The By No Means Finished Ultimate (Cold) Reading List of Fiction For Men

First, I want to thank all of you who have already said your piece, continue to weigh in, or will contribute your ideas for what you think half of our world’s population should be reading fiction-wise. This will be an on-going discussion, so please don’t think you’ve missed the boat.

Truth is, I am on a mission to get men reading fiction again.

Some 80% of fiction readers are currently women and this didn’t used to be the case (see last week’s post, “Ten Reasons Why Men Must Start Reading Fiction Again”). I have lots of theories about why men have abandoned fiction, but I’ll bore you with those some other time. I just want to focus on the task at hand.

So, without further ado, I present to you the By No Means Finished Ultimate Cold Reading List of Fiction for Men, which I have compiled from Coldster suggestions that have come in right here on Cold, my blog on CrimeSpace, my email, over the phone, and even some that have been whispered in my ear at Christmas parties.

Because, yes, I’ve taken to harassing eggnog-drinking friends, neighbors, PTO members and fellow parishioners into putting in their two cents.

Men take heed.

This is a diverse list of novels offered by writers (indie, traditional, non-fiction and fiction), literary agents, designers, housewives, an advice columnist, corporate rats, a USMC General, a real estate agent, and even a Pulitzer Prize winner. The only thing they all have in common is fiction, me and Cold.

And don’t worry – I’m not just trying to shove the same Jonathan Franzen fiction/reportage down your throats – although I believe he does get a mention here. I’m endeavoring to provide you with choices from the classics, the genres, the indies – everything from Shakespeare to Vampire Erotica. While there is some great literature here, this is not a list for literary purists or snobs. We want to have some fun with this.

What I did not do is take suggestions from authors plugging their own work – even if their work deserved a place here. Despite how democratic I wanted this process to be – and I’ve been very liberal – I had to draw the line somewhere. If you are in any way connected to me and made the list, it is because two or more independent sources threw your work into the mix.

Nor have I ordered the list in any particular way – it’s basically first come, first served – so don’t think Old Yeller is the top pick while London Boulevard should be the last book you take to the toilet with you (we are talking to men, aren’t we?). When the list is complete, more or less, I’ll choose an appropriate way of ordering the list.

This time, really, without further ado…

Cold Fiction for Men

Old Yeller by Fred Gibson
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
In the Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead by James Burke
Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Outsider by Albert Camus
The Blue Afternoon by William Boyd
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Corporate America by Jack Dougherty
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Light in August by William Faulkner
Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
The Stand by Stephen King
The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
The Odd Thomas Series by Dean Koontz
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A Heinlein
Red Gold by Alan Furst
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice
Skin Trade by Laurell K. Hamilton (Erotica)
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz (linked short stories)
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Freedom by Jonathan Frazen
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
1984 by George Orwell
The Club Of Queer Trades by G K Chesterton
A Scanner Darkly by Phillip Dick
Out Of The Silent Planet, Paralandra and That Hideous Strength, all by C S Lewis
Declare by Tim Powers
The New Centurions by Joseph Waumbaugh
The Scar by China Mieville
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
Ronin by Frank Miller (graphic novel)
The Stranger by Albert Camus
The Collector by John Fowles
Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter Thompson (It’s mostly fiction, I hope)
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving
Marathon Man by William Goldman
Wild Boys by William Burroughs
Nova by Samuel Delany
ANY Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
One Second After by William R. Forstchen
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The King Must Die by Mary Renault
The Bull From the Sea by Mary Renault
EVERYTHING by Chinua Achebe
ANYTHING by Charles Bukowski
A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
1984 by George Orwell
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust
Neon Lights by ZigZag Claybourne
Everyone Burns by John Dolan
Orbs by Nick Sansbury Smith
Whores: Not Intended To Be A Factual Account of The Gender War by Nic Wilson
Look Homeward Angel and You Can’t go Home Again, both by Thomas Wolfe
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
An American Tragedy and Sister Carrie, both by Theodore Dreiser
Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and The Gilded Age, all by Mark Twain
Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson
The Disagreement by Nick Taylor
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume
The Circuit by Francisco Jimenes
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
ANYTHING by Jose Saramago
Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara
Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
EVERYTHING EVER WRITTEN (including thank you notes, grocery lists, etc.) by J.D. Salinger
NY Trilogy by Paul Auster
The Ginger Man by JP Donleavy
The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
Myra Breckenridge by Gore Vidal
Any of the early James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, especially Casino Royale or From Russia With Love
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
Drop City by T.C. Boyle
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Known World by Edward Jones
The Cider House Rules by John Irving
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Razor’s Edge and Of Human Bondage, both by Somerset Maugham
Moon Palace by Paul Auster
Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Saturday by Ian McEwon
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Known World by Edward Jones
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
Family Dancing by David Leavitt (a collection)
Los Reyes by Julio Cortazar
Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane (and anything else by Dennis Lehane for that matter)
The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy’s
Steps by Jerzy Kosinski
Dead Souls by Gogol
White Noise by Don DeLillo
U.S.A. Trilogy by John Dos Passos
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvina
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Jose Saramago
The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazanzakis
In The Skin of a Lion Michael Ondaatje
Savage Detective by Roberto Bolaño
Death on the Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Celine
PRETTY MUCH ALL by Franz Kafka
The Idiot and The Possessed, both by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
A Hell of a Woman and The Killer Inside Me, both by Jim Thompson
Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
Killing Johnny Fry: A Sexistential Novel (Erotica) by Walter Mosley
Cockfighter by Charles Willeford
The Ask and Home Land, both by Sam Lipsyte
Legend by David Gemmell
Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck
Dune by Frank Herbert
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey (erotica)
The Nightlife Series by TW Luedke (erotica)
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
The Man Who Was Thursday by CK Chesterton
A Fable by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Macbeth, Henry V, both by William Shakespeare (plays)
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely, both by Raymond Chandler
London Boulevard by Ken Bruen


Sylvia Plath
Chinua Achebe
Charles Bukowski
T.S. Eliot
Robert Frost
Phillis Wheatley
Stanley Kunitz
Sherman Alexie
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Carl Phillips
Dan O’Brian
Pablo Neruda
Czesław Miłosz
Sharon Olds
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Mark Strand

Get cracking, guys! This is a great place to start. And, please, keep the suggestions coming in.

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Comment by Victoria Dougherty on January 9, 2014 at 1:45am

I like that title, Eric. And I love bacon.

Comment by Eric Christopherson on January 8, 2014 at 11:59pm

I think we need some new books written that really appeal to men's interests. For example, I've got an idea for a crime novel I think I'll call "The Bacon Thief."

Comment by Victoria Dougherty on January 8, 2014 at 11:37pm

Thanks, Jackson.

Comment by Jackson Burnett on January 8, 2014 at 2:27pm

What an effort, Victoria!  It's a great selection for men (and women).

Comment by Victoria Dougherty on January 2, 2014 at 3:12am

Hi, Jed. Thanks for commenting.

Comment by Jed Power on December 31, 2013 at 7:39am

I don't get it, Victortia.  If this is somehow going to get men who don't read fiction, to do so--I think it will have the opposite effect.  

I've been reading a novel literally every day of my life as far back as I can remember but even to me this is a confusing mishmash.  Are there a small percentage of gems here?  There sure are.  But someone deciding to try fiction would probably throw their hands up in frustration looking at this list.  The guys that did try to read one, the odds are an easy 75% that they would be reinforced in their dislike of fiction for the rest of their lives by their choice.

Better a list with 5 of the best crime novels ever written.  This is a crime fiction site after all.   

Comment by Victoria Dougherty on December 31, 2013 at 12:03am

Thanks, John.

Comment by John McFetridge on December 30, 2013 at 1:57pm
Nice to see the Minister Faust on the list, I reviewed that book (quite positively) for the Toronto Star. Also nice to see Drop City and the Sportswriter.

But no Roddy Doyle?
Comment by Victoria Dougherty on December 30, 2013 at 1:20am

Thanks, Jack. Great adds.

Comment by Jack Getze on December 29, 2013 at 9:17am

Elmore Leonard. Hombre. Mr. Majestyk. Killshot. Gold Coast.

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