The List of Nightmares
Ok, maybe not that bad, but still pretty bad
When drug cartels get people to swollow condoms packed with drugs (or shove them into other unmentionable areas - ok fine, I’ll mention asses and vag’s), they know a certain percentage will get seized but that enough will get through to make it worth their while. It’s the cost of doing business. This type of physical smuggling is similar to the smuggling we see with ideas. Throw a massive volume of bad ideas at someone, and while some will get caught in their bullshit detector, enough will get through to make an impact (welcome to the business model of public education!) That can also go for listicles as well…
In July, Esquire Magazine published a list of 80 Books Every Man Should Read. It is not my habit to comment on listicles, but I felt this list deserved attention because it offended me, like Andrew Yang claiming to be a stalwart defender of freedom offends me. Superficially maybe it works, but it’s utter crap.
If you want a concise read today, I can sum up my feelings in one image:
Sticking your entire head directly into a toilet to wretch and vomit is not only a fair representation of the list but is what I would prefer to do, rather than actually having to suffer through many of the books on it.
One note - since this is a list of books men should read, I am judging this list primarily through that lens, not necessarily on the quality of the books (though I have questions there as well).
What’s most impressive about this listicle is that Esquire doesn’t postpone the self-flagellation for even one word.
Back in 2015, Esquire published a list of “80 Books Every Man Should Read.” It wasn’t our finest moment. The list claimed to be “utterly biased,” and indeed it was. We received criticism from every corner of the Internet, and we deserved it. Only one title (A Good Man Is Hard to Find) was written by a woman, and fewer than ten were written by men of color. It was also a pretty boring set.
As all good woke-sters know, we can’t judge a list of books based on the quality of the works…it must be seen through the size of the gamete the author produces or the level of melanin in their skin. As if it wasn’t good enough to judge the list based on that criteria, the list was “boring,” so not only were they sexist and racist, but they suck at figuring out what books men would want to read…which is the real unforgivable sin.
As an aside - it takes some balls to call a books list that includes Blood Meridian, The Naked and the Dead, The Call of the Wild, and Hell’s Angels (among many others) boring. Admittedly, I haven’t read all the books on the list, but I have read a fair number of them, and while we can always gripe about lists, this one is pretty damn good.
Moving on to the current list. Certainly, there are books here that are both manly and masterpieces, and others that are simply manly, but those books are used to smuggle in others that are more of the woke variety. By my estimation, about 20 books on the list deserve to be on a men’s reading list. Among them are:
The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, by Ulysses S. Grant
The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro (not sure this is a great “guy” book but one of my all-time favorite fictions, so had to include it here)
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, by John le Carré
A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean
All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy
Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville
The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien (this is one of the first books I truly treasured)
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Unfortunately, those novels have been caught up in a fish net with some minnows and others with three heads, a la The Simpsons. So now, let’s move on to the vomitous parts.
The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
They couldn’t even wait one frigging book to get The Handmaid’s Tail on the list. But then again, this pile being the first book on the men’s reading list, should surprise you as much as Harvey Weinstein being a sexual predator did. We were all somewhat surprised, but then again, not really. This gives you a hint as to what size of a condom we’ll be swallowing here.
A Manual for Cleaning Women, by Lucia Berlin
Kevin McDonnell, white the blurb for this short story book, gives us some insights into what we are in for:
In one story, a dentist without a door to separate his work area from his waiting room waves to patients with his drill while he works. In another, a character gives her apartment keys to the narrator and tells her that if she doesn’t see her on their appointed laundry day, it means she’s dead, and could she please find her body?
Nothing says guy book like a cheap dentist and a paranoid laundry client. Can you feel the adrenaline pumping through your veins yet?
The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, by Emily Dickenson
This could work if the list were presented as a guide for guys to utilize situationally. If I were a country gentleman in the early 20th century, endeavoring to woo a lady by sitting under a great elm tree in the middle of a field of daffodils, by having a heartfelt discussion about my greatest fears and passions, sure. As a masculine poet that the average guy would be interested in, sure, as much as Liberace was a masculine musician.
Scar Tissue, by Anthony Kiedis
I listened to Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic as much as anyone in my younger days, but of all the autobiographies which could be included, Anthony Kiedis’s? Mind you, Esquire wrote this list in the year of our God, 2022. So essentially, the claim is that this is one of the greatest autobiographies ever written. Who greased their palms to get this thing included?
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
This is a “multi-generational family saga.” Unless the family saga is written by Mario Puzo and covers generations of gangsters, I have a hard time believing guys will be lined up to check it out.
Sex Object, by Jessica Valenti
This is a “must read for every man,” according to Darryl Robertson. Why? Because “Valenti details the normalcy of grown men flashing their private parts at her and ejaculating on her clothes, as well as the verbal abuse that she faced while traveling to and from school in New York City. She raises important questions about the toll that sexism and harassment take on women.”
Lucky for us men to have this book, otherwise we’d be clueless about the fact that we should not be wacking off on women and flashing them our junk in public. Thanks for saving me from the hoosegow, GQ!
The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace-Wells
What list of guy books would be complete without a book about <checks notes> global warming…
Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
…or about how racist America is because it has a caste system similar to India and Nazi Germany…no, really.
A People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn
I think you all get the point. Don’t swallow this condom of horrific books!
If you want lists of truly great guy books, check out author Jack Carr’s monthly reading lists.