The Irony of Esquire’s Reading List for Men

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As we’ve all noticed, with the end of the year comes the onslaught of “Best of” lists. Blame it on the slow news cycle. Every blog/newspaper/magazine has at least one, although we’ve abstained ourselves and even offered an antidote on the music front. We noticed this morning that Esquire offered up their own gendered version of the list, opting to give its male readership a little required reading homework assigment: The 75 Books Every Man Should Read.

As we clicked through the slide show of titles we noticed all of the usual suspects. Hemingway, Steinbeck, Roth, Mailer; all of whom have had their share of criticism from feminists. Our first thought was sarcastic: “Wow, props for originality Esquire, no not arbitrary at all.”

But then it happened.

As we narrowed down to number 75, we realized with alarm that this list only includes one female author, masterful short storyist, Flannery O’Connor. While A Good Man Is Hard to Find would be at the top of our list as well, the irony made our mouths droop open.

The editors who compiled the list must have been aware of their exclusion of let’s see, Toni Morrison, Zadie Smith, Dorothy Parker, Harper Lee; we could go on and on. Is over-the-top irony the trend of the day? After reading the hipster lament of the end of Sparks, we can’t help but think so.

We’re all game for a good laugh, and boy did we laugh, but we couldn’t help finding this insulting. The lone title by a female author not only evokes men and their treatment of women, but includes stories grim enough to be on par with another Southern presence, Deliverance by James Dickey. It must have been included because Esquire looks on the stereotypical misogyny the list postures as amusing, especially when between every five titles we see an advertisement that includes an image of a half naked woman.

Not to sound cynical, but we’re beginning to think O’Connor was right. Where’s the Misfit and his gun when you need him?

Nice job Esquire, for alienating your dwindling female readership and undermining the character of the men who take your advice. We think you should amend your ways, starting with Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own — a place where all women might need to take up permanent residence, thanks to you.

Edit: Also note, we don’t quite appreciate Jezebel’s heavily gendered list either. It is dominated by female writers, with the exception of only three.