Sunday, June 30, 2013

Book Club for Men

Some friends and I decided to start a book club for men. We all like reading, we all like talking about books, and we all think girls are icky, so it seemed logical. We played it by ear (what's past tense of "wing it"?) for the first four book selections, but now it's time to pick books for the rest of 2013. This way we can start looking for good deals or check them out early from the library to save money for important things like tools, raw meat, and spa days.

We have a few guiding principles for choosing books. First, the book has to be at least somewhat manly. No girly books allowed. No glistening vampires or talking about emotions. Romance is a side plot at the most, and somebody had better die a violent and honorable death.

Second, as one club member so eloquently stated, "I don't want to read any books that will make me a better person." We just kind of nodded when he said that. It was a foregone conclusion.

Third, we're focusing on Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I'll totally re-read Rainbow Six if it gets voted in, but most of us aren't looking for profanity-laden military action novels. We want to read about a world that doesn't exist, with awesome characters, good writing, and good plot development.1 And it's kind of required to have either magic or some technology that is indistinguishable from magic (at least to my primitive mind).

Everybody is supposed to suggest 3 books, so I just spent two hours trying to research good Fantasy novels I haven't read. I already know I love everything Brandon Sanderson has ever published (though I'm unschooled in the ways of the Wheel of Time series), and I appreciate Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles (love his prose, not impressed with his pacing, could do without the sex scenes), but most of us have already read those. We need fresh meat.2

Trying to find reliable Fantasy novel reviews is like trying to find reliable fast food restaurant reviews. Someone who hates Taco Bell could be a food snob, could hate Mexican food specifically, could love a rival (Taco Cabana? Seriously?), or it could be because Taco Bell is actually bad. Without trying it for yourself, you just don't know. Half of you are thinking to yourselves right now, "Taco Bell is awful! Their beef isn't even beef! This is no contest." The other half of you can meet me at the nearest drive-thru in about 15 minutes.

If we can't agree on the quality of a product as simple as fast food (it's the same 8 ingredients organized differently), how will we ever agree on whether a book series is good?

They certainly couldn't agree online:

The book was too slow. - Did you even read the same book? I couldn't put it down! - The plot was derivative, especially where [insert SPOILER here because the reviewer is a giant jerk]. - There were too many characters. - I loved all the characters! - The descriptions were too long. - I loved the way the author's detailed descriptions really transported me there! - It was too straightforward; you don't even have to try to figure things out. - Sure, you may have to re-read it four times to figure out what's going on, but it's worth it! - The series was great, but it's like the author gave up in the last 30 pages.3 - This added nothing new to the genre, so I will discard it offhandedly. - It started slowly, but by the end of the second 1,000 page book, things really started to pick up.

Two. Hours. Of that. And what happens when most people agree that A Song of Ice and Fire (a.k.a. Game of Thrones) is good? Then I have to google whether it's "clean," and I find that it's "dark and gritty" and also "extremely gory" with "graphic sex scenes," and "will ruin your innocence the way Michael Bay ruined Transformers." I'm not reading that.

So, any suggestions that don't suck4?

1 And did I mention no sparkling vampires?
2 Which is particularly meaningful in retrospect, because we picked a zombie book.
3 Surprisingly, that last review was not with regards to Mockingjay.
4 I really, really, really mean it; no sparkling vampires.


  1. Has your group read The Sparrow? The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay? A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius? All great stuff.

  2. So... girls are icky, huh? :)

    Found this blog. Maybe there's at least one that y'all could be interested in?

  3. I suggest you all see Enders Game together as a book club night on Nov 1st.

  4. Is the Host eliminated because of the author?

    1. As awful as Twilight was, if Meyer writes something good someday, I'll read it. Similarly, as much as I loved the Harry Potter series, I will never be reading The Casual Vacancy. Only Brandon Sanderson has earned my blind loyalty.

  5. I would recommend anything by Terry Brooks. I have not read the magic kingdom of Landover series yet but it is on my to read list. I have read several books from his other series set in shannara and I liked them. They seems to fit most of the specifications. It is manly if I remember correctly, there is also magic and druids and shades and etc. As for the second qualification, I always feel better after reading a good book so my opinion on that part doesn't help.

  6. It is a young adult novel but I listened to Orson Scott cards the lost gate ( series ) and enjoyed it.