Manly literature needn’t just mean Andy McNabb and Chris Ryan. So what are the criteria for good bloke-lit? Well, for starters, if you’d kill to go on the lash with the author, you should probably read his books. Here are five classics to get stuck into this Christmas…

(5) Ernest Hemingway – The First 49 Stories

Adventurer, boozer, war hero. Hemingway defined old-school, hairy-chested masculinity. Blessed with a seemingly indestructible liver, his passion for booze was matched only by his love of shooting things.

Oh, and he could write too. If you’re after a novel, The Old Man And The Sea is a classic and you can get through it in a couple of nights. But nothing tops this collection of his early short stories, which can be snacked on when you’re feeling hungry for some cigar-chomping, whiskey-slamming guy-lit.

(4) Hunter S. Thompson – Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

Like Hemingway, you’d like to go on a night out Thompson, but you definitely wouldn’t leave him in charge of your goldfish for the weekend.

The gonzo pioneer’s explorations of American culture (and his own threshold of narcotic self-destruction) offer a brand of journalism that’s never been matched.

This classic follows fictionalised versions of Thompson and his attorney on a hallucinogenic ride to Las Vegas “in search of the American dream.” A ride that principally involved taking lots and lots of drugs.

(3) Jack Kerouac – On The Road

This was recently made into a film. Just how they managed that is a slight mystery - there’s not really a plot, and it’s basically just Kerouac and his buddies travelling, getting in trouble and going to parties.

Yet somehow it’s an engrossing and inspirational travelogue that should inspire you to quit the 9-5 drudgery for a life of jazz, booze, girls and poetry (and more booze). Or at least to roll into work 15 minutes late just to stick it to the man.

Oh, and if you wonder where all the full stops are, there aren’t many. This is basically because he wrote the whole thing in two weeks on one giant sheet of paper. We suspect some, erm, “chemical assistance” was involved.

(2) Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov - A Hero Of Our Time

Dip your toe into the ice-cold pool of Russian literature with this short, funny novel containing duals, horse theft, romance, deception and one of the greatest central characters ever created.

Lermontov’s Pechorin is handsome, arrogant, bored, and a total bastard. Which somehow won’t stop you rooting for him as he effortlessly outwits his pompous comrades and tricks women he doesn’t care about into loving him. 

If there’s a “right way” to be an arsehole, this is the definitive handbook.

(1) Lee Child – One Shot

OK, so Lee Child may be a mass-market thriller writer who supports Villa, not a troubled genius who defined a generation. But his Jack Reacher novels are just about the most addictive page-turners currently on the shelves.

This one – our pick of the bunch – follows the hulking, homeless, ex-military cop Reacher as he roams from town to town. Like any great hero, he does this with the subtle mixture of Sherlock-esque deduction skills and brutal violence.

The movie adaptation, improbably starring Tom Cruise in the role of the six foot five, 250-pound hero, is sure to see Reacher gain recognition beyond his hardcore fanbase, so make sure you read the book before the creepy Scientologist ruins it for everyone.


Words: Zack Cahill (@zackcahill)

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