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I recently came across a list of books.
One of those lists that proclaims to include 20 books everyone should read in their 20s. Well, everyone who fits within a narrow definition.
I’ll be honest:
This list sucks. https://t.co/wE5jG399sO
— Nate Pentz (@natepentz) April 11, 2022
To be honest, I like some of the books on this list. Atomic Habits is a great read and Sapiens is one of my all-time favorite books. But many of the others are such hallmarks of broseph culture, that white-frat guy-Elon-worshipping portion of the population with outsized influence—which is why I’m countering this with a condensed list of excerpts to make a different point.
Diversity—in culture, education, perspective, and more—makes society richer in every way. Maybe not in the way that Bezos and Musk would like to become richer, but in a way that benefits all of us.
To quote Robert Frost, “I’m against homogenized society, because I want the cream to rise.”
Here are four books designed to instigate, titillate, but most importantly, reinforce the concept that the most important thing you can bring to the table is yourself:
1. Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
It might be weird to kick off an anti-broculture list with an author whose works like Slaughterhouse-Five often appear on them (albeit for the wrong reasons), but Mother Night is a particularly dark take. A little less parody than his other works, this short, near-novella length is packed full with reminders to be true to ourselves from the ultimate humanist.
2. Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
“It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the f*ck away.”
Do you ever get the urge to stand up and clap when you read a book? That was me, about every other page, reading Roxane Gay’s collection of essays. These essays discuss how women are not only portrayed in modern media, but trained and treated due to those portrayals.
Timely when it was published, and just as timely now as a plethora of made-for-streaming-services biopics hit the small screen focusing on women in the media. From Britney Spears to Elizabeth Holmes to whatever is coming next, Gay’s collection of essays casts an interesting light with a “not-all-women” approach.
3. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
“That’s who is now, he reminds himself, someone who makes decisions, who doesn’t let life just act upon him. Wasn’t that the big lesson of transition, of detransition? That you’ll never know all the angles, that delay is just form of hiding from reality. That you just figure what you what you want and do it? And maybe, if you don’t know what you want, you just do something anyway, and everything will change, and then maybe that will reveal what you really want. So do something.”
Speaking of TV miniseries, Peters’ first novel is not only the first novel by a trans author to be published by a big name publisher, but also to be made into a miniseries. Time will tell if Peters gets the Sally Rooney treatment, but for now, this work definitely stands apart from other lit. It’s chaotic and sexy and messy, following three women: cis hetersexual, trans, and de-trans (aka former trans and now living as a male) brought together by a pregnancy.
The book explores the Venn diagram of femininity, masculinity, and the in-between with an insightful eye. It’s a book that knows it’s polarizing but makes no attempts to steer away from it.
4. This World Was Made For Me! by JR Becker
“Skeptisaurus then explained,
‘It just looks that way right now:
that this world was built for us,
but it’s the other way around!
You’re thinking like a puddle
Who sees the hole he’s in,
And excitedly declares
How its shape was made for him!”
The Annabelle and Aiden books are a mainstay in my house. While my toddler isn’t quite old enough to grasp a lot of the concepts presented, it’s important to me to build the foundation of a lifelong ideology. Like building a house where she can shuffle around the furniture and redesign as she grows, to create an extended metaphor.
So how might a children‘s book address bro culture? The very title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to life on Earth, from the beginning of time, believing that the planet was made for them to survive and thrive. And yet, generation after generation is culled and a new species rises, believing the earth to be created for them. And over, and over, and over, they die out. See the metaphor?
Creating Your Own Definition of Success
What does success mean to you? It doesn’t have to be rolling in cryptocurrency and NFTs, or some measurement that someone else created. You get to design your life and determine what success looks like. Learning from these works won’t look like the blueprint that other books try to give you, but trust me, it’s worth the journey.