Some of the books on the list:
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, by Raymond Carver
Collected Stories of John Cheever
Deliverance, by James Dickey
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Known World, by Edward P. Jones
The Good War, by Studs Terkel
American Pastoral, by Philip Roth
One of the few not about Roth. It’s about that guy you idolized in high school. And gloves. And you.
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, by Flannery O’Connor
“She would of been a good woman… if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” Wouldn’t we all.
The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien.
No one else has written so beautifully about human remains hanging from tree branches.
A Sport and a Pastime, by James Salter
Remember your college buddy’s girlfriend, the one you were in love with? Because of her.
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
A book about dogs is equally a book about men.
Time’s Arrow, by Martin Amis
You’ve never seen the Holocaust from this angle and with this much ferocity. Backwards.
A Sense of Where You Are, by John McPhee
It’s about how two men can be made better just by sharing each other’s company.
Hell’s Angels, by Hunter S. Thompson
Because it’s his first book, and because he got his ass kicked for it, and because in the book and the beating were the seeds of all that came after, including the bullet in the head.
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
Born in an epic fist-fight or forgotten in the sewers, no character is as clearly heard as the man who is never really seen by the world around him.
Dubliners, by James Joyce
Plain and simple: “The Dead”
Rabbit, Run, by John Updike
Because it’s one of the few not about Updike. It’s about that guy you idolized in high school. And kitchen gadgets. And you.
The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain
Teaches men about women. Also, there’s not a single postman in the book.
Dog Soldiers, by Robert Stone
Begins in Saigon, ends in Death Valley. Somewhere in between you realize that profit is second only to survival.
Winter’s Bone, by Daniel Woodrell
The best book by a modern-day Twain, high on meth, drousy with whiskey.
Legends of the Fall, by Jim Harrison
Because of revenge. Because Harrison is as masculine and raw and unrelenting as they come.
Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry
A terrifying riderless horse, mescaline, and this line: “Somebody threw a dead dog after him down the ravine.”
The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
His first book turned out to be his best book. The skulls of young men at war.
The Professional, by W.C. Heinz
It’s about fighting, but it’s also about watching and listening, and it’s about patience, and honing, and craft, and sparseness, and beauty, and crushing, awful defeat.
For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
A lesson in manhood: Even when you’re damned, you press on.
Dispatches, by Michael Herr
“Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam, we’ve all been there.” You’ll never forget that line. You won’t forget what precedes it, either.
Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller.
Dirty, grotesque. Beautiful.
Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates
The thousands of little compromises we make every day that eventually add up to the loss of ourselves.
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
Because the man’s cold brilliance enabled him to make the line “My mother is a fish,” into a chapter in itself.
The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara
Because the Battle of Gettysburg took place in that blue-gray area between black and white.
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
A mad hatter of an antiwar novel that understands how a smile, shaped like a sickle, can cut deeply. So it goes.
All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
Crooked judges, concealed paternity, deception, betrayal, and lots of whiskey.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
Because sometimes you have to go crazy to stay sane.