A Masculine Bookshelf

Tomorrow [26th August 2017] we will finally bear witness to the long-awaited Mayweather (Champion Boxer) VS. McGregor (UFC Champion) fight and man, has it been a long time coming. I don’t follow either sport but even I’m eager to see the outcome. It’s a “pretty macho” event and with all this testosterone in the air I’m feeling the need to deviate from my usual pink and flowery repertoire and pick up something a bit more traditionally masculine.

I’m a firm believer that readers can engage with any genre of book regardless of their own age or orientation (you should see the way I ranted about (YA book audiences) so if you fancy picking up something in tune with this week’s vibe check out one of the following:

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

This list would be very odd without this absolute treasure of a book. Fight Club is an all-consuming kind of read and one I will never let go of. This book disects not only the guts of masculinity but also the bowels of consumerism, replication and the psyche as well – not to mention its take on violence. Palahniuk writes a vidceral narrative with a poignancy that’s almost impossible to replicate.

It’s a gritty story about the modern man and… well… I’d say more but I really shouldn’t talk about it…

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kessey


In this modern classic we get a typically masculine, boisterous, male rebel in an oppressive environment. Our hero (of sorts) moves from a prison institute to a mental facility and rallies his new troops in a fierce retaliation against authority. What ensues is nothing short of intense.

There is a huge war of wills – a relentless fight for power – between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched the iron fist controller of the whole ghastly operation. It’s a tale of strength and struggle and really is one worth reading.

On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates

In her anthology, On Boxing, Oates chronicles boxers from Jack Dempsey and Barry McGuigan to Joe Louis among others. This one highlights the sport from a variety of standpoints and explores the sport as a spectacle from both literary and female perspectives.

If you’re looking to really re-evaluate how you look at the sport or are curious about its history then this collection of essays is definitely an interesting take on it and may well be worth your consideration.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Nothing really screams “MEN!” (and echoes ‘patriarchy’) quite like military strategy. But then the history of war was dominated by men so I guess that makes sense. Sun Tzu’s The Art of war is an ancient doctrine on the very subject. It’s an incredibly interesting and influential tome that was actually only translated for the western languages in the 1700s; It may even have inspired Napoleon!

It’s often reported to read as very anecdotal but certainly is a fascinating piece of history and, if you’re interested in military strategy, is a must read.

The Way of Men by Jack Donovan

Amazon describes this book as offering ” a simple, straightforward answer-without getting bogged down in religion, morality, or politics” to the question “What is masculinity?”

They go on to say that  “[t]he Way of Men captures the silent, stifling rage of men everywhere who find themselves at odds with the over-regulated, over-civilised, politically correct modern world. If you’ve ever closed your eyes and wished for one day as a lion, this book is for you.”

Having not read this one yet I have to say it certainly has me intrigued and definitely strikes me as the kind of thing that really explores what it is to be masculine. Have you read this? Let me know in the comments!

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

This is kind of my “wildcard” choice for this list. It’s wholly about a female leader (and a powerful one at that), Empress Dowager Cixi. It’s a historical fiction about the fall of the Chinese Dynasty and one I never thought would be to my tastes.

The reason it made the list is that it is so very interesting when read from a gendered perspective. Seriously, if you want to read something brutal you should always look to history. It’s got everything you’d consider masculine in a book: power plays, war strategies, battle scenes and brutality and it’s an absolutely captivating read.line If these books don’t get you in the mood to see a fight I don’t know what will. Whoever wins it’s sure to be an event for the history books! In the immortal words of Chuck Palahniuk “everything up to now is a story and everything after now is a story” and the world is waiting to see how this one ends.

I’m not as in touch with my masculine side as I could be (I’m wearing pink fluffy slippers and watching “Say Yes to the Dress” as I write this) so I’m sure you lot can think of a few better masculine reads than I can. Let me know in the comments! Happy Battles!

Advertisements