A lot of angry people from YouTube are showing up to tell me that the reason I haven’t read many authors besides white male ones is that I wasn’t interested in books about identity politics. In other words, they think that white male authors write about general issues, while non-male and/or non-white authors write about who they are.
They also think that by not reading white male authors for two years, I’m somehow stopping white men from writing. So that says a lot about their ability to properly understand context.
But maybe this is my fault. Maybe I needed to be clear just how much I admire the white male ability to write. Here are, in no particular order, ten of my favorite books written by white male authors as well as what I found to be so compelling about them.
The Skystone (The Camulod Chronicles, Book 1) by Jack Whyte
Though it’s been years since I’ve read this book, I can recall the passage about the protagonist obsessing over the idea of kissing a lady’s tanned hand with tongue. Good for Whyte for indulging his straight identity in a book that’s supposed to be a gritty, if not dark, King Arthur reboot. The audacity of someone not only writing an unoriginal story but also including his hand-making-out fetish is frankly inspirational.
Burmese Days by George Orwell
Being a colonizer is really tough for a sensitive-hearted writer and this book is the proof. The man’s loathing for his own white maleness permeates every page. You really feel for how lonely he is as a man who doesn’t fit in with other white people but also doesn’t seem to really like the non-white people who dominate the region his home nation has colonized.
Candide by Voltaire
Philosophy serves as something of an excuse for this author to explore his issues with women, religion, and other political issues relevant to a French man of his time. Don’t let that stop you from reading it if you’re not a European male, though. Voltaire nonetheless rose about the obvious identity politics and wrote a book of brevity and wit.
Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn
Quinn is a white man so desperate for a non-mainstream identity that he invents his own oppression at the hands of, of all things, agriculture. Despite dubious readings of history, the writing itself isn’t bad, so the book serves as an excellent way to understand the workings of the white male mind.
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Like Daniel Quinn, Beckett doesn’t seem to have much going on in his life. Instead of contriving issues, Beckett chooses to indulge in the pointlessness and emptiness of his life. There is no action, only reaction to action that is never explained, in this play about nothing. While that may sound tedious to people who are actually facing issues, I urge readers to give Beckett a chance to give them a glimpse into what it is like for a white man to have resigned himself to a lack of struggle in life.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Toole, of all the authors here, is most painfully aware that he is a white male novelist. You’d think that would be depressing, but it’s not so. It is a funny if very dark tale about someone named Ignatius J. Reilly who is a white man just like Toole.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Ellis, undeterred by the heterosexual slander that gay men are only so because they loathe women, nonetheless explores every deep crevice of what is a pretty blatant hatred for cis women’s bodies in this work about the darker side of white male identity. So brutal is what happens in the book that even discussions of it, as in the previous link, would merit a content notice — alas, if only I hadn’t been chastised about such pandering by a prominent white male author. If you don’t seen the movie before you read the book, you may not think it to be so satirical after all, but rest assured, it is, because Ellis says so.
How I Became Stupid by Martin Page
Like John Kennedy Toole, Page’s discomfort for his own white maleness is the driving force behind a genuinely funny book. Unlike Toole, Page sees the discomfort as the problem, not his own white male identity, making for a shorter and less dark tale.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
To the untrained and uninformed eye, these are fantasy stories about a bunch of boys and a few girls, one of whom is eventually barred from a fantasy realm in which she spent years of her life. It is actually an uncomfortable exploration of Lewis’s identity as a white Christian who loathed non-white non-Christians.
Everything Orson Scott Card
Despite writing on topics ranging from worm-human slash pairings to genocide to the Old Testament to pederasty, Card has always managed to make his heterosexual, white Mormon identity and politics shine forth from every page.