Esquire’s 80 Books Every Man Should Read

You can find the list here, along with its lame comments about each book. Here are my comments, probably equally lame and certainly less informed (these are books I haven’t read):

The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky: I love Dostoevsky, but he writes big novels about people with lots of big names, and so I haven’t read them all, including this one.

The Known World, Edward P. Jones: Pulitzer Prize winner.

American Pastoral, Phillip Roth: Another Pulitzer Prize winner. I’ve tried Roth a few times and once past Portnoy and Goodbye Columbus and another early one, I could never get started. For instance, the baseball one, the Great American Novel, just bugged me and I gave up a quarter of the way through. My loss I’m sure.

Sport and a Pastime, James Salter: On my list.

A Sense of Where You Are, John McPhee: McPhee is always great, and there is lots I haven’t read.

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison: Embarrassing.

The Professional, W.C. Heinz: This one is a find for me. I’ve heard of it, but it wasn’t on my  radar. Foreword by Elmore Leonard.

Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates: Saw the movie and read Tao Lin’s novel Richard Yates.

The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara: This is a book I’ve always wanted to read.

All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren: High on my list of classic American novels to read that I haven’t.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami: Just haven’t gotten to Murakami.

Master and Commander, Patrick O’Brian: Everybody loves this one, and all those that follow. I’m sure they are as good as advertised, but I’m not excited.

Plainsong, Kent Haruf: National Book Award winner. Looks awful. I’m almost sure that’s wrong.

Winter’s Tale, Mark Helprin: I have two copies of this in the basement, but I think it’s the cover that makes me think badly of it. Or stop from starting it.

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, John LaCarre’: I’m not a big fan of spy novels, but I should read this one.

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, George Saunders: I read Tenth of December recently and I don’t admire or like his ability to render different voices. They seem phony to me. Not badly rendered, but bubbling with condescension and too much cleverness. Writing for readers who like to read writing. Hmm, put that second writing in quotes.

War and Peace, Leo Tostoy: Sure, on my list.

Moby Dick, Herman Melville: This one, too.

Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie: I waded into this once. Also tried the one that got him on the kill list. Too fancy for my taste, at least then.

Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges: I’ve read some of this book, but not much of it. I have been meaning to spend more time with it.

American Tabloid, James Ellroy: Another overwriter accorded lots of respect, at least partially because he can tell a crackling dark story.

What It Takes, Richard Ben Cramer: I used to read all the books about the making of the president and fear and loathing on the campaign trail and the boys on the bus, but at some point the notion that I was getting something useful started to fade. I chalked that up to maturity, though I thoroughly enjoyed Walter Shapiro’s One Man Caravan, about the pre-race for the president, before things actually got started. Maybe Cramer’s book is worthwhile.

So Long, See You Tomorrow, William Maxwell: I’ve read many Maxwell stories, but not this.

The Great Bridge, David McCullough: There is lots of McCullough worth reading, I’m not sure why this one would be the best, but then I haven’t read it.

Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry: Saw the miniseries.

Underworld, Don DeLillo: I read the excerpt that became the shorter book, Pafko at the Wall, and it truly is brilliant. There the novel sits on my wife’s bookshelf, beckoning. Someday, for sure, after Moby Dick.

Savages, Don Winslow: Sounds like fun. Missed the movie last year.

The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson: I don’t know anything about this book set in North Korea.

Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann: On the bookshelf, on deck.

Hmm, 29 of 80 is a batting average of .362 of books missed (or .638 of books read). Good to know what’s missing, but they don’t tell half the story. Read on.

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