Nine Writers Carrying the Torch for Men’s Fiction

by A Manly Guest Contributor on December 16, 2010 · 147 comments

in Blog

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jarrett Haley and Tim Chilcote.

Gentlemen, let’s face it: Hemingway is dead. Likewise with Faulkner, Mailer, Updike, Cheever, Miller, Carver, and the rest of the greats who made a living writing the stories of men in the golden age. But just because the big men of letters have fallen doesn’t mean that letters for men have gone down with them. There’s plenty of manly literature outside the icons, and plenty of writers still making books for the male mind. Here’s a sampling of living, breathing authors to look out for the next time you’re in need of a manly read:

Cormac McCarthy

We’ll start with the obvious choice, because chances are if you haven’t read his books you’ve at least seen one adapted for the screen, from All the Pretty Horses to the blockbusters No Country for Old Men and The Road. Good movies, sure, but nothing compares to the man’s way with words. Most of his early books are set in backwoods Tennessee, but that was before he was branded master of the dark, gruesome West. Brutality peaks with Blood Meridian, and as for The Road, don’t let Oprah’s Book Club endorsement scare you off — never has a book more savagely examined the dedication of a father for his son.

Wells Tower

Wells Tower’s Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, a collection of nine short stories, is a world inhabited by down-on-their-luck narrators, men trying in vain to forge a new path through contemporary life. Tower often likes to end his stories with an explosive catastrophe, one that leaves the reader probing for meaning inside, say, a rotting moose carcass or a shattered aquarium. Ever gone through a rough patch in life? Ever battled to reinvent yourself? Read this book.

Padgett Powell

Padgett Powell’s work has to be the hardest to nail down here, but he’ll surely trump any on this list for the seat at the wacky end of the spectrum, owing mostly to his latest book, The Interrogative Mood, comprised entirely of questions. You couldn’t get much farther from Hemingway in terms of style, but when he marries “Have you ever used a torque wrench?” with “Do you have any friends?” the effect is just as understated and profound. Look out also for the collected stories in Aliens of Affection, one of which can be read here.

Adam Schuitema

Adam Schuitema’s debut story collection, Freshwater Boys, brings the classic coming-of-age model to the beach towns of the Lake Michigan coast. Schuitema is a throw-back storyteller, conjuring voices that crackle with enough spirit you’d think you’re sitting round a campfire. His forthcoming novel, Haymaker, is set farther north in Michigan’s rugged Upper Peninsula, and rumor has it he’s cloistered himself in a Lake Superior cabin to finish. Prepare for a dust jacket head-shot with grizzled beard and plenty of flannel.

Philipp Meyer

The main characters of Philipp Meyer’s first novel, American Rust, expertly show how the two sides of manhood are actually part of the same coin. The author gives us Isaac English, a quiet academic, and star athlete Billy Poe, then flips their roles in a cruel test of man’s ability to endure. What results is shocking violence and gut-wrenching struggles of loyalty and friendship. For the thinking man up against the odds, this book explores the fight or flight instinct and exposes the animal waiting inside each of us.

Bonnie Jo Campbell

A good man can recognize when a woman does it better, and for gritty Midwestern color, violence, and working-class realism, very few do it better than Bonnie Jo Campbell.  Her American Salvage, for which she was a National Book Award finalist, is a spot-on testimony of life in these dour economic times. When jobs and stability are gone, Campbell shows us the backbone, or lack thereof, inside people scrounging to survive.

Harry Crews

Is Harry Crews still alive? If you’ve read anything of his autobiography, A Childhood, or his novels Scar Lover or All We Need of Hell among many others, you’d know why we might think to ask. Reading any one of the man’s sentences often feels like a royal ass-kicking.

Finally, a special nod to those who just missed being on this list proper — Barry Hannah, who died this March, and fellow gone-too-soon Mississippian Larry Brown, who passed away suddenly at the age of 53.  Both were masters of capturing the reaches of the contemporary South, and both left behind posthumous works — Brown’s A Miracle of Catfish, and Hannah’s forthcoming Sick Soldier at Your Door.

There you have it, gents: 9 good reasons to get reading. What other authors should today’s man be reading?


Co-authors Jarrett Haley and Tim Chilcote are the men behind BULL: Fiction For Thinking Men . Follow them on Twitter @BULLMensFiction and @TimChilcote.

{ 147 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sam Spade December 16, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I loved “The Road” and “All the Pretty Horses” by McCarthy. I thought “No Country for Old Men” was mediocre at best. “The Crossing” wasn’t too bad but wasn’t my favorite by any means, either. I’m not a huge fan of westerns so maybe that was part of it. But that speaks volumes of how good “All the Pretty Horses” was.

I’m also a big fan of James Ellroy (LA Confidential, The Black Dahlia). Haven’t read anything from the other authors but will put them on my list.

2 Matt S December 16, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Matt Bondurant’s “The Wettest County in the World.” I picked this one up in a bargain bin and haven’t put in down since. It’s definitely in the vein of McCarthy but set in Prohibition-era Virginia. Mr. Bondurant writes so naturally that I have spent my entire lunch break reading instead of eating. Worth a read.

3 John Wardlow December 16, 2010 at 10:42 pm

For any fans of either British humor or fantasy, Terry Pratchett is an amazing author. The best of his books, such as “Guards! Guards!” and “Men at Arms” star the character Sam Vimes, who provides incredibly manly examples of duty, fatherhood, and self control.

4 Chris December 16, 2010 at 10:45 pm

The Richard Sharpe Series by Bernard Cornwell, and True North by Jim Harrison

5 Rich December 16, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Calling “No Country for Old Men” mediocre is… well… its something.

6 Bryan Schatz December 16, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned is an awesome book of short stories. Couldn’t agree more with that choice.

7 Rick December 16, 2010 at 10:49 pm

The Road was a great read. The book leaves its mark on your mind long after you finish the last page. There is no proper editing in this book but that adds to crumbling psyche of the mans mind and world.

8 Matt B December 16, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Very cool article. I think I’m going to have to put a couple of these on my Christmas season reading list.

9 neal s December 16, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Long-time reader/first time commenter here, checking in to suggest adding Richard Ford to the list. I haven’t dabbled much in his long-form fiction (although I’ve heard good things) but I can definitely recommend his short stories. Rock Springs, in particular, is a great place to start. I’d imagine most folks here would enjoy it.

10 Sean V Cleary December 16, 2010 at 10:56 pm

I agree, The Road is a fantastic read. I can’t think of another book like it. I tell people, this book is required reading for men who will be fathers in this modern age.

11 Mike Hostetler December 16, 2010 at 10:59 pm

I consider myself an avid reader, but I haven’t read any of these.

I really like Richard Russo’s books. Russo aims more for the sensitive side of manhood. Empire Falls is OK even though that won him a Pulitzer. Nobody’s Fool is his masterwork – a great story about a man who realizes he has not lived up to his own potential. Mohawk is also very good.

It second Ellroy. American Tabloid is one of my favorite novels.

12 Grant L December 16, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Not a terribly ‘manly’ author (she also wrote Eat, Pray, Love), but Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Last American Man is a book every man probably ought to read. Heck of a story, and Gilbert is an entertaining writer to boot.

Furthermore, I wouldn’t be nearly the man I am without having read Robert Ruark. Of course, that may just be my North Carolina bias. Can’t really include him in the list of living authors, but still. Every manly man needs to read The Old Man and the Boy at least twice.

13 Elena December 16, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Wow. Surprised that nobody has mentioned Michael Chabon yet! I thought he’d be at the top of this list.

In addition to being one my favourite authors of all time, he brings a unique manliness to novels. His writing is infused with classic-American-male pop culture (baseball, cop movies, superheroes, comics) and his characters are incredibly deep and complex. Most, if not all, are just trying to be good men. And he often explores male friendship and bonding between the characters, as well as the complexities of fatherhood.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is incredibly good; I’d say required reading for anyone who’s interested in humans and human stories.. I’m about 1/2way through the Yiddish Policemen’s Union and liking it.. Chabon’s memoir/personal essay collection, titled Manhood for Amateurs, is touching, hilarious, and just so well written! He’s also known for having written the novel on which Wonder Boys was based..

14 Dan December 17, 2010 at 12:41 am

Anything by John Irving.

15 Bryan Schatz December 17, 2010 at 12:52 am

@Elena — I agree, Chabon is a great writer. Interesting that he got such an early start on his career age-wise.

Is anyone else familiar with Jim Dodge? Not a “best-selling author” by any means but in my opinion, has written some of the best fiction this century. Certainly an author who appeals to “the thinking man.” He wrote FUP, Stone Junction, and Not Fade Away…great books.
Also, I think Denis Johnson could be placed on a list like this as well.
Nice compilation of authors, I’ll have to check into some of these that I’m not familiar with.

16 Allan White December 17, 2010 at 12:58 am

Sebastian Junger (“War”) and John Krakauer (“into Thin Air”). Real stories of life lived on the edge of death.

17 George December 17, 2010 at 1:06 am

I’d like to toss Phillip Caputo and Tim O’brien on the list as well…

18 sigari December 17, 2010 at 1:33 am

For certain: Walter Mosley and Sherman Alexie.
Tim Gautreaux, Thom Jones, and Chris Offutt. All authentic. Solid list of writers noted above. Don’t miss Bondurant; that man has knowledge. Just finished Gilbert’s Last American Man. I don’t think she’s a terribly fine or strong writer, but consider her portrait of Eustace Conway required reading. Conway is terrifyingly complex.

19 Tim Chilcote December 17, 2010 at 1:47 am

@Chris – Couldn’t agree more on Jim Harrison and True North. As a Michigander myself, Harrison is perhaps my favorite writer of all time, and True North is my favorite of his books. The only reason he didn’t make the list is that I’ve already written about him so often –

20 Tom Gunn December 17, 2010 at 1:52 am

I think Bernard Cornwell deserves mentioning. His Sharpe’s books are an international phenomenon and a great read, not to mention his recent hit Azincourt.

Patrick O’Brien also deserves some mention.

Thanks, by the way, for bringing up men’s lit. I love good books and I get so sick of being bombarded with women’s fare.

Please give us more articles with men’s lit! I bet an interview with any of these authors or any of the many others worth mentioning would be excellent. Yeah, they print a lot of women’s books, but that’s because women buy them and read them. If we started doing more of this, they’d respond to the demand and send down more.

I, as a writer, certainly don’t intend to write exclusively for women, but I’d love it if I could make a career out of writing for and about men. So let’s get reading.

21 Robert December 17, 2010 at 2:19 am

Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclicals are actually really good reads on modern society from a Christian Catholic perspective and very insightful on many topics that are frequently discussed on the Art of Manliness. If not, try reading some of Edmund Morris’ stuff. It’s nonfiction, but you can’t beat the trilogy of Theodore Roosevelt for fantastic biography.

22 Andy December 17, 2010 at 2:45 am

There is a regional author where I’m from that I am a huge fan of. His name is Silas House and he writes novels about Appalachian life. Sometimes his book will focus on a man (like it does in Clay’s Quilt) and others will focus on women. But don’t be fooled, the men represented in these stories are very traditional and there are a lot of good lessons and other things to be learned from Mr. House’s writings.

23 Steven Torres December 17, 2010 at 4:55 am

“Rope Burns : Stories From the Corner” by F.X. Toole had me thinking of Hemingway the whole read through. A collection of shorts and the title novella about boxing, they are filled with manly men of all ages. While the world may know of his content through the movie adaptation of his “Million Dollar Baby” short, he’s an excellent writer overall. Well worth your time.

24 Bryan Hugill December 17, 2010 at 5:39 am

Definitely Eliot Pattison’s Inspector Shan’s series…had me hooked from the first page.

25 Jamie December 17, 2010 at 5:55 am

Okay, so it’s a bit old, and possibly clichéd, but I can’t let an article like this whizz past without mentioning Chuck Palahnuik’s Fight Club. The film based on it is obviously more famous, but the book roots around in the male condition in substantially more detail. I honestly think reading just that will motivate any new reader to read every other article on this site just to reclaim a little identity.

26 Riaan Nel December 17, 2010 at 6:08 am

I’d like to add Clive Cussler’s novels to the list. I have read few other authors with the ability to capture one’s imagination as he does. Characters like Dirk Pitt, Al Giordino and Juan Cabrillo truly are the man’s men.

Just to give a taste of Cussler’s characters, here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia article about Dirk Pitt – “Dirk Pitt received a commendation for shooting down Admiral Sandecker’s plane during the Vietnam War. The plane was carrying the Admiral and his staff to a remote base north of Da Nang. Unknown to them the base was overrun by the North Vietnamese and their radio was malfunctioning so they were unable to receive a warning. Pitt was flying nearby returning to his base from a bombing mission and was ordered to intercept and alert the Admiral by whatever means available. When efforts to communicate with the Admiral’s plane were unsuccessful Pitt expertly shot out both engines on the transport forcing them to ditch in the sea instead of landing at the captured base. Dirk then flew cover strafing any boats that left the shore until everyone was taken aboard a Navy patrol vessel.”

27 Ryan Tyler December 17, 2010 at 6:24 am

The best “man’s” authors coming out of speculative fiction are probably William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and China Mieville. The best non-fiction I read this year was David Grann’s “The Lost City of Z.” I’ve only read his latest, but Gary Shteyngart is a pretty tight author.

28 Joe December 17, 2010 at 6:39 am

Max Brooks. What? World War Z was da bomb!

29 Ryan Tyler December 17, 2010 at 6:51 am

Sorry to post twice, but I have to recommend Haruki Murakami’s memoir “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.” It’s excellent.

30 Ian December 17, 2010 at 7:29 am

Don DeLillo?

31 Peter Andreasen December 17, 2010 at 7:30 am

Saul Bellow, though sadly deceased, is the greatest male American writer since Hemingway. Through in Philip Roth for a fellow still alive.

32 Peter Andreasen December 17, 2010 at 7:30 am

Saul Bellow, though sadly deceased, is the greatest male American writer since Hemingway. Throw in Philip Roth for a fellow still alive.

33 Nik December 17, 2010 at 7:30 am

Thank you, this article will be a good what-to-read-next reference. I would also like to recommend the novels by Lee Child about Jack Reacher although I’m sure all of you are familiar with them. Personally for me, Reacher is a great example of manliness and his character inspires me to think and act manly. Besides, those are just great stories with cool plots and a lot of action. A perfect alloy of action, detective & thriller.

34 Nik December 17, 2010 at 7:51 am

Somehow my post was deleted…weird. Anyway, I want to recommend Lee Child – his cycle of novels about Jack Reacher, a former military policeman wandering the US. Reacher is truly a paragon of manliness and besides, the stories are very well-written.

35 Chompa December 17, 2010 at 8:48 am

The late Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels are a great model of how to be a man. One of the novels that really stuck with me is “An Early Autumn” where Spenser takes in a weak, introverted kid who has no skills and helps him learn some skills and take a step toward becoming a man. What it truly drives home is the need for a strong father figure in a young man’s life.

36 Matt F. December 17, 2010 at 9:13 am

Great list, haven’t heard of many of these and consider myself an avid reader/ scavenger of fiction new and old. Here are some definitive modern authors that are a must for any man:
John Irving, Richard Russo, Cormac Mccarthy, David Rhodes, Johnathan Raymond, Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane, John Steinbeck (not modern but still relevant).

37 TommyG December 17, 2010 at 9:25 am

I was just logging in to say this, exactly! Reacher is the epitome of manliness.
“Don’t punch with your fists if you can use your elbow!”

38 J.A. Greystone December 17, 2010 at 9:30 am

Jim Harrison is as close as we get to a living Hemingway. I can’t believe he was off this list. George Pelecanos is another (aside from his Washington DC centered novels, he’s been a writer on both The Wire and The Pacific).

39 dan m. December 17, 2010 at 9:44 am

Oh. Certainly. The Road is excellent, as is Blood Meridian, but I must confess to not have read a great deal on here. I will do so.

For modern living writers, please look up William T. Vollmann. Anything of his is excellent, but his non-fiction is especially striking. I’m looking for a full edition of his Rising Up and Rising Down, which on the use of violence.

Seconding Alexie, n’thing DeLillo. Adding a George Saunders. And tentatively recommending Chuck Palahniuk (of Fight Club fame), but his style is certainly appeals to a certain taste.

I should probably stop now.

40 Chris La Tray December 17, 2010 at 9:49 am

Sticking to only living writers, you can definitely put me down for Jim Harrison, and I was thinking about George Pelecanos myself. Two other guys also come to mind — Daniel Woodrell (Winter’s Bone and Tomato Red) writes bleak Ozark Noir, and Don Winslow (Savages, The Dawn Patrol, and The Power of the Dog, among others) writes California crime fiction like no other.

A newish writer, Benjamin Percy, is also worth considering. His first novel was out this year called The Wilding, and it is all about man stuff. Well worth checking out.

I would also throw out the name of Matthew P. Mayo, who lurks ’round about these parts. If his books Cowboys, Mountain Men, and Grizzly Bears: Fifty of the Grittiest Moments in the History of the Wild West and his most recent, Bootleggers, Lobstermen & Lumberjacks: Fifty of the Grittiest Moments in the History of Hardscrabble New England don’t just SCREAM to be read by manly men, then I don’t know what do!

41 Ian H. December 17, 2010 at 10:12 am

Since having my son nearly two years ago, I have come to understand the relationship between father and son in an entirely different (and profound) way. I read The Road prior to having a son of my own. I enjoyed the book at the time, but definitely think it is worth a re-read now. I’m certain it will affect me at a much higher level than it ever could have before.

Thanks for the list, Brett!

42 Tim December 17, 2010 at 10:17 am

The Saxon Stories (series) by Bernard Cornwell.

43 Matt December 17, 2010 at 10:20 am

Glad to see Jim Harrison mentioned, he’s by far one of the manliest contemporary writers I’m aware of. Haven’t read True North, but liked Wolf and The Beast God Forgot to Invent. Best of all are his essays on food, fishing, and travel. Read Just Before Dark, and The Raw and the Cooked.

44 Brandon B December 17, 2010 at 10:23 am

I have only read a few mentioned here and will definitely check out some others.

Checking out comments, I expected to see more about Blood Meridian. It’s such a great story and The Judge is probably one of the more intriguing characters I’ve read about in some time. I hear they are making a movie so be sure to read the book before seeing it. There is simply no way they will be able to do it justice.

45 Carter December 17, 2010 at 10:32 am

I agree that The Road is one of the most powerful books I’ve read and I am trying to find time to get started on Blood Meridian.

I would submit the authors Vince Flynn, Daniel Silva and Brad Thor to this list. They are all in the CIA, counter-terrorism genre based in today’s reality of islamic terrorism. A topic many in Hollywood and pop culture refuse to admit is happening or are too afraid to touch. However, I believe Vince Flynn is about to have a movie adaptation.

Their characters are man’s men who struggle to balance work and protecting their significant others.

Thanks for the list, American Rust and American Salvage stick out as two I would like to read.

46 ted December 17, 2010 at 10:47 am

transgresive stuff
supervert(especially extraterestrial sex fetish,maybe even NV if you have a dark sense of humour)
also there never was a “golden age” unless you can’t distinguish between fiction and reality
you can call them golden moments

47 S.M. Leahy December 17, 2010 at 10:49 am

What, I don’t get a mention?

I’m joking, of course.

Couldn’t be more happy to see that the newer faces (Powell, Meyer) are getting recognized, along with the legendary old timers (Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Crews). The sadness of it is that these men will likely never be recognized on a world scale the way Mr. Faulkner and Mr. Hemingway were. Writing of the American Man today relies on the reader’s own intimacy with such a life; one must have lived it to read these works, let along write them. Therefore, I believe, the big prizes (Booker, Nobel) will continue to go to politically “relevant” authors for Europe, Africa, or Asia. Then, as always, there is the tiny buy gleaming hope that I am wrong. Perhaps Mr. McCarthy will snatch the Big One with his upcoming (last?) novel, “The Passenger.” Maybe Philip Roth will “finally” get his Nobel (scuttlebutt around the Columbia Lit. Dept. is that Mr. Roth is “upset” after so many years of “not winning.”)

Apologies for the impromptu soap-boxing. Such is a symptom of finals week essay writing.

48 Benjamin December 17, 2010 at 10:54 am

Thomas Pynchon is still alive and writing. He is America’s greatest living author.

49 C. Deitz December 17, 2010 at 10:57 am

Cormac McCarthy is easily one of the best novelists around today. His style uses subtlety to it’s most powerful effect. “No Country For Old Men” took me captive for days.

50 Brian Coats December 17, 2010 at 11:00 am

Has anyone read Julius Winsome by Gerard Donovan? I really enjoyed it although I am not much of a dog lover. I imagine anyone who is will appreciate this book.

51 Bruce H December 17, 2010 at 11:08 am

I’m surprised James Ellroy isn’t on this list. I’d place him in the top three. I’m always disappointed when The Road is used to “advertise” McCarthy. It’s a strong entry, but isn’t anywhere close to his best effort. For that, and to real a great American novel, try Blood Meridian. Bret Easton Ellis should be considered as well. He continues to break new ground and writes fiction that hits you between the eyes.

52 Jeremy Gross December 17, 2010 at 11:13 am

Seconding Blood Meridian, which is IMHO the best American novel since Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, although Blood Meridian is certainly manlier. Some may be put off by the astonishing level of violence in Blood Meridian, but its subject matter is pretty grim. I keep hearing about different directors who want to film it, but since Sam Peckinpah is dead, I’m not sure anyone deserves to.

53 Carl December 17, 2010 at 11:26 am

Hemingway? Great author, but a man’s man? Guess I thought “man’s man” meant something else.

54 ER Anderson December 17, 2010 at 11:27 am

Barry Hannah’s “Airships”
Daniel Woodrell’s “Winter’s Bone”
Anything by Tom Franklin including his newest “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter”
Tim Gautreaux’s “Next Step in the Dance”
Anything by William Gay.
Charles Portis
Don’t miss Alex Taylor’s debut collection of stories “Name of the Nearest River”

55 Big Mike Lewis December 17, 2010 at 11:31 am

Ted Dekker

56 ER Anderson December 17, 2010 at 11:34 am

One more, written by a woman, “More of this World or Maybe Another” is a collection of interrelated short stories set in pre-Katrina New Orleans that is as tough and genuine as anything you’ll read all year.

57 jsd December 17, 2010 at 11:41 am

He’s not an author of literary fiction, but Bernard Cornwell writes some excellent “manfiction”

I’d recommend his Saxon Stories, centered on England in the time of Alfred the Great. Vikings+Saxons+shield walls=a damn good read.

58 Ed Rowell December 17, 2010 at 11:43 am

Pat Conroy always strikes a chord, especially for the man whose relationship with his dad was less than ideal. Start with The Great Santini and you’ll see the thread in all his books.
Kent Haruf captures the dignity and honor of the kind of cowboys I grew up with in Plainsong. Once you get to know the people of Holt, Colorado, you’ll read every book this author writes.
And Edward Abbey–a profane, crude man who could write about the land and how it shaped the people who lived on it with a parodoxical beauty and insight. Start with Desert Solitaire.

59 Lee Nelson December 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm

You forgot Wendell Berry.

60 Jarrett Haley December 17, 2010 at 1:02 pm

A note about the process: perhaps unconsciously, Tim and I were going for lesser-known* writers or those just starting out, ones to get in on the ground floor with. We each had our picks and if an author was pretty well known to the other, we figured it would already be to you guys, too. It left a lot of big dogs off, but hopefully there’s some new names here to pursue.

*(Cormac’s on there because we figured crucifixion if not.)

But I’m really thrilled to see the conviction for the writers noted in these comments, and names of some authors that I’ve never heard of.

The major thing is to keep buying and reading books that appeal to us as men. Publishing houses these days seems convinced that men don’t read fiction, and however much that may or may not be true, a lot of books are turned away because of that. It’s up to us, as readers, to prove them wrong.

61 Abraham December 17, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Anything by Andrew Vachss

62 Ben R December 17, 2010 at 1:50 pm

The David Eggers memoir “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” is a great read for men who came of age in the information age. It is about Eggers dealing with the death of both parents and having to raise his young brother in his early 20′s. When at the library or book store start reading the preface. If you find yourself laughing out loud pick it up. If you find yourself grimacing and thinking it is just a cheap trick don’t bother reading it because you’ll never be at peace.

In a similar vein Jonathon Safron Foer is a good author as well. I read “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” not too long ago and really enjoyed it. It is about a precocious 9 year old boy going on adventures in New York City to learn about his father who died on 9/11.

63 Randy December 17, 2010 at 2:10 pm

I lived in Oxford, MS for quite a while and had the privilege of knowing both Barry Hannah and Larry Brown. Both were excellent writers and men’s men. Another Mississippi writer that stands out is Willie Morris, who passed away several years ago. Most will know Willie for writing “My Dog Skip” which was made into a movie of the same name. I recommend “The Courting of Marcus Dupree” and “Always Stand in Against the Curve”. I spent quite a few nights in Clyde’s Bar (at the then Holiday Inn in Oxford), hanging on to every word that Willie spoke like it was gospel passed from on high. Like Barry and Larry, his passing came much to soon.

64 Ben December 17, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I second the mention of “World War Z” by Max Brooks. It feels like history, even though it is apocalyptic fiction.

65 Joseph December 17, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Kazuo Ishiguro is, in my opinion, the finest fiction writer alive. His work, “The Remains of the Day” is really one of the best, and most underappreciated books of the modern era. It shows why a man has to be careful to devote his life to the right thing, not just something.

66 Karen December 17, 2010 at 3:51 pm

I’m sorry, but the masters are not dead. Everyone else is just imitating them! You must add Chris Bohjalian to the list , author of Midwives and The Double Bind – great story teller. Abraham Verghese should also be included here. His novel Cutting for Stone is phenomenal.

67 nix December 17, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I second Abraham’s recommendation, Andrew Vachss is terrific.

68 Nathanael Towers December 17, 2010 at 5:30 pm

I think Wendell Berry ought to be added to this list. Also Steven Pressfield. Both of these men craft very different tales, but they are both worthy of our attention.

69 Mikel December 17, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I’d vote for Thomas McGuane. Maybe that’s my age showing.

70 mtts December 17, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Just had to jump in here to balance all the love Cormac McCarthy’s getting here: I find his plots uninteresting and the tedious plodding he passes off as style bores me to tears. Now I’m all for terse, relevant manly writing but McCarthy, despite being the inspiration for a handful of reasonably decent movies, does nothing of the sort. Look instead to, say, Houellebecq or even the non-obviously female oriented among Amélie Nothomb’s many, many short novels for that.

71 Mike December 17, 2010 at 7:36 pm

James Michener, his big books.
Louis L’Amour, for great stories.
Clive Cussler, enjoy seeing what they get into next.
Tom Clancy, the Jack Ryan books.
I try to keep my reading 51% non-fiction.

72 Sam December 17, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I would have to say Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami, a hardboiled detective sort of story for men who also love fantasy. And I just finished Junot Diaz’s Pullitzer Prize winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for my Modern American Novel course. I recommend that as well, since it shows a side of men we all often keep tucked away.

73 Bonnie Jo Campbell December 17, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Hey, I’m f-ing honored to be included on a list of manly writers!

74 Tubby Mike December 17, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Being British, I’m not very familliar with lots of the authors mentioned here, but I would vote for anything by Haruki Murakami for just sheer depth of feeling. I also like the Dave Robichaux series by James Lee Burke. OK, not demanding intelectually, but Dave has his own code of ethics. I’ve only ever visited the South once, but everytime I read one of Burke’s books the prose takes me right back there.

Just my £0.02

75 Justin Hanvey December 17, 2010 at 9:36 pm

William Gay is a great writer, he wrote “I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down” which was then turned into a movie starring the ever amazing Hal Holbrook, called That Evening Sun. He writes southern gothic fiction reminiscent of Faulkner, O’Connor, and Caldwell.

Also a personal friend of mine, and writer, Howard Bahr is an amazingly good writer. His novel The Black Flower, set during the civil war, came out the same year as Cold Mountain, and in my opinion is a better story. Though Cold Mountain beat it to win book of the year.

Both these writers write of men, true men.

76 John B. December 18, 2010 at 12:33 am

How about John Sanford. Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers are great characters,

77 Ivan December 18, 2010 at 6:30 am

Robert Harris’s novels are great too

78 Edgar December 18, 2010 at 6:37 am

I think John Maxwell Coetzee would also be a good addition to the list. His characters usually reflect well on the conditions of being a man in the various spheres of the modern world. “Disgrace” and “Slow Man” especially come to mind – both deal with the process of ageing and the introspection that comes with it.

79 Michael Peirce December 18, 2010 at 10:14 am

Let’s include John Birmingham – Weapons of Choice – a lovely and ultimately 3 part examination of modern weapons and personnel pushed into a world war II scenario. Classic quote from Heinrich Himmler as he works with his new computer, “This Wilhelm Gates! And they call me a war criminal!”
Birmingham’s latest Without Warning and After America have so much action going on that one can barely put the books down. Picture a wave a radiation from space that kills most Americans in CONUS. Then the Israelis go nuclear and a bit later (not much later) the REAL action begins.
Merry Christmas

80 eileen sullivan December 18, 2010 at 10:43 am

How could you leave out Robert Ruark who made Hemingway look like a sissy? Ruark’s “Uhuru”. “Something of Value,” and “The Honey Badger” are high on my list of Great Books for Men. He’s been dead for years, and if he was writing now, he’d never get published because of his blantant “sexism” – i.e., he told it like it was. I keep his books on my shelves to reread them every 2 or 3 years.

81 Richard F. December 18, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Cormac McCarthy
Stephen Hunter ; Pulitzer prize, movie critic & Bob Lee Swagger and Earl Swagger series
Patrick O’Brian
Daniel Woodrell; Winter’s Bone, Woe to Live On
John Updike…also his short stories
Randy Wayne White; Doc Ford series
Charles Willeford; Read everything and enjoy the ride

82 Rick G December 18, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Someone mentioned Pat Conroy. I agree, except skip “South of Broad”. It is forced and the main character kind of Forest Gumps his way into every hot political issue of his generation. He responds to each issue with a political correctness that made me feel that the author was just ham-handedly forcing his politics onto the reader. I thought it was a very clumsy effort for such a great writer.

83 Mike December 18, 2010 at 2:37 pm

American Rust sounds a lot like the plot to ‘A Seperate Peace’

84 Adam L. December 18, 2010 at 2:44 pm

I would recommend “The Alchemist,” by Paulo Coehlo, although I don’t know if you meant this to be a list of American writers, as he is from Brazil. Either way, however, I wholeheartedly agree with Ben about Jonathan Safran Foer, especially “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”

85 Tyler S. December 18, 2010 at 3:18 pm

I recently finished reading “Shadow Divers” by Robert Kurson, it was a great novel and truly a man’s story. What could be better than a tale of the sea and hard work, and narrow escapes and good principles and and being tough. I really enjoyed it.

86 Kent Morgan December 18, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Let me add Randy Wayne White, William Kent Krueger and Craig McDonald. Harry Crews wrote an 106-page novella titled An American Family in 2006. I read it, but it didn’t compare to his earlier fiction. I second the support for Harrison, Sandford and Willie Morris.

87 James Dowling December 18, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Don’t forget about Gene Wolfe and his Long and Short Sun series. These are some of the best novels in the English language and the best science fiction ever written. Gene Wolfe is the greatest living writer in the English Language.

88 James Dowling December 18, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Gene Wolfe is the best living writer plying his trade in the English language and he is the greatest science fiction writer ever. That’s right, ever. Most of his characters are manly but they are also given a touch of three dimensional humanity. They aren’t just one dimensional tough guys where they only beat people up and there is no exploration into the depth of their character. This comes from Mr. Wolfe’s deep seeded Catholicism.

89 Jeff G. December 18, 2010 at 4:39 pm

David Benioff. His latest novel, “City of Thieves” is a vastly entertaining and much too short coming-of-age story set in the siege of Leningrad during World War 2. “25th Hour” is his debut novel about a the last day of freedom for a convicted New York City drug dealer before he reports to prison to serve his sentence; this was made into an equally excellent movie by Spike Lee. I just wish he’d stop writing screenplays and get back to novels!

90 JT December 18, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Larry McMurtry, yo.

91 JK December 18, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Blood Meridian – so disappointed in this one after all the “greatest novel ever” hype. Cartoonish violence and cheesy characters. The Road was pretty good.

92 Dave St.John December 18, 2010 at 9:13 pm

This is all modern literary fiction.

Why modern?
How about John Colier and O. Henry?

Why literary?
How about Jack Vance, James Triptree and Fritz Leiber?

Why fiction?
How about the true lives of real men?
Jack London’s lesser known writings about his years on the rails and in prison…
Jim Corbet’s true accounts of hunting the maneating tigers of India…

Think out of the box.

93 PJD December 18, 2010 at 10:45 pm

May be dating myself but Fredrick Exley is essential to this discussion,

94 JT December 18, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Dave St. John,

i dont understand your second question. since when is science fiction not literature?

95 Dave December 18, 2010 at 11:55 pm

I don’t know if any body mentioned this guy but I have 2 words for you- George Pelecanos do yourself a favor.

96 Thomas December 19, 2010 at 1:50 am

I’m gonna dark horse this and suggest Terry Pratchett. The Discworld series may be humorous and whimsical, but it’s full of cynical observations and examinations from the modern world, and there are plenty of characters, usually men, who aren’t afraid to be masculine. High-falutin’ literature it isn’t, but it’s high quality light fiction for men.

97 tomdawg December 19, 2010 at 1:56 am

Bernard Cornwell’s series on King Arthur, and his magnum opus Viking/Saxon series. A close rival to Cornwell is Conn Iggullden and his Julius Caesar series and even better, his Ghingus Chan series. There, that’s about 16 excellent books for you to read, if your a real man.

98 Sam December 19, 2010 at 4:52 am

Tim and Jarrett – really good suggestions, particularly McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ and your reason why: the intense and visceral relationship between a father and son.

As soon as I read your suggestions I thought of an Australian author that you all may consider. Tim Winton is very popular here Down Under, but I am unsure of how well known he is elsewhere. Set in Perth, Australia, Winton’s novel ‘Cloudstreet’ is about two very different men’s families and how those men and their families share two halves of the same house. I also highly recommend ‘Dirt Music’, which is set amongst the tough fishermen of the Western Australian coast, and is a story of how history (and family) can come back to haunt you, no matter how far you go. Winton writes strong and wild, yet vulnerable, men – as we all can be – and puts them in equally strong and wild environments.

Highly recommended for all of you men, and women enjoy these books too!

99 Chieftain December 19, 2010 at 5:39 am

Alan Duff — arguably one of New Zealand’s finest authors. I specifically recommend “Once Were Warriors” and “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?” — about the decline, fall, and redemption of Jake Heke. I do not cry often, but the final two chapters of “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?” never fails to get a few tears from me.

Nobody develops characters more cleverly than Alan Duff: once you get used to his writing style — he uses Maori Idioms and writes like a Maori New Zealander speaks — you get totally immersed into his storytelling. For Alan Duff it is a clever way for him to climb into your head and grab your steering wheel and take you on a truly wild ride…

Few people can do that “idiomatic” writing style without sounding patronizing. Rudyard Kipling could. And M.K. Joseph — another great NZ author, but deceased — could do it, too. Most people who try to do it fail. Hemingway failed, for example: it was distracting in “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.

Both “Once Were Warriors” and “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?” were made into movies — entirely forgettable movies. Better by far to read the books instead.

100 Patrick Murtha December 19, 2010 at 5:42 am

Some excellent recommendations here! I’ll add a few of my own — Thomas McGuane’s “The Sporting Club,” Charles Dickinson’s “Crows,” John Keeble’s “Yellowfish,” Ivan Doig’s “English Creek,” Tim O’Brien’s “Northern Lights.” I’m naming all early novels by these writers; you can start with those and work forward. There are hundreds of male-oriented American and Canadian novels of the last fifty or more years that make superb reading. On the non-fiction side, Norman Maclean’s “Young Men and Fire” is a masterpiece.

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