“The Man Book Club”: Yea or Nay?

Some choice tidbits:

Perhaps because participation in reading groups is perceived as a female activity, some all-male book clubs have an outsize need to proclaim the endeavor’s masculinity. In addition to going by the name the Man Book Club, for instance, Mr. McCullough’s group expresses its notion of manliness through the works it chooses to read. “We do not read so-called chick lit,” he said. “The main character cannot be a woman.”

But over discussions of José Saramago, Haruki Murakami and Anthony Doerr, the 15 members of his group have formed a bond. “We’ve seen each other through family tragedies,” Mr. Nawotka said. “When I needed a divorce attorney, I turned to these guys.” And when the founding member’s wife died from cancer, all the club members attended the funeral.

For the International Ultra Manly Book Club, in Kansas City, the monthly meetings provide a space to explore literary depictions of what it means to be a man. The regulars have considered the issue while discussing everything from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith to Rabbit, Run by John Updike.

“Manliness means something different for all of us,” Mr. Creagar said.

But all the members share a love of books. “There’s this idea that if guys read, we don’t think that deeply about it,” Mr. Creagar said.

The club rates the books it reads on a five-star system for overall quality, and on a five-hand-grenade system for “manliness.” Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, for instance, earned four and a half stars and three hand grenades.

Mr. Creagar suspects there are many male readers who would love to join a book club. “But they don’t get asked,” he said, “or they worry that, if they do join, they’ll be seen as intruding on a female activity or stigmatized as being the only guy.”

Thoughts, readers? Would you like to have a group like this near you?

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