Let's say you want to buy a book for the male significant other in your life who doesn't read many books. I'm going to tell you how.
Step 1: Determine if he would even like a book as a gift.
The National Endowment for the Arts says that two-thirds of all males read exactly zero works of literature in a given year, so odds are that he does not want a book for a gift. So just skip Step 1 entirely, because you're getting him a book no matter what.
This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.
Step 2: Determine what kind of book he might want to read.
You could try asking the gift-giving target, but I don't recommend it. Saying you want to give him a book for a gift ruins the surprise. And since he may look at reading with all the pleasure of a grade-schooler eating Brussels sprouts, why give him a chance to pre-whine about it?
To see what men are interested in, we could tune into the cultural signals that attempt to illuminate the male psyche. According to the average sitcom, the American male is fascinated by: flatulence, beer, Scarlett Johansson and grilling.
Advertisements for erectile dysfunction remedies indicate that the mature American male is interested in wearing sport coats, dancing, drinking white wine, grilling, and sitting in a bathtub outdoors next to his significant other, who also is sitting in a bathtub.
Bookstores try to be helpful with these things, offering specific displays targeted for "Dad." According to these displays, the dads of the world are interested in the following: golf, war, Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, Tom Clancy novels and grilling.
I don't know about you, but I have yet to read the Great American Grilling novel, so let's just ignore Step 2 as well.
Step 3: Reconsider giving a book as a gift.
Who doesn't want another tie, or perhaps some new stainless steel grilling implements? How about one of those watches that counts the number of steps you take in a day?
Forget it, he's getting a book.
Step 4: Recognize that there isn't a perfect book, and that you'll drive yourself crazy if you try to find it.
Our culture has a narrow, and rather disappointing, view of how men and books intersect, which is perhaps one of the reasons why men are less likely to be readers. Anyone who isn't interested in golf and/or war will have a hard time finding something that seems targeted to him.
So my real advice is simple, and it involves ignoring all the perceived differences between men and women. Simply identify a book that you think is going to be good, like your-life-would-be-diminished-if-you-hadn't-read-this-book good. Ask your local book professional or book supplement columnist for a recommendation if necessary.
Buy two copies of the book and give one of them to your male significant other as a gift. Make sure he opens it in front of you, and when he does, and he looks uncertain about this gift, as if it is a set of new sponges or replacement wiper blades or something, tell him about how you want the two of you to read the book together, that this is the gift you want in return from him.
Tell him you're serious about that.
Place a hand on his arm. Tell him you look forward to talking with him about the book, perhaps over a nice glass of white wine. Outdoor bathtub optional.
Biblioracle John Warner is the author of "The Funny Man." Follow him on Twitter @Biblioracle.
The Biblioracle offers his recommendations
1. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
2. “Johnny Got His Gun” by Dalton Trumbo
3. “The Winds of War” by Herman Wouk
4. “Better Never to Have Been” by David Benatar
5. “The Orphan Master's Son” by Adam Johnson
— Jerry S., Arlington Heights
Jerry is a repeat customer. Seeing “Better Never to Have Been” on the list tells me that he is more than capable of handling the darker side of things (it's a treatise on why it would be better if we'd never been born). I'm recommending one of Cormac McCarthy's darker novels (which is really saying something) “Child of God.”
1. “Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile” by Gyles Brandreth
2. “The Collaboration: Hollywood's Pact with Hitler” by Ben Urwand
3. “The Great Charles Dickens Scandal” by Michael Slater
4. “Backstage Pass to Broadway” by Susan L. Schulman
5. “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw
— Bardin L., Hometown
I must admit I did not know Oscar Wilde was a character in a mystery series. Now it makes perfect sense. For Bardin, some history and mystery, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” by Michael Chabon.
1. “The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri
2. “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman
3. “A Fort of Nine Towers” by Qais Akbar Omar
4. “Orange Is the New Black” by Piper Kerman
5. “The Sound of Things Falling” by Juan Gabriel Vasquez
— Marsha N., Wheaton
Marsha's list has an international flavor, so I'm going in that direction: Mohsin Hamid's novel “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” which is my recommendation for Marsha.
Get a reading from the Biblioracle!
Send your last five books to email@example.com. Write “Biblioracle” in the subject line.