Mask Off: Masculinity Redefined by JJ Bola
JJ Bola’s overview of how masculinity has been constructed throughout history is refreshingly honest. Mixing personal anecdotes from his life, I felt myself questioning how my upbringing had been affected by beliefs I wasn’t even aware of.
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry: 100 Men on the Words That Move Them by Anthony Holden
Often moving, this collection makes vulnerability a strength – and throws away the notion that to be male with a tight upper lip is something to be celebrated. Insights from Stephen Fry, Nick Cave and Anish Kapoor.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
A monumental tale of male friendships and trauma. This compelling novel follows the lives, relationships and suffering of four men living in New York who challenge traditional views of masculinity. This novel stayed with me long after I’d finished reading.
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
A beautifully tender coming-of-age, coming-out tale set on the Italian Riviera that bubbles with sensuality, lust and desire. It follows the intense romance that blooms between Elio and Oliver, exploring the everlasting mark of this overwhelming love. Yes, the film is great, but the book delves deeper into this intense love story.
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
A pivotal queer book – potentially the first to define both a specific butch lesbian identity and the experiences of many non-binary and transgender people. It’s beautiful, revelatory, affirming, heart breaking and at times almost impossible to keep reading due to the brutality and cruelty.
When Feinberg died, she/zie was clear that she/zie didn’t want anyone to have control over the publishing rights, so now you can download a free pdf from her/hir website, or order it at cost-price print-on-demand – there’s something about knowing that it’s been printed just for you to read which makes it feel even more personal.
The Iliad by Homer
Achilles is the archetypal male hero from a time when masculinity and heroism were inextricably linked. But when his prize is taken away from him, he acts in a decidedly unheroic manner. Instead of fighting with the rest of the Greek army, he stays behind with the women and slaves. The first crisis of masculinity perhaps?
The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry
An examination of manhood told with Perry’s trademark wit. This book urges the reader to rethink the outdated versions of masculinity and embrace a different way of thinking about what makes a man, a man. This book is funny, brave and totally necessary reading for everyone in today’s day and age, I loved it.
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Adam, made by God, is officially the first man. In the Biblical Genesis, the Fall of Man is told entirely from Adam’s perspective. In this version by Milton, Eve is afforded a degree of autonomy and independence. Adam is almost subservient to Eve at times – susceptibility to beauty is an inherently masculine weakness in Paradise Lost.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
This heart-breaking story places strained male relationships at the forefront –father-son, brothers and between friends. Set in Afghanistan, it follows Hassan and Amir whose lives are forever changed after one shocking event. A devastating and brilliant book.
Who Killed My Father by Edouard Louis
This short novel takes the form of a letter addressed to his father, in which Louis explores the disconnects, tenderness and volatility in their relationship. The novel brilliantly engages with issues surrounding masculinity, class, shame and social poverty in contemporary France.
Masculinities: Liberation through Photography is sponsored by Calvin Klein