Thursday, May 15, 2008

The 100 Most Manly Books?

I was tooling around Stumbleupon last night, and I came across a great list from the site The Art of Manliness, and I was so moved by this particular one, I thought it was worth sharing.

Entitled 100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man's Library, the editors/writers for the site, to quote their own words, "have narrowed down the top 100 books that have shaped the lives of individual men while also helping define broader cultural ideas of what it means to be a man.". Is it a perfect list? No, but those involved seemed to realize that there would be some contention about their choices, and it sort of makes me respect their selections a little bit more.

Indeed, I do like a lot of the selections which come from not only fiction, but biography, history, epic poetry, religious texts and collections. And the Teddy Roosevelt and John Steinbeck content is high too, as there are 4 books about the former president on the list and I believe 3 works by the Nobel Prize winning novelist.

There's Homer, Hemingway, Orwell, Machiavelli, Kerouac, Kafka, Vonnegut, Shakespeare... basically all the big guns you would expect from a list of recommended books. There's Tarzan, King Solomon's Mines, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and a lot of other pulpy goodness, along with works like Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, Plato's The Republic, and even Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It is a very eclectic list to say the least.

And while I don't agree with every selection (as both Catcher in the Rye and a Separate Peace are on the list), I do think most of the choices are pretty solid. And the fact that James Joyce's Ulysses made the list, well, I certainly can't complain about that. But what makes this interesting for me is the spirited discussion that has developed in the comment section, which for the most part, has been very civil despite the disagreements, not only with some of the choices (and there have been some excellent alternate selections), but there are also some minor religious and political differences being expressed, which is usually the sparks that start off a conflagration in forum/blogland. Personally, I think having so many people talk about books passionately online in one place actually bodes well for reading in general. After all, having a heated exchange about the merits of individual books denotes an intellectual and emotional attachment to such literature, and for those pundits that talk about the death of reading, such devotion to a favorite book or author does go a long way to dispelling the rumors that adult functional literacy is about to rapidly disappear in the next few years.

6 comments:

Lee said...

I do really enjoy that site and I think I found it the same way!
I bought one of those Dangerous Books for Boys books and it has an essential list of reading in it too.

Very interesting what they felt every young man should have read by the time he is a man.

MC said...

What was on the list in that book?

Jeremy Barker said...

I've only read 17 of them. I'm not even one-fifth of a man. Sigh...

MC said...

Well, you still have many years to put them under your belt if that's what you want to do.

Megan said...

I've read about half of them, which would mean my masculine side is fully developed. ;)

As for the comments being civil, well, I would expect that from people who read books....

MC said...

I've seen some awful internet rows from the literate crowd, so that's why I expressed genuine surprise about the discussion.