The Book of Men Eighty Writers on How to Be a Man

Curated by Colum McCann and the Editors of Esquire and Narrative 4




Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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To help launch the literary nonprofit Narrative 4, Esquire asked eighty of the world's greatest writers to chip in with a story, all with the title, "How to Be a Man."

The result is The Book of Men, an unflinching investigation into the essence of manhood.

The Book of Men probes, with the poignant honesty and imagination that only these writers could deliver, the slippery condition of manhood. You will find men striving and searching, learning and failing to learn, triumphing and aspiring; men who are lost and men navigating their way toward redemption. These stories don't just explore what it is to be a man, but ultimately what it is to be a human—with all of its uncertainty, complexity, clumsiness, and beauty.

With contributions from literary luminaries as diverse as the subjects they capture, and curated by the editors of Esquire, National Book Award winner Colum McCann, and Narrative 4, a global nonprofit devoted to using storytelling as a means to empathy, The Book of Men might not teach you how to negotiate a deal or mix a Manhattan, but it does scratch at that most eternal of questions: What is a man?


Praise for The Book of Men

"The pieces span much of the globe, crossing gender lines (some of the best are from women, some of whom don't seem to treat manhood as seriously as many men do), featuring journalists, novelists and a few nonwriterly ringers (actor Gabriel Byrne, songwriter-producer Joe Henry). There is plenty of violence and copious amounts of tears, and there is sex that is usually more an expression of power, however twisted, than of romantic love. Some of the shortest are some of the best, such as this two-sentence contribution by Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid: 'What did it even mean, walk like a man? Still, Omar was in enough pain to take off his makeup and start trying.' There's a provocative piece of reportage on a transgendered performer by novelist Michael Cunningham, which ends with the question, 'Men. I mean, what are we anyway?' There's also an instructional piece by Vanessa Manko that initially seems to be about sex—'It is done with the body, not with the mind. She should feel when you begin to move and if she precipitates the wrong direction, you've done something wrong'—but is really about the tango (which is really about sex). None of the pieces are titled, and many blur the distinction between fiction and nonfiction."—Kirkus Reviews

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Read an Excerpt

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Our Sundays always tasted like peppers that flared hot in the rice and soups and stews. We sat in the kitchen, knees fresh from pews, and watched our houseboy pounding them in pairs. He held the phallic...




  • Curated by Colum McCann and the Editors of Esquire and Narrative 4

  • Colum McCann, a contributing editor at Esquire and cofounder of Narrative 4, is the National Book Award–winning author of Let the Great World Spin. He is also the author of Dancer, Everything in This Country Must, This Side of Brightness, Fishing the Sloe-Black River, and Songdogs. His new novel is TransAtlantic.

    Esquire is a general interest men's magazine published by Hearst. Since its founding in 1933, it has been a showcase for the world's premiere fiction, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Stephen King.

    Narrative 4 is a group of authors and activists who believe that something as simple as a story can change the world. It connects people and communities everywhere through the sharing of stories and works to create a global narrative for all of us. Learn more at

  • Colum McCann


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