As you head out for the beach this summer, pack a book that’s packing some testosterone. Everyone knows London, Hemingway, Mailer, Thompson, Krakauer. Here are 10 other manly authors whose powerful prose will practically put hair on your chest. And we’re pretty sure all these dudes would advise against waxing it. —Nicholas Pell
Harry Crews Why men should read him: Before there was Chuck Palahniuk, there was Crews. Explore the weird world of Southern down-and-outs in the work of a man who passed away last March from neuropathy complications. Where to start: The Knockout Artist, the tale of a down-on-his-luck ex-boxer making a living knocking himself out with a single blow.
George R.R. Martin Why men should read him: Martin is primarily known for A Song of Fire and Ice, a high fantasy series about several noble houses competing for lordship over the rest. It inspired a little show called Game of Thrones. Where to start: A Game of Thrones opens the series. If you like the show you’ll love the books.
Melvin Van Peebles Why men should read him: Van Peebles has all the swagger you’d expect from a man who clearly couldn’t care less what you think of him. He was also the first black trader on the American Stock Exchange. Where to start: Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song is a picaresque, episodic novel about one man’s fight against authority. It’s also a lot easier to follow than the movie.
Craig Davidson Why men should read him: Davidson is another writer for people who love Palahniuk. If you want drama, horror and comedy all in the same book—and often on the same page—he’s your guy. Where to start: The Fighter, a book for which Davidson took a 16-week cycle of steroids as part of his research.
Jerry Stahl Why men should read him: Stahl wrote for shows like ALF and Moonlighting before moving on to grittier fare in his own work. Isn’t it time you saw what the screenwriter of Bad Boys II is capable of? Where to start: Permanent Midnight is a harrowing, no-BS account of Stahl’s heroin addiction, which resulted in his contracting hepatitis C. (Somehow, Ben Stiller starred in the movie.)
Iceberg Slim Why men should read him: Slim is a sort of godfather of gangsta rap, inspiring Ice Cube and Ice-T to put pen to paper. His accounts of street life are brutally accurate, but they also betray a sensitivity often missing from such tales. Where to start: Pimp is the classic, a story of Slim’s time spent as a bona fide flesh-peddler.
Jonathan Lethem Why men should read him: Lethem, an incredible writer and voracious consumer of culture, is known for bending genres and putting new spins on old ideas. Where to start: Gun, with Occasional Music is a detective novel set in a futuristic version of the San Francisco Bay. It started his career of mixing one genre and another with delicious results.
Nelson Algren Why men should read him: Algren draws gripping, evocative pictures of a New Orleans and a Chicago that haven’t existed for decades. If you want to dip back into the Golden Age of Manliness, here’s your time machine. Where to start: A Walk On The Wild Side includes Algren’s three rules of life: “Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom’s. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.”
Hubert Selby, Jr. Why men should read him: Few writers are more aware of their own mortality. Diagnosed with tuberculosis after a short stint in the Merchant Marine, Selby was told he had a year to live. He lasted almost another 60. Where to start: Last Exit To Brooklyn might be the most innovative great novel of the post-World War 2 period.
Dennis Cooper Why men should read him: Every man needs a little poetry in his life, and Cooper isn’t for the daisy metaphors crowd. His work has been cited as influential by indie rockers Deerhunter and grindcore legends Pig Destroyer. Where to start: The Dream Police: Selected Poems ’69-’93 gives a great overview of Cooper’s early career.