read…

      Classic Classics:
      1. Aeneid – Virgil
      2. Iliad – Homer
      3. Odyssey – Homer
      4. Bhagavad Gītā
      5. Tale of Genji
      6. Orestea – Aeschylus
      7. Complete Tragedies – Euripides
      8. Theban Plays – Sophocles
      9. Surviving Poems – Sappho
      10. Complete Parsha cycle (with Haftorah)
      11. Mishnah
      12. Qu’ran
      13. Lives of the Prophets – Thalabi
      14. Al-Kashshaaf – Al-Zamakhshari
      15. Upanishads
      16. Metamorphosis – Ovid
      17. History of Peloponnesian War – Thucydides
      18. The Histories – Herodotus
      19. Annals – Tacitus
      20. Gallic Wars – Caesar
      21. Jewish War – Josephus
      22. History – al-Tabari
      23. History of Rome – Livy
      24. Fall of the Roman Republic – Plutarch
      25. Rise and Fall of Athens – Plutarch
      26. Speeches and Letters – Cicero
      27. Lives of Eminent Philosophers – Diogenes
      28. Analects – Confucious
      29. Dialogues – Plato
      30. The Republic – Plato
      31. The Symposium – Plato
      32. Nicomachean Ethics – Aristotle
      33. Politics – Aristotle
      34. Poetics – Aristotle

      Middle Classics:
      35. Parsha Cycle (with Rashi’s commentary)
      36. Zohar
      37. Guide to the Perplexed – Maimonides
      38. Mishneh Torah – Maimonides
      39. King James Bible (New Testament)
      40. Confessions – Augustine
      41. City of God – Augustine
      42. Divine Comedy – Dante
      43. Decameron – Boccaccio
      44. Canterbury Tales – Chaucer
      45. 1001 Nights
      46. Paradise Lost – Milton
      47. Hamlet – Shakespeare
      48. Measure for Measure – Shakespeare
      49. King Lear – Shakespeare
      50. Sonnets – Shakespeare
      51. Poems – Yehuda Halevi
      52. Commentaries on Aristotle – Averroes
      53. Commentaries on Plato – Averroes
      54. The Prince – Machiavelli
      55. Ethics – Spinoza
      56. Pensees – Pascal
      57. Beowulf

      Almost Modern/Modern/Postmodern Classics:
      58. In Search of Lost Time – Proust
      59. Don Quixote – Cervantes
      60. War and Peace – Tolstoy
      61. The Brothers Karamazov – Dostoevsky
      62. Crime and Punishment – Dostoevsky
      63. Faust – Goethe
      64. Moby Dick – Melville
      65. Death in Venice – Mann
      66. Magic Mountain – Mann
      67. Joseph and His Brothers – Mann
      68. Doctor Zhivago – Pasternak
      69. Collected Stories – Pushkin
      70. Collected Stories – Chekhov
      71. Fathers and Sons – Turgenev
      72. Madame Bovary – Flaubert
      73. Our Mutual Friend – Dickens
      74. The Princess Casamassima – James
      75. Pale Fire – Nabokov
      76. Lolita – Nabakov
      77. Ulysses – Joyce
      78. Dubliners – Joyce
      79. Gravity’s Rainbow – Pynchon
      80. V. – Pynchon
      81. Crying of Lot 49 – Pynchon
      82. Mrs. Dalloway – Woolf
      83. To the Lighthouse – Woolf
      84. Giovanni’s Room – Baldwin
      85. Another Country – Baldwin
      86. To Kill a Mockingbird – Lee
      87. Three Lives – Stein
      88. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas – Stein
      89. Sleepless Nights – Hardwick
      90. Their Eyes Were Watching God – Hurston
      91. Housekeeping – Robinson
      92. Dune – Herbet
      93. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Marquez
      94. Correction – Bernhard
      95. The Loser – Bernhard
      96. Fatelessness – Kertesz
      97. Kaddish for an Unborn Child – Kertesz
      98. Pride and Prejudice – Austen
      99. Invisible Man – Ellison
      100. Song of Solomon – Morrison
      101. Complete Stories – Kafka
      102. The Castle – Kafka
      103. Complete Fiction – Borges
      104. 2666 – Bolano
      105. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Twain
      106. Humboldt’s Gift – Bellow
      107. Sabbath’s Theater – Roth
      108. American Pastoral – Roth
      109. Wittgenstein’s Mistress – Markson
      110. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love – Carver
      111. Not Without Laughter – Hughes
      112. New York Trilogy – Auster
      113. Midnight’s Children – Rushdie
      114. Paradiso – Lima
      115. News from the Empire – Del Passo
      116. Snopes Trilogy – Faulkner
      117. Complete Stories – O’Conner
      118. Nightwood – Barnes
      119. Written on the Body – Winterson
      120. Cancer Ward – Solzhenitsyn
      121. Gulag Archipelago – Solzhenitsyn
      122. The Dispossessed – Le Guin
      123. Infinite Jest – Foster Wallace
      124. Omensetter’s Luck – Gass
      125. Terra Nostra – Fuentes
      126. Underworld – DeLillo
      127. 40 Stories – Barthelme
      128. 60 Stories – Barthelme
      129. Nine Stories – Salinger
      130. Collected Stories – Davis
      131. Jungle Novels – Traven
      132. Suttree – McCarthy
      133. Earthly Powers – Burgess
      134. Cairo Trilogy – Mahfouz
      135. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler – Calvino
      136. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Hemingway
      137. The Soft Machine – Burroughs
      138. The Wasteland – TS Eliot
      139. Trilce – Vallejo
      140. Cantos – Pound
      141. Hugh Selwyn Mauberly – Pound
      142. Flowers of Evil – Baudelaire
      143. A Season in Hell – Rimbaud
      144. Illuminations – Rimbaud
      145. Maldoror – Lautréamont
      146. Poems – Perse
      147. Poems – Patchen
      148. Poems – Sexton
      149. Poems – Hughes
      150. Poems – Lihn
      151. Poems – Schwartz
      152. Poems – di Prima
      153. Book of Disquiet – Pessoa
      154. Poems – Carson
      155. Love Poems – Neruda
      156. Complete Plays – Beckett
      157. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – Gibbon
      158. History of Rome – Mommsen
      159. Story of Civilization – Durant
      160. Reflections on the Revolution in France – Burke
      161. The German Ideology – Marx
      162. The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 – Marx
      163. Capital – Marx
      164. The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte – Marx
      165. The Coming of the French Revolution – Lefebvre
      166. Homage to Catalonia – Orwell
      167. Essays – Orwell
      168. Essays – Didion
      169. Essays – Sontag
      170. Black Reconstruction – DuBois
      171. Rising Up and Rising Down – Vollmann
      172. The Arcades Project – Benjamin
      173. Essays – Benjamin
      174. Making of the English Working Class – Thompson
      175. Age of Extremes/Revolutions/Capital – Hobsbawm
      176. The Wretched of the Earth – Fanon
      177. The Destruction of the European Jews – Hilberg
      178. Crisis of the Negro Intellectual – Cruse
      179. Civilization and Its Discontents – Freud
      180. History of Sexuality – Foucault
      181. Origin of Species – Darwin
      182. Autobiography of Malcolm X
      183. Memoirs – Canetti
      184. Essays – Montaigne
      185. Reveries of a Solitary Walker – Rousseau
      186. Tractatus Logico Philosophicus – Wittgenstein
      187. Philosophical Investigations – Wittgenstein
      188. Genealogy of Morality – Nietzsche
      189. Birth of Tragedy – Nietzsche
      190. Phenomenology of Mind – Hegel
      191. Critique of Pure Reason – Kant
      192. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals – Kant
      193. Essays – Schopenhauer
      194. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology – Husserl
      195. Totality and Infinity – Levinas
      196. 1000 Plateaus – Deleuze
      197. The Ignorant Schoolmaster – Ranciere
      198. The Human Condition – Arendt
      199. Society of the Spectacle – Debord
      200. Minimia Moralia – Adorno

  90. karl taro

      I think you should also watch Caddyshack

  91. Don

      Yeah dude, Caddyshack rules.

  92. mimi

      i’ve only read 22/200 of these (11%)
      i scored higher on the esquire list 32/75 (42.7%)

  93. viscount slim

      I was once in an all male book club whose members refused to read female authors. Not as a matter of policy, you understand; in theory they were all for it. It was just that any specific book with a female author that got suggested was turned down, presumably for completely different reasons.

  94. Men Need Only Read Books by Other Men, Esquire Post Suggests | AgL - Literary Agency | Agence Littéraire | Literatur-Agentur

      […] everyone from Publishers Weekly to independent booksellers tweeted their disappointment. Roxane Gay wrote at HTML […]

  95. Don

      I think I’ve read about 25.  Lots of work to do!

  96. Anonymous
  97. Anonymous

  98. Esquire Reading List « The Outsider

      […] at htmlgiant Roxanne Gay has blogged about a recent Esquire list, which lists 75 books  a man should read. She […]

  99. Men Need Only Read Books by Other Men, Esquire Post Suggests | Con Games

      […] everyone from Publishers Weekly to independent booksellers tweeted their disappointment. Roxane Gay wrote at HTML […]

  100. Anonymous
  101. Roxane

      I hear what your saying but I reject the notion that we should be grateful for any discussion of books just because books are being discussed. People are reading far more than the rhetoric would have us believe. There’s nothing miraculous about this list.

  102. Anonymous
  103. Anonymous

      So, is your point that, once these folk list off what they consider their favorite or the best or whatever books, they should then go “balance” the list?  You say every book on the list merits the recognotion, so should some of those that so merit be eliminated?  Wow.  Just Wow.  Since when does a book deserve anything?  Talk about being stuck in a rigid…Wow

  104. Anonymous

      So, the message is:”don’t you dare make a list of things you like, cause the chicks are stewing and waiting to make your eyeballs into anal beads.”

      What if the gender binaries are the truth, and all this pretending otherwise is what creates all pain and suffering?

  105. Anonymous

  106. Anonymous
  107. Anonymous

  108. Anonymous
  109. Anonymous

  110. Anonymous
  111. Anonymous

  112. BancheroMedia

      I agree — Willa Cather’s My Antonia is  important — a powerful tale of American experience written by a sensitive perceptive woman. An additional woman to add to the list: Virginia Woolf, especially her masterpiece To The Lighthouse.  The Great Gatsby is not on this list, which seems a ridiculous oversight. And then why isn’t  Toni Morrison’s work here? — Beloved, Song of Solomon. Probably the latter. Finally, poets are missing from this list — and I think that a real shame: T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, James Wright, Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson, John Ashbery, Erica Jong, Denise Levertov, Octavio Paz…  Shakespeare.

      Now to be really perverse, I also recommend “High Priest of California” By Charles Willeford. Gives you a glance at a 1950’s male perspective.

  113. BancheroMedia


  114. Revisiting ’75 Books Every Man Should Read’ | James Russell Ament

      […] Gay at htmlgiant doesn’t think so. In her article The Well Read Man she says, We keep having this conversation over and over and over again. Editors continue compiling […]

  115. marilynsue

      I’ve only read 16 of these books.  There was an article posted on (books) last week, “The Novel is Not Dead,” in which the author (a white man) theorized that the people who make such lists are attempting to defend a declining way of life, and only authors who fit into their conception are even considered.  These lists say more about the people who make them, than the current state of literature itself. 

  116. Anonymous

  117. (S)wine

      “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” by Carson McCullers. Come on!!

  118. Anonymous
  119. Internet Wanderings 02 « Fiction, Amongst Other Things

      […] here’s a reply to aforementioned misogynistic book list. […]

  120. Sarah

      It’s like, each paragraph is basically a punch in the face. 

  121. The Lit Pub • What is a man’s literature?

      […] is exactly what happened. Over at HTML Giant, Roxane Gay came out swinging. “Esquire is a men’s magazine so it makes sense that a reading list they curate will […]

  122. Anonymous

      I always thought “well-read” had to do with connectivity. Reading, to me, is supposed to be about dialogue. You spend hours immersed in what one person has to say about the world, the stories they have to tell or the explanations they make. If you’re not able to see how a book communicates with the world that birthed it or the world you live in, then aren’t you missing the point of reading?

      I don’t care what you’ve read. I care what you do in terms of connecting it to other things you’ve read and other experiences you’ve had.

  123. Loop77

      Nah because those men aren’t reading Esquire

  124. Filière livre » Archives du Blog » Les hommes ne devraient lire que des livres d’auteurs masculin…

      […] nombreuses femmes journalistes ou écrivain choquées par cette liste, comme Roxane Gray, qui en a fait une tribune sur le site «Ce qui est troublant, c’est qu’on sous-entend que les hommes ne devraient lire que de la […]