Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Booklist for Gil

My dear friend Gil, manfriend of my dear friend Annie, recently lamented to me that because he doesn't know what reading would be enjoyable, he, by consequence, doesn't read. This is not the first time a guy has said this to me. My brother, my own flesh and blood, doesn't like to read. Some of the smartest guys I have ever met don't like to read. This makes me feel awful; I derive so much enjoyment from reading. I think being forced to read incredibly dry novels in high school, and especially novels of manners (Emma, Pride and Prejudice) may have shied lots of guys (and a fair share of girls) away from reading novels: reading = boredom. Fear not! SJT is here to provide a reading list of exciting, literary, guy-friendly novels for your reading pleasure!

Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer, Random House 1997 (333 pgs)
    The harrowing true story of the doomed May 1996 expedition to the summit of Mount Everest, this book is pure action adventure at its best. Krakauer weaves his story flawlessly in and out of time, moving from the present to the informative past back to the present before you've even realized he's switched gears. Krakauer's Into the Wild was also a moving, thrilling book, but with much more subtlety than Into Thin Air.  Thin Air achieves page-turner status without insulting your intelligence. Filled with tales of he-man strength and male egos,  it will leave you breathless and wondering if you would ever have the stones to embark on such an adventure.

The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien, Houghton Mifflin 1990
     A series of vignettes that surround one platoon's (specifically the fictitious Tim O'Brien's) experiences during the Vietnam Conflict. What seems a compilation of short stories morphs into a bleak, profound, honest account of war and what it does to people. Reads like a memoir, and ends up having a much deeper overarching message by the end: it isn't necessarily a story about the War, but more the story of what Tim, throughout his life, learns.

Less Than Zero, Bret Easton Ellis, Simon and Schuster, 1985 (208 pgs)
     Less Than Zero was the first novel Ellis wrote, and it was published when he was only 21. It is a good introduction to Ellis and his sparse, bleak, and at times terrifying writing style. He depicts acts of depravity, love, fear, and hopelessness disturbingly without changing tones. What the reader gets is a sickening picture of the society in which we live. I encourage everyone to read this book and then graduate to others: The Rules of Attraction, American Psycho(if you can handle the gore!), and Lunar Park (but don't read this unless you've read the others). Ellis uses many of the same characters in all of his books--they make appearances and it's gratifying to recognize them, and sometimes their appearances in other novels helps you find out more about them.

Liar's Poker, Michael Lewis, Norton 1989 (309 pgs)
   Who doesn't love a great true story about the greed of Wall Street? Michael Lewis wrote from the height of the Reagan Eighties, when he was a young stockbroker for Salomon Brothers. His tale begins during his days at Princeton, when interviewing, he made the mistake of admitting that he wanted to work on Wall Street because he wanted to make money. He didn't land the job at Salomon Brothers until years later. This book is about Michael's discovery of his disappointment in the shallow world of investment banking. He recounts the stresses (and thrills) of the trading room floor, the deception and lies, the outrageous amounts of money that people made, and the emptiness he felt when he realized that his only dream simply was not what he wanted.

Other great guy reads:
Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger, Harper Perennial 1991
Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk, Norton 1996
The Way I Am, Eminem, Penguin 2009

Food for thought:
If Harry Potter was so magic, why didn't he fix his freaking eyes?

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